The Eagles have a third-down problem.
Actually they have two of them.
And preseason or not, starters or not, Nick Sirianni isn’t happy about it.
The Eagles were 0-for-8 on third down in the preseason opener against the Steelers and 2-for-10 Thursday night against the Patriots.
The Steelers were 11-for-17 on third down and the Patriots were 5-for-9.
That’s 2-for-18 on offense (11 percent) and 16-for-26 on defense (62 percent).
That’s really bad.
Preseason stats are about the most meaningless thing imaginable, but just for the record, the Eagles are last in the NFL so far on third down and second-worst defending third down (the Chargers are at 66 percent).
Now, it’s important to keep in mind most of this has been with the second and third units.
The starting offense is 0-for-2 on third down, including Zach Ertz’s bad drop on what would have been a 30-yard gain.
The starting defense only faced one third down in the Steelers game and stopped it.
It’s also important to keep in mind that the Eagles — like every team — are vanilla on both sides of the ball right now. So you’re not seeing the same calls on third down you’ll see during the regular season.
Still, those numbers clearly bother Sirianni.
“When we get into game planning a little bit more for the (regular)-season games, then, yes, we'll get our guys in better positions, attacking the coverages that we want to attack,” he said. “Same thing on the defense, attacking the protection schemes the way we want to (attack) them and matching up their route concepts.
“But we also know we're not good at it right now. We're going out there with our base calls against probably the team that we're playing's base calls. So our base calls without game planning so much and their base calls without game planning so much, we're not winning. That's as simple as that.”
This wouldn’t even be noteworthy if Sirianni didn’t emphasize it himself.
But he devoted a significant portion of the Eagles’ indoor practice Sunday afternoon to situational football and what he calls a “third-down jamboree,” with score kept between the offense and defense.
It was an intense practice, everybody was into it, and we’ll see if the Eagles can carry it over into joint practices with the Jets Tuesday and Wednesday in Florham Park and then the preseason finale at MetLife Stadium Friday night.
Because even if all the starters aren’t out there, there are guys out there on both sides of the ball who will be on the regular-season roster and others who are fighting for jobs.
Starters or not, vanilla or not, they have to be better.
Because 2-for-18 and 16-for-26 is embarrassing.
“We made it an emphasis,” Sirianni said after practice Sunday. “I think you guys saw when we were out at practice today the third-down jamboree, and we've actually done that after both games, and … we're just trying to put extra emphasis on it.
“So, yeah, it's not where we want to be and the emphasis is on it during practice like it was today.”