Eagles

Some thoughts on the latest anonymously sourced report about Eagles’ offense

Some thoughts on the latest anonymously sourced report about Eagles’ offense

A day after ESPN’s Josina Anderson quoted an anonymous Eagles player upset the team didn’t land cornerback Jalen Ramsey, Anderson is now reporting on some frustration brewing about the offense. 

Here’s what Anderson said on NFL Live on Thursday afternoon: 

“With the team being 3-3, obviously, an Eagles source also talked to me about how they feel like that offense is functioning. One of the things that they said is, ‘We need to make bleep simpler. Sometimes we just need to handle what is manageable.’ They said, ‘Even Peyton Manning knew when to check it down.’ Carson Wentz right now is 38 percent on passes that travel 15 air yards, has three interceptions on passes like that, which is tied for most in the league. He also has 148 passes on those that are 10 yards or fewer. Right now, he has nine touchdowns and zero interceptions on passes like that. So I do think it is an apt point.” 

While the specific criticism doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, I suppose it is newsworthy that there’s criticism of Carson Wentz and maybe (?) Doug Pederson at all. 

But the whole thing seems a little strange. Here are some thoughts on the report, its contents and what it means:

1. The actual criticism doesn’t make much sense to me. Who has watched this team over the past month and thought, ‘Hey, they really ought to check down more!’? The biggest problem with this offense since DeSean Jackson has been missing is the lack of a downfield passing game. And this source wants Wentz to check down more? It doesn’t add up. The stats are also kind of weird. Of course more interceptions happen on passes with lower probability rates. 

2. And … “Even Peyton Manning knew when to check down.” Even the most cerebral quarterback in NFL history knew what to do? Is that what we’re saying here? I guess maybe this means that even the best quarterbacks don’t take deep shots all the time, but Wentz really hasn’t done that this year. In fact, he’s 10th in the league in air yards per attempt. 

3. While the exact criticism seems strange, it is still probably noteworthy that there’s any criticism or frustration at all, and that someone felt strongly enough to leak those thoughts to a reporter. It’s not the first time we’ve seen anonymous source(s) speak critically of Wentz and/or the offense. 

4. And this isn’t the first time Anderson has reported on frustration within the Eagles locker room. Last year, there was a report that one player thought Wentz was “over-targeting Zach Ertz.” 

It would be speculation to assume this is the same player, but it seems like Anderson has become a sounding board of sorts for frustrations about the offense. 

5. Source-guessing isn’t worth it. I’m sure everyone has their hunches on who said what and I’m sure the Eagles and Wentz would like to know, but it’s a pointless exercise. 

6. The only thing more pointless than source-guessing is going back to the Wentz vs. Foles debate. Nick Foles is gone. The Eagles are Wentz’s team. 

7. If this is supposed to be a criticism of Wentz, I don’t really understand it. Could he play better? Sure. But he’s so far down on the list of Eagles’ problems this season. He hasn’t been the one dropping passes or fumbling the ball or getting burnt by deep passes. In fact, he’s played pretty well, considering all that. I also give him credit for how well he’s handled these anonymous criticisms in the past. He’ll probably handle this one the same way.

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Eagles need to find out exactly what they have in JJ Arcega-Whiteside

Eagles need to find out exactly what they have in JJ Arcega-Whiteside

For most teams, it wouldn’t have been a huge deal. Guy makes a catch. Big whoop.

For this team? It was monumental.

For any wide receiver on the post-DeSean Jackson 2019 Eagles to record a 29-yard reception, that’s a rarity.

For a rookie who we’re all waiting to see something positive from, it was virtually historic.

Rookie second-round pick JJ Arcega-Whiteside, who had just two catches for 14 yards to show for his first nine NFL games, had a big 29-yarder in the fourth quarter of the Eagles-Patriots game Sunday at the Linc.

To put that into context, it was the fourth-longest reception by an Eagles wide receiver in the post-Jackson Era (since Week 2).

“The game, everything kind of slowed down, definitely, knowing the plays and getting a little more experience here and there,” Arcega-Whiteside said. “But every day you’ve got to learn from your mistakes. I definitely did some good things, but I’m sure there’s some mistakes in there, too.”

Arcega-Whiteside has been one of the biggest mysteries on the team this year.

Why was a rookie who had such a promising preseason unable to get on the field while the rest of the Eagles’ wide receivers sputtered and struggled?

He played 128 snaps against the Falcons and Lions, when Alshon Jeffery was hurt, then got just 43 snaps — with no catches — over the next six weeks.

With Jeffery sidelined again, Arcega-Whiteside got 19 snaps Sunday, his most since Week 3.

He had a nine-yard catch in the first quarter that was wiped out by a penalty, then early in the fourth quarter made a nice grab for 29 yards on a 1st-and-10 from the Eagles’ 6-yard-line, getting the Eagles out of the soup.

Believe it or not, that was the 4th-longest catch this year against the Patriots, the longest by a rookie.

That was Arcega-Whiteside's only catch in the Eagles' 17-10 loss, but it was definitely an encouraging step.

The Eagles are desperate for anything from their wide receivers. Any positive sign is huge.

Just with that one 29-yard catch, Arcega-Whiteside had more yards than Nelson Agholor in five of Agholor's last seven games and more catches than Mack Hollins has in his last six games.

Small steps.

“There were some times where I got open, there were some times I didn’t get open and I’ve got to look at it and learn from it and see how I can get better,” he said. “No matter how big or small the play is you’ve just got to build off each play and learn from the ones that don’t go your way, because the second you get complacent, bad things happen.”

Arcega-Whiteside’s catch was the longest by an Eagles rookie wide receiver since Hollins had a 64-yarder against the Redskins in 2017.

“Making plays feels good,” he said. “They feel better when you win, but every day just stack it, build off of this and keep it going. Just build off every success, learn from every failure and get better.”

You would think Arcega-Whitside has earned some more playing time. How do you not play this kid?

He’s got the size, he’s got the hands, he's got the ball control, and he’s getting more and more comfortable in the offense.

The Eagles need to find out exactly what they have in Arcega-Whiteside. Because there's a decent chance it's more than we're seeing from anybody else.



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Hey Eagles fans, the sky isn't falling

Hey Eagles fans, the sky isn't falling

The sky isn’t falling. 

I know, I know, that’s exactly what you want to hear less than 48 hours after a frustrating 17-10 loss to the New England Patriots. It’s the truth, though. 

Don’t get me wrong. The Eagles were up 10-0 at home on Sunday and they should have won that game. It was right there for them and they came up short. And because of common opponents between the Eagles and Cowboys, the Patriots game was actually more important than the one upcoming against the Seahawks.  

There were certainly things in that 17-10 loss that were concerning, mostly on the offensive side of the ball. 

But they were things we already knew coming into Sunday; the receivers stink, there are no big plays, injuries hurt. We also learned the Eagles’ defense might be legit. 

So, believe it or not, the Eagles still have a good shot at making it into the playoffs. 

Now, we have to remember that the outlook on the entire season has changed quite a bit. Coming into the year, we were talking about the Eagles’ being one of the top teams in the league. That ship sailed a long time ago. The new bar is just trying to make it into the playoffs and Sunday hurt, but it didn’t really hurt that much. 

According to FiveThirtyEight, after beating the Lions on Sunday, the Cowboys have a 58 percent chance to win the division and the Eagles have a 42 percent chance. 

This coming week, the Eagles are home against the Seahawks (8-2), while the Cowboys have to go on the road to face the Patriots (9-1). 

Using FiveThirtyEight’s playoff predictor, here’s how next Sunday’s outcomes will affect each team’s chances to win the division, which is still their clearest way to a playoff spot: 

Eagles and Cowboys lose
Cowboys: 64 percent 
Eagles: 36 percent

Eagles and Cowboys win 
Cowboys: 66 percent
Eagles: 34 percent

Eagles win, Cowboys lose
Eagles: 58 percent
Cowboys: 42 percent

Eagles lose, Cowboys win
Cowboys: 83 percent
Eagles: 17 percent 

But here’s the part where I remind you that after next weekend, the Eagles’ remaining schedule is easier than the Cowboys’ remaining schedule. From Week 13 on, Eagles’ opponents have a winning percentage of .351, while Cowboys’ opponents have a winning percentage of .460. The Cowboys aren’t playing world-beaters, but I like the Eagles’ chances of beating the Giants, Redskins and Dolphins more than the Cowboys’ chances of beating the Bills, Bears and Rams. 

Even if the Eagles lose to the Seahawks, they’d be 5-6 and still likely just one game behind the Cowboys, assuming they lose on the road to the Patriots and are 6-5. If that happens, the Eagles will have made life tough on themselves, but winning out is clearly a possibility. The big game will still be that Week 16 matchup at the Linc against the Cowboys. That might still decide the NFC East. 

A quick reminder of division tiebreakers if it gets to that point: 

1. Head to head 
2. Division record 
3. Common opponents
4. Conference record 

If the Eagles beat the Cowboys in Week 16, they’d be 1-1 against each other. From there, it seems like both teams could be 5-1 in the division. That means it would come down to common opponents, which is where the Eagles took a hit in Week 11. But they still have the Packers and Jets on the Cowboys, who now have the Lions on the Eagles. 

The Eagles’ offense has to find a way to be better and we know that. But we’re now in Week 12, so it’s unlikely they just flip a switch. They’re not going to be explosive, but if Carson Wentz can be more consistent, if they get a little more production from their weapons and if the Eagles’ defense keeps it up, they should be able to keep themselves in the mix. 

Remember, this isn’t what any of us thought we’d be talking about in Week 12. This is the time of year when many thought we’d be talking about the Eagles’ push to lock up the division and potentially earn a top seed in the NFC. 

On a macro level, this team and the way it was put together is a problem. The Eagles were supposed to build a dynasty and they built a slightly above average team that has to try to claw its way into the playoffs. But on a micro level, the Eagles still have a pretty decent chance to do just that … claw into the playoffs. 

So the ceiling might be low, but the sky isn’t falling. 



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