The Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers had a high-flying, high-scoring shootout in Week 4 last season, treating a prime time audience to a tense game that came down to a late, semi-controversial interception. In that game, the Eagles became the first team to truly exploit the “run hard and throw to tight ends” approach that ultimately sealed the Packers’ fate last season, despite a strong 13-3 record.
Fast forward a year and the Packers again have a strong offense, still struggle with some of the same issues on defense, and figure to again push deep into the playoffs. The Eagles...well...things are rough in Philadelphia. Even though they’re nominally in position for a playoff berth thanks to the wretched state of the NFC East, they’re a far cry from the team that gave the Packers problems last year.
What’s going wrong in Philadelphia? To find out, we turned to Brandon Gowton, the man in charge at Bleeding Green Nation. Today, he’ll walk us through the Eagles’ offense. Check back tomorrow for Brandon’s thoughts on the Eagles’ defense.
Acme Packing Company: Carson Wentz’s uneven performance has been the subject of much speculation this week. Or this season. Okay, for a while now. As someone who was a pretty early Wentz fan, I’m interested in an insider evaluation of the Eagles’ QB. What’s your assessment of what ails Wentz? Is he the problem in Philadelphia or are there other issues at play?
Brandon Gowton: I can’t say Carson Wentz is the only problem because general manager Howie Roseman and head coach Doug Pederson deserve some blame as well.
Ultimately, though, the Eagles paid Wentz $128 million to be one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. And instead, he’s playing like the very worst starter in the league.
It’s true that Wentz’s situation isn’t ideal. The offensive line has been an issue this season considering injuries have forced them into 10 different starting combinations through 11 games. The early indication is that this week might be the 11th in 12 games with Jack Driscoll potentially starting at right tackle.
But there are plenty of times where Wentz has adequate time to throw and he just doesn’t make the play. The Eagles’ starting quarterback ranks 31st out of 32 starting quarterbacks this season in Pro Football Reference’s “percentage of on-target throws per pass attempt.” Only Drew Lock has been worse in terms of accuracy. Wentz is leaving way too many throws on the field. It’s ridiculous to only attribute Wentz’s struggles to coaching when he can’t even make layups.
Wentz is also obviously turning the ball over at an unacceptable rate. His 15 interceptions mark a career-high. He hasn’t lost a fumble since Week 8 but he clearly puts the ball on the ground way too much with 58 fumbles in 67 career regular season games. He’s often been too careless. Playing hero ball hasn’t worked out well for him.
Another factor to consider is how injuries on Wentz. He suffered a pretty serious concussion from a Jadeveon Clowney hit in the Eagles’ playoff loss earlier this year and one can only wonder if there were lasting effects. The ACL and back injuries have contributed to him not being the same dynamic athlete he was back during his near-MVP campaign in 2017.
All that Wentz has gone through mentally might be weighing on him. He’s obviously had to live in Nick Foles’ shadow with BDN winning leading the Eagles to Philly’s first Super Bowl win. Now Wentz is dealing with the Eagles curiously drafting a quarterback, Jalen Hurts, with the No. 53 overall pick this year after it had looked like he had erased all doubt he was the rightful franchise quarterback late last year.
Look, I’ve never considered myself an anti-Wentz guy. I still don’t. I don’t enjoy seeing him play this poorly. But I have to be honest about what I’m seeing and that’s a broken quarterback. I think some fans are reluctant to believe he’s not fixable since that would be a very inconvenient truth. But it just might be the reality we’re living in.
APC: Judging from afar, it seems like the shine is off the Doug Pederson apple as well. Do you think he’s in hot seat territory?
BG: I definitely think Pederson is in hot seat territory. Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie wants his team to have a top offense and Pederson isn’t producing that right now. He hasn’t been able to get Wentz better and the scheme/play-calling is leaving much to be desired.
With that said, I maintain that Pederson is receiving a disproportionate amount of blame for the Eagles’ struggles. It must be noted that Wentz has considerable influence over Philly’s offense. Pederson’s organizational power is limited in many ways; I’m not convinced he truly has the authority to bench Wentz, for example. It’s also not fair how Pederson constantly has to answer for the old, expensive, and bad roster that Roseman built in Philly.
In that vein, there has been some talk that Pederson actually wouldn’t mind being fired by the Eagles. And I’m getting to the point where I hope they move on and he succeeds elsewhere so this team looks bad for scapegoating him. I think it’d be very pathetic for the Eagles to fire him and keep Roseman … which feels like a fairly realistic outcome, sadly.
APC: The Eagles seemed to make a concerted effort over the offseason to add speed on offense. How has that played out so far?
BG: Their approach to fixing the wide receiver position was misguided at best. They totally eschewed veteran options to solely focus on getting an answer at No. 21 overall in the 2020 NFL Draft. And then once they were on the clock, they took Jalen Reagor because he “fit” Philly’s offense better than consensus selection and potential Offensive Rookie of the Year Justin Jefferson. Pretty dumb, if you ask me.
Reagor showed some big-play ability in Week 1 but really hasn’t been utilized down the field like that since. The coaching staff deserves some culpability, sure, but Reagor hasn’t really flashed signs of being anything truly special. Much unlike the case with Jefferson.
The other “speed” guys the Eagles added? Marquise Goodwin, who understandably opted out of the 2020 season. John Hightower, a fifth-round pick who hasn’t been able to get on the field much lately. Quez Watkins, a sixth-round pick who’s been a healthy scratch.
The Eagles foolishly put stock into DeSean Jackson — who quoted Hitler at one point in the offseason — returning healthy for this season and that predictably didn’t work out.
So, it hasn’t been great.
Check back on Friday for part two of our Q&A!