As the Eagles look to take a much-needed break during the Bye week, the importance of offensive success upon their return has sky-rocketed. After news of DeSean Jackson’s injury broke, the wide receiver position has been put under the microscope, but how much is really going to change?
The team is 5-4 and only one game behind the Dallas Cowboys, but for the second year in a row, the Eagles wide receivers have failed Carson Wentz and the offense.
Drops are becoming a regular thing again, with the Eagles leading the league in that category. Even their top wideout, Alshon Jeffery, had three drops in Sunday’s win over Chicago. The problems only grow more concerning the further down the depth chart you look. Prior to Sunday’s game, the wide receivers were the talk of the town. The lack of execution is haunting the offense on a weekly basis and with DeSean Jackson now out of the equation, pressure is building and Pederson is having to almost scheme around what is now a massive problem.
“I think out of this, we have to find consistency, especially in our passing game.” Doug Pederson told reporters after the Chicago win. “We have to find a common thread there and we have to see what has been the breakdown, right. You have to be able to target an area, and then [say], okay, here is our plan to fix it. These next couple days will be important for us to make those decisions and try to be a little more consistent moving forward.”
When targeting the WRs, Wentz’s stats are 78/144, 54%, 774 yards, 6 TDs. Now when targeting the TEs and RBs, he is 99/148, 67%, 1,122 yards, 7 TDs. This is all before Sunday’s game. Let’s not talk about Mack Hollins and JJAW for the sake of our own sanity.
Now on Sunday, Ertz led the team with 9 receptions, 103 receiving yards, and 1 touchdown. Wentz only threw for 239 yards, so Zach Ertz, alone, accounted for half of a Wentz’ yards against the Bears. Dallas Goedert had 4 receptions for 39 yards.
The Eagles tight ends combined for 13 catches on 16 targets for 142 yards, while the wide receivers (Alshon Jeffery & Nelson Agholor) caught 7 passes out of 16 targets for only 57 yards. A huge difference, isn’t it?
Doug Pederson has found his safety blankets at the tight end position, with both becoming a focal point of the team’s gameplan against the Bears.
The second poison group that’s shouldering the burden is running back. Jordan Howard has been everything the Eagles need in the run game while Miles Sanders is starting to find his confidence in the backfield as well.
Sanders has been a diamond in the rough for this Eagles offense as he has excelled in not only the running game but also the passing game. He’s been their big-play guy since Jackson went down. Sanders is not only averaging 4.4 yards per carry, but is also averaging 13 yards per catch. He currently has 336 rushing yards, 305 receiving yards, and 314 kick return yards. Talk about finding a needle in the haystack for a team that’s been “bad” at drafting.
As for Howard, he’s been the wrecking ball. Howard is averaging 4.4 yards per carry with 525 rushing yards on the year so far. He’s also tallied 6 touchdowns on the year as well. To think, it only took a Sixth-round conditional pick from a team that didn’t need his services anymore. How’s that for a punchline?!
So where am I going with all this?
Here’s the mark, the Eagles have found their identity. It’s time that the offense relies on their big tight ends and their run game. Sanders adds a new dynamic to the passing game as he can keep defense guessing especially when he and Jordan Howard line up together in the backfield.
Dallas Goedert is finally fully healthy this season and is showing just how special he really is. With Ertz leading the way by his side, Carson should be able to find ways to win as long as the game plan revolves around these four.
The receivers are who they are at this point. The Eagles were living on the edge by relying on the health of DeSean Jackson and they cannot afford to rely on the hands of Agholor right now. Jeffery hasn’t looked the same this season and it could be due to a lingering injury. Either way, trying to spread the ball just isn’t working with this positional group, so condensiing the traffic through the middle seems like one of the only options available now that the trade deadline has passed.
If the Eagles are to make a run for the ultimate prize then they have to rely on playing Bully ball. Pederson has two weeks to incorporate everything great from the Bears game into their plans moving forward.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports