Injuries & Poor Play Drop Eagles to 5-6, Could Lead to 5-7
The Green Bay Packers were 4-6 entering Lincoln Financial Field and far form their usual division leader selves. Still, Aaron Rodgers and the rest of the Pack humiliated the Philadelphia Eagles 27-13, snapped their undefeated streak playing at the Linc, and exposed every weakness on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball.
Dougie ‘fresh’ Pederson has been catching a lot of flack for his offensive play calling and challenges during the game, and while they were not the most positive highlights from the game, the two things to remember is that he is strapped with an atrocious receiving corps and a battle-scarred offensive line. Combine that with rookies Carson Wentz and Wendell Smallwood, and it is not difficult to comprehend that this offense – for the time being – must be kept at entry-level.
The blame for the losses cannot really be thrown onto any one particular position, player, or coach, and that could be a much larger issue heading into the 2017 season. Even though this writer is an optimist, it’s difficult to see the Eagles beating out anybody in their division to form any playoff aspirations.
All Monday night, the Eagles defensive line failed at pressuring or containing Rodgers despite slowing the Packers’ run game down to 74 yards. Philadelphia’s secondary also crumbled from the start as depth became hugely apparent with aged veteran Leodis McKelvin and rookie Jalen Mills shouldering the outside corner spots, Malcolm Jenkins forced to reside at nickel, and former-practice squad member Jaylen Watkins replacing Jenkins at the traditional safety role. This unit allowed #12 to toss 313 yards through the air with 2 touchdowns, 26 personal rushing yards, and a total of 10 out of 14 third-down conversions.
Offensively, it has been the same story since the Detroit Lions game. Wentz has nobody other than Jordan Matthews and Zach Ertz (and occasionally DGB) to pass to. Forget that the run game has been hampered by injuries and the offensive line cannot grant him the time that he or the receivers need to complete a pass, but the defenses of Cincinnati, Baltimore, and the rest of the NFC East are learning real quick that the Eagles have zero alternatives for building a successful drive once the run game is taken from them.
The Eagles finished the night with 81 rushing yards, which is their worst of the season. The shuffleboard O-line was not foreseen to this extent and while the front office made that position a priority in the offseason, it’s still not enough to cope with what the Eagles have faced thus far or will face through the next five games.
The Bengals (3-7-1) rank in the mid-to-high twenties in rushing defense and currently have two secondary players on season-ending IR with another four DBs facing injuries that could keep them out of their matchup with Philadelphia. Offensively, Cincy has lost A.J. Green and Giovani Bernard for at least most of the remaining season, and Jeremy Hill will still be nursing an ankle injury come Sunday. Looking at Pro-Football-Reference.com, the Bengals are not terrible at any offensive category and the defense will, again, be looked upon to shoulder the game for the inevitable lack of offensive playmaking.
Matthews will likely not be completely healthy as he did suffer a minor ankle injury against Green Bay, but Nelson Agholor should be suited up with a clearer head on Sunday. As one reporter noted, if Agholor is not ready after taking Monday’s game off, then he will never be ready. Moving forward, the Eagles will have no room to failed draft picks and after Pederson’s comment regarding who wants to be with the team come next season, this will either be a renaissance'd Agholor or simply another bust.
This can really be said for any player in the receiving group, tight ends included, as well as a defensive line that garners over $100 million in guaranteed money. Unsuccessful linemen could quite easily be sold for picks or players come springtime.
The 3-0 start to the season was a hopeful glance of things to come, but unfortunately the NFL is a quick-study program that always leaves the unadaptable to one of the Draft’s top-15 picks. The Eagles could stand to upgrade at every position sans quarterback and safety; and with playoff hopes now found only in the realm of infinite probability inside this new, steadily-growing NFC East, the search for trade suitors and the evaluations of who will be a part of this team’s rebuilding process shall be the goal over the next five weeks.