The Eagles loss on Sunday does not mean that the team has entered dire straits territory. But there were some alarming issues that occurred during the game: issues that will need some tender loving care if the Philadelphia Eagles are going to once again make a Super Bowl run.
As is always the case, there were some good points that stood out. Likewise, the game was littered with some not so good moments and of course a few examples of total dysfunction. With that being said...here was the good, the bad, and the ugly moments of Sunday's loss:
1) Carson Wentz "The Human Highlight Reel"- Coming off of the ACL injury and then last season's back injury, Carson had shown flashes of the brilliance that dominated his near MVP season of 2017. However; there were still questions of whether or not he could ever return to the player that made Houdini look human game in and game out. That was until the Falcons game. On Sunday evening, while missing 3 of his top playmakers on offense, Carson once again made spectacular plays up and down the field. His athleticism was on display for the national audience and he did not disappoint. Although he was under constant duress and pressure for most of the evening due to a terrible performance by the Eagles offensive line; Carson was able to escape time and time again and make big plays to help his team. At one point, he even had to come out of the game during an important series under the leagues concussion protocol system. However; he returned fired up and used that passion to almost singlehandedly will the Eagles to victory. He ultimately fell short of the comeback but showed that the old Carson is definitely back and hopefully here to stay.
2) Mack Hollins- Hollins came into the year with a lot to prove. In fact, coming out of training camp and preseason he was on the bubble and it was not even a given that he would make the team. Hollins did make the final cut as the teams fifth wide receiver due to his special teams prowess. The former 4th round pick of 2017 had spent the entire 2018 season on the injured list. So if anyone on the roster had a lot to prove, it would be Hollins. Its safe to say that Atlanta was not game planning to stop Hollins coming into the game as the Eagles 5th WR. However, with half the unit out of the game due to injury, Hollins was forced into game action and would be a key contributor on the evening. Hollins did not do anything spectacular. However; he did have 5 catches for 50 yards including two key first down catches that extended drives. He was also able to stretch the field a few times on plays that helped Zach Ertz underneath. All in all it was good showing for the third year wideout and hopefully a sign of good things to come.
3) Jim Schwartz- Going to the well one two many times does not usually end well. Such was the case Sunday as Jim Schwartz abandoned his ultra conservative pass rush in favor of the all out blitz. In a game that saw Schwartz call the most blitzes that he ever has in his tenure as Eagles defensive coordinator, the defense actually played pretty well. The defensive effort actually was the main reason that the team stayed in the game. Ultimately the blitz killed them on the fourth down touchdown to Julio Jones. In spite of that mishap though, the game plan was a breath of fresh air to fans and pundits alike and showed that Schwartz is willing to adapt his strategy. Of course, losing Malik Jackson and Tim Jernigan to injury means the Eagles may have to continue to dial up the blitz more often. Stay Tuned.
1) Nelson Agholor- If you were just reading the stats column, you would say there is no way in hell that Nelson belongs on the bad list. However; the eye test outranks statistics on any given Sunday and Nelson failed this test with flying colors. Although Nelson did have 8 catches for 107 yards and a touchdown, his (3) key dropped passes took away any positive light that may have shined on his night. You also must take into account the fact that the Eagles were missing their top two wideouts Desean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery. This makes those numbers less relevant as he easily jumped the depth chart quickly becoming the number one option. However; it was his key drop on the teams last series that put Nelson on the bad list. Nelly...the hands are your bread maker but you need to use them.
2) Running Game- The Eagles ground game was non existent on Sunday. In a game where the team was without Alshon and Desean, you would think that the they would have tried to establish the run early and often. But not Doug Pederson. The Eagles ran the ball to a tune of 21x for 49 yards (2.3ypc) which included Carson's 3 QB sneaks. Flat out pathetic. That's just not getting it done. What was even more disappointing was the fact that Eagles backs only caught 6 passes for 22 yards against an Atlanta defense that was ranked #32 in yards allowed to running backs over the past three seasons. Not running the ball was a big mistake and this unit has to produce more moving forward if the Eagles are going to contend. We need to see more of Jordan Howard.
3) Pass Rush- Coming into 2019, the Eagles defensive line was supposed to be one of the teams greatest strengths. After two weeks, the biggest disappointment may very well be the defensive line. In a game where Jim Schwartz finally dialed it up and sent the house, the Eagles still only managed one measly sack by Andrew Sendejo. In case you are doing the math...that's only two sacks in two games. And now after losing Malik Jackson and Tim Jernigan (2nd and 3rd DT) this unit is extremely thin. Couple the injuries with the health status of Fletcher Cox and the scenario sets up one recipe for disaster. If the Eagles are not able to sure up their pass rush, we are going to be in for a long Fall. Appreciate Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett's efforts but we need more productivity on the stat sheet. Its an absolute must for the team to put pressure on the Quarterback.
1) Injuries "Body Bag Revisited"- The Concussion Protocol spotter truly earned his paycheck on Sunday. 10 different players suffered some type of injury during the game, including tight end Dallas Goeddert, who hurt his calf during warmups. The following players were injured during the game and not able to return:
Tim Jernigan (foot)
Desean Jackson (groin)
Alshon Jeffery (calf)
Dallas Goeddert (calf)
Corey Clement (shoulder)
And then there was the list of players who were checked for concussions but able to return:
And then finally the injury scare to Jason Peters who had to leave the game for one play late in the fourth quarter. This is only week 2 folks. Something fishy is going on with the Eagles medical staff. The team cannot sustain this level of injuries no matter how great their "next man up" mantra is. Hopefully, this is the peak of the teams injury woes moving forward or else the season is really in trouble.
2) Isaac Seumalo- According to Pro Football Focus...the Eagles starting guard "had one of the worst single game grades by any player at any position in PFF history." It was not a signature effort by either of the teams offensive lineman by any stretch of the imagination. However; Isaac was terrible. Seumalo allowed 2 sacks, six QB hurries, committed three penalties, while grading out poorly against both the pass and the run. He appeared to be lost at times during the game and was way overmatched by the Falcons quick defensive linemen and linebackers. His side of the line was responsible for all three of Carson's sacks. Seumalo is the weak link of the line and it would not be surprising to see a change moving forward if his play does not improve.
3) Ronald Darby- Coming back from an ACL injury is never easy in the NFL. With that being said, Darby has made an admirable job of getting back on the field and once again patrolling the secondary for the Birds. On a night where he was asked to cover second year standout Calvin Ridley, he got absolutely torched for 5 catches, 106 yards and a touchdown. He was also beat by Julio Jones a number of times. Yes, the other members of the secondary were also responsible for the miscues. However; Ronald Darby is the veteran of the bunch making almost 7 Million Dollars. The team cannot afford these kind of efforts if they expect to win. In other words...go get Jalen Ramsey. AKA...Howie SZN.
Where do we go from here?
The bottom line is that the Atlanta Falcons were extremely desperate coming into their matchup against the Eagles. In fact, judging by their victory celebration that was posted to social media...this was their Super Bowl. Likewise, its only the second week and no loss makes or breaks a season.
However; there seems to be more question marks than answers surrounding this team. First and foremost there is the question of health. The team has already lost Malik Jackson to a season ending injury. The team will also be without it's third defensive tackle Tim Jernigan for 4-6 weeks. Add that to the uncertainty surrounding Desean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery. If the injuries continue to mount, the success of this team will remain in serious doubt.
Will Doug Pederson finally overcome his pass first egotistical flaws? When will the pass rush finally show up? Can the offensive line get back to being the unit that was originally ranked as the best in the Biz? Can the defensive secondary stop giving up the big play?
All of these questions will hopefully be answered feverishly in the upcoming weeks. The answers to these questions will ultimately pave the way for success or failure in the ultimate quest. My guess is that this team gets things turned around and once again becomes the darlings of the NFC. One can only hope that the injury bug gets vanquished and this team can get back to playing at full capacity.
This week its on to the Detroit Lions. This is a game that the Eagles need to win. This is a game the Eagles have to win. This is a game that the Eagles will win. You heard it here first folks. Now here's hoping that my prediction is right. Stay tuned for more analysis later in the week. Until then...GO BIRDS and #FlyEaglesFly.