By Paul Bowman, Sports Talk Philly Editor
The Eagles were, once again, on their way to a totally dominant win, but that changed the instant Lane Johnson left the game.
The same team that drove 95 yards down the field to score a touchdown then ceased to do anything, netting eight total yards through to the half and 13 total yards in the third quarter.
In reality, the Eagles are in the thick of the playoff hunt and have just two more challenging teams on the schedule for the next six games. The team also figures to get Jordan Howard and Alshon Jeffery back as well as get Jay Ajayi involved to assist this anemic offense.
Potentially by next week, Boston Scott and Nelson Agholor could be an afterthought and, in Scott’s case, not playing. They had to be cornerstones in this game.
Despite all that, the pessimism is warranted, especially considering that issues seem to be lingering from game to game and this was at least the fourth game the Birds were in position to win but came away with a loss.
Avonte Maddox appears to be the team's slot corner, even though he was the clear weakness in the secondary this week.
As expected, Boston Scott took over the punt return duties - though maybe that could change.
Big V became the right tackle following Johnson leaving. There is reason to believe that he could play better given a week to prepare, but he didn't look great on Sunday, especially when he first came in.
JJ Arcega-Whiteside saw the field. It will be interesting to see if he sees the field again when Jeffery returns.
With Sendejo gone, Rudy Ford played 15 snaps and appears to be the Eagles third safety outside their four-corner sets.
Anthony Rush played 18 snaps and appears entrenched as the third defensive tackle on the Eagles roster.
Buy: Jalen Mills
Mills was so good in this game that he was barely targeted. In addition to playing strong in the run game, Tom Brady favored any other Eagles corner over Mills and Mills played 100% of defensive snaps on Sunday. Since his return, Mills has played all around better than Jalen Ramsey has since the Rams acquired him. That is not likely to continue, but so far, it would seem that Howie Roseman was wise not to mortgage the future on Ramsey, who still has not signed an extension with the Rams.
If there was any doubt, the "Green Goblin" should be back in Eagles green in 2020.
Sell: Carson Wentz
The only game this season that you could argue Wentz played worse was against Atlanta when he started heaving balls into the middle of the field at defenders.
While he kept himself from doing that, he held onto the ball far too long and committed the only turnover of the game (allowed by the referees, that is) by standing in a collapsing pocket and fumbling the ball.
Not only that, but on one of the final drives of the game, in what was a clutch moment, Wentz missed three straight wide-open targets, two of which would have been a first down. You can argue all you want that he made a beautiful pass to Agholor on that fourth down and Agholor dropped it, but the simple fact is that the Eagles should have had more shots had Wentz been even remotely accurate targeting a wide open Ertz twice in that sequence of three terrible passes. A star QB doesn't do that in a high-leverage situation against a top-tier team, but Wentz did.
Buy: Ronald Darby
Darby was not as effective as Mills, but when his man was targeted, he was able to make the adjustments and make a play on the ball. He had quite a few pass break ups and should have had a couple interceptions in this one. His lone mistake on the day was quitting on the Edelman touchdown pass trick play. If he can address that and continue to play to this level, he and Mills are a more than competent outside corner pairing and the Eagles weakness is very obviously the receiving corps, rivaled by nothing else.
Sell: Nelson Agholor
Nelson "Game Losing Drop" Agholor is at it again with a drop on a ball that should have tied the game up (or given the Eagles a chance to win on a two-point conversion). Instead, he drops the pass in the end zone, one that was right where it needed to be and not nearly as difficult as Agholor made it.
Nelson Agholor is the most toxic relationship I’ve ever been in. pic.twitter.com/3vinWgNWQA— Victor Williams (@ThePhillyPod) November 18, 2019
Agholor is an infuriating receiver. He clearly has far more skill than the likes of Mack Hollins, but folds in these high leverage situations all too often. I shudder to say that Mack Hollins would have made that catch with ease.
The Eagles are now 5-5 and they could easily be 8-2 or 7-3 if Agholor isn't dropping passes to lose a third of the team's games.
He is on pace to have five game-losing drops. Elite.
Buy: Vinny Curry
Curry got just 14 snaps and ended up with just one tackle and one QB hit, but he got pressure on Tom Brady throughout the game. Really, we'd like to see his sack total going up, but Brady looked shook up for much of the game, missing routine throws. He was nervous in the pocket in large part to Brandon Graham, but also Curry coming off the bench.
Sell: Avonte Maddox
Maddox was an obvious weak link in coverage this week. He was routinely beat in the middle of the field.
To be fair, he was going up against Edelman on many of his snaps, but it is fair to question whether involving Rasul Douglas more (or Sidney Jones) and allowing Maddox to takeover the third safety spot might help the team considering that Maddox was the second best rookie safety in the NFL when he was filling in last season according to Pro Football Focus.
Buy: JJ Arcega-Whiteside
Did he breakout? Absolutely not. He did manage to make a pair of catches, however. Those were his only two target and would have gone for 38 yards had his first nine-yard reception not been negated by a Jason Peters penalty. On just 19 snaps, that isn't awful production, especially for a rookie. The Eagles should absolutely be benching Hollins entirely for him, as though that wasn't already known.
JJAW also came up big with a 29-yard sliding catch to move the chains on what should have been a game-tying drive. He should see more snaps going forward.
Sell: Boston Scott
Scott was impressive with some runs like a 12-yard rush up the middle and got the Eagles off to a great start with the game drawing defensive pass interference deep on the first play from scrimmage. That said, he was so bad in the punt return game that his stock actually fell. A fumbled punt that the Patriots nearly recovered but, luckily for Scott, rolled out of bounds, an ill-advised return from deep in his own territory and a non-catch on the final punt of the game to let extra time go off the clock. The Eagles cannot have that and should consider bringing someone else to the roster to return punts because Scott showed almost no ability to do that on Sunday.
Buy: Lane Johnson
With Lane Johnson on the field, the Eagles scored 10 points on three drives and managed the longest drive against the Patriots defense this year. Without him, they scored zero points across nearly three quarters of the game and totaled eight yards total following his departure in the first half and another 13 in the third quarter. Safe to say that the Eagles will need better play at right tackle if they want to make a playoff push.
Sell: Cameron Johnston
Johnston has been one of the best punters in the NFL all season, but with a chance to flip the field, Johnston botched a punt that went for just 28 yards. The Eagles never started beyond their own 28-yard line and that mistake certainly didn't help the Eagles with that field position battle.
Just hands in general. Nelson Agholor dropped a touchdown pass, Dallas Goedert dropped two passes and Jordan Matthews had a drop. Flip to the other side of the ball and Darby could have had two picks, one that was very easy from his positioning. Kamu Grugier-Hill couldn't get his hands underneath the ball to make a pick on a deflection. Jalen Mills missed a deflection that went his way. Rodney McLeod jumped a route in the end zone and had an interception had he just held onto the ball. Instead, the Eagles defense had no turnovers and had five dropped interceptions while their receivers managed to drop at least three passes. It appears everyone on the Eagles get their team-issued bricks for hands, not just the receiving corps.
- Jake Elliott hit his 13th straight field goal and is the first to start off a season with such a stat in an Eagles uniform.
- Jake Elliott also has a streak of 14 straight field goals made, good for eighth in Eagles history.
- The Eagles dressed Ajayi, but decided that Boston Scott should be a key player in this one with his unstoppable talent. Ajayi never saw the field.
- Nate Gerry continues to be a mixed bad who makes great plays in coverage and, this week, made a sack, but also fails to make a routine tackle and allows a 30-yard run to convert a third down and give the Patriots 8 points and the lead.
- For as awful as the offense was, if the defense makes the plays handed to them (easy interceptions and the Nate Gerry tackle), they could have held the Patriots offense to just three points in this game and an awful performance by the offense is turned into a win. Instead, they managed no turnovers.
- Speaking of no turnovers, Malcolm Jenkins forced a fumble that Vinny Curry recovered and took deep into Patriots territory. Instead, a referee announced that the ruling on the field was an incomplete pass. Then, when Doug Pederson threw his challenge flag, the same referee announced that the ruling on the field was that the runners forward progress was stopped (even though the runner was never in motion) and that the play was not reviewable. A "lucky" break for the Patriots, who seem to always be on the short end of the officiating making rules up.
The Eagles have Seattle coming in next week. They should also focus on getting the injured and new guys involved because there is not a chance that this team wins if they assume Boston Scott, Mack Hollins and Nelson Agholor will suddenly do something of value and then not immediately follow it up with some momentum-changing mistake.