Two ugly losses have put the Philadelphia Eagles in an 0-2 hole to start the 2020 season. The start has been upsetting and unnerving to fans. Many believe the team will not be able to fix the multiple problems shown in losses at Washington and to the Rams. Here at NJ Betting, we know what it will take for an Eagles week 3 victory.
Yes, we like to panic in the Delaware Valley. At one level, we get unreasonable expectations when we hype ourselves up before the season. Since Jeffrey Lurie bought the team and turned them into perennial contenders, the Eagles rule the city.
At another level, despite our love affair, there’s no way the town will tolerate such poor play, especially if that’s ALL WE HAVE for the remainder of 2020 until the NHL or NBA restart play, whichever comes first.
Yes, there’s reason to be concerned. However, this is still the nucleus of a world champion and a team that improbably won the NFC East last year with similar flaws.
Get Back to Offensive Identity
Quarterback Carson Wentz is in the second year of a four-year, $128 million deal signed before last season. Two games in, he’s certainly not holding up the end of the bargain, with four INTs and subpar play.
The money spent creates expectations. It also harkens back to what Lurie said years ago when signing another big deal with a franchise QB (it was either McNabb or Vick). He didn’t spend all that money to “hand the ball off”.
- Here’s the dilemma: Yes, Wentz can throw the long ball and sling it around the field. That’s not when he and the offense are best. In Week 1, without Miles Sanders, the pass-first offense sputtered after the first quarter, gave up eight sacks, and lost a big lead. Against the Rams, the balance produced points but a pick in the end zone ended a drive that could’ve taken the lead.
- Believe it or not, running the ball still works in the NFL. Patrick Mahomes signed the richest deal in North American team sports. He handed the ball off 56 times in the first two games. He’s 2-0. The 0-2 Eagles have run just 43 times, fourth-lowest in the league.
- This team does their best when they run first. This is a short-pass, ball-control, West Coast offense. Sanders and Boston Scott make a nice tandem and the new offensive line can gel with more run plays called.
Step up the Defensive Line
The greatest area of concern appears to be the defensive play. After blowing a 17-0 lead against Washington, the Eagles spent most of Sunday chasing Rams receivers and tight ends around the Linc, trying to figure out the motion plays Sean McVay called at will.
Since the Super Bowl win, the defensive line has failed to control the line of scrimmage and dial up the same pressure that led to sacks and protected the secondary. Two games in, that efficiency are mostly gone.
The weakness at linebacker has been exposed. The inability to stay with tight ends has led to easy touchdowns by opponents. Rushes have broken to longer plays and surges in momentum. Longer drives wear down defenses.
- Effective penetration by the front four would help alleviate some of the pressure on the other defensive groups.
- So far, Fletcher Cox has not been as disruptive as years past.
- He’s working with new partners at defensive tackle but has yet to take games over with his freak combo of strength and speed. That works against the edge rushers as well.
- While everyone is wondering if this defense would play better if safety Malcolm Jenkins was re-signed, the loss of Nigel Bradham and Kama Grugier-Hill seem to have a greater impact.
- One of the young backers needs to fill those shoes and help bolster the defense. It all can’t come down to Jim Schwartz’s schemes.
Give it Time
Asking Eagles fans to be patient elicits the same response of someone ordering a cheesesteak “rare” (I’ve literally seen this happen). Given all the other crazy stuff going on in the world and the preponderance of Cowboys fans in Philly, that’s not a strong suit.
However, this has been a fairly weird NFL season to start. There’s been moving up and down the futures boards for teams. The Eagles have seen their prices double or more on the championship and divisional title boards.
We’re used to watching Donovan McNabb struggle to find a rhythm in the 2000s. Football is a game that requires more live reps and without that adrenaline, it can be difficult to perform. For Wentz, a big element is missing without Alshon Jeffrey. Despite last season, the team still runs best with him on offense.
Losing Malcolm Jenkins has hurt the defense as he was the on-field brain. We love our safeties in this town and he was one of us. Replacing him with often-injured Jalen Mills means there may be some growing pains for the Green Goblin.
Playing without fans makes for an odd environment, especially for a sport that runs on charged emotions like the NFL. Islanders coach Barry Trotz made an interesting observation during the playoff bubble that momentum shifts less easily in a quiet arena. For a team that relies on the cheers (and boos) of fans, it can be tougher to bring the play to that edge of madness.
For all the veterans and long-term leadership, the Eagles still play like a young team. Bringing in younger stars on offense and new faces on defense mean there are less confidence and consistency at times. This team needs to shut out all the noise from the outside, regarding play and otherwise, and pull together in a crisis.
After Cincinnati, they’ll play three really strong teams that will test their mettle. If things don’t improve, this could easily turn into a lost season in a lost 2020.