Do you remember the Eagles’ last big pass play in a regular-season game? Let’s say … a 20-yard completion to a wide receiver?
So I looked it up, and just to give you an idea of how long it’s been, the quarterback was Carson Wentz.
Nick Foles hasn’t completed a pass of 20 yards or more to a wide receiver in his five regular-season appearances dating back to last December in L.A.
That’s 134 pass attempts and not a single play down the field to a wideout.
In the season opener against the Falcons, Foles’ longest completion to a receiver was 10 yards, and overall the Eagles averaged just 3.6 yards per play.
For the sake of comparison, the Eagles in 1998 averaged 10 points per game — third-lowest ever in a 16-game season — and even that team averaged 4.1 yards per play.
The Eagles won, but you’re not going to win a lot of games when your receivers are non-factors.
Way too much pressure to put on the defense.
It’s hard to drive 80 yards down the field in 12 plays. You need those chunks.
Big plays demoralize opponents. They energize the sideline. They put the opposing defense on its heels. They open up the running game and the underneath passing game.
We’re not necessarily talking 50-yard bombs, although those would be nice. But mid-range pass plays. That 20-to-35 range.
The crazy thing is that in the playoffs Foles chucked the ball up and down the field. He had eight completions of 20 yards or more to his wideouts in the postseason and four others to the backs and tight ends.
So why is this happening now?
And how do the Eagles fix it?
Hopefully, as Foles gets more and more reps until Wentz gets back, he finds that comfort zone he was in last postseason. We know he has the arm to zip the ball down the field. We’ve seen it. He’s just looked tentative and skittish, not just last Thursday night but throughout the preseason.
But it’s not just Foles.
With Alshon Jeffery out and Mack Hollins on IR, this is a perilously thin group of receivers. We know what Nelson Agholor can do. We know what Mike Wallace has done in the past. We know what Shelton Gibson and DeAndre Carter did in the preseason.
But there’s a reason the Eagles have been bringing every unemployed receiver in the universe in for workouts, adding them to the practice squad or flip-flopping them on the 53.
You don’t see that sort of attention paid to one position if the team doesn’t recognize there’s a real issue.
There’s also the reality that this is a new offensive coaching staff. Offensive coordinator Frank Reich is gone. QBs coach John DeFilippo is gone. Mike Groh is in his first stint as an NFL offensive coordinator, and Press Taylor is an NFL position coach for the first time.
Add it all up and you get 14 targets for 43 yards for the wideouts vs. the Falcons.
The good news is Pederson has a tremendous track record of fixing these types of things. And Foles has this mysterious ability to shrug off awful games and follow them with terrific games. And Howie Roseman is pretty good at finding players who can help.
But it’s clear something has to change. You make life awfully difficult for yourself when you average 3.6 yards per play.