The Philadelphia Eagles’ bye week this season conveniently comes at the halfway point of their schedule. After 8 games played the team sits at 3-4-1 which is somehow good enough for 1st place in the NFC East. However, I’m sure that no one in the organization or any of the fans are satisfied with how the team has played so far, and that may be saying it lightly. There are plenty of issues to fix if the Eagles still have every intention of winning the division and being competitive in the playoffs. The good thing is that a good portion of these issues are correctable, and adjustments can be made to make this team better.
Carson, please stop being dumb
There’s nothing I can say that hasn’t already been said when it comes to fixing Carson Wentz’s turnover problems this season. We can speak to other factors that have contributed to his struggles such as injuries and bad coaching (more on both of these points later), but the main thing is that Wentz just has to stop making dumb decisions.
We know how talented Wentz is and that when he’s on his game he’s as good as almost any other QB in the league. Also, in no way would I want him to stop being the playmaker that he is. I’m willing to accept that he’s going to hold onto the ball often, and sometimes that will lead to bad sacks. But his ability to create out of structure is part of what makes him so special, therefore I’m willing to take some of the bad that comes with the good because the good has outweighed the bad for most of his career.
However, there’s a certain limit to that. The great playmaking quarterbacks in the NFL know when enough is enough and when you need to live to fight another down. Chucking up a prayer to John Hightower towards the end zone instead of just throwing it out of bounds is a dumb decision. Refusing to throw the ball away when you’re scrambling to your left, there’s no one open, and you’re in your territory is a dumb decision. Throwing deep to Jalen Reagor when he’s double covered instead of running to open space for the first down is a dumb decision. There are plenty of other examples this season of turnovers Wentz has committed because of dumb decisions. If he cuts those out of his game, he’ll be completely fine.
Will the turnovers stop completely? Probably not. But Wentz’s bevy of interceptions this season is an anomaly, not the norm. He’s shown in prior seasons that he doesn’t throw many picks. Therefore, there’s reason to believe that those mistakes will eventually regress toward the mean as the season goes on.
Trevon Diggs was no match for Travis Fulgham 1v1, who continues to win with good releases, the ability to stack, and win at the catch point. pic.twitter.com/JeoETEdZyN
— Charles “Chux” Maranan (@ChuxMaranan) November 4, 2020
Jalen Reagor and the Eagles almost caught the Cowboys’ defense sleeping on this deep shot late in the game. Great play by the CB to punch the ball out, but I bet you that Reagor will haul in a few more of these before the season’s over with. pic.twitter.com/dYuSoT0Voa
— Charles “Chux” Maranan (@ChuxMaranan) November 4, 2020
Better offensive play calling
Head Coach Doug Pederson is as much to blame for the offense’s struggles as Carson Wentz is. He’s a great leader of men, but this season he’s been unable to handle the pressure he put on himself of being both the Head Coach and Offensive Coordinator. For all the “Offensive Assistants” on staff to help him, his play calling and decision making have been horrendous at times.
The offense has no identity. They’re not giving Miles Sanders enough touches in either the running or passing game. They misuse some of their personnel at times (fade route to Hakeem Butler on 4th and Goal, for example). They’ve gone for it on 4th down at times when it doesn’t make sense to. They chose to punt the football late in overtime against the Bengals instead of attempting a game-winning field goal. And for all the talk of them bringing in Rich Scangarello to help marry the run and pass game together, that’s been non-existent. And I’m sure there are several other things I haven’t mentioned that need to be fixed as well.
I believe it would be best if Pederson relinquished play-calling duties to someone else. However, I don’t expect that to happen, let alone in the middle of the season. But if Pederson is going to continue to call plays for the rest of this season, he has to be a lot better than he has been. One way for Wentz to improve is for him and Pederson to finally get on the same page, and right now they’re not. It would also be best to get Miles Sanders more involved by either running it more, which would in turn lessen the burden on Wentz, or by figuring out more creative ways to use him as a receiver.
Get healthy and stay healthy
The Eagles don’t have any control over this (even though that may be debatable), but health and continuity are keys to success for the second half of the season. The team has once again been devastated with injuries all over the roster. But they’re now actually starting to get some healthy bodies back.
Jalen Reagor, Dallas Goedert, TJ Edwards, and Jason Peters returned to the lineup in Week 8 against the Cowboys. Malik Jackson and Darius Slay left the game with injuries but neither of them was considered major or long-term. Miles Sanders and Lane Johnson are expected to be back after the bye week. And Isaac Seumalo and Jack Driscoll should be returning soon as well.
If this team can continue to stay relatively healthy so that they can establish some stability going forward that will only help them perform and execute better on gameday and get some momentum going.
Move Jordan Mailata back to LT & Jason Peters inside to RG
This may come off as a bit controversial because Jason Peters played well at LT against the Cowboys. And it was completely fine to have him there for that game since Lane Johnson had to sit out, forcing Jordan Mailata to take his place at RT. But once Johnson is back healthy, you cannot relegate Mailata to the bench just because Peters is at LT.
You always want your best players on the field, and that would be possible if you put Mailata at LT and Peters at RG. You cannot have Mailata sitting while Herbig and/or Pryor are starting. That goes to the point I made earlier about misusing your talent. And by all reports from training camp, Peters was doing very well at RG. So, if he can play at a high enough level there, there shouldn’t be an issue shifting him back to the interior.
The Eagles organization sold us on the idea that they wanted to get younger and move on from older players this past offseason. Therefore, they must keep the long-term outlook of the team in mind and continue to have Mailata develop and gain experience at LT. He showed real promise and growth there while Peters was hurt, so why stop now? Let him prove to you that he can be the LT of the future for this team.
Roll with Alex Singleton & TJ Edwards
It’s not farfetched to consider the Eagles’ linebacker corps to be the worst in the league. Having Nate Gerry as your LB1 certainly contributed to the problem. It wasn’t pretty to see this unit get targeted over and over by opposing offenses each week.
But with Gerry being placed on injured reserve before the Cowboys game and TJ Edwards returning from injured reserve, both Edwards and Alex Singleton got the opportunity to start; and they had a great game! Now I’m not saying they’re the next Bobby Wagner and KJ Wright, but both are solid stack linebackers who play the run well, and Singleton is much more disciplined in zone coverage than Gerry is.
— Thomas R. Petersen 🦅 (@thomasrp93) November 2, 2020
Schwartz must let go of his man-crush over Gerry and play the pairing of Edwards and Singleton the rest of the season. They aren’t the long-term answers at linebacker for the Eagles, but they’re the best the team can do for now. They may not win you any games, but there’s a chance they won’t lose you any either.
Bench Corey Clement, Give Elijah Holyfield a chance
I’ll always appreciate what Corey Clement did the year the Eagles won the Super Bowl, but enough is enough. It may sound harsh, but he’s been terrible. He’s subpar as a runner, nothing special as a receiver, and downright bad in pass protection. It’s a travesty that he gets as many touches as he does.
Corey Clement needs to explain this. pic.twitter.com/4jyEerZMdn
— Charles “Chux” Maranan (@ChuxMaranan) October 13, 2020
I’m not here to tell you that Elijah Holyfield should be RB2 behind Miles Sanders. I’m not even going to tell you that he deserves a roster spot beyond this season. But it’s been way past time for the coaching staff to give him an opportunity over Clement. Holyfield at least gives you a style of running that differs from the rest of the running backs on the roster; he’s a power runner that can be used specifically in short-yardage situations.
The Eagles didn’t trade for a running back at the trade deadline, and there’s no one in free agency that is worth bringing in. Why not roll the dice and see what Holyfield can do? What do they have to lose?