Grading the Eagles' 32-14 loss to the Bengals:
Simply put, the Eagles were humiliated by the Bengals on Sunday in a performance that was all too reminscent of how the team looked late last season when Chip Kelly was still head coach. That statement by itself doesn't speak too highly of the job Doug Pederson is doing right now.
At least Pederson's offense has an excuse, though. Injuries to key skill players such as Jordan Matthews and Ryan Mathews, as well as two absences along the offensive line, are not making life any easier for Carson Wentz and company on that side of the football.
What's wrong with the Eagles' defense though? This was as uninspired an effort as any the unit went through in three seasons under Kelly, when Bill Davis was the defensive coordinator and had the head coach's uptempo offense was working against him. Jim Schwartz may not have the greatest collection of talent in the world or anything, but this job — against a Cincinnati offense missing two of its biggest weapons no less — is flat out inexcusable.
Excuse. Excuses. Inexcusable. Those seemed to be the words of the day.
Wentz may be a rookie, may have been without two of his biggest weapons and may be behind a patchwork offensive line. None of that excuses many of the decisions he made in Cincinnati on Sunday. The 23-year-old threw three interceptions and easily could've thrown many more while completing only 60.0 percent of his passes. There will be better days ahead for Wentz, but he's not ready or able to put this sorry offense on his shoulders at this stage of his career, and it showed against the Bengals.
Without Mathews, the Eagles were basically down to fifth-round rookie Wendell Smallwood and Darren Sproles, who is battling a rib injury. Why we don't get more of Kenjon Barner in these situations, I don't know, but it probably didn't matter. Smallwood and Sproles had little room to run and even more limited opportunities, carrying 15 times for 33 yards. Sproles also had six catches for 35 yards, but the six combined targets to Smallwood and Barner resulted in one completion. Not a banner day for the group, although it's easy to understand why.
For once, it's hard to blame the Eagles wideouts for the offensive woes. When undrafted rookie Paul Turner is the team leader with 80 receiving yards in his second NFL game, that tells you all you need to know about the composition of the unit without Matthews. To his credit, Nelson Agholor caught four of five passes that came his way one week after being deactivated, but for only 23 yards, while Dorial Green-Beckham only hauled in four of 10 that came his way for 29.
Nice day for Trey Burton with a career high 56 receiving yards as his role continues to increase in the offense. Up-and-down day for Zach Ertz, who had nine catches for 70 yards and a touchdown, but much of that when the outcome was already all but decided or straight up garbage time. And what is with the false starts? Weird issue to plague a tight end, but somehow it is a problem for Ertz.
The Bengals obviously wanted to key on stopping the run and accomplished the task. Regardless, the Eagles averaged only 2.8 yards per carry against the 27th-ranked rushing defense in the NFL while allowing the quarterback to get hit 10 times, albeit on over 60 dropbacks. Allen Barbre is a fine offensive guard, but as we saw in 2014 and are witnessing again now, he is a bit out of his element at tackle. The entire interior seems to be struggling to some extent as a result of Barbre's move.
The Bengals averaged only 2.4 yards per carry on the ground themselves, a credit to the Eagles D-line. Brandon Graham had two tackles for loss and Bennie Logan came up with a forced fumble on a great hustle play. Once again though, where has the pass rush gone? This vaunted front four didn't sack Andy Dalton once and hit him a grand total of three times. It's no wonder he completed 74.2 percent of his passes for 10.7 yards per attempt. He had all day. The pressure has been almost non-existent for weeks now.
Nigel Bradham made eight tackles, one of which was in the backfield, as well as a tackle for loss. He was also tagged for a ridiculous personal foul penalty that would be difficult for even Bengals fans to agree with, as well as a horsecollar that was impossible to disagree with. At least Bradham was active, which is more than can be said for the rest of the group. Another very quiet game at this level of the defense.
Clueless would be the best way to describe how the Eagles' secondary looks right now. Dalton completed 23 of 31 passes for 330 yards and two touchdowns without All-Pro wide receiver A.J. Green. Yes, there was next to no pressure on the quarterback, but the fact of the matter is Leodis McKelvin and Nolan Carroll were getting beat on a consistent basis. Safeties Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod weren't much better, and the zone coverage was a total mess. It looked like these guys never played together before in their lives.
As usual, little to find fault with here. Caleb Sturgis did bang a 51-yard field goal off the upright for a failed attempt, but few kickers are automatic from that range, especially in Cincinnati. Otherwise, your standard Eagles special teams. Two of three Donnie Jones punts were pinned inside the opponents' 20-yard line, Kenjon Barner's 61-yard kick return set up a touchdown and the Bengals had nothing to speak of from their own return team.
Built-in excuses aside, Pederson's play-calling continues to leave a lot to be desired. The Bengals came into the game with the 27th-ranked run defense in the NFL. Now to be fair, the Eagles are without Mathews, and Sproles is hurting and Cincinnati really keyed on stopping the run. But has this coach ever heard of three yards and a cloud of dust before? Because that's all his offense was equipped to be on Sunday. Of course, Schwartz's defense is a total mess, so maybe it doesn't matter. Twenty-nine unanswered points is all anybody really needs to say.