The first sign in determining a ‘need’ for a football team through either free agency or the draft is how persistent a particular issue is. For the Philadelphia Eagles, their need is at wide receiver. Nelson Agholor dropped another ball, Dorial Green-Beckham looks like he’s running with boat anchors, and Bryce Treggs – an undrafted free agent who made his first career start on Sunday – recorded the game’s deepest pass (58 yards) during the New York Giants 28-23 beating of the Eagles.
But the pressing issue of needing a star-studded wide receiver is old news and it is not the sole reason the Eagles failed in defeating another division rival. Head coach Doug Pederson’s aggressive style of football might be appreciated in the long run, but should also be chastised for going 1-4 since the bye week, and Carson Wentz was nowhere near as accurate as he had been in weeks one through three.
Pederson decided to go the aggressive route and attempt a total of four fourth-down conversions, two of which were inside kicker Caleb Sturgis’s field goal range. Those two would-be field goal attempts were stopped short, and the Eagles missed an easy 6 points that could have upset the Giants.
“I’m going to continue to be as aggressive as I can”, said Pederson after the game. “If I elect to go for it on fourth down or situation like that then we need to make sure we can execute on that time.”
And while it is true that the dropped balls and failures to convert running plays into short yardage gains does fall onto the shoulders of the players, the comprehension of what the team is capable of rests on the coaches. The only two touchdowns came from the two least productive running backs of the game: Ryan Mathews (15 yards) and Kenjon Barner (3 yards).
Darren Sproles saw around 80 percent of the offensive snaps last week against the Dallas Cowboys resulting in 86 yards at 5.7 yards per carry, and led Eagles running backs in carries (13) on Sunday versus Mathews (5) who watched from the sidelines. While Mathews had been dealing with a tooth infection, as noted throughout last week, the younger back also fumbled twice, late in the fourth quarter of two separate games causing a loss.
“By stats and by what you’re seeing, I would say Darren [Sproles] is the number one back right now. It’s still a bit of the running back-by-committee…but we tend to lean more towards Darren Sproles. It’s hard to take him off the field.”
Sproles has been a terrific player for every team that he has come into contact with, but he has been best served as a complimentary back or as an option. Never has he had to carry an offense this heavily, and the performance of the offensive line combined with the lackluster agility from the quarterback position makes his impact all the more predictable.
Speaking of quarterback, Wentz was either shook or appeared to be shaken by Big Blue's defense. There were many instances, including the final offensive play for Philadelphia, where the young QB had plenty of time to make concise throws inside the pocket and he could not complete the throws.
“Those two picks early in the football game. First one, again, he sailed high. He was out of the pocket, which I felt like he didn’t have to move, he could have stayed right there in the pocket and delivered the football”, said Pederson the following Monday. “Those are necessarily mechanical things as they are just the way he reacted to a little bit of color or pressure in the pocket.”
Understanding, this has been an absolutely sad year for Eagles receivers, but during his two interceptions, Wentz let them both sail over his receiver’s heads.
“I’ll have to go back and watch the tape, but I thought the reads were fine, the decisions were fine. I just airmailed them. The ball sailed on me both [interceptions]”, said Wentz after the game.
The Eagles had a poor outing against the Giants, and while some of the mistakes presented are correctable, skill position capabilities and correcting offensive woes from a coaching standpoint are harder habits to break.