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  • Alex Hand

Birds’ Hopes and Dreams Eaten Alive in 32-14 Loss to Bengals

If they were going to bounce back, it would have needed to be weeks ago. Back when the Philadelphia Eagles still stood a chance at sneaking into the playoffs, and before the NFC East reawaked as one of the more competitive divisions in the league. The Eagles left ‘The Jungle’ with a pillow’s worth of feathers missing; losing to the Cincinnati Bengals 32-14 in what can only be described as depressing.

The Wentz-wagon, while still undoubtedly weighted with fans, is starting to grow increasingly inquisitive over the franchise quarterback, but that also goes with mentioning the rest of the offense’s performance issues as well as some of the coaching decisions both offensively and defensively.

Carson Wentz threw for 306 yards and a touchdown with three interceptions. The first pick was due to pressure, the second pick was an air-ball that flew over a the head of Zach Ertz who was in double coverage, and the third was a combination of Wentz not noticing Vontaze Burfict and Burfict being in the right place at the right time. Most of Wentz’s interceptions this season have been overthrows, and even though the offensive line and receiver core had done him zero favors, it’s important the coaching staff stays adamant on the rookie’s development regardless of the implications facing the other 90 percent of the offense.

The offensive line did not always fail but on the times it held strong, it seemed as if it occurred during the same play a receiver could not get open. Nelson Agholor returned to the starting lineup and did not drop a single pass that headed his way. This is a step in the right direction, but he also finished the day ranked sixth in total receiving yards (23). Wentz ranks right beneath Agholor for his pass that was batted back to him.

Including Wentz’s 16 rushing yards and Agholor’s 4-yard jet-sweep play, the Eagles only put up a meager 53 rushing yards. Doug Pederson should really start considering placing Darren Sproles on Special Teams-only duty given the veteran’s age and current rib injury, but it’s understandable why the head coach would like to switch the rotation of running back up from time to time.

The offensive line in Philly will be good for years to come, just not right now and only if they follow two factors. Those factors would be how successfully they bring in new offensive linemen whether it comes from the draft or free agency, and if Lane Johnson and Halapoulivaati Vaitai can stay on the field. If Johnson continues to be suspended and Vaitai proves to have chronic health issues, the Eagles could be facing a steep, degrading battle in the search of solidifying their O-line.

The tight end group proved helpful on Sunday by accounting for 43 percent of the receiving yards. Brent Celek was not in that percentile and this will likely be his second to last season playing for Philly. It is also saddening in knowing that 88 yards of offense was eliminated by a total of 10 penalties on the side of the Eagles. Pederson spoke after the game regarding the issue and correlates the false starts and other penalties on lack of discipline instead of a lack of effort.

Defensively, the Eagles need a jumpstart as well as some playmakers. The defense that carried this team to a 3-0 beginning is not the same unit that left Paul Brown Stadium hours ago and has not been the same since the bye week. The defensive line has failed at continually creating pressure for opposing offenses while the secondary has seriously dropped off the deep end. Nolan Carroll busted coverage badly, and both Leodis McKelvin and Jalen Mills got their fair share of licks against Andy Dalton’s toys – remember, that was 32 points without A.J. Green.

The Eagles defense could use a couple of drafted cornerbacks, a free agent linebacker (or two) or even one in the form of a rook, and an iron fist to be laid upon the toes of the D-line. The Birds sunk over $100 million in guaranteed money toward that line so drafting all new replacements and/or cutting the current is simply not an option between now and next season.

Pederson, like his sensei Andy Reid, inherited a bad Eagles team. Thankfully, like back in 1999, the franchise has a young quarterback to arm with weapons for seasons to come. This team needs a lot of help in the talent department, and there is a good chance that all is not completely fixed for the 2017 season; that is just the reality of football. Neither Rome nor the 11-1 Dallas Cowboys’ were built overnight but damn if it is not the prettiest sight when a slow, homegrown franchise finally breaks the ceiling of the division and dives into the playoffs. Such accomplishments always take longer than the inaugural season under a rookie head coach with a rookie quarterback.

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