Eagles continue to struggle in the first quarter, but what’s the solution?

The Eagles suffered a grueling week 2 loss at the hands of the Falcons, but did the Falcons really defeat them? Or was it injuries that once again plagued this team? Maybe it was the fact that the team started slow for the second consecutive week. Why is that? Sure, the injuries could’ve played a huge factor in why the team started slow but it’s the National Football League not your high school varsity league. Adjustments are expected no matter what the situation is.

Last year, the Eagles scored an average of 3.2 points in the first quarter. In the opening two weeks of 2019, they’ve posted a flatline.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no professional when it comes to the x’s and o’s of coaching in this league, but this roster was built to withstand situations like this. For example, the Vikings were able to destroy the Falcons with just 10 passing attempts and a stout running game. The formula was perfect for the Eagles especially with a heavy back in Jordan Howard and the change of pace back Miles Sanders but for some reason, it seemed like neither running back could find an open lane. Sanders has 10 rushing attempts for 28 yards while Howard followed with 8 attempts for 18 yards. Terrible numbers for players running behind the league’s best offensive line.

When asked about the continuous slow starts, Coach Doug Pederson responded by saying, “I just have to find the magical plays.” Interesting answer for a coach who excelled at play calling not too long ago. He was then asked if he felt it was the play calling or the lack of execution in which Pederson took the high road and said, “It’s always the plays. That’s on me. I have to do a better job.”

In regards to the adjustments Pederson had to make pregame, he followed up by stating, “One thing that I said after the game, too, is with [Eagles offensive coordinator] Mike Groh, [Eagles offensive line/run game coordinator] Jeff Stoutland, and the offensive staff making the adjustments we needed to make and coaching those young guys up, [WR] Mack Hollins, [WR] J.J. [Arcega-Whiteside]. And what’s interesting, if you watch the game as we did this morning, I mean, [TE] Zach [Ertz] is telling guys where to go. Nelly [WR Nelson Agholor] is telling — we’re moving guys. Our pieces are moving and we’re putting guys in positions that didn’t practice in those positions during the week and still had a chance at the end of the game. Took the lead and had a chance.”

“It’s just one of those things. It’s hard to say.” Carson Wentz said after week one. “We kind of hurt ourselves early. Then we put that drive together that came up short on fourth down. Those are just things we have to keep cleaning up and working on. Offensively, I didn’t feel like we were that bad, we just hurt ourselves. Those are things we can definitely work on.”

The team has historically been bad in week 2 matchups for the last 3 seasons of Pederson’s tenure. In 2017, the team lost a really tough one to Andy Reid’s Chiefs by a similar style. The final score was 27-20, in a game where Wentz through for 333 yards on 46 passing attempts(remember that number) with two touchdowns and one interception. The leading rusher of that game for the birds? Carson Wentz with 55 rushing yards. In 2018, the team fell to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers by a score of 27-21. Another “close” game or a game that the Eagles should’ve won. Wentz was unfortunately still recovering, so the Foles was the starting QB. He threw for 334 yards on 48 attempts (there’s that number again) with one touchdown. The leading rusher? Corey Clement for 30 rushing yards and one touchdown.

There’s a trend brewing for Doug Pederson when it comes to, not only starting the game strong but also starting the year strong. In each week two matchup from 2017-2019, his QB’s have passed on 40+ attempts consistently while the run game was non-exisitent. For some reason, Pederson doesn’t commit to the run as he should, no one knows why. Howard is the type of back that needs consistent attempts to get going while Sanders has had a lot of difficulty in finding running lanes.

Maybe it’s just a case of Pederson and his team needing a few games each year to find their identity. It would explain why the backfield can morph into such different beasts so quickly, and why the offense struggles to move the sticks early on. By week 4 or 5, this shouldn’t be a concern. Pederson’s coaching record reflects that. But the one worry still haunting Eagles fans is an inability to put points on the board in the opening few drives.

The Eagles need to force the game to flow at their own pace. The only way doing so is by finding a game plan that allows the running game to set the tone. Coach Pederson has a lot of self-reflecting to do after he watched his franchise QB do everything in his will to help his team win. Wentz can’t continue to throw 40+ times a game. The running game can’t stay under 20 play calls. This team shined when all was balanced, they even won a Super Bowl. Pederson has to find that and milk it for what it’s worth.

Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

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