There’s no great mystery behind the Eagles’ demise. It’s the injuries, stupid. Simple as that.
Doug Pederson didn’t turn into a pumpkin. Jim Schwartz isn’t a stooge. The Eagles don’t need to fire the head coach and defensive coordinator less than a year after winning the Super Bowl. That would be a massive overreaction.
The team isn’t bad, either, at least not in the classical sense. The Eagles entered 2018 with 19 returning starters from a season ago, depending on how you do the math, so the insulation is they got lucky last year. Insert raised-eyebrow emoji here.
This is a classic case of Occam’s razor — the simplest explanation must be true. Sure, the Eagles miss some of the assistant coaches and players who departed in the offseason. No question, there are players who regressed. But when you can formulate nearly complete starting lineups on offense and defense using only the players who are currently injured or missed preseason/training camp with injuries, it should be obvious what’s going on here.
If you filled out a roster with just these players, only healthy, and surrounded them with replacement-level personnel, they would probably be as good if not better than the 2018 Eagles.
QB – Carson Wentz
Third-year signal caller, limited in camp, missed preseason and Eagles’ first two games, returning from a torn ACL and MCL nine months earlier. It should come as no surprise this has been a step back from Wentz’s MVP-caliber season in 2017.
RB – Jay Ajayi, Darren Sproles
The Eagles squeezed more out of Wendell Smallwood than anybody thought possible, but Ajayi and Sproles are dynamic players. Think their absences might have something to do with Pederson’s refusal to stick with the run?
WR —Alshon Jeffery, Mike Wallace, Mack Hollins
Jeffery appears to be 100 percent after missing offseason activities and the first three games, but Wallace has been out since Week 2 and Hollins was a non-entity.
TE – Richard Rodgers
Didn’t seem like a big deal at first, yet every time an Eagles quarterback threw a pass to Joshua Perkins, Rodgers’ worth was on display.
OL – Jason Peters, Jason Kelce, Lane Johnson
The Eagles are two injured offensive linemen away from filling out the lineup. Peters readily admits he still isn’t the same after last year’s ACL. Kelce wasn’t on the injury report, but it’s well known he’s been working through a knee issue most of the season — now add an elbow to the list. At least Johnson looked decent in his return from a sprained MCL.
DL – Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Tim Jernigan, Haloti Ngata
Graham was out all summer after undergoing ankle surgery and has been practically invisible ever since. Barnett landed on IR in October. Jernigan is finally set to play his first game in November. And Ngata has been banged up with one pain or another pretty much since the moment he joined the Eagles.
LB – Jordan Hicks
With Monday's news Hicks could miss time, the Eagles can now fill out a full dime package on defense with injured names.
CB – Jalen Mills, Ronald Darby, Sidney Jones, Avonte Maddox, Rasul Douglas
Take one look at this list and try arguing the Eagles had any shot at stopping a 48-point debacle against the Saints. This is an entire roster’s worth of cornerbacks.
S – Rodney McLeod, Chris Maragos
It turns out McLeod was a very underrated piece of the puzzle. And while the Eagles’ defense isn’t missing Maragos, the painfully average special teams units sure could’ve used him.
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