Updated: May 2, 2019
Earlier this morning, the WIP Morning Show’s twitter posed the question “Who is most at fault for the Eagles not preparing well for games?” The voting options included coaches, team leaders, players, and injuries.
While trying to dissect the question, I found that they’re really asking who is to blame for the sloppiness (in terms of penalties), the stale offense, and the porous defense. I was surprised when the coaches were blamed by 60% of 2,884 total voters. I answered with injuries.
There’s a few ways to look at the struggles the birds have faced on their 3-4 start to 2018. Coaching, in my eyes, isn’t exactly one of them, nor are the team leaders to blame.
The Eagles entered this season with high hopes coming off a remarkable Super Bowl win, and Carson Wentz looked healthy enough during training camp that he would take the reins from Nick Foles Week 1. That obviously didn’t happen, and as we know, Foles was the starter against Atlanta and Tampa Bay. The Eagles went 1-1 in those games, and the offense looked pretty stagnant.
Alshon Jeffery missed the first three games, and Mike Wallace has been out since Week two. Surprisingly, despite the two outside receivers being out for big chunks of this season, players who rely on the middle of the field being open due to the attention on the outside like Zach Ertz somehow thrived. Still, they haven’t found an answer at wide receiver and should probably address that before the trade deadline. The birds have also missed their punishing back in Jay Ajayi since Week 5 and their change of pace runner in Darren Sproles since the season opener.
It’s important in situations like this for the coaches to prepare backups, and have them ready for game day, but to ask four key players at skill positions to fill in at a moment’s notice usually doesn’t yield fantastic results. If it did, teams wouldn’t struggle because their backups would always be fully capable. After that statement, it feels entirely necessary to legally change my name to Captain Obvious.
On the defensive side of the ball, injuries have taken a toll on the Defensive Line and secondary — most recently with the loss of Derek Barnett. While it’s still to be seen how much of a loss Barnett will be, the news of his shoulder surgery doesn’t bode well for a defensive line that has already missed Timmy Jernigan as he recovers from his offseason surgery. As for the secondary, hamstring issues have kept out Sidney Jones since the birds dismantled the Giants, and Rodney McLeod’s absence after tearing his ACL against Indianapolis in week 3 has left a void in the middle of the field that opposing offenses continue to attack.
So far, it’s much more apparent to me that injuries are plaguing this team — not lack of leadership or coaching or starting talent.
Just looking at the small stuff alone, Lane Johnson and Jason Peters have been dealing with minor injuries all year-long, which would account for their subpar play and failure to give Wentz the time he needs.
Last year, the Eagles rallied around the phrase “next man up” mentality and this year, it looks to be a continuing theme. They’ll have to overcome a mildly tough stretch of games and win each of their remaining five matchups against weak NFC East teams in order to make the playoffs — all while battling through injuries and counting on the starters to elevate the backups.