TAMPA — In a pirate-themed stadium, with cannons all over place, the Eagles simply didn’t have enough firepower.
They entered Sunday afternoon’s 27-21 loss to the Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium without Carson Wentz, Alshon Jeffery and Darren Sproles. Then Mike Wallace and Jason Peters left early, and Jay Ajayi missed a significant portion of the afternoon.
The Eagles brought a cap gun to a cannon fight.
While Ryan Fitzpatrick was throwing to DeSean Jackson, Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, Nick Foles was throwing to Josh Perkins, Kamar Aiken and Shelton Gibson.
See the problem?
“Don’t get me wrong, we have some phenomenal players who are hurt,” said tight end Zach Ertz, who had 11 catches for 94 yards. “But at the same time, there are expectations for the guys who are on the field. We expect whoever’s on the field to make plays.”
The Eagles love their next man up philosophy. It worked out for them on their way to a parade down Broad Street after the 2017 season. But Kamar Aiken ain’t Alshon Jeffery. Shelton Gibson ain’t Mike Wallace.
And Nick Foles — even though he won the Super Bowl MVP — still ain’t Carson Wentz.
There is a hint at some positive news regarding Wentz, however. Head coach Doug Pederson said he’ll talk about Wentz and give an update (which could possibly be news about getting cleared for contact) on Monday (see story) Getting Wentz back will help, but it won’t necessarily make up for the other skill guys who are down.
“We can’t expect him to just put his Superman cape on and be his old self,” Ertz said. “He’s going to be rusty. But we got a lot of good players on this team.”
While Pederson admitted that losing key players, especially losing guys during games, affects the game plan, he pointed at other reasons for the Eagles’ early offensive struggles. The Eagles had penalties and negative plays that put them in some really tough situations in the first half:
It’s hard to win like that. But it also becomes a chicken-or-the-egg sort of situation. Sure, penalties and bad execution hurt, but it’s hard to imagine that having a guy like Jeffery or Wallace or Sproles out there wouldn’t help the Eagles get into more manageable situations.
Foles actually ended up with pretty good numbers. He completed 35 of 48 passes for 334 yards and a touchdown, but the offense just lacked explosiveness minus the one play when Nelson Agholor got a short pass and ran for a big gain.
It just seems like missing these key offensive players isn’t doing Foles any favors.
“It’s my job. I’ve been there,” Foles said. “I’ve played this game a long time. You’re not always going to have everyone healthy. That’s just part of this game. I don’t focus on that. Whoever’s in that huddle, I trust them.”
Foles can trust them. Pederson can trust them. And those players can trust themselves and even play well at times.
But until those key playmakers return, this Eagles’ offense just won’t be the same.
The offense will be explosive again this season, it just needs its firepower back.