This summer, while we were reveling in the afterglow of the Eagles’ first ever Super Bowl win, we took a look at some of the positional storylines for the upcoming season. After four weeks, at 2-2, we checked-in again. Through eight weeks we took another look at the team. Here’s where we’re at with the 6-6 Eagles:
The Eagles go where Wentz’s Touchdown Rate Goes
With 10 games under his belt for the season, Wentz sits at 5-5. Last time we checked in, he was 3-3 and the time before that he was 1-1. Believe it or not, other than the abysmal loss to New Orleans (which very well may have been the worst game of his young career), Carson Wentz has been playing above-average football. Despite a glaringly average record, he’s completing nearly 70% of his passes. His QB rating has even been comparable to his MVP-caliber season last year. The problem is the rate at which he is throwing touchdown passes. Where a league-leading 7.5% of his passes ended in a TD last year, this year, that number is down to a middle-of-the-pack 4.9%. It should come as no surprise then that at the time of his season-ending injury last year, the Eagles were 11-2 with one of the most prolific scoring offenses in the league. This year they’re 5-5 and have trouble scoring more than 25 points on any given Sunday.
Josh Adams is the Guy
Four weeks ago we wondered if anyone would step up from the injured and under-performing Eagles running back corps. I thought Josh Adams had a shot given some early productivity, and it appears as though I was right. After a solid outing in a win against the Giants, Adams has earned coach Doug Pederson’s trust as the lead guy. At a current 4.9 yards/carry avg. on 76 attempts, this bodes well for the Eagles offense moving forward. Add in the return of Darren Sproles and Corey Clement looking better, and this unit might just make something of itself in the final four weeks.
All You Need is Ertz, All That Glitters is Not Golden
Although they’ve added former Pro-Bowler Golden Tate to the roster, the Eagles have yet to figure out how to best utilize him. While that effort remains a work in progress, Zach Ertz has remained the bright-spot of the Eagles’ pass-catchers. Ertz is leaving the rest of the Tight Ends in the NFL in the dust in terms of receptions and has been a reliable outlet for Wentz. This unit remains loaded with talent, featuring Alshon Jeffery, Golden Tate, Zach Ertz, and Nelson Agholor. It will be up to Carson Wentz and Doug Pederson over the final stretch to get the most out of them as the Eagles fight for their playoff lives.
Unit Cohesion Late in the Season
The oft-injured offensive line has found a new identity with the rushing attack, which has pleased Offensive Coordinator Mike Groh. After his seemingly grim injury against Jacksonville, Lane Johnson only missed the loss against the Cowboys. They’ll certainly need him this week as they look to avoid a sweep against the current division leading Cowboys. Defensively, the depth and hard play of Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Chris Long, Haloti Ngata, and Michael Bennett has more than covered for the loss of Derek Barnett. Timmy Jernigan may even return this week to further bolster the lone bright spot on the defense.
Do You Know Anyone Who Can Suit Up?
As if the secondary wasn’t bad enough, everyone is hurt! To make matters worse, the injury bug has spread to the linebacking corps (Jordan Hicks), making the Eagles thin enough to kick the tires on Reuben Foster. These injured units may very well be the death of the Eagles’ hopes this season. However, if they can cobble together some passable play, there is a roadmap to the playoffs.
Sproles is Back!
Darren Sproles, kick return extraordinaire, made his return this past week. While he didn’t have a huge impact in the win over the Redskins, Sproles will add some life to the special teams during a crucial stretch of the season.
“And it does not stop with him. It does not stop with him.”
There has been a lot of talk regarding Doug Pederson’s coaching ability this mediocre year. Let me just remind any nay-sayers that the man won the Super Bowl earlier this year on many gutsy calls and interesting play design. The Eagles have struggled this year for sure, but it’s hard to put it all on Pederson – or any one source, for that matter. The defense has been decimated by injury, Wentz hasn’t had that MVP-shine, the running backs have struggled, and the wideouts haven’t clicked. However, the season is not over. With four weeks left and a bad division (and conference!), the Eagles playoff hopes remain alive. They’ve played .500 ball for most of the year – they’ll need to get to .750 or better during this last stretch to break through to the postseason. Time to Fly.