The season isn’t lost, but the Eagles must prioritize the future. Travis Fulgham is the future. (Photo by YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
The Eagles find themselves in an uncertain position. In a normal season, 1-3-1 (and soon to be 1-4-1) would require some significant changes and an extra eye toward the future. However, given the quality of the NFC East and a significant injury to their greatest divisional threat, even a 1-4-1 start wouldn’t eliminate the Eagles from playoff contention. So where do they go from here?
Option one is the Eagles continue on as planned and try to win the NFC East with what they have. They insert Alshon Jeffrey, Desean Jackson, Vinny Curry and other aging players back into the lineup when healthy and hope for the best. My guess is this is what the Eagles will do. This would be the wrong option.
Another option is tanking. We’ll call this option two. I think tanking the season is a horrible idea in football. You can’t ask veterans to risk their health for a franchise not trying to win. Furthermore, I doubt Howie Roseman will be fired, so why tank and give him more important picks to whiff on? With that said, the Eagles have to be real about their situation. Unfortunately, they’ve been too blind, too dumb, or too prideful to acknowledge their situation: The Eagles aren’t very good and need to rebuild.
That brings us to option three. Combine portions of options one and two together. Now you have the solution. You compete to win the lousy division and hope to get into the playoffs. However, you tell Desean and Alshon to enjoy the view from the sideline and let the young receivers play.
Carson Wentz hasn’t had the same set of receivers year to year in his entire career. This is an absolute recipe for disaster. Jalen Reagor, Travis Fulgham, Greg Ward, John Hightower, Quez Watkins and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside should see ALL the receiving reps from here on out. It’s time to let Wentz grow with a group of receivers that aren’t going to be in out of the lineup from week to week or gone in six months. This is a no-brainer in my opinion, but Doug keeps talking about inserting the old guys back in upon their return. It’s simply stupid at this point.
The same goes with the offensive line. Don’t put Jason Peters back out there. We know he can jump offside like a pro. Let Jordan Mailata continue to develop. Same with Jack Driscoll and Nate Herbig and maybe even Luke Juriga if something happens to Jason Kelce.
On defense, the Eagles are already building in some places. The problem is there just isn’t much talent. The Eagles have five linebackers on the roster. The oldest is 26. If Nate Gerry can’t cover or read a misdirection to save his life, why not trot out one of the young rookies, because you know what? I would bet my life Davion Taylor or Shaun Bradley could also let Chase Claypool score the game winning 35-yard touchdown on 3rd and 8.
The future is now for the Eagles, and that unfortunately doesn’t mean they have a plethora of young talent ready to take over the league. It means what we had was nice but it’s gone now. It’s time to be realistic about the future. It’s time to let the green horns on the field. It’s time to play for 2021 and beyond.
- The Eagles were in great position to win in Pittsburgh. They faced a 3rd and 5 at the Pittsburgh 39. Doug opted to throw. The pass fell incomplete; the Eagles kicked the 57-yard field goal and missed. If you know you’re going to kick it there, run the ball on 3rd down. This accomplishes two things. First, you don’t risk a sack. This has plagued the Eagles already this season. It didn’t happen on this occasion, but that threat is always real the way Wentz tries to keep plays alive. Second, running the football likely improves your field goal range and gives you an option to go for it on 4th down if the rush produces enough yards. A 57-yard field goal in Heinz Field is a long shot. While I’m not questioning kicking the field goal, I certainly didn’t expect Jake Elliott to make it from that distance.
- The aforementioned failure to convert on 3rd down was an absolute killer. So much happened after this drive that I’m not even sure Eagles fans realize the chance Philadelphia had. The Eagles were in perfect position to ice the game. Convert there and the Eagles are one more 1st down and a made field goal from clinching the win with no time left for the Steelers.
- Neither defense was effective on 3rd down, but the Eagles allowing the Steelers to convert 73% (11/15) of their 3rd downs was devastating.
- John Hightower is going to be a solid player, but Sunday was not his day. He cost the Eagles crucial points at the end of the 1st half and he did it twice. First, Hightower cost the Eagles a field goal by not getting out of bounds and instead cutting back into the middle of the field. It was a rookie move with good intentions that had bad consequences. It forced the Eagles to use one of their two remaining timeouts. Had they the extra timeout, the Eagles could’ve attempted a 29-yard field goal. Second, Hightower cost the Eagles a touchdown by letting a perfectly thrown 49-yard dart go right through his hands. It wasn’t so much a drop as it was a whiff or an air ball. These growing pains are costly, but as mentioned above, I’d rather go through the pains now and build off them than delay them for aging veterans.
- I understand the running game was ineffective for all but one play, but how does Miles Sanders finish the game with 80 rushing yards when he had a 74-yard run? More importantly, how does Miles Sanders finish another bleeping football game with less than 15 touches?!?!?! Come on, Doug. He’s your best offensive player. Put the ball in his hands. He will make plays for you.
- There’s been a lot of talk about the Eagles defensive line recently. They were great against the Bengals and 49ers. They were no-shows against the Steelers. Of Pittsburgh’s nine drives, the Eagles defense allowed points on six of them. While those failures aren’t entirely on the defensive line, they have the biggest responsibility for the success of the defense. The Eagles secondary is banged up and still learning how to play together. The talent there is also mediocre. The linebackers are really bad and the Eagles have the least amount of money invested at that position of any team in the NFL. The defensive line is full of talent and the Eagles have invested heavily there in both money and draft picks. When the Eagles needed a stop after the missed field goal to keep the game alive, the defensive line generated no pressure. Conversely, when the Steelers had the opportunity to close out the game, their defensive line was in Wentz’s earhole on every down. This defense goes as the defensive line goes. They need to be great every game for the defense to have a chance.