Philadelphia Eagles

Looking Ahead: the Philadelphia Eagles

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Another week, another opponent with a terrible excuse for an NFL offense. This weekend, the Green Bay Packers host the Philadelphia Eagles.

After an uninspiring loss to the Seahawks on Monday night – that was not as close as the score suggests – the Philadelphia Eagles fell from hosting a playoff game to owning a top-ten pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. That’s a fairly ridiculous situation but just look at the division they play in.

The NFC East, as a whole, is pathetic. The Giants and Redskins are tied for the division lead, at 4-7, while The Cowboys are 3-8 and the Philadelphia Eagles are 3-7-1. There’s still a chance that one of those teams finishes with a .500 record, or better, but I do not like those odds.

As bad as this looks, it’s only been ten years since we’ve had a divisional champ with a record below .500. The Seahawks went 7-9 during the 2010 regular season but hosted, and even won, a playoff game that year. There were also multiple divisional winners that finished 8-8 from 2000-2009.

However, no team in the Super Bowl era has finished the regular season with a record below .500 and made it to a conference championship. Late season pushes often lead to playoff success but we’ve never seen it occur on that level.

The Philadelphia Eagles still have a shot at finishing the regular season with a positive record but they have a difficult remaining schedule. They come to Lambeau next weekend, then host the Saints in week 14, then travel to Arizona the week after that, though they do finish the year with NFC East opponents.

While they can still win the division, I think it’s more likely that the Eagles continue to crumble against good competition. Their defense has held up alright but their offense has been ineffective.

 

Gameplan

Offense

We’re going from one $hit$how to another. As inoperable as the Bears’ offense has been, the Philadelphia Eagles are equally ineffective, though it’s for different reasons.

The Eagles’ offensive line has been ravaged by injuries this year. Consequently, Carson Wentz has been the most pressured and most sacked quarterback in the NFL. When kept clean, Wentz has been a top-ten quarterback, but those reps are few and far between.

To add to Wentz’s worries, the receivers have been hot and cold, but mostly cold. It adds up to the sixth-worst passing attack in the NFL. The ground game has been a little more effective, though it’s merely average. There’s a clear delineation between RB1 and RB2 with Miles Sanders and Boston Scott, respectively, but neither player is special.

This has been a pretty solid collapse of an offense that’s been top-ten and even top-five in recent years. Head Coach Doug Pederson calls the shots on this side of the ball and he’s been unable to create anything resembling an NFL offense with the inconsistencies at wide receiver and offensive line.

We know what to expect out of this Doug Pederson offense. It’s similar to the West Coast system he grew up with during his time in Green Bay, though Pederson prefers to put his quarterback in shotgun. He’s had a pair of talented tight ends at his disposal for most of the season, in Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert.

We often saw them on the field at the same time, that was until Zach Ertz landed himself on IR. Richard Rodgers has stepped up in his replacement and we’re still seeing a lot of ‘12’ personnel. Rodgers even managed to catch another Hail Mary, against the Seahawks on Monday night. That tight end group aside, not much is going right for the Eagles’ offense.

Perhaps the predictability of that unit has factored into its’ struggles but it’s tough to blame Pederson or Wentz. And yet, there are murmurs that Jalen Hurts could get some more reps during the next couple of weeks. This team is in a tough spot and that’s not likely to change until 2021. While the Philadelphia Eagles’ offense has been a disappointment, the defense has not.

 

Defense

We’ve got another familiar face leading the defense. Former Lions HC Jim Schwartz has been the DC since 2016. Safe to say, Schwartz has had more success in Philly than he had in Detroit.

Under Schwartz, the Eagles defenses have ranked, in chronological order, 12th, 4th, 12th, 15th, and 16th in points allowed per game. Schwartz has the Eagles operating a base 4-3 defense but we see more of his 4-2 nickel package.

Nathan Gerry has been the linebacker that stays on the field during nickel and dime situations, but since being placed on IR, we’ve seen Alex Singleton in that role. Singleton took that opportunity and ran away with it. This is his second season with the Eagles and his second season with NFL snaps and he’s proven to be a valuable commodity during passing situations.

In front of Singleton, we see a talented defensive line, led by Fletcher Cox. Cox is a five-time Pro Bowler approaching his 30th trip around the sun, and he’s still in the prime of his career, though this is the first season since 2014 that Cox is generating pressure at a rate under 10%.

Cox is flanked by defensive ends, Brandon Graham, Josh Sweat, and Derek Barnett. That trio has been efficient at stopping the run but amazing at pressuring the quarterback. The Eagles’ defense is tied for 2nd in the league in sacks, with 36. And yet, it’s allowing the 10th best quarterback rating in the league.

While the Eagles’ defensive line has been stellar, the defensive backfield has been a mixed bag. Rodney McLeod and Jalen Mills have been steady at safety – McLeod has played every snap this year, while Mills has only missed 26. The cornerback performances, however, have been everything but steady.

Darius Slay has been okay as CB1 but neither Avonte Maddox nor Nickell Roby-Coleman is capable of playing on the outside full-time. This Schwartz system asks its cornerbacks to press receivers at the LOS but the personnel doesn’t fit right now.

The Eagles have done fine defending the run but can stand to improve their team tackling. Both the Packers and the Eagles are in the bottom-ten in the NFL in that category, so be prepared for some missed tackles on Sunday.

 

Three Factors for the Philadelphia Eagles

Revolving Door at Important Positions

Death, taxes, and Carson Wentz running for his life. The offensive line is a mess. From the original depth chart, Jason Kelce is the only offensive linemen starting at his initial position. Lane Johnson and Andre Dillard were supposed to be the starting tackles but both are on IR. That’s a perfect encapsulation of the Eagles situation up-front. The only positive to come out of this is that we’ve seen plenty of 2018 Draft darling, and former Australian rugby player, Jordan Mailata.

It hasn’t been much better at wide receiver. The often-injured Alshon Jeffrey has only participated in three games, while 2020 first-rounder, Jalen Reagor, has played in six. It doesn’t help that DeSean Jackson and tight end Zach Ertz are both on IR. While it’s been a coming-out party for Travis Fulgham, the 2020 season hasn’t gone as the front office drew it up.

Lack of Young Talent

Speaking of the front office – the Philadelphia Eagles’ organization has a serious problem ahead of them. This roster lacks young talent. It may be an inability to find it or maybe an inability to develop it; hard to know for sure but one thing we do know is that the Eagles don’t have young talent.

Dallas Goedert and Josh Sweat look like the only players that the Eagles have drafted over the last four years that might stick around for a second contract. The Philadelphia Eagles don’t have much of a future to look forward to.

Brandon Graham

While they lack young talent, they do have an outstanding edge defender in his 30’s. His name is Brandon Graham he is an excellent football player – he has been for almost a decade. Graham doesn’t get enough credit because he’s never had a double-digit sack season, but he generates as much pressure as anybody. His 531 pressures over the last eight seasons (66.4 per year) are second only to Cameron Jordan, among edge rushers over that time.

Graham is a solid run defender as well, with an ability to play in space and at the point of attack. But you know what they say, “availability is the best ability”, and Graham has missed just one game over the last eight seasons. With his low sack totals, Brandon Graham will not be a Hall of Famer but he deserves much more credit than what the general public has given him.

 

It’s been an ugly 2020 season for the Philadelphia Eagles. Because of their tie with the Bengals, they own the second-worst record in the NFC. The Eagles can thank their NFC East opponent, the Dallas Cowboys, for having a 3-8 record. Pro Football Focus grades the Eagles as the fifth-worst team overall in the NFL and I agree with them, as I typically do.

While there’s plenty to criticize, we, as Packer fans, can empathize with those Philadelphia Eagles fans. They do it a little differently over there, and a little more violently, but we can appreciate their passion. Not to mention, the Packers have a lot of connections with the Philadelphia Eagles. Reggie White, Andy Reid, Doug Pederson, and Richard Rodgers are four names that come to mind.

Still, we’re happy that this game is in Green Bay. Even with social distancing measures in place, the Philly faithful would probably find a way to send Packer fans home with some cuts and bruises. Since we’re at Lambeau this week, we can rest easy.

This home matchup for the Packers looks like an easy one on paper but the Philadelphia Eagles always play the Packers tough. The Packers are 7.5 point home-favorites and I think that’s a fair line. There’s blowout potential here but the Packers need to come out hot right away as they did against the Bears last week.

It could be a good one this weekend so tune-in for this Sunday nighter between the Green Bay Packers and Philadelphia Eagles.

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