Blogging The Boys: The Eagles have had an uneven season. What are the things that have been holding them back from looking like the team they were at the end of year last year?
Bleeding Green Nation: A number of factors have contributed to the Eagles’ 4-4 record so far.
It sure didn’t help that the Eagles had to deal with a bunch of lingering injuries from 2017 heading into the new season. The physical hangover from the Super Bowl was real. Carson Wentz missed the first two games, Alshon Jeffery missed the first three games, and Timmy Jernigan still hasn’t returned to the active roster. The injury situation only worsened when the games began as the Eagles lost key starters such as Mike Wallace, Jay Ajayi, and Rodney McLeod to injured reserve.
Injuries haven’t been the only issue, of course. All teams deal with those. Another big problem with the 2018 Eagles is that they haven’t been so great in terms of toxic differential, which is the combination of big play differential and turnover differential. Until more recently, the Eagles have struggled to create big plays offensively (13th). And they’ve allowed too many on defense (27th). Philadelphia’s seven takeaways rank tied for 27th while their 12 giveaways rank tied for the 18th worst rate.
In today’s high-scoring NFL, averaging 22 offensive points per game (19th) just isn’t going to cut it to be a great team. The Cowboys can obviously relate to these struggles as they’re only averaging 19 offensive points per game (25th). That’s not to let Philly’s defense completely off the hook because they’ve come up small in some big moments. But the Eagles need to score more points, which helps to explain why Howie Roseman acquired Golden Tate prior to the NFL trade deadline.
BTB: Is Carson Wentz all the way back, or are there still things that he’s working on? How has he progressed as a quarterback?
BGN: He’s all the way back.
It’s obviously not reflected in the Eagles’ overall record but Wentz has been playing very well. Just look at his numbers through six starts this season:
159/225 (70.7% completion), 1788 yards (7.9 average), 13 TD, 2 INT, 109. 6 passer rating.
Now compare those to his first six games from last year when he was getting MVP buzz:
126/207 (60.9% completion), 1584 yards (7.7 average), 13 TD, 3 INT, 99.6 passer rating
Wentz is the real deal. He’s a legitimate franchise quarterback who is at least a top 10 player at the position. I’d go even higher and say he belongs in the top five.
That’s not to say Wentz doesn’t have flaws. Fumbles have been a big issue; he has seven in six games this year. Wentz admittedly needs to get rid of the ball faster at times. But that’s double-edged sword with Wentz. Sometimes he holds on to the ball and makes incredible plays that few others in the league can. So you have to take the good with the bad.
BTB: How will Golden Tate fit into the equation? What will his role be?
BGN: Good question. It’s tough to say for sure since the Eagles have different options. Maybe the Eagles use him in the slot a lot more often and move Nelson Agholor to the outside. Or maybe it’s Agholor who stays inside with Tate moving out. Or maybe it’s a split.
Regardless of where he lines up, I’d imagine the Eagles will want to put Tate in spots where they can utilize his elite YAC ability. No player has generated more yards after the catch since 2016. I do think he’ll have a significant role in the passing attack. The Eagles didn’t give up a 2019 third-round pick to not use him.
BTB: What’s the current injury situation for the Eagles?
BGN: Jay Ajayi, Derek Barnett, Mack Hollins, Rodney McLeod, Richard Rodgers, and Mike Wallace are the notable Eagles players on injured reserve. It also seems unlikely that Tim Jernigan will be ready for Sunday’s game despite the fact he returned to practice on Monday.
As for injured players on the 53-man, it appears the Eagles will be without two of their top three cornerbacks against Dallas.
Starting boundary corner Jalen Mills did not practice on Wednesday and Doug Pederson didn’t seem optimistic about his outlook. Mills has struggled this season, so some fans won’t mind seeing Rasul Douglas start in his place.
Sidney Jones also missed Wednesday’s practice. The Eagles’ starting nickel corner said he expects to return after this weekend’s game. With Jones potentially out, the Eagles could be relying on Cre’Von LeBlanc to be the primary slot guy. LeBlanc only joined the team on Monday so that’s not ideal.
Starting right tackle Lane Johnson is expected to play despite reports that he was going to miss a month with an MCL sprain. Johnson has also been playing through a high ankle sprain. It remains to be seen if he can make it through the game.
Starting left tackle Jason Peters is also banged up. He’s been playing through a torn biceps and a nagging quadricep issues. Peters, who turns 37 in January, is prone to leaving games early. If both him and Johnson have to leave early, the Eagles could be forced to playing swing tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai on the left side while shifting starting left guard Isaac Seumalo to right tackle. Stefen Wisniewski would then come in at guard. This is the configuration the Eagles had to resort to using in the Eagles’ Week 8 win over the Jaguars.
Darren Sproles is expected to return to the field this week after not playing since Week 1. That should give the Eagles’ backfield a boost. (Note: Sproles has since re-injured his hamstring and might not play on Sunday).
BTB: What’s the confidence level of fans in this edition of the Eagles?
BGN: BGN’s FanPulse results have the Eagles’ confidence meter at 73%. Eagles fans know this team is flawed but they also know there’s reason for hope.
Maybe this is reckless optimism talking but it feels like the Eagles’ fortune is starting to turn. Washington and the Cowboys lost on the bye. Injured guys are getting healthy. Golden Tate is a shiny new weapon for Doug Pederson to work with. Carson Wentz is playing good football. The team could look refreshed coming off the bye.
Beating the Cowboys could go a long way towards the Eagles making a strong second half run. I think that fan confidence rating will shoot up way high with a decisive victory over Dallas.
Thanks for the knowledge, Bleeding Green Nation.