The quarterback has been horrible. The linebackers and secondary have been terrible. The offensive line is decimated. The wide receivers are either hurt or ineffective. The running game has been neglected. One of the tight ends is on IR.
If the Eagles are going to find their way out of this horrifying three-game start, there’s one position group that has the ability to lead the way.
Amidst the wreckage of a winless three-game stretch to start the season has been a defensive line that’s been … not great and not consistent but by far the strongest position group on the team.
And it should be.
The defensive line has a combined 2020 average annual salary of $60 million, highest in the NFL.
Three games into the season, the Eagles are No. 4 in the NFL in run defense (3.4 yards per carry) and No. 3 in sacks (12). They're only the 14th team in the last 20 years to record 12 or more sacks and hold opponents below 3 1/2 yards per run.
We’ve seen glimpses of greatness, like in overtime Sunday. And if this group can sustain those glimpses, maybe they can at least give the Eagles a chance to win a few games?
“Absolutely,” Fletcher Cox said. “You saw guys flying around (Sunday), getting after the quarterback, and that’s something we always talk about. We've got to get to the quarterback. We've got to make the quarterback feel us. Hit him early, hit him often. I think that entire game, guys got it after. Guys won their 1-on-1’s. That's another thing that we all talked about, to hold ourselves up to really high expectations when it comes to winning 1-on-1’s. So I think as a group, we did good, but I don't think we did good enough (because) we didn't win the game, and I think at the end of the day, that's all that matters.”
The Rams game was an embarrassment for everybody. But up front, the Eagles were decent against Washington - just not good enough in the red zone - and pretty good against the Bengals. Very good at times.
They held both Washington and the Bengals well below 3.0 yards per run and on Sunday recorded eight sacks, the seventh-most in franchise history.
We saw the Cox/Malik Jackson/Javon Hargrave rotation work inside and the Josh Sweat/Derek Barnett/Brandon Graham rotation work outside.
Graham and Barnett had two sacks each, Sweat had one and Jackson had a half. The only other time under Jim Schwartz three edge rushers had a sack in the same game was the Jets and Luke Falk last year.
But nobody’s getting medals for playing OK against Washington and pretty good against the Bengals.
If the Eagles are going to salvage anything out of this season they’re going to have to win at least two of the next three against the 49ers, Steelers and Ravens.
No easy task.
To do that, they’re going to have to lean heavily on a defensive line that’s been up and down so far but clearly has the potential to be one of the league’s best.
“We're just gonna keep being the best team that we can be, not worry about distractions, not worry about what's going on outside our locker room, who's saying what,” Cox said. “To me, it's just, be the best team that we can be. Basically we're winless, so we have to do something to turn things around. I'll always believe in this team. People always count us out. People always say this, say that, but the guys in that locker room, no place I'd rather be (than) with those guys. Going out fighting with those guys every day in practice, and just preparing for our next opponent and that's what we're doing right now.”
Graham and Cox rank fifth and seventh in Eagles history in sacks. Jackson and Hargrave were key pickups the last two offseason. Sweat and Barnett are both off to good starts with two sacks in three games.
There’s no excuse if this group doesn’t perform at a high level. They’re healthy, they’re experienced and all of them except Sweat were either big-money free agents or first-round picks.
The outlook is grim for the Eagles. If they’re going to make a bid for respectability over the next 13 weeks, it'll have to start with the guys up front.