By Paul Bowman, Sports Talk Philly Editor
The Eagles escaped Thursday Night Football with just their second win of the season, but make no mistake, it was the worst game they’ve played in four weeks.
The Eagles were coming off promising games against three of the league’s top teams with a win and two games that the Eagles managed to keep themselves in.
A defense that can only be held accountable for about 20 points per game against top offenses allowed 21 to the league’s worst offense. An offense that averaged 28 points against elite defenses barely scrapped together 22 against one of the worst.
The previous two weeks offered plenty of hope and things to like as a team down to an almost entirely third-string offense hung with the best there was. This week the team leaves with the victory, but pessimism about how they nearly dropped another to a bottom feeder.
Particularly brutal in this game were the play calling, offensive line and the secondary (though they were not assisted in any way by another highly incompetent group of referees).
- DeSean Jackson finally made his return to the field. After making great contributions to the first drive, he disappeared from the offense and eventually was carted off the field after a dirty hit seemingly ended his career as an Eagle. John Hightower resumed those snaps and fans should anticipate Jackson is placed on IR whenever the Eagles decide who to sign/return to the 53-man.
- Presumably due to Matt Pryor having not practiced in a week, Sua Opeta drew the start at left guard in this one as the Eagles moved Nate Herbig back to the right side and Lane Johnson returned to the lineup. Johnson left the game limping multiple times and Matt Pryor replaced him at tackle, meaning they trust him at the position over Brett Toth.
- Jacob Huntley took his first handful of snaps as the Eagles RB3 this week with Miles Sanders out.
- While Richard Rodgers did serve as TE1 for the Birds, the Eagles did not use backup Jason Croom much in this contest.
- On the defensive line, Hassan Ridgeay was the third defensive tackle with Malik Jackson out. He later left the game himself with a bicep injury and the Eagles utilized Curry inside to keep a deeper rotation.
Buy: Greg Ward Jr.
The Eagles got Ward more engaged this week, which is always good for the team as it helps to pull defenders off of what has recently been a one-man show. Ward caught five of his six targets this week for 42 yards and, as is his MO, three of those went for a first down or touchdown. He and Wentz only missed on one opportunity all night. He is not a top-tier option, but is reliable and is good as a third or fourth option to get involved. He may not be the best for punt returning duties, but the team needs to continue to add plays for him into their plans like they do for other players, even those who don’t deserve it.
Sell: Jordan Mailata
Mailata had been impressive and deserved a ton of credit for his work, but his showing Thursday was awful. You’d be forgiven if you thought the return of Johnson and Pryor would improve the line, but the left side gave out quickly and frequently as Mailata was routinely beat by simple speed rushes going around him. He is, of course, still a work in progress, but from how he performed against elite players the last three weeks, even Mailata himself is going to be disappointed about his play in this one.
Buy: Alex Singleton
Singleton was the closest thing to a sure tackle in this game and came up with six total. He led the team with five solo tackles and added two QB hits, including an impressive one where he absolutely trucked Devonta Freeman and threw himself and Freeman into Daniel Jones. Singleton has appeared to get better and better each week, a welcome sign for a team that desperately needs to develop talent at the position with such little resources going toward it.
Sell: Cre’Von LeBlanc
LeBlanc seemed like a mess on Thursday night with multiple whiffs on tackles and very few plays made without a penalty marker also being thrown. It was perhaps the worst game of the season for the corner and the Birds, again without Craig James and having cut Trevor Williams, don’t exactly have options.
Buy: Boston Scott
Scott is not a feature back, but serving as one he did a good job behind what might generously be called an offensive line. The 5’ 6” player managed 42 yards on 12 carries despite more than half being on poor play designs into said disaster. He also added 46 receiving yards on three receptions, including the game-winning score.
Sell: Jake Elliott
There isn’t much to say here. Elliott seems to have decided his job is to kick it near the posts (whether it’s inside or out) as the kicker missed a chip shot this week. He’s lucky they even let him attempt a single extra point kick. If he didn’t have a negative affect on the cap, he’d be on the street already.
Buy: Richard Rodgers
Rodgers may be the team’s fourth tight end, but there really was never a reason for the team not to have him back in the first place. He has the trust of Wentz and, while not the same caliber as Ertz or Goedert, is a starting caliber player who lead the Eagles in receiving yards with 85 on six catcched this week. Rodgers is once again on a minimal salary and the Eagles should look to keep him around for another season, particularly if they can trade Ertz at some point.
Sell: Doug Pederson
Pederson called an excellent first drive as well as an excellent final two drives. It is a mystery what happens in between those as he apparently switched to an entirely different playbook. The rollouts and movement for Wentz stopped and the runs up the gut with a line that got no push and the smallest running backs that could be found were their replacement.
A fade to Hakeem Butler for a two-point conversion was put in their game plan as a good idea? Every redzone trip in that time featured at least two wasted plays before a real attempt. Factor in the usage of Jalen Hurts and I could have told you three weeks ago that it’s a run play to sell out on. He has attempted only two passes so far: a two-point conversion with no space to run and a flea-flicker type play. At this point, defenses can load the box when Hurts comes in because there is no chance he uses his arm halfway through the season.
- Carson Wentz made a few poor decisions in this game, but the endzone interception looked like it could have been a nice through that John Hightower simply stopped running for as soon as the ball was thrown (not to mention it would have been simple for Hightower to push the defender out of bounds).
- Additionally, the offensive line play was atrocious. Somehow getting rid of Jamon Brown made this unit even worse against a far inferior defensive front.
- Travis Fulgham did not score a touchdown in this game (though he should have), but he still proved highly valuable once again.
- The Eagles redzone offense was among the worst things fans have seen in recent memory. Dallas Goedert was eligible to return from injury this week, but did not and Alshon is still out with his injuries from last year and apparently a new knee issue that was suffered from rehabbing. This game proved how desperately the Eagles need that big target back to score from shorter distance.
- Carson Wentz was once again clutch in this game. Rarely has anyone every stepped up like this every week at the end of games and it might be fair to wonder how much Wentz affects the plays that actually develop at that point.
The Eagles have extra time this week to prepare for the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night football. The Cowboys defense is among the worst in the league, but the Eagles will still need all that time to come up with something after this train wreck of a game.