Whilst there’s optimism in Philadelphia there’s something missing in this season.
The defense is getting healthy and making plays, with Fletcher Cox as fearsome as ever and Brandon Graham poised to break into double digit sacks. Behind them the secondary is getting healthy and making plays.
Carson Wentz is once again one of the league’s better quarterbacks. He simply makes plays that many can’t. He hasn’t been perfect; his over reliance on Zac Ertz means the Eagles offense sputters when team gameplan for Ertz and he misses open players whilst looking for big play strikes. However, he delivers the ball where it needs to be more often than not and has all the skills to return to MVP candidate again.
When it comes to running back the Eagles have significantly upgraded this season. Jordan Howard seems like a steel for the Eagles. He’s averaging 4.4 yards per carry and has 525 yards for the year. His bruising style has also seen him score 7 touchdowns (6 rushing and 1 receiving). If Howard is the thunder then rookie Miles Sanders has been the lightning. Sanders has exceeded the expectations of most Eagles fans. Used mainly as a complimentary back, Sanders has rushed for 374 yards and an average of 4.3 yards a carry. He’s also been the Eagles most explosive receiver by far, hauling in 24 passes for 314 yards.
So where is the problem? When a rookie running back is your most electric receiver, you’re in trouble. Nelson Agholor has just 322 yards. After two years on the rise he’s struggled to create separation and has been plagued with problems hauling in the deep ball. Opposite him, expensive star Alshon Jeffrey has just 353 and missed the majority of 3 games. Additionally, he’s expected to miss the Eagles Week 12 game against Seattle. Jeffrey simply hasn’t lived up to his billing, failing to break 100 yards in 2019 despite being given a hefty extension.
It gets worse. No one else has more than the 159 yards accrued by DeSean Jackson, 154 of them in the first game of the season!
Mack Hollins, who flashed big play ability in his rookie season has 10 catches for 125 yards. The Eagles medical staff announced that Hollins was injury free after missing all of last season. If this is the case, then he’s rapidly becoming a bust. A fourth round pick with just 351 yards in 3 years (including 2018 which was lost to injury) and just one touchdown casts questions about Eagles receivers coast Mike Groh and his ability to develop players.
The team spent a second-round pick on J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and he impressed in the pre-season. How have the Eagles used this exciting young talent in the regular season? They’ve barely played him and as a result he has just 43 yards on 3 receptions. Eagles fans are right to question the pick., especially when they see D.K. Metcalf make play after play. Metcalf has already added 595 yards and 5 touchdowns to the Seahawks. Whilst it’s too early to call the former Stanford standout a bust but t’s galling for Philadelphia fans that Metcalf was available when the Eagles selected Whiteside.
Third Down Failure
The Eagles lack of a passing game allows opposition teams to stack the box against them. Everyone knows they’re going to run which limits the effectiveness on the ground game. This, combined with dropped passes and missed routes, puts the Eagles in a hole on third down. The Eagles repeatedly face third down and long. With receivers not making plays this is clearly not ideal. In fact, the Eagles have converted just 63/137 third downs.
Converting on third downs is what sustains drives. I’ll take 4 yards every down over a few big plays and then a punt every time. With the weapons the Eagles have they should be more capable of sustaining drives. They are 24th in the NFL with an average of 215.1, with teams like the Giants and Cardinals above them.
Tonight’s game against Seattle will see both Nelson Agholor and Alshon Jeffrey out with injury. For the Eagles it could be a blessing in disguise as they’ll be forced to play Arcega-Whiteside, recently acquired Jordan Matthews and Greg Ward, called up from the practice squad. Could it be a case of addition through subtraction for the Eagles? I hope so.