The Eagles clawed their way to a 25-22 win over the Giants on Sunday, but it’s understandable if you’re not ready to put your hope back into this team.
They’re 5-6 and it isn’t like they beat the Giants convincingly.
But the path to the division title is pretty clear. If the Cowboys lose to the Saints on Thursday, then a win over Washington on Monday Night Football would leave three teams atop the NFC East with 6-6 records.
I sense the trepidation among Eagles fans and it’s completely warranted. Expecting this Eagles team to suddenly round into form and go on a run is somewhat hard to do. Heck, they haven’t even won back-to-back games all season.
This is probably oversimplifying things a little bit, but the Eagles have two main problems that stand in their way:
1. The offense is broken
At times this season, Carson Wentz has been great and it still hasn’t mattered. The Eagles have the NFL’s 24th-best scoring offense, averaging 20.9 points per game. Just a reminder, last year’s team averaged 28.6 points per game. That was second in the NFL last year, but this season would rank just fifth. While offenses have been exploding around the NFL, the Eagles have taken a major step back. This team can’t make a run scoring 20 points per game.
One big reason for optimism about the offense is the line. They seem to be getting and staying healthy. Offensive coordinator Mike Groh didn’t want to place blame on OL injuries as the reason for offensive struggles but seemed to agree the unit is getting healthier. “We’ll continue to ride that wave,” Groh said. If those five guys can stay healthy and get back to the level we’ve grown accustomed to, the Eagles’ offense could get a serious boost.
The other big problem with the offense has been the inability of the coaching staff to utilize its weapons in the right way. I fear the acquisition of Golden Tate only made things murkier. There’s no easy fix to this, but there’s no question the Eagles have some talented receivers. Maybe the added balance from a run game will help get the offense into a better rhythm. After that, it’ll be up to Wentz to evenly distribute the ball. The Eagles are at their best when teams have to pick their poison.
The most glaring part of the Eagles’ offensive struggles is their inability to score early in games. It’s been very well documented that they’ve scored just 21 first-quarter points all year. They have been shut out in nine of 11 first quarters this season. That just throws everything out of whack. The offense then has to press to get back in the game and the defense can’t pin its ears back. That’s the formula this team wants to live by: get up early and dictate the way the game is supposed to go.
Groh seemed encouraged by some of the things the Eagles did early in the Giants game. In fact, the Eagles scored a 52-yard rushing touchdown on their second play from scrimmage, but it was called back for a hold. Still, they seem to think there are some positives to build on there.
2. The defense isn’t healthy
Generally speaking, the defense hasn’t been the problem this season. The Eagles have allowed an average of 23.0 points per game, which ranks them 14th in the NFL. And we can’t take away the Saints game, but that’s the only game this season where Jim Schwartz’s unit has given up more than 30 points. So if we’re still playing this pointless blame game, the offense deserves more. Although, Schwartz’s unit shouldn’t get a pass for certain situations, like the Carolina game where it blew a lead late in the fourth quarter.
But, again, generally speaking, this defense has been OK. The real problem right now with this defense is that guys aren’t healthy, especially in the secondary. They played the last game without Ronald Darby, Rodney McLeod, Sidney Jones, Jalen Mills, Avonte Maddox and with an injured Rasul Douglas. That meant going into a game with Cre’Von LeBlanc, De’Vante Bausby and Chandon Sullivan. Not ideal.
Now, Darby and McLeod are out for the season, but those other guys are expected to return this season, which is a reason for some optimism.
And the Eagles finally got Tim Jernigan back this week. Jim Schwartz said Jernigan provided some energy in his return, even though he played just 20 snaps. You can expect to see his role get increased over the next few weeks.
Jordan Hicks is expected to be out for a while longer with that calf injury, which means the Eagles will have to rely on Nigel Bradham, Kamu Grugier-Hill and Nate Gerry in the meantime. They’ll miss Hicks, but if these guys can hold down the fort, the defense should be OK.
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