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Carson Wentz to blame for Eagles' loss in Seattle

Carson Wentz to blame for Eagles' loss in Seattle

Seemingly everything that could go wrong for the Eagles did in Seattle, but don’t let the blown calls and bad bounces distract you from the truth.

Carson Wentz cost the Eagles the game.

Not Doug Pederson. Not the officials. The Seahawks didn’t even beat the Eagles – not as much as Wentz lost it, anyway.

It feels as though the autopsy of Sunday night’s 24-10 defeat is focusing on all of the glancing blows instead of the very obvious mortal wound. Wentz left three touchdowns on the field.

The Eagles should’ve won, perhaps with ease. But Wentz overthrew Nelson Agholor on a likely touchdown, underthrew Agholor for another likely score, and fumbled one yard away from the goal line – one of his two turnovers in the contest.

Instead of coming away with 21 points on those three possessions, the Eagles came away with zero.

We can all count. Those points would’ve helped.

Did Pederson exacerbate the situation by calling the game too conservatively? Perhaps. The Eagles chose to punt and flip the field in situations where they often might go for it on fourth down. Pederson decided against throwing the challenge flag on a pivotal play in the fourth quarter – an illegal forward pass, as it turns out, that would’ve erased a third-down conversion on a scoring drive. In general, the Eagles looked hesitant to throw the ball down the field in the first half against a beleaguered Seattle secondary.

Yet, Pederson’s coaching job would’ve been enough to deliver an Eagles victory, had Wentz executed.

Did the officials play too heavy a hand in the outcome? Let’s be clear, the Eagles shot themselves in the foot on many if not all of the seven assessed penalties for 64 yards. Alshon Jeffery wiped away a touchdown with an unnecessary holding penalty, forcing the Eagles to settle for three instead, while the secondary helped the Seahawks move the ball up and down the field with numerous legitimate infractions. And, sure, the refs missed the illegal pass, but it’s not as if the game came down to one call.

Despite all the flags against the Eagles, and even the ones the zebras missed, Wentz could’ve had his team in position to win.

Russell Wilson was phenomenal, with a move for every would-be tackler that came his way, while Seattle’s receiving corps caught just about everything in sight. The Seahawks defense limited the Eagles ground attack to 3.8 yards per rushing attempt and put decent pressure on Wentz, registering 12 quarterback hits in the contest. Seattle was also limited to 310 yards of total offense, while the Eagles failed to take advantage on either of their two trips deep inside the red zone, coming away with three points.

The Seahawks are a quality football team, but were far from dominant. Wentz’s missed opportunities would’ve been the difference.

There is enough blame and bad luck to go around. Wentz’s fumble going out of the back of the end zone for a touchback was a ridiculously unfortunate bounce. Pederson’s game plan and inconsistent approach to fourth downs was curious, to say the least. The officials missed a close call that should’ve gone the Eagles’ way.

An ill-timed zero blitz by Jim Schwartz on 3rd-and-9 resulted in a 47-yard pass and set up the Seahawks for six. Jeffery’s penalty. Halapoulivaati Vaitai’s struggles at left tackle. The grabby, overmatched secondary getting burned repeatedly. The injury to Zach Ertz. The imposing atmosphere playing at Seattle.

Any way we dissect it, wherever we choose to point the finger, Wentz still missed those throws, still coughed up the football twice, and likely cost the Eagles no fewer than 21 points as a result.

Despite everything that went wrong, the Eagles probably would’ve won the game.

The Eagles, as a team, weren’t ready for primetime. Every player inside that locker room could do a better job. But if the Eagles are going to do real damage in the playoffs come January, Wentz can’t leave that many plays out there. That much was clear against a perennial Super Bowl contender in Seattle.

Eagles wise to reject Nick Foles trade offer ... for now

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AP Images

Eagles wise to reject Nick Foles trade offer ... for now

Nick Foles for the 35th overall pick in the draft? A lot of Eagles fans would’ve probably pulled the trigger on that trade.

We know now the Eagles, wisely, did not.

Technically, it was Foles who shunned the Cleveland Browns’ overtures. According to an NFL.com report, the Eagles approached the Super Bowl MVP in March about the Browns’ offer of a second-round choice in the 2018 draft. He would rather remain a backup quarterback in Philadelphia than start for the league’s most pitiful franchise.

The Eagles respected his wishes. It wasn’t what was best for Foles. He earned that deference.

But it wasn’t what was best for the Eagles, either.

Never mind the organization owed it to Foles to ask his feelings about a possible trade, or that dumping him off in Cleveland against his wishes would’ve been unpopular with fans and around the league. Those were good reasons to turn down the offer. Just not necessarily the only reasons.

There was no need for the Eagles to settle for a second-round pick at that point in time, and all the rationale in the world says to wait and see what transpires.

Carson Wentz’s ongoing recovery from a torn ACL is the obvious. As confident as Wentz is he’ll be under center for the Eagles in Week 1, that remains to be seen. His progress was an even greater unknown when the offer was made over two months ago.

Was No. 35 enough to gamble on Wentz’s getting healthy in time for the 2018 season, amid the Eagles’ bid to repeat?

Maybe, maybe not – fortunately, the Eagles didn’t have to decide to trade Foles right then and there.

If recent history has told us anything, it’s not only do the Eagles have the option to trade Foles at a later date, but his value could increase based on demand.

The Eagles would know. Fans couldn’t believe the front office didn’t ship a disgruntled Sam Bradford to the Broncos for a second-round pick after making the move to draft Wentz in 2016. A few months later, almost everybody was amazed when Bradford was dealt to the Vikings for a first and a fourth.

Circumstances changed. The Vikings were a viable contender that, due to an injury, suddenly became desperate for an established quarterback just as the regular season was about to begin.

There’s no telling which teams might have interest in Foles between now and the mid-season trade deadline, or what price they might be willing to pay. And the Eagles were never going to find out had they shipped him out for the first semi-decent package that was floated their way.

The absolute worst-case scenario now is Foles sticks with the Eagles all this season, is never called upon to play a meaningful snap, then opts out of his contract and becomes a free agent next year.

Yet, even in that scenario, the reigning Super Bowl champions had the best insurance policy in the NFL, for a relatively modest price at $8 million against the salary cap, and the league eventually awards the team a compensatory draft pick after his departure. Along the way, the Eagles simultaneously get to do right by Foles and engender positive vibes among fans and around the league.

The Eagles could’ve used the cap space and another second-round pick this year, but they were better off keeping Foles.

For now, at least.

Eagles releasing Mychal Kendricks the right thing to do

Eagles releasing Mychal Kendricks the right thing to do

For the past two years, the Eagles kept Mychal Kendricks in a state of limbo. It was about time the team set him free.

The Eagles didn’t release Kendricks on Tuesday simply because it was “the right thing to do” — if there was such a thing in this instance. They did it because the move will save $6 million against the salary cap in 2018. They did it because Corey Nelson is a cheaper alternative. They did it because Kendricks isn’t an ideal fit for Jim Schwartz’s scheme. They did it because, evidently, they couldn’t find a trade partner.

In short, the Eagles released Kendricks because the 27-year-old linebacker wasn’t worth $16-plus million over the next two seasons. That really should be enough.

It was also about time the Eagles put Kendricks out of his misery. He made no secret about being unhappy with his reduced role since Schwartz became defensive coordinator, asking the team to either cut him or move him last offseason. The subject of trade rumors annually since 2015, Kendricks probably hadn’t felt comfortable about his standing with the organization for quite awhile.

At what point are the Eagles holding him hostage?

Good thing the club didn’t oblige Kendricks’ request last year, as he wound up filling in for the injured Jordan Hicks and playing a pivotal part in the Eagles’ Super Bowl run. Some see that as evidence the team made a mistake in letting a six-year veteran with 78 career NFL starts to walk away for nothing.

While it’s true Kendricks came up big in 2017, he wasn’t exactly an impact player for the Eagles, finishing the season with four tackles for loss and two sacks in 18 games, including playoffs. He hasn’t forced a fumble since 2015. He hasn’t recorded an interception since 2013. And rushing the passer, arguably his greatest strength, goes almost completely unutilized in Schwartz’s scheme, which sent Kendricks after opposing quarterbacks just eight times all year, according to Pro Football Focus.

Numbers may not do Kendricks’ campaign justice, but typically more would be expected of somebody who was set to carry a $7.6 million cap figure into ’18.

The Eagles also feel they are in better shape now in terms of depth at the position (see story).

Kendricks’ days appeared to be numbered the moment the club signed Nelson and the free-agent addition declared he would compete for the starting weakside linebacker job. It’s unclear whether the Eagles are putting too much faith in the former Denver Broncos reserve and the host of linebacker prospects already on the roster. Regardless, the team likes its options.

So why force Kendricks to stick around? From the team’s standpoint, it was a lot of money for the level of production, for not being a great scheme fit and given his impending return to the bench. The Eagles were wise to keep him around for one more year, but with other arrangements since made, moving on now doesn’t sting as much.

The fact Kendricks was anything less than thrilled to be back only makes it easier. After handling his displeasure like a pro last season, then helping the Eagles win their first Super Bowl championship, granting his release seems like the least the team could do.