Bye week blues: Five thoughts on the Eagles during their week off

Bye weeks are fun…right? If, like me, you’re sat twiddling your thumbs and wondering what you’re going to do this Sunday without Eagles football to look forward to, here’s a list of five thoughts to ponder over the weekend.

Carson Wentz is playing at an exceptional level

Let’s not beat around the bush here. Carson Wentz has been simply outstanding through the opening half of the 2019 season. The Eagles may have problems on offense, but Carson Wentz isn’t one of them.

Now, with a full offseason working with the team under his belt, an offseason in which he’s no longer rehabbing a torn ACL, Wentz looks back to his best. Through nine weeks, the pride of NDSU ranks:

2nd in QBR
2nd in fewest interceptions
3rd in Passer rating
4th in TD passes
5th in completion %

The ‘fewest interceptions’ rank is especially intriguing given how worryingly inconsistent the Eagles wide receivers have been. His PFF grade of 87 is 2nd among 35 qualifying quarterbacks, but he hasn’t been perfect.

Wentz has struggled to push the offense down the field with aggression and has instead thrived when the Eagles pound the rock and he’s tasked with quick-reads. This shouldn’t take away from his ‘daredevil’ flashes, although the change in playing style and somewhat reserved nature at times has to be documented. Of course, some of this can be attributed to the lack of help at wide receiver.

But, what is really encouraging is that every single criticism Wentz has faced this year, he’s met head-on and shattered.

‘Not clutch’ – Against the Bears, Wentz constructed a 16-play, 8-minute drive where he went 4-4 on third downs to put the nail in the coffin.

‘Selfish teammate’ – Even in the face of anonymous sources and that offseason article, Wentz has somehow kept an offense that should be falling apart, glued together. There were reports of Wentz meeting with his receivers after practice to put in extra work and I really don’t think there are many QB’s in this league who with so much noise surrounding their team, can step out onto a field so calm and carry his offense to a win.

Whichever lens you look at this through, Wentz has been nothing short of excellent and it’s criminally underrated.

The Eagles should absolutely re-sign Jordan Howard

The Eagles acquired Howard in exchange for a conditional 2020 draft pick. It felt lopsided then and it feels lopsided now. The Bears knew Howard was entering the final year of his rookie contract and the breakout of Tarik Cohen partnered with a rookie class of similarly-built backs pushed Chicago to cash in while they could.

Since arriving in Philadelphia, Howard has proven him to be the perfect fit for this offense, and the perfect compliment to Miles Sanders. With 525 rushing yards, 6 rushing touchdowns and 4.4 yards per carry (his highest average since his rookie year), Howard’s patience and vision partnered with an Eagles offensive line that’s just parting the red sea on a regular basis, is a lethal combination for any NFL defense.

Not only that, but he’s been a key fixture in two of the team’s most important wins. His hat-trick of touchdowns against the Packers lifted the team to a Lambeau win, while a 96-yard outing two weeks ago was massive in a statement win against the Bills.

Strong, willing in pass-protection, happy to get out and work as a receiver, Howard has been a shining light in an offseason of acquisitions that have otherwise burned out. Bringing Howard back should be a no-brainer if the price is right. Should the 24-year old want to remain in Philly, the idea of a backfield with a true ‘Thunder and Lightning’ combination while Sanders continues to develop is almost salivating.

Is a full secondary rebuild coming?

This is really interesting. The Eagles secondary has been abysmal for the majority of the season. Whether it’s the starters, the backups, corners, or the safeties, shocking is an understatement. I genuinely think a lot of it falls on the scheme, but the Eagles are naturally headed to a crossroads.

Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby are both in their contract season’s, while Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod’s contracts can easily be walked out on if the team really feel the need to part ways with either player. Sidney Jones seems to have already been cast aside, and backup Rasul Douglas could pick off 103 passes in 3 games and still end up benched when Ronald Darby returns from injuries.

For all of the aforementioned, these next seven weeks are absolutely vital in proving that they deserve a new contract from a front office that has to be wary given the weekly mistakes that the unit has put on display for the rest of the league to capitalize on.

There’s a strong chance that the Eagles rebuild their secondary this offseason. How many of those players currently on the roster will be brought back is a mystery at this point and it would hardly be surprising to see a lot of turnover…if you pardon the pun.

What about the coordinators?

Talking of pressure, what about Schwartz and Groh? Depending on how the rest of the season unfolds, we could see some much larger changes in Philadelphia.

On one hand, there’s an offense that has just never looked the same after Frank Reich left, especially in the first quarter where Groh helps to script plays.

On the other, a defensive coordinator that has refused to adjust for most of the season and as a result, has put up a blueprint for the rest of the league to just copy and paste into their gameplans.

There’s still time for redemption and the post-bye schedule is significantly less intimidating than it was pre-bye. The question is, can Schwartz and Groh really adapt enough to convince the world that there’s enough reason to keep them both onboard?

Another late run?

After the Seahawks and Patriots, the Eagles are granted an easy landing. Miami, two games against the Giants, and a single game against the Redskins and Cowboys. These are all very winnable matchups and the Eagles are nearing full health.

DeSean Jackson may be sidelined, but Avonte Maddox, Cre’Von LeBlanc, Timmy Jernigan, and Nigel Bradham should all find the field before the season comes to an end and that may be enough to propel the team in the right direction.

The Eagles are no stranger to late runs. Everyone thought the season was over after the New Orleans blowout last year. Everyone thought the season was over after the heartbreaking loss to Dallas last year.

The party ain’t over yet…

Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

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