Houston, we have a problem. Until we actually don’t because the Texans beat the sad sack Cowboys last night, the Giants lost in predictably hilarious fashion, and… the Redskins.
— Joe Rider (@jride442) October 7, 2018
First off, Joe sucks– he spends nearly all of his time on Twitter trolling me despite tweeting almost exclusively CB folks.
But at risk of sounding like Baghdad Bob, a comparison that is apt, let me just note that the Eagles have been disappointing and even more underwhelming than one might expect for a team coming off a Super Bowl win and all the trappings that go with it, plus multiple, impactful injuries.
However, they’re not fucked. Far from it. Travel down this hole with me and feel the glory:
Two fluke plays cost them the game yesterday
A goofy fumble-fat guy touchdown, and a horrific and yes very bad roughing the passer call that led to a touchdown. Never mind the fumble by the goal line from Jay Ajayi. Carson Wentz was 24-35 with 311 yards and two touchdowns. Stats from the game were highly even, generally in the Eagles’ favor, and ultimately the game was lost because of flukey plays and poor penalties (which are admittedly inexcusable but also fixable).
This isn’t an excuse. It’s reality. The Eagles should have won the game yesterday. Two promising drives were ruined. It happens. Game was way closer than score indicated for most of it.
It took three fourth-down overtime conversions to beat them last week
They gave the game away multiple times, got lazy, and the secondary was dreadful. Fair. But the game was won.
We are literally one fluke play and a 4th down stop from 4-1. I am NOT trying to make excuses, and fully acknowledge most wins and losses have one play that can change the outcome. The point is, the Eagles, who have played FAR FROM THEIR BEST FOOTBALL are mere possessions away from having the second-best record in the league, all of this with:
Carson Wentz returning from injury
I had this conversation with my father-in-law yesterday– he dropped the “yeah but they make so much money” line. They’re also human. The Eagles’ best player and MVP candidate is coming off a very bad injury, with no preseason, and being inserted into an offense with many pieces coming and going. The best receiver is coming off an injury. The most dynamic playmaker is coming off an injury and now hurt again. Ditto for the left tackle. These are major positions to get back to game speed, with almost no continuity in an offense that dominated the NFC last year and another one that won the Super Bowl. The Eagles are essentially on their third version of the offense, personnel-wise, since the start of last season, and right now it’s showing.
Two of their three best running backs have been hurt
Corey Clement and Darren Sproles have missed the last two game (four for Sproles). Want to know how quickly things have changed already? Go check the Sunday Night Football bus from the opener against the Falcons– Foles and Sproles are the two guys on it. Both are currently afterthoughts.
Again, insane lack of continuity the Eagles are fighting through, both due to injury and, in the case of Wentz, return from injury.
The division sucks
The Cowboys’ offense is dreadful. The Giants are a mess. And the Redskins are just OK and, at this point, scare no one. Even as they are currently constructed, the Eagles are better than every team in the division.
The offensive line can’t be this bad
Jason Peters may be cooked. But Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks and Lane Johnson are proven, at times dominant players. Their play, as a whole, this season has been disappointing and frustrating, but at some point they have to revert to the mean at a least a bit. Vaitai and Wis (or whomever Doug Pederson decides to rope-a-dope him with) have shown they are capable of handling duties on the left. I just refuse to believe the line is as bad as it’s looked.
They’ll probably add an impact player
Current top running back? Jay Ajayi. He was still a Dolphin at this point last season. Howie Roseman is hyper active in making impactful transactions. I can’t imagine there isn’t an impact player added to the team this month.
The defense is better than they’re getting credit for
Big plays are a problem, but the defense has controlled large swaths of the Falcons, Colts, Titans, and Vikings games. Their front is as good as ever, linebackers decent, and secondary hurting from Jim Schwartz continuing to leave Jalen Mills on an island. If the offense finds its footing, that should take some pressure of the defense and make opposing offenses more predictable, thus allowing for a more balanced team.
Everything here is a genuine reason for struggle. Now, that doesn’t mean they will just disappear on their own. But Carson Wentz should rapidly improve (he already has). The Eagles should get at least one of Clement or Sproles back in a more significant role. The offensive line should improve.
Things have been “bad,” sure. But we can’t view this team the way we did poor Andy Reid teams toward the end of his tenure. This is not a pattern of glaring mistakes and weaknesses like those teams routinely had. The Eagles are working through a lot right now, with a complete lack of continuity, and probably some entitlement on the field. There’s no guarantee any of that gets better, but many signs point to it doing just that. It is not out of the realm of possibility, at all, for the Eagles to hit their stride in the second half, earn a 10-6 record and a home playoff game. A lot needs to happen first, but we may look back on this start as a blip rather than reason for genuine concern.