State of the Eagles (and the NFC East): Week 14

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After a crushing loss to the Redskins in a game that saw multiple Eagles suffer potentially season-ending injuries, the Philadelphia Eagles currently sit at 5-8, not mathematically out of playoff contention, but logically, the Birds won’t be playing meaningful football come January.

Considering the expectations heading into the season, I would hope most Eagles fans are pleased with the season that has unfolded. Multiple young players have produced in crucial moments and shown potential to be key players for Doug Pederson as he revamps this roster and moves away from the mess Chip Kelly left behind. Additionally, some veterans of the team have had breakout seasons or have continued to to produce at a high level. But let’s take a look at the current Eagles roster with three games left in Doug Pederson’s first year in charge.

At QB, Carson Wentz is the present and the future. After a hot start followed by a rough patch, Wentz has proven over the last couple weeks that he has the talent to be a successful NFL QB. The front office and the coaching staff needs to surround him with elite playmakers to open up the offense. Right now, the Eagles don’t have that elite talent.

Wendell Smallwood was injured during the Redskins game and he has since been placed on IR, ending a rookie season where he showed some potential, but not enough that should prevent the Eagles from dipping into this year’s loaded RB draft class. Ryan Mathews is fumble and injury-prone, and we may see the Eagles move on from him in an effort to get younger. Darren Sproles continues to defy Father Time, although he was the victim of a disgusting hit from Redskins Safety Deshazor Everett and sits in the NFL’s concussion protocol.

Jordan Matthews, Zach Ertz, and Trey Burton all had productive games for the Eagles Sunday. Burton in particular shined as he was pressed into long-snapping duties following injuries to Jon Dorenbos and Brent Celek. Nelson Agholor continues to struggle despite signs of a much tougher mentality, Paul Turner is still experiencing the UDFA learning curve, and Bryce Treggs played just 4% of the snaps Sunday. Dorial Green-Beckham was inactive with an oblique injury, although he has impressed at times this year. Problems with his attitude and work ethic will still plague him, unfortunately.

The trench war was a tale of two sides for the Eagles against the Redskins. The offensive line was makeshift and it showed. Just to recap, the Eagles had (from left to right) 35 year old Jason Peters, backup center Stefen Wisniewski, inconsistent Jason Kelce, rookie backup left guard Isaac Seumalo, and 33 year old starting left guard Allen Barbre. Things got worse as Barbre was injured during the second half, and Matt Tobin was forced into duty at RT. He was beat off the snap on Carson Wentz’s game-ending fumble, and Tobin may also be headed to IR. The Eagles sorely missed suspended Lane Johnson and injured Halapoulivaati Vaitai.

However, the defensive line and the front seven as a whole played well Sunday. Fletcher Cox was back to his old self, Brandon Graham continued to play well, and Jordan Hicks is still one of the best MLB’s in the NFL. Unfortunately, the secondary was unable to hold up for the length of the game. Although he did record a pick-six to give the Eagles a chance late on, Leodis McKelvin was burned by DeSean Jackson for an 80 yard touchdown and gave up a crucial completion to Pierre Garçon on 4th and 1 late in the game. McKelvin’s inability to press has been a problem area for him all season. Nolan Carroll gave up a touchdown to Garçon as well. For the Eagles to be a contender next year, they will need to find better play at the CB position, both outside and in the slot.

 

Additional notes on the state of the Eagles: LS Jon Dorenbos matched Harold Carmichael’s franchise record for consecutive games played, although he will be unable to beat it as Dorenbos has now been placed on injured reserve. Smallwood and Tobin were also placed on the season ending list while S/CB Jaylen Watkins could also be headed to IR.

 

Around the NFC East:
 the Redskins obviously beat the Eagles on Sunday to improve to 7-5-1 and stay in the thick of the NFC playoff race. On Sunday Night Football, the now 9-4 Giants defeated the 11-2 Dallas Cowboys in a defensive affair, 10-7. The Giants now have a firm grasp on a Wild Card spot, but will need a Dallas collapse to challenge for the division title. The Giants defense shut down Dak Prescott, who has now struggled for two weeks in a row and is looking more and more human.

Prescott was completely exposed on Sunday night. Armed with one of the league’s best WR’s in Dez Bryant, one of the league’s best RB’s in Zeke Elliott, and one of the best offensive lines ever assembled, Prescott has largely strolled through his rookie campaign. The last two weeks, however, have not been good for the Mississippi State alum. After shredding the Ravens for 301 yards and 3 scores, Prescott has been limited to just 499 yards, 3 scores, and 2 interceptions over the last three weeks. If the Cowboys want to be playing in Houston on February 5, Prescott needs to find the mojo he had earlier in the season. Or could the Cowboys need to make another change at QB?

 

Up next for the Eagles:
Sunday, December 18 @ 1:00 PM EST, in Baltimore, against the 7-5 Baltimore Ravens. If the Eagles want to get one more win this year, this game would be a good time to do so. After the Ravens game, the Eagles face the Giants and Cowboys at home.

 

Eagles Draft Watch:
The Vikings currently sit at 7-6, two games behind the Lions in the NFC North and not in a Wild Card spot. Good for the Eagles. The Vikings remaining schedule sees them travel to Green Bay in between home games with Indianapolis and Chicago. The Vikings first round pick currently sits at #16, which of course goes to the Eagles from the Sam Bradford trade. The Eagles own the rest of their picks, as well as the Browns’ 5th that could become a late 4th.

 

Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

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