Eagles Evaluation: Embarrassing Offense Shows Up Again

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By Paul Bowman, Sports Talk Philly Editor

What can be said but déjà vu.

The Eagles defense once again managed to keep an offensive juggernaut and the league’s likely MVP to an easily beatable score for the entirety of the game.

They also managed to force timely turnovers.

Instead, the offense, once again, lost one of their starting offensive lineman following their second offensive drive of the game, this time, the recently extended Brandon Brooks, who had been the top lineman in the league throughout the entire season.

The rest of the offense faltered and looked worse than they did last week.

Instead of not getting anything going this week, the Eagles offense would have smooth drives going and then ended with self-inflicted errors like penalties, interceptions and fumbles. Even things like busted run plays with short yardage were a routine issue in this one.

Health is a major issue for the offense, but it isn’t for Wentz and he has been awful in just about every aspect of his game the past two weeks aside from running and tackling.

Personnel Changes

  • The experiment of using Andre Dillard as the backup right tackle ended by the second half. Halapoulivaati Vaitai is again the backup while Dillard will be limited to left tackle.
  • Matt Pryor became the backup guard in this one. Big V was the original backup guard, however.
  • With Rudy Ford hitting IR, recently claimed rookie Marcus Epps manned the safety position at times with Malcolm Jenkins acting as a spy. Considering his name wasn’t heard, he at least did a solid job with his assignments.
  • Greg Ward Jr. took over both the punt return duties and the offensive snaps of Mack Hollins. It’s unclear whether he would play over JJ Arcega-Whiteside, but he was more effective than Agholor has been. His snap count will be something to watch moving forward.
  • With Ward returning punts, Boston Scott took over kick return duties from Miles Sanders.
  • While Sanders was again the starter, to no one’s surprise, Jay Ajayi took over as the number two back and was good. When Howard returns, the Eagles could have a true three-headed monster.

Stock Evaluations

Buy: Miles Sanders

Sanders averaged 5.3 yards per carry and garnered 63 rushing yards behind a defensive line that heavily featured two backups, including a man who had never played snaps in an NFL game before. Add on three catches for 23 yards and two more that were severely overthrown and would have added another 20 yards and a touchdown and Sanders is showing how he can be a feature back in this league. The Eagles should still be using Ajayi and Howard to keep his legs fresh, but he might be the Eagles best back even with Howard healthy. His improvement since game one has been enormous.

The two knocks on Sanders would be the two fumbles, but only the two-point conversion attempt was his fault and, at that point, it didn’t really matter. The first fumble that could be assigned to him should not have been handed off to him. If there is a defensive lineman already tackling the running back, Wentz shouldn’t be handing it off to him to begin with.

Sell: Carson Wentz

The Eagles were without offensive starters Agholor, Jeffery, Jackson, Howard, Johnson and, for much of the game, Brooks, but were also without quarterback Carson Wentz, who must have sent a stunt double or Prince Harry to the game instead.

Wentz was awful. Think JaMarcus Russell and Ryan Leaf level bad. I feel pretty confident in saying that he hasn’t had a worse performance since being drafted. He was missing starters, sure, but he was also missing wide open passes to Miles Sanders in the flat. JJ Arecega-Whiteside could have broken out had Wentz lead the receiver instead of throwing at or behind him. Greg Ward was a solid contributor. The only drop he suffered in this game was caused by him making the receiver dive backward because he failed to lead him.

Essentially, the Eagles receiving options were better than they have been for more than a month and Wentz was unable to hit them.

Combine that with poor pocket awareness, not throwing the ball away, fumbling the ball four times and throwing two interceptions to clearly covered or double covered receivers with other wide-open options on the field. There is no excuse for Wentz in this one. While last week he didn’t have outlets to throw to, he did this week. Even with poor pass protection, he had the time he needed in most situations to gain much needed yardage and couldn’t make the plays.

Buy: Jay Ajayi

Ajayi’s stats do not jump off the page. He had just six carries for 16 yards. Despite that, he passed the eye test and was just as good of a runner as he was in 2018. Ajayi was a victim of poor offensive line play, with three of his six carries being blown up (resulting in a total of a two yards lost) and of a penalty, the only penalty called against the Eagles defense, negating a nine-yard run. Without that penalty, Ajayi, when his line held up, went for 27 yards on four carries for an average just under 5.2 yards per carry. When Howard returns, all three backs should be seeing the field. 22 personnel sets should not be out of the question and should be heavily considered for this team.

Sell: Andre Dillard

As stated above, Dillard was out at halftime. He was still very good at left tackle and should only improve there, but his stock certainly falls for having absolutely no versatility. This is something I am sure Jeff Stoutland can teach Dillard, but not in a week. He will need much more time to gain that versatility.

Buy: Greg Ward Jr.

Ward came off the practice squad and shined. He may not be a superstar, but he proved he can be a role player even without other receiving threats on the outside. Officially, Ward shows six catches for 40 yards, but he really had four catches for 33 yards (8.25 YPC) and two jet sweeps for seven yards. Of his four downfield passes, three went for first downs. As for his jet sweeps, they would have proven more effective had Andre Dillard blocked anyone on his first attempt instead of letting his guy immediately tackle Ward for a loss.

The Eagles will be looking at rebuilding their receiving corps this offseason and that will be much easier if they can build around Jackson, Arcega-Whiteside and Ward and add just two or three guys rather than needing to add three to five guys. If Ward can continue this production and possibly even build on it with better receiving threats around him, he should get an extension with the Eagles and make the team’s offseason plan that much easier.

Sell: Genard Avery

For the first time since his trade here, he did not record a meaningful snap, though he did play just two defensive snaps. That really could be more of how well the defense played than of the skill of Avery – with six sacks and two turnovers, there wasn’t much need for Avery’s joker LB/DE position.

Buy: Brandon Graham

Graham finished with just two tackles, but managed 1.5 sacks in this one. Perhaps more importantly, Russell Wilson rarely escaped the pocket, at least by Wilson’s standards. Graham was a key player in this one and the Eagles needed him to keep Wilson in the pocket. Even when he didn’t get home, Graham did a nice job forcing Wilson to step up rather than out on numerous plays.

Sell: Dallas Goedert

Remember when Goedert was going to be great? Well he had seven catches for 32 yards in this one. That’s one more catch and eight less yards than Ward, who was called up from the practice squad on Saturday. Goedert has actually been very good blocking, but for a receiving tight end to do less than a receiver off the practice squad who is making his first NFL catches is not ideal.

Adding to that is that nearly half of his yardage – 14 yards – came on a play where he fumbled the ball away. Goedert could be big for this team as just a blocker, but he absolutely can not commit turnovers. His fumble came on the Seattle 32-yard line, so the Eagles were knocking on the red zone when he handed the ball away.

Buy: Rodney McLeod

McLeod has been good all year, but this might have been his best game to date. He seemingly did everything in this one. four tackles, a defensed pass, an interception and even registering a sack on a play where Russell Wilson was about to take off. McLeod did miss a tackle on the 50-yard touchdown run the Seahawks had, but he did not have a good line for making the tackle from his position and his play elsewhere in the game should have more than made up for that blunder.

McLeod took a pay cut to stay in Philadelphia this year. It’s fair to wonder whether or not the Eagles will try to get him back in 2020 or whether he will be seeking a big payday elsewhere.

Sideline Chatter

  • Jake Elliott has hit all 14 of his field goal attempts and has 15 straight going back to last season. With Rick Lovato getting a recent extension, Elliott figures to get one of his own soon.
  • Matt Pryor was actually pretty good in this one. He’d have his stock rising if he hadn’t committed a hold on a run play that ended what was the Eagles third-most promising drive behind only the opening drive and the final drive in garbage time. Pryor looks like a far better run blocker than pass blocker, though.
  • A part of me thinks that the “illness” that Brandon Brooks suddenly started suffering from was his anxiety resurfacing. His best friend on the team is Lane Johnson, who has been missing all week long, the team is in essentially a must win situation and he was put in a situation that had him trying to make up for a guy who clearly had no ability to play right tackle. That is a recipe for stress and anxiety. His post on Twitter later confirmed this.
  • In addition to the team reducing Mack Hollins’ role on offense, the Eagles also used Hollins less on special teams plays. There might be a good chance he is cut when the team needs a spot cleared on the roster (i.e. they return someone like Cre’Von LeBlanc from IR or decide to sign a free agent WR) if this continues.
  • I really wanted to put Zach Ertz as a buy in the stock evaluations section, but with more buys than sells already, it felt wrong with the embarrassment half this team was in the game despite plenty of good performance to go around.
  • Much has been made of the defense celebrating while down two touchdowns. My take? Who cares? Those guys kept the game in hand and had maybe a handful of bad plays all game. Let them keep themselves energized. Would you rather they not celebrate and just give up because they head back to the bench to see Wentz fumble the ball five plays later? I would hope not.

Team Focus

The Eagles head to Miami next week to play the Dolphins. While they are not a good team and the defense should feast, the Eagles need to get some energy into their offense and have Carson Wentz do something of value if they want to win next week.

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