General Manager Howie Roseman knew during the offseason that the offense, once again, needed more speed on the outside. To fill that need he traded for fan-favorite DeSean Jackson from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That move paid off immediate dividends in Week 1 against the Washington Redskins as Jackson hauled in two touchdown passes in the victory.
However, Jackson sustained an injury at the beginning of the Week 2 game against the Atlanta Falcons and has been out of the lineup since. Without him, explosive plays have been at a premium. The offense is now a slow-moving, methodical attack that relies on gaining yards little by little on each play. Sustaining this type of offense is very difficult to do because just one or two small mistakes or negative plays will usually kill the drive. Great offenses use explosive plays to help offset those mistakes. That’s why this Eagles offense has had its struggles so far this season because they haven’t been able to produce those explosive plays.
After the loss of Mike Wallace in Week 2 last season you would think that Howie Roseman and company would have made sure to add multiple explosive playmakers to the offense this time around. Relying on merely one guy is too risky given the nature of the game and how often injuries occur. Nelson Agholor was expected to be the one WR still capable of creating those explosive plays because of his speed, but instead, he’s been a disappointment. He’s struggled to track the deep ball and has had issues with drops again (See: Week 2 game against the Atlanta Falcons).
The only player that has provided explosive plays for the offense in Jackson’s absence is rookie RB Miles Sanders. He’s been nothing short of terrific as a receiver out of the backfield, getting open consistently on seam and wheel routes and catching everything thrown his way.
Good news: Sanders, our 2nd round RB, has become our most explosive weapon in the offense in DeSean’s absence.
Bad news: Sanders, our 2nd round RB, has become the ONLY explosive weapon in the offense in DeSean’s absence. https://t.co/p4KKOOkNnM
— Charles “Chux” Maranan (@ChuxMaranan) October 14, 2019
Before the NFL Draft, I suggested that if the Eagles were to target a WR it should be one with speed and dynamic playmaking abilities. I mocked Deebo Samuel to them in the 2nd round as Nelson Agholor’s eventual replacement (The San Francisco 49ers ended up selecting Samuel with the 36th overall pick before the Eagles had their selection at 53rd overall). I didn’t see them adding another physical, big-bodied type of WR with the number of guys on the roster who already fit that mold.
At the same time, I was very high on JJ Arcega-Whiteside because he was phenomenally good at the catch point and winning on contested catches. 50/50 throws were more like 80/20 in his favor whenever the ball was thrown up to him. So when the Eagles selected him with their 57th overall pick, I was ecstatic. The excitement overtook me to the point where I brushed aside my previous thought process and assumed the offense would be fine with DeSean Jackson, Nelson Agholor, and Miles Sanders. But looking back, I should have known better; we all should have known better.
This is not to say that JJAW won’t end up being a great receiver. I remain high on his potential and am willing to be patient with him. But when other rookie wide receivers like DK Metcalf and Terry McLaurin, who were both known for their speed and selected after JJAW, are making immediate contributions to their teams, it’s tough not to be frustrated. It’s very easy to start wondering “what if”.
I still believe the offense overall has a lot of talent at the skill positions, they just need to start playing at the level we’ve seen them play at in the past. Plus, DeSean Jackson is expected to make his return soon. If he can stay healthy for the rest of the season and he and Sanders continue to provide big plays, there’s no reason to believe that the offense is incapable of hitting their stride and getting on a roll. The overall concern is over the fact that Howie Roseman has put so much emphasis on the availability and production of a wide receiver that has had his issues with minor injuries throughout his career and a rookie RB that is still trying to develop certain areas of his game.
At this point it’s just silly. Carson gotta run it in for ’em too. Would’ve tied the game 24-24 had Jeffery ran in a straight line. pic.twitter.com/6RLvhpCOJM
— Michael Kist (@MichaelKistNFL) October 15, 2019
It’s possible that Roseman could be looking to address this issue by trading for another WR. Maybe Emmanuel Sanders from the Denver Broncos is no expendable with the emergence of Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton. Maybe the Tennessee Titans are willing to move on from Corey Davis? Maybe AJ Green will finally be freed from the obscurity of the Cincinnati Bengals? I don’t know exactly who is available at this moment, but if someone is then Howie needs to find out and make it happen.
Regardless of what happens this season, Roseman needs to start drafting better to build the roster for the long-term (which is a whole other topic for another day). That includes selecting athletic receivers who can add that deep threat or YAC element to the passing game. They already have the potential heir apparent to Jeffery in JJAW, now it’s time to find the heir apparent to Jackson. Get an elite athlete on the outside that can create almost at will and take a short pass and turn it into a long gain.
The phrase “speed kills” undoubtedly applies to the game of football and can be a huge x-factor for any team. The Kansas City Chiefs have such a dangerous passing attack not only because of Patrick Mahomes but because they have multiple wide receivers who are fast and can create explosive plays through the air. The San Francisco 49ers have the league’s best rushing attack this season, and all 3 of their running backs have one major thing in common: speed to create explosive plays on the ground. The Eagles don’t need to have the same type of offense as those teams, but they do need to be a faster team than what they are now. It’s the one element that’s missing for them and could mean the difference between being a good offense to being a great offense.