We asked Brandon Lee Gowton of Bleeding Green Nation 5 questions about the current state of the Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles have been a very up-and-down team this year, beating some good teams (Packers, Bills), but losing to some very bad teams (Falcons, Dolphins). They had looked particularly lifeless since coming out of their week 10 bye, failing to score more than 10 points against the Patriots and Seahawks, then losing to the Dolphins in a close game. That Dolphins loss really represented rock bottom for Eagles fans, especially considering how much that game mattered for playoff aspirations. It looked like Eagles fans were in for another crushing loss to a bad team down 17-3 against the Giants last Monday until the team rallied, scoring 20 unanswered points after halftime to win 23-17 in overtime. The team will be looking to extend that spirit to the remainder of the season, as their playoff hopes are still very much alive in a terrible NFC East.
This matchup also doesn’t stack up especially well for the Redskins as the Eagles have a top-10 run defense, but a porous secondary. The success or failure of the Redskins offense will likely depend on their ability to trust in their rookie QB and throw the ball. On defense, the Redskins should have a better matchup, as the Eagles are wracked with injury along the offensive line and in the WR corps. The Eagles will likely be depending heavily on passes to TEs Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert, so defending the TE position will need to be a priority for the Skins.
I asked Brandon Lee Gowton of Bleeding Green Nation five questions to better understand the state of the Eagles and what to look for in this game.
1. Injuries have certainly taken their toll this late in the season. What major injuries is Philadelphia dealing with right now and how will that change the way the team plays on Sunday?
There are two significant injury developments coming out of the Giants game.
Alshon Jeffery is reportedly out for the season after suffering some kind of foot injury. With Nelson Agholor also hurt, the Eagles have just two healthy wide receivers on their 53-man roster: JJ Arcega-Whiteside and Greg Ward. JJAW is a rookie second-round pick who’s had some flashes but still only has eight receptions for 130 receiving yards and one touchdown this season. Since being called up from the practice squad last month, Ward has logged 11 receptions for 79 yards. The team is likely going to have to promote at least one — if not two — of the following pass catchers from their practice squad: Robert Davis, Marken Michel, Marcus Green. The guess here is that Davis (a former Washington draft pick, as you know) and Michel will get the nod. [Editor’s note: so that’s where Robert Davis ended up!]
So, uh, not exactly the most ideal receiver scenario for the Eagles. They’ll be forced to utilize a lot of 12 personnel with Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert. Washington has given up the ninth most fantasy points to tight ends this year so the Eagles could be looking to take advantage of that matchup.
The other big new injury is starter Lane Johnson going down with an ankle issue. Doug Pederson described him as “week-to-week” so he’s bound to miss Sunday’s game. Starting in place of Johnson will be Halapoulivaati Vaitai, who Washington fans should remember from the time Ryan Kerrigan terrorized him in his first NFL start. One would imagine Big V is thankful that Kerrigan isn’t playing this week. Vaitai is a tackle the Eagles can win with but the drop-off from Johnson is very significant. Carson Wentz is just 3-10 when Johnson isn’t in the starting lineup.
Elsewhere, the Eagles will likely be without leading rusher Jordan Howard once again. That hurts since the Eagles won’t be able to rely quite as heavily on their running game.
DeSean Jackson hasn’t really played since he torched Washington’s defense for 154 yards and two touchdowns all the way back in Week 1. Philly’s offense has sorely lacked his explosive playmaking ability.
2. Overall, how do you think Carson Wentz has played this season? On a scale of 1 – 10, where 10 means he is unquestionably the QBOTF and should win a future Super Bowl and 1 means he’s a bust and the team should acquire a new QB this offseason, where is he and is there anything he can do in the remaining few games this season to greatly change that score?
Evaluating Wentz has been tough because he’s been working with such garbage at wide receiver. They’ve dropped multiple game-winning touchdowns. They’ve struggled to create separation. They’ve made the routine look impossible.
This isn’t to suggest Wentz is blameless. There have been moments where he’s left plays on the field due to accuracy issues and he could afford to improve in that regard.
Overall, I’d say a 7.5. He’s definitely the quarterback of the future in Philly and, while he didn’t actually play in the Super Bowl himself, the reality is the Eagles don’t win the Vince Lombardi Trophy without him having such a great season in 2017. In other words, he has championship caliber upside.
I don’t think the final three games change much in the sense he’s going to be this team’s starter for the foreseeable future. With that said, it would be ideal for him to put the team on his back like he did against the Giants and drag the Eagles to an NFC East division title. Such an outcome would have people feeling even better about his outlook moving forward.
Regardless of what happens the rest of this season, the Eagles really need to focus their offseason on giving Wentz more help. They haven’t given him adequate support in 2019.
3. Which Philadelphia coaches should be on the hot seat right now and why? What coaching changes (if any) do you think there will be this offseason?
Offensive coordinator Mike Groh, quarterbacks coach Press Taylor, and wide receivers coach Carson Walch shouldn’t be back in 2020.
BGN already made the case for Groh’s firing *last year*.
It’s ultimately difficult to parse just how much he’s to blame for the Eagles’ offensive ineptitude since Doug Pederson calls the plays. But there isn’t much evidence to suggest Groh is part of the solution. His track record as a coordinator prior to joining the Eagles wasn’t good.
Wentz played his best football in 2017 under former quarterbacks coach and current Jaguars offensive coordinator John DeFilippo. Flip had a reputation for really challenging Wentz whereas Taylor is viewed as more of a peer than a coach.
Walch has overseen the worst wide receiving corps in the NFL this season. I don’t know how he could be back.
A common theme with these assistants is that they weren’t hired because they were the best candidates for the job. Rather, they were all automatic internal promotions. The Eagles did themselves a disservice by thinking they had all the answers inside their organization and neglecting to consider external options. The team shouldn’t make that same mistake again. It’s time to bring in some new voices.
4. My impression is that players drafted by Philadelphia outside of the first 2 rounds in recent years have been pretty disappointing. What is your impression of Philadelphia’s last few draft classes, and what do you think they should be doing differently going forward?
I mean, you can even include the first two rounds. Sidney Jones made a huge play for the Eagles on Monday night but the 2017 second-round pick has previously been a healthy scratch three times this season. The 2017 class as a whole has been disappointing, as I recently wrote about on BGN.
2019 seems to be off to a decent start with Andre Dillard and Miles Sanders showing promise. Arcega-Whiteside not producing as much as a number of other rookie receivers (hello, Terry McLaurin) has been pretty disappointing.
I think the biggest problem for the Eagles when it comes to drafting is that they haven’t hit enough home runs. They need more young star talent.
I can’t see the Eagles moving on from Howie Roseman so I guess the hope is that he simply drafts better.
5. What is your honest assessment of your 3 division rivals; not just where they are now, but what their range of outcomes is likely to be in the next year or two?
Washington — Never going to feel like they’re a legitimate championship contender as long as Dan Snyder is around. Haven’t really been impressed by what I’ve seen out of Dwayne Haskins thus far. Not feeling threatened by the outlook here.
Giants — Daniel Jones has shown passing potential but he has a serious fumbling issues that I’m not so sure is easily correctable. It’s been a big problem for him dating back to his college days. Non-Giants fans should be thankful Dave Gettleman is the general manger because it’s clear he’s making a lot of bad moves. New York’s head coach situation can only improve with Pat Shurmur gone, but I’m not sure that’ll be enough to fix everything they’ve got going on.
Cowboys — Their front office has done a good job of acquiring talent, so they have that going for them. They have to nail the coaching hire. They also must make the right decisions when it comes to paying players this offseason. The Cowboys are going to have to hand out top of the market contracts to a core that might not even be good enough to win a crappy NFC East this year. Maybe they top out as a merely above average team that can compete for the division, but aren’t true contenders?
Thanks again to Brandon Lee Gowton for taking time out of his day to answer our questions about the Eagles.