The Eagles are 1-2 with four of the next five games on the road, and three of those opponents are undefeated.
This is clearly a team at a crossroads, a team facing some very serious challenges just three weeks into the season.
A team that so many analysts had earmarked for the Super Bowl goes into Lambeau Field Thursday night on a short week trying to avoid a third straight loss and a 1-3 start.
What are the biggest issues facing the Eagles?
Let’s take a look:
1. Lack of pass pressure
Jim Schwartz likes to say it’s not about sacks, it’s about pass pressure, and for the most part the Eagles aren’t getting either. For the first time since sacks became an official stat in 1982, the Eagles have just two sacks after three games — neither one by a defensive end. There are 22 players who have more sacks than the Eagles. The last time the Eagles didn’t have a sack from their DE’s three games in a season was 2003. Opposing quarterbacks have had the luxury for the most part of standing in the pocket, and that’s too much pressure to put on a young group of corners.
2. Underachieving offensive line
It’s supposed to be the Eagles’ strongest position group, and one analytics site, Pro Football Focus, ranked them best in the NFL going into the season. They haven’t played like it. Carson Wentz is taking too many hits, the running game is spotty, and the Eagles haven’t dominated the line of scrimmage in any of their games. There are a lot of issues affecting the offense’s inconsistency, and the O-line has had some decent stretches, but overall they haven’t played up to expectations.
3. Bad first halves
This is the first time since 1982 the Eagles have trailed at halftime in each of their first three games, and that’s a terrible formula for winning. They’ve trailed by at least four points at halftime of each game for the first time since 1957, and historically you’re going to win about 18 percent of the time when you trail by four at halftime. Overall, the Eagles have been outscored 50-23 at halftime, and the 27-point margin is 5th-worst in the NFL and their worst in a non-strike season since 1986. They’ve bounced back to outscore their opponents 53-28 in the second half, and the plus-25 mark is 5th-best in the league. But two out of three games, the hole has been too big. You can’t win like this.
4. The schedule
If the Eagles are going to turn things around they’re going to have to do it against some teams that have been playing well. Their next eight games are against teams that are a combined 18-6, and the only team in the mix that doesn’t have a winning record is the 0-3 Jets a week from Sunday at the Linc. So their next four road opponents are a combined 11-1. For the sake of context, the Eagles are 11-14 on the road under Doug Pederson and 5-10 against winning teams. Those are actually top-12 marks in the NFL since 2016, but it just shows how hard it is to beat good teams on the road and the challenge facing the team over the next two months.
5. Who are the stars?
You need elite players to go on a winning streak, and after three games the Eagles don’t have anybody playing at an elite level on either side of the ball. Fletcher Cox is obviously not himself yet, Carson Wentz has been fine considering who he’s out there playing with but not off the charts, Zach Ertz is doing all he can do but is going to continue getting doubled until the Eagles get their WRs back, Nelson Agholor's caught a bunch of passes and has three TDs but has made a couple terrible mistakes, Malcolm Jenkins has been his usual consistent self but doesn’t have any big plays on defense. The Eagles’ elite players have been OK, and their average players have been below average. Their most consistent players have been Rodney McLeod, Rasul Douglas and Cameron Johnston.
6. The injuries
It’s easier to add up the guys who haven’t had serious injuries over the last couple years than the guys who have. Injuries are part of the game, but the Eagles have been decimated, and it’s affected every position group, stripping the roster of much of its depth. Not only do the Eagles miss the guys who are out, they’ve been really unable to develop any cohesion or consistency as players have popped in and out of the lineup. Who’s in this week? Who’s out? Who knows.
7. The Cowboys
OK, their three wins have been over three really bad teams — combined record 1-8. But there is a growing gap between the Eagles and Cowboys when it comes to young elite talent. Consider this: The Cowboys’ best players under 28 are probably Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, Demarcus Lawrence, Dak Prescott, Leighton Vander Esch and Byron Jones. Now ask yourself who the Eagles’ best players are under 28. Wentz and … Agholor? Rasul Douglas? Dallas Goedert? Avonte Maddox? Jordan Howard? Doug Pederson is 2-4 against the Cowboys, and the Eagles haven’t swept them since 2011. The Cowboys aren’t going away.
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