Connecting the dots: Why is the Eagles offense struggling so much in the first quarter?

Mike Groh
Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator Mike Groh on the sideline during the first half of an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, Oct. 7, 2018 in Philadelphia. (Perry Knotts via AP)

The Eagles have finally snapped their disappointing two game losing streak with Jake Elliott’s second nail-in-the-coffin field goal against the Giants in the final seconds of the game. With the current dumpster fire that is the NFC East, it appears that the team might have turned the season around with this win against the Giants. A Cowboys’ Thursday night loss combined with an Eagles win next Monday night against Washington will result in a three way tie for 1st place with the Cowboys and the Redskins.

However, don’t let this win distract from the fact that the Eagles have come out slower than the time it takes for people to forget about Philly fans throwing snowballs at Santa to start games.

Now you still may be asking yourself “Hey! what the hell happened to our elite offense from last year?!” and this could’ve been caused by a number of reasons: Carson Wentz still recovering from his injury, not resigning LaGarrette Blount, Jay Ajayi tearing his ACL… its not great. But these slow starts are indicative of a bigger problem. The departures of Frank Reich and John DeFilippo have turned this Eagles’ offense into a shell of what it was last year.

During the 2017 season, the Eagles scored an average of 6.4 points in the 1st quarter, which was the 2nd best in the NFL. The only team that averaged more was the Rams at 7.0 points. Fast forward to the 2018 season, Eagles are averaging a league low 1.9 points in the 1st quarter twelve weeks into the season. To make matters worse, The Eagles have been held scoreless in the 1st quarter for the past three games.  Meanwhile, the Indianapolis Colts led by Frank Reich are absolutely soaring, averaging 6.3 points in the 1st quarter, good for 4th in the league.

The losses of Reich and DeFilippo has created a vacuum effect in the Eagles offensive coaching room and rather than bringing in an established offensive coordinator; the birds opted to promote from within and Mike Groh was given the position. Groh has been with the team since 2017. Before his time with the Eagles, Groh previously served as the Rams receivers coach/passing game coordinator in 2016 and the Bears receivers coach from 2013-15. During his tenure with both teams, their passing offenses have been less than stellar:

2013 Bears – 32nd Ranked passing offense

2014 Bears – 15th Ranked passing offense

2015 Bears – 23rd Ranked passing offense

2016 Rams – 31st Ranked passing offense

The most alarming year comes in 2016 with Los Angeles. The offense was ranked 31st when Groh was given additional duties as the passing game coordinator. Now you could argue the fact that they had Goff as a rookie and the perfectly average Jeff Fisher at head coach; but the stats show that Groh might’ve not been the best option for the team as the offensive coordinator this year.

When asked about the slow starts that have continued to haunt the Eagles offense, Mike Groh had this to say:

“We saw a lot of positives I think at the beginning of the game. [There were a] couple penalties [that] kept us from getting the production that we want, but there are still things we want to get better at. But we did see some positives there at the beginning of the game.”

Positives, there may have been. But through 11 first quarter samples this year, the Eagles have scored a dismal 21 points and the dots directly correlate to the recently promoted offensive coordinator.

With a tough run of games coming up including three divisional showdowns and matchups with the Rams and Texans, it’s not expected that the Eagles are suddenly going to burst out of the gate and drop 21 first quarter points on any of their final opponents…but it should be.

When the team lost Frank Reich, they lost the man most responsible for the scripted plays to start the game. If Doug Pederson is the offensive genius that we think he is, these slow starts to game are unacceptable. With the weapons Wentz has, there is no reason that the Eagles should be this bad in the 1st quarter. In order to keep this season alive, they need to win at home against the Redskins on Monday. There is no reason or excuse for the 2017 Super Bowl Champions to lose against a Colt McCoy-led team at home…and if they can’t start fast, this is a defense that will aim to ensure they never start at all.


Perry Knotts via AP