Monday night's loss to a reeling Packers team was a continuation of an eight-game slide for the Eagles. The recent defeat, which was their first at home this season, has essentially taken them out of the playoff picture.
Barring an unforeseen five-game win streak to conclude the regular season, the organization will be enduring another playoff-less campaign, its fifth in six seasons.
Expectations were tempered entering the 2016 season. With a rookie head coach, rookie quarterback and a limited offense, the odds were always stacked against the Eagles. The surprising 3-0 start made most of the media and fans change their outlook on the season, but after falling to 2-6 in their last eight games, the end is almost near.
In what can be accurately described as a transitional season, the Eagles have digressed after Week 3. Outside two elite defensive efforts at home against the Vikings and Falcons, which led to wins, the team has struggled to regain its form from the first month of the season and have no identity on offense. The top person to blame for the overall team decline and failing offense is head coach Doug Pederson.
Naturally, Pederson received praised after the 3-0 start. The players bought into the rookie head coach's positive attitude and willingness to get back to a physical style of football. Playing the Cleveland Browns and Chicago Bears right out of the gate helped establish confidence, but a thorough beat down of the Pittsburgh Steelers took it to a new level.
Then came the bye week. After the team resumed the challenging 16-game schedule, it was a shell of its former self. Pederson's approach on offense has been confusing from week-to-week, while untimely mistakes, penalties and some injuries have played parts in the decline.
For instance, Pederson had a great opportunity to get his offense heading in the right direction in the latest game against the Packers. Green Bay has allowed opposing quarterbacks to compile the second-highest quarterback rating in the league. The secondary, due to injuries, and underachieving play of their defensive line were the main reason for the faltering defense.
Instead, the Eagles mustered 13 points and 292 total yards against Green Bay. Thanks to a defense that couldn't get off the field against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' offense, the time of possession battle was a great defeat for the Eagles.
Pederson neglected to fully establish the rushing attack, as the team only ran the ball 18 times. Despite a solid 4.5 yard per carry average, Carson Wentz was put into a position to the throw the ball way too often.
The team decided to throw the ball more despite deactivating Nelson Agholor and Jordan Matthews coming down with an ankle injury late in the first half. Because of how the roster is currently constructed, the offense has limitations. Still, Pederson has elected to not address that weakness with a potential strength, which is the running game. The offensive line did a great job in run blocking in the limited opportunities against the Packers.
Another example to blame Pederson for the team's slide has been his decision-making in certain situations. After utilizing a challenge in the first half, he decided to challenge a two-yard catch, which would make it 2nd and 10, instead of 2nd and 8. Though it proved not to be a catch and he won the challenge, either way, the team was out of challenges from that point forward. It was a head-scratching move. Conserving the challenge for a possible more important play in the fourth quarter was the smarter play.
Having players on offense such as receivers Bryce Treggs and Paul Turner are clearly not the answer to the problems. It was worth giving them a shot, but it is safe to say Nelson Agholor will be back in the lineup this week after being inactive on Monday night.
Regardless of the personnel situation, Pederson has failed to put the offense in a better position to succeed. Wentz hasn't been the same quarterback since his three-week explosion, and the receivers haven't made any significant improvements. It appears they have a potential piece to the offensive puzzle moving forward in rookie Wendell Smallwood, but he needs to get more opportunities out of the backfield.
The final five games of the season aren't about making a playoff push. That possibility has almost vanished after the latest loss. It is now about seeing what this team has moving forward into the future. Can Pederson learn from his first-year head coaching mistakes, or will he continue to repeat them? It is up to him to get the offense on the right track, regardless of the weaknesses.
Anytime a team loses six of eight games, the blame usually points to the head coach for the struggles. That applies to this situation. If the losing persists as the season marches towards conclusion, the rumblings about Pederson's inability to guide a football team will only intensify.
These next five weeks will give us an indication about what the prospects are for the head coach heading into year two, and maybe beyond.