EAGLES

5 biggest concerns about Eagles after their 0-2 start 

EAGLES

The Eagles have plenty of long-term concerns with their franchise but that’s not what we’re going to talk about right now.

Sure, you can look at their lack of young talent and inadequate drafts as a bigger overall problem. But they have enough problems right now.

After their 0-2 start, the Eagles are dead last in the NFL in turnover differential (-5) and are tied for second-to-last in point differential (-28). It’s been an ugly start to this season, but they’re not completely done yet. The NFC East is pretty awful and because of that, they’ll probably still have a shot.

But they need to correct their issues and quickly.

Here are my top five concerns about the Eagles through two games:

5. Not getting enough out of D-line

The Eagles are spending nearly $48 million in 2020 on their defensive line, by far the most of any position group on the team. And through two games, the production hasn’t been there.

The entire defensive line has combined for 3 1/2 sacks through two games. Now, that’s not the only way to judge a defensive line but the Eagles also aren’t getting the kind of pressure they need to. They got some on Dwayne Haskins in Week 1 but got barely any on Jared Goff in Week 2.

The strength of this defensive line — and the defense as a whole — is supposed to be its interior. Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave, Malik Jackson and Hassan Ridgeway form what should be one of the best defensive tackle rotations in the NFL. But against a young Rams interior OL, these guys didn’t do enough. Cox is getting double-teamed a lot but he has to start beating those doubles and the other guys need to start getting at the QB when Cox is doubled. Jackson had a good first game but came back to Earth in the second game. We’ll see about Hargrave, who is getting worked back in after missing training camp.

 

The same goes for Derek Barnett, who missed all of training camp too. He needs to get back to 100 percent and start playing like a first-round pick. Brandon Graham is a solid player and Josh Sweat has shown flashes but this team doesn’t have enough at defensive end right now. That’s why the interior has to push the pocket and these ends need to clean up.

4. Injuries keep mounting on OL

Even as the Eagles start to get healthy, injuries are still a problem. With Isaac Seumalo’s knee injury, three of the Eagles’ five starting offensive linemen are already on Injured Reserve: Brandon Brooks, Andre Dillard and now Seumalo.

At least Lane Johnson is back, Jason Kelce is as solid as ever and Jason Peters has stayed healthy through two games. But now the Eagles will be starting young guards between their Pro Bowl linemen for at least the next month. 

Here’s the OL we might be looking at for a while:

  • LT: Jason Peters 
  • LG: Matt Pryor
  • C: Jason Kelce
  • RG: Nate Herbig
  • RT: Lane Johnson

Herbig is the starting right guard and Pryor came in at left guard in the Rams game. Herbig had a really good game against the Rams and Pryor was fine once he got in there. The Eagles have other options there too; perhaps once Jamon Brown is caught up, he will be a starter. Doug Pederson on Wednesday mentioned they have some options. 

No matter what, though, depth is an issue here. If Pryor is a starter, the Eagles’ top backups are Brown, Jordan Mailata, Jack Driscoll and Sua Opeta.

3. Offense is out of sync

A lot of this is the quarterback, but it’s not all him. The entire offense deserves some blame. It starts with Pederson and his play calling. Simply put, it can be better. It’s Pederson’s job to utilize his players strengths and I’m not so sure he’s done that early in this season. Now, he has done some good things, like sticking with the run when it began to work against the Rams. But he needs to get a better feel for how to get Carson Wentz out of his funk.

Right now, the Eagles are in 12 personnel (one running back, two receivers) an outrageous 74% of the time, by far the most of any team in the league. I know they need to find ways to get Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert playing time but can they really be an explosive offense with a two-tight end base offense?

 

In the first game, we saw the Eagles take a bunch of deep shots and then in the second game, we saw them emphasize a quick passing game. They need to find a middle ground and an offensive identity. If the protection can hold up — and that’s a big if — the deep threat could do a lot for this offense.

2. There’s a lack of talent on defense

There’s not much the Eagles can really do about this now, but it’s worth noting. Specifically, we’re talking about the linebacker position. The Eagles went into this season without spending significant resources on the position — at least on players who can contribute right now — and it has hurt them through two games.

Nathan Gerry, Duke Riley and T.J. Edwards are the Eagles’ top linebackers. They were viewed as a weak spot coming into this season and that might be right. None of these guys would be a bad option as the third-best linebacker in a group, but none of them should be playing every snap like Gerry has been doing. He’s overmatched. The Eagles finally used a Day 2 pick on a linebacker this year (Davion Taylor) but they drafted a raw prospect who doesn’t really figure into the defensive plan as a rookie. Heck, sixth-round pick Shaun Bradley might get a chance before him.

I think it’s probably too early to really make any complete evaluations on the safety position, but it’s also fair to wonder if the Eagles have enough talent there as well. They let Malcolm Jenkins go and their replacement plan was to slide Jalen Mills from corner to safety. They also brought back Rodney McLeod, signed Will Parks and drafted K’Von Wallace.

It made plenty of sense in a vacuum for the Eagles to move on from Nigel Bradham, Kamu Grugier-Hill and Jenkins, but did the Eagles do enough to replace those guys? So far the answer is a resounding no.

1. Carson Wentz isn’t himself

There’s just no way around this one. Even if all those other areas get cleaned up, it won’t matter if Wentz is playing like the worst quarterback in football. Through two games, he’s ranked 33rd out of 34 qualifying quarterbacks, according to ProFootballFocus.

This isn’t the same guy we saw drag the Eagles across the finish line in 2019. This isn’t the same guy who bounced back from an ACL to have a decent season in 2018. And this certainly isn’t the same guy who nearly won an MVP award in his second season in 2017.

This guy looks lost and it’s a huge problem.

The most concerning part of Wentz’s struggles is that he’s missing easy throws. According to PFF, he is completing just 64.6% of his passes from a clean pocket. That’s one of the worst numbers in the league. And according to ProFootballReference, Wentz is second in the league in Bad Throws with 18.

 

It’s either mental, mechanical or — more likely — a combination of both. But he better figure it out soon. Because this team is completely cooked without him.