Birdfeed: Vol. 16.6; Adjusting Expectations

One play was all it took for Carson Wentz’s jersey to fall apart Sunday against the Redskins. The Eagles didn’t last much longer. (Photo by Alex Brandon/AP)

Sunday was another comedy of errors for the Philadelphia Eagles. Outside of two touchdown-scoring returns, nothing went right for the Eagles or Carson Wentz.

Week 6 was unquestionably Wentz’s worst showing in the NFL. He completed only 50% of his passes and missed high on open receivers at least a handful of times. Even when he did connect with receivers he struggled to hit guys in stride. Don’t get me wrong; I’m all in on Wentz. Even when he struggles he doesn’t make the backbreaking mistakes that victimize many young quarterbacks. On the other hand, it’s hard not to laugh when Eagle fans argue Wentz is already an elite quarterback. Wentz had two game-winning/tying drive opportunities over the last two weeks. He went 2/6 for 22 yards, was sacked twice and threw a game-ending interception. So yeh, there’s still a long way to go before he’s Tom Brady.

As the starting quarterback and the face of the franchise, Wentz is bound to get more attention than anyone else, both negative and positive. Wentz was far from the Eagles’ biggest problem against the Redskins. The poor kid was sacked five times and under heavy pressure for the majority of the afternoon. His tight end also let him down when the Eagles could’ve cut a 10 point 4th quarter deficit down to three…

But enough about Wentz. Let’s go through Sunday’s most egregious blunders.

Fletcher Cox is the Eagles best player. He got a fat new contract in the offseason. He’s supposed to make plays and set the tone, especially for the defense. In consecutive weeks now Cox has committed a foolish and costly penalty on 3rd down inside the red zone. Both penalties kept the opponent’s drive alive. Both instances led to touchdowns instead of field goals. Cox is supposed to be the reason opposing offenses leave the field, not the reason they stay on it.

While we’re on defensive miscues, Nigel Bradham can’t miss a tackle on Kirk Cousins in the open field, on 3rd down no less. Cousins isn’t Russell Wilson or Cam Newton. He’s not even Aaron Rodgers. I still can’t believe how badly Bradham whiffed there. As a whole, the Eagle defense has done a lot of whiffing over the last two weeks.

Jim Schwartz likes an aggressive, swarming defense, and that’s all well and good. However, there must be a balance between aggressive and disciplined. The Eagles were thrashed in the running game Sunday because they missed a ton of tackles and lost gap discipline over and over and again. Aggressive defense only works if you’re aggressive where you’re supposed to be in the scheme. Otherwise, it’s too easy for offenses to use your aggressiveness against you. Washington did this numerous times on Sunday where a simple counter would find Eagle defenders stacked up two and sometimes three levels deep. All it took was one cut and the Washington runner had an open lane into the secondary. When your safety leads the team in tackles it’s a bad day for the defense.

Speaking of the secondary, congrats to Jalen Mills for never losing confidence. Even after DeSean Jackson burnt him deep three times, Mills never stopped with the finger wagging. I’m pretty sure Mills gave Cousins the finger wag even though Cousins was throwing the ball away and not actually trying to throw in Mills’ direction. Did I mention each and every finger wag came while the Eagles were trailing, and often by double digits? Well done, rookie.

Finally, the penalties. Man, the penalties. It’s one thing to watch your team lose. This is sports, after all. Losing is part of the equation and we’ve all accepted that, but losing while committing an ungodly number of penalties is infuriating. Good teams don’t rack up 300+ yards of penalties in three games. I’m pretty sure bad teams don’t even do that. Sloppy and undisciplined teams are the only ones guilty of granting handouts at such a careless rate. The Eagles currently rank 4th in opponent penalty 1st downs per game. Over their last two games, Jim Schwartz’s defense has given away 10 1st downs. TEN! Unfortunately, penalties are an old nemesis for Schwartz and that trend is continuing this year in Philadelphia…

I think my frustration with the Eagles the last two weeks has more to do with my inflated expectations than the outcome of the games. If someone offered me a 3-2 record through five games back in August, I’d have jumped on it, but 3-2 after a 3-0 start is a bitter pill to swallow.

It’s become clear the 2016 version of the Philadelphia Eagles never changed. Only our expectations did. It’s time to change them back.

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