Updated: Oct 22, 2019
Disclaimer: PLEASE read the article in its entirety before firing off those hot takes.
Last week, I had the gall to write an article suggesting that it was time for general manager Howie Roseman to come under some scrutiny for his role in where the Eagles were at. I was quickly rebuked by about 90% of our readers. Which is cool. Call it a difference of opinion. (For the record, nowhere in that article did anyone call for Roseman's job nor try to argue that all the balme belongs solely to him despite some people taking it that way.) But now, after getting embarrassed on national television, by a division rival, in a game that was for first place and which the head coach essentially guaranteed a win, does anyone want to rethink their opinion? If not, no worries, because there's plenty of blame to go around.
Sunday night's disaster is the impetus for this article, but the game served as a microcosm for the season. Slow starts, sloppy play and self-inflicted wounds, questionable effort, questionable playcalling, there was a little bit of everything. At the end of the day, good football teams don't get outscored 75-30 over two games, and this is simply not a good football team at the moment. We're disappointed, we're angry, and now we're pointing fingers.
Ultimately, it comes down to the players and they were simply not good enough. With the entire team playing as poorly as it has, it feels silly to single anyone out, but we have to mention a few players by name.
I still don't know what happened on that long pass to Nelson Agholor. What I do know is it was bad. It was bad that the play wasn't made, and the way it looked was bad. Whether it's a confidence issue or an effort issue only he knows, but that play combined with his track record this season is abysmal.
I hate to do this to the kid, but I have to call out Miles Sanders here. Yes, he's shown some nice flashes and there is a good chance he will develop into a long-term contributor for the Eagles. But his vision and decision-making need a ton of improvement, and that was exemplified on a key third-and-four last night.
Instead of hitting that hole, which he's looking right at, Sanders attempted to follow Lane Johnson and was promptly stopped short of the first down. The Eagles punted, and never truly threatened to get back in the game after that. I'll say again that Sanders has the potential to have a bright future, but these kinds of mistakes can't be made by a team with playoff expectations.
Finally, where has Zach Ertz been? The logical conclusion would be that teams are going out of their way to take him away, but both Doug Pederson and Carson Wentz said postgame that wasn't the case. So what's going on? I don't have that answer right now. I love Zach Ertz, but a player of his caliber has to step up in situations like these, and he hasn't.
Oh wait, I almost forgot the quarterback. Carson Wentz has been a hot topic of conversation over the last week, as some strange segment of the fan base seems to think all of this team's problems are a result of Wentz. This bizarre analysis has led to a reaction from the other side of the spectrum defending Wentz and arguing that he doesn't deserve any blame. The reality, as is the case with most arguments on social media between sports fans, lies somewhere in the middle. Particularly on Sunday night, Wentz was not very good. The three turnovers jump off the page, as do some examples of failing to identify the pressure. We could write a whole article simply on this argument, but we'll leave it at this: Wentz should be criticized for his performance last night, but he is also nowhere near the top of the list of problems.
Before moving on, let's quickly touch on some position groups. We've already discussed the wide receivers and secondary at length this season, and there's really nothing more to say. They're simply not good enough. But they aren't alone. The offensive line has not lived up to its billing as one of the best in the league and has failed to play through the whistle far, far too many times. On the other side of the ball, the linebackers have been invisible. Seth Joyner talked postgame about this unit. None of the linebackers excel at any of the attributes you want from a linebacker: the ability to rush the quarterback, ability to stuff the run, ability to cover in space. Perhaps more importantly, as Joyner noted, none of them are playmakers. They don't come up with the key third-down tackle, the big sack, the hit that forces a fumble, they simply don't make any impact plays. They're kind of just out there.
To be fair to the players, they haven't gotten much help from the coaches. Doug's first 15 plays script has been anemic and contributed to the slow starts and constant deficits. The play calling overall has been suspect, as has the personnel usage, particularly at running back. The offense has been vanilla and lacked a spark. The players haven't been put in positions that play to their strengths and that set them up for success.
Jim Schwartz has taken a lot of heat, and rightfully so. Granted, the talent level he's working with is an issue, and I want to give him credit for once in a while trying something new, like when he upped the number of blitzes when the D-line wasn't getting enough pressure. But even that backfired. I think the biggest issue with Schwartz is that we've been having the same problems going on two years now, and he's failed to find any solutions. One example from last night was particularly frustrating.
As the tweeter notes, here we see the cornerbacks giving an eight-yard cushion and RETREATING at the snap. Additionally, they are playing outside leverage, creating a ridiculous mix of techniques that led to predictably disastrous results. The Eagles were continuously beat to the inside on key plays Sunday night. It doesn't take a defensive guru, or even really someone particularly knowledgeable about football, to look at that picture and realize the result isn't going to be good for the defense. Like with Wentz earlier, I could write a whole treatise on Jim Schwartz and the defense, but we'll save that for another time.
Another big concern is Pederson's post-game press conference. He repeatedly said he felt the team was prepared and ready to play, and that they had a good week of practice. These statements should be terrifying to Eagles fans. What about Sunday night indicated any of those things were true? Nothing. So that means one of two things. Either Pederson is completely delusional about the state of the team, or what he considers adequate preparation is woefully inaccurate.
Finally, the entire staff needs to be called out for their failures in player development. Agholor has been all over the place, from unplayable in 2016 to a key contributor in 2017 and 2018, and then back to the player we've seen this year. There's a lot of factors at play there, but player development is certainly in the mix. Sanders is another example. His vision and decision making issues have been on display since Week 1, and there's been no improvement. Are these things not being pointed out in film study and worked on on the practice field? Is he simply not listening? Either way, it's an indictment of the coaching.
Here we address the biggest issue, the one that encapsulates all the things we've discussed above. There are so many issues, and they are so interrelated, that it's virtually impossible to identify the cornerstone issue and get it fixed. Instead, the Eagles are forced to try stop-gap measures here and there simply to shore up one area long enough to address another one.
You could argue that the coaching looks bad because there isn't enough talent. Or you could argue that the players are underperforming because they aren't being coached up enough, aren't being put in the right situations, and aren't being developed properly. At this point, it's impossible to tell which is more true, and that's a scary proposition for the Eagles and their fans.
Now, having said all that, the Eagles still have every opportunity to salvage the season. The reality is that they still have nine games remaining and are just one game out of first place. They have talent. We've seen it from Wentz, from Alshon Jeffery and Zach Ertz, from the offensive line, from the defensive line, and from Malcolm Jenkins. We've seen Doug Pederson rally his troops from incredibly difficult positions in each of the last two years, and that is arguably his greatest strength as a coach. And we've seen Howie Roseman pull off savvy moves to help his team. Maybe the Eagles got the wake-up call they needed, maybe the players, and Doug, and Howie start to lean on those strengths we just mentioned and start to execute to their potential, and maybe the Eagles start playing the kind of football we've expected this season. Despite the journey to 3-4, it wouldn't be shocking if they do just that. But it's impossible to ignore what we've seen so far, and it's time to acknowledge that this team has issues at every level that need to be addressed sooner rather than later.