Every week, we’ll be taking a look at the ups and downs following the latest Eagles’ game. The embarrassing 37-19 loss to the Rams left a lot to be angry and confused about, but there were a few silver linings that the Birds could build on going forward.
Up: The Offensive Line Play
After a brutal game that saw them give up eight sacks, the offensive line had a solid rebound. They gave up no sacks to a defense that includes Aaron Donald, arguably the best rusher in the game.
Nate Herbig continues to provide solid protection in his second season, while Lane Johnson also had an extremely productive game in his 2020 debut:
Lane Johnson in debut:
– The highest graded OT in week 2.
– The highest graded run blocker of all OL.
– Didn't give up a single pressure.
He had ankle surgery a month ago.#Eagles pic.twitter.com/d8KwT2sMZf
— Thomas R. Petersen 🦅 (@thomasrp93) September 21, 2020
The downside is that the injury bug continues to hit. Left guard Isaac Seumalo left the game due to a knee injury and is now heading to the IR. Matt Pryor, who has been mysteriously absent, will now slide into the lineup.
Down: Carson Wentz
It may be time to finally say it: Carson Wentz isn’t an elite quarterback. Around the league, Wentz’s peers continue to light it up. Dak Prescott had four total touchdowns. Russell Wilson threw for five. Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson didn’t have their usual outstanding games but they still won.
Wentz isn’t in a tier with any of them. He finished Sunday with zero touchdowns thrown, two interceptions, and a rating of 56.5. Last season he threw seven total interceptions. This year, he has three in two games.
His inaccuracy was once again a killer. Instead of throwing an in-stride pass to Goedert that could have resulted in a touchdown, Wentz threw behind him. Throwing into double and triple coverage, like Wentz did on a pass to JJ Arcega-Whiteside in the endzone that resulted in an interception, was baffling.
Here’s a broader view of the play design on Carson Wentz’s INT intended for JJ Arcega-Whiteside-Whiteside. pic.twitter.com/C6T6PYt6ch
— Tim McManus (@Tim_McManus) September 21, 2020
These are mistakes that a rookie quarterback should be experiencing, not a former Pro-Bowl quarterback who is now in his fifth season.
Wentz’s mobility, once one of his biggest strengths, has been taken away by past injuries and his confidence is likely shaken. Wentz can continue to say how “it’s on him” and how “he’ll improve” week after week, but until he actually does stop making these blunders, they’ll be empty words.
Up: Miles Sanders
After missing the first game, Miles Sanders came back with a vengeance. He rushed for 95 yards and scored a touchdown. In total, he put up a combined 131 yards, continuing to be a multi-threat in the rushing and passing game.
Sanders did fumble the ball on the opening drive, allowing for a Los Angeles score. He fumbled just twice last season. That’s a crucial mistake, but it seems minor compared to all the other gaffes the Eagles committed.
The bottom line is that if the Eagles want to win games, Sanders needs to play a huge role in their offensive game plan.
Down: The Whole Defense
There were so many areas the defense struggled with on Sunday that it would take five pages of words to explain them all, so let’s stick with three main troubles: the linebackers, coverage, and the defensive line.
Before the season, the linebacker position was a concern. That worry proved to be warranted. Nate Gerry looked outmatched against the Rams, giving up good chunks of yardage while continuing to struggle with tackles. The consequences from the Eagles’ insistence on not providing depth into the position has finally caught up to them.
Coverage in general was terrible. Like usual, Rams players were given plenty of space by the Eagles’ defenders. Even worse was keeping momentum. As soon as the Eagles inched closer to tying, the Rams went down the field and scored again.
The defensive line, a unit so highly touted by the team, has been nonexistent. Against Los Angeles, they allowed 192 rushing yards.
Next year, Brandon Graham, Malik Jackson, Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave, and Derek Barnett will be making a combined $59 million. That group has just one sack into the season.
Simply put, the output of the line isn’t matching the resources invested. If the Eagles are going to turn things around, the defense needs to generate more pressure and rack up more sacks. Otherwise, quarterbacks like Joe Burrow and Lamar Jackson will tear them up.
Down: Playoff Hopes
Losing the first two games of the season isn’t great for playoff aspirations. It’s actually super bad. What a shocker! According to Oddshark, only 12% of teams since 2007 have made the playoffs after starting the season 0-2.
The move from 12 teams in the playoffs to 14 teams gives the Eagles a little leeway, but they still have their backs to the wall already.
It’s not like the Eagles haven’t faced adversity before. In 2018 they were 6-7 at week 14, and in 2019 they were 5-7 by week 13. Both years the Birds rebounded and finished 9-7 with playoff births.
But having to play catch up isn’t a winning strategy, and the Eagles’ slow starts to seasons over the past three years are concerning. Once again, it’s time for them to put up or shut up.