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Eagles Armchair: Wentz struggles, injuries mount as Eagles get blown out

By Tucker Bagley

The Eagles' playoff hopes came crashing down on Sunday as the New Orleans Saints ran circles around the Birds en route to a 48-7 victory. With the loss, the Eagles have fallen to 4-6, two games behind the division leading Washington Redskins and just two games ahead of the worst record in the NFL. There is a lot of blame to go around after this disaster, but we'll start at the top.

Going Deep

A lot of things had gone wrong for the Eagles in 2018. Injuries mounted and players regressed as the dreaded "Super Bowl hangover" was blamed for the team's litany of issues. However, despite the team's losing record, Carson Wentz continued to play at an All-Pro level. Until Sunday, that is.

"I’ve played a lot of football games in my career, ever since I was a kid, and this one of the worst losses I’ve ever been a part of," Wentz said minutes after the worst start of his professional career.

The third-year quarterback posted a career-low 31.9 quarterback rating, throwing for just 159 yards on 33 pass attempts, while also tossing a career-high three interceptions. Wentz seemed to be pressing all afternoon, trying to keep up with the Saints warp speed offense. Trailing by 10 in the first quarter, Wentz attempted a deep post to Nelson Agholor that was woefully under-thrown and intercepted by Marshon Lattimore. Ten plays later, the Saints had a 17-0 lead.

"I was just mad at myself," Wentz said when asked about the frustration he showed on the sideline. "Because I just didn't see the coverage right. I knew the type of ballgame we were in. We put an emphasis on starting fast, and we didn't do that. I obviously didn't do that either, so I was frustrated."

The Eagles were shut out in the first quarter for the eighth time this season. To date, they have scored just 21 points in the first quarter. The difference between the Eagles' sputtering offense and the Saints' well-oiled machine was striking as the home team punted just once on their first nine possessions.

Wentz's performance was the worst by an Eagles' quarterback who started and completed a game since Michael Vick posted a QB rating of 32.5 against the Cardinals in 2011. It was shocking to see Wentz struggle against a defense that was ranked 31st in the NFL entering Sunday. The Saints boast the best offense in football, so allowing 48 points to a team that had put up 96 in their last two games is rather forgivable. Scoring just 7 points on the 23rd-ranked scoring defense is not.

Wentz's final two interceptions came in garbage time when the game was already out of hand, but he seemed to not be on the same page as his receivers on either throw. 

In all fairness, Wentz was due for a bad game. Since the beginning of 2017, he hadn't posted a rating below 84.2 in a single game. Maybe it was good for him to get it out of his system before three straight division games. The Eagles only road to the playoffs runs through the struggling NFC East, which is currently led by the Redskins, who lost quarterback Alex Smith for the season with a broken leg on Sunday.

"It was definitely frustrating," Wentz said. "But at the end of the day, we’re going to get out of here, we’re going to watch this film, and we’re going to go play a couple of NFC East opponents here and see what we’re made of."

Injury Report

Did not play: Darren Sproles (hamstring), Jalen Mills (foot)

Jason Kelce: The Eagles' center hurt his left arm on the second drive of the game and never returned despite being upgraded from "out" to "questionable" during halftime. Stefen Wisniewski replaced Kelce and allowed a sack on a stunt. Kelce was first-team All-Pro last year, but hasn't lived up to that billing this season. Still, if he's lost for an extended period of time, it will limit what the Eagles can do with their blocking scheme.

Avonte Maddox: The rookie injured his ankle in the first half and never returned. Maddox played a lot in the slot on Sunday, with Corey Graham taking over in the free safety role. As injuries have mounted in the secondary, Maddox has emerged as a key figure in the Eagles' defensive backfield. If he's lost for a considerable amount of time, it will be a huge blow to an already thin secondary.

Sidney Jones: Jones was the second domino to fall in the secondary yesterday, going down with a hamstring injury. Jones had missed the previous three games with the same injury, so it seems likely he'll be out for an extended period of time once again. 

Rasul Douglas: And if things couldn't get any worse in the secondary, Douglas went down with a knee injury in the second half and never returned. The Eagles finished the game with Chandon Sullivan, Cre'Von LeBlanc and DeVante Bausby as their only healthy corners. None of those guys were even on the team two weeks ago. The Eagles have been decimated by injuries this season, but no place more than the secondary.

Rick Lovato: The Eagles' long-snapper was tested for a concussion in the fourth quarter, forcing the Eagles to go for it on fourth down instead of punting on their own 34-yard-line. Expect a move to be made quickly if Lavoto can't play next week.

Measurables

3: Through eight games this season, Wentz is averaging just three rushing attempts per game, barely half of the six he averaged a year ago. Wentz hasn’t shown any ill-effects from his knee surgery last December, but he has definitely been reluctant to use his legs, which is a shame.

The Eagles offense is at its best when Wentz is out of the pocket and improvising big plays on the run. The Eagles lone scoring drive on Sunday featured a lot of play action and got Wentz out of the pocket as he completed passes of 12, 13, 15 and 6 yards before Josh Adams' touchdown.

5: Despite their poor offensive performance, the Eagles offensive line actually played fairly well for not having their starting center, allowing just 5 quarterback hits on Wentz's 36 dropbacks. Jason Peters and Lane Johnson played especially well, considering the former has a torn triceps and the latter sprained his MCL just three weeks ago. If there's any hope this team can recapture the magic they had a season ago, it will start with the play along the offensive line.

Up-Down Drill

Up: Josh Adams

The Eagles had to abandon the run early once they fell behind, but Adams was the only Eagle with multiple carries in the first half, indicating the coaching staff believes in the rookie to be the lead back moving forward. Adams responded with a 28-yard touchdown in the second quarter. In fact, Adams was probably the lone bright spot on the offense Sunday. His progress/ascent will be worth monitoring during the rest of the season.

Down: Zach Ertz

Ertz is no longer on an historic pace after his performance on Sunday. The tight end was invisible on the field, getting targeted just three times. It was just the second time all season he was targeted less than 9 times. With all of the Eagles' offensive struggles this season, Ertz was the consistent bright spot, but he was unable to make an impact against New Orleans. 

Up: Cameron Johnston

Johnston's German suplex was the Eagles' best tackle of the year. At least the Australian is still showing some fight.

Down: Eagles defenders

It was expected the Eagles would give up some points to the NFL's top offense, but to simply roll over as the Saints put up 48 points and 546 yards is unacceptable. New Orleans also averaged nearly 8 yards per play and scored on eight of their 10 possessions. It's hard to single out one player when a whole unit lays an egg like the Eagles did on Sunday.

Three-Step Drop

1. With the struggles the Eagles rushing attack has endured this season, there have been a lot of criticism regarding the Birds' decision to let LeGarrette Blount walk in the offseason. However, Blount has really struggled over the past year. Since Week 12 of 2017, he has averaged just 2.71 yards per carry and hasn't picked up more than 50 yards in a game, save for his 14-carry, 90-yard performance in the Super Bowl. Blount is fondly remembered for his role in winning the Lombardi Trophy last year, but in 2018, he isn't a difference-maker.

2. Speaking of misguided moves, in retrospect, the trade for Golden Tate looks foolish at best right now. Not that it's Tate's fault, who proved on Sunday to be a productive receiver, but to think the addition of a slot receiver in the middle of the season would push this team back into contention was ridiculous. The Eagles had way too many holes on their roster and adding one player (at the most overvalued position) didn’t change that.

3. The Eagles opening drive looked eerily similar to the end of the Chip Kelly era. A pair of uninspired play-calls put the Birds in a third-and-long situation and forced a quick three-and-out. The Eagles' insistence on blaming a lack of execution for their offensive troubles hides the fact that the real issue is stale play-calling.

Who's Next

The Eagles will host the suddenly red-hot New York Giants next week, who have won each of their last two games after losing seven of their first eight. With the Redskins losing Alex Smith for the season, the Eagles can still conceivably win the NFC East, provided the Cowboys falter as well. The Eagles blew out the Giants on Thursday Night Football last month, and will hope to recapture some of that magic on Sunday in an effort to salvage their season.

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