What the 2019 Eagles can learn from the 2018 Seahawks

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If you looked solely at the standings and did not know anything about the Eagles, you’d see a team one game back of first place with six games left to go. Would that spell out team turmoil to you? Probably not.

But for those of us who follow the team closely, whether it be reporting, writing, or just following along on Twitter or Facebook, this is exactly the opposite of that.

From the “anonymous source” texts, to the latest “anonymous NFC coach” apparently telling Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report that he’s seen these Eagles issues before, the noise surrounding the Eagles this year has been deafening.

To top this all off, there was an apparent Nelson Agholor burner account circling twitter:

*To be perfectly clear about this: I do not, nor should anyone, believe this is actually Agholor.  For a player in a contract year to go out of his way to do this would be extremely detrimental to his chances of catching on with a new team next season*

A Super Bowl winning team with a supposed fractured locker room? Sounds eerily familiar.

2018 Seattle Seahawks

Going into the 2018 season, the Seahawks underwent an extreme identity change. Take a look at these moves from March 2018 – October 2018:

  • Released Richard Sherman
  • Released Jeremy Lane
  • Traded Michael Bennett
  • Released DeShawn Shead
  • Released Cliff Avril (failed physical)
  • Placed Kam Chancellor on Reserve/PUP list (retired)
  • Placed Earl Thomas on IR

All seven players were either a starter or on the roster of both the 2013 Super Bowl winning team and the 2014 team that lost in the Super Bowl.  Four were former Pro Bowlers who were part of a historically great defense.

But why the massive overhaul?

A Sports Illustrated report came out in September of 2018 that there was a massive locker room rift in Seattle. There were private arguments being made public and a locker room divided between support of Russell Wilson, and thinking the coaches held him to a different standard. Seahawks management decided it was the time to tear down the team that had been so dominant on defense and build around their budding superstar quarterback.

This was a report made prior to a season that many deemed as a “rebuild” for the Seahawks. ESPN gave them a 16% chance to win the NFC West and a projected win total of 7.5. Before this report, Sports Illustrated pegged Seattle as a 7-9 team. Not much optimism for a franchise that lost so much talent during one offseason.

Fast forward to January 5, 2019, the Seahawks faced the Dallas Cowboys in a wildcard game in the playoffs. From being a team that many discounted because of chemistry issues and lack of talent to being the league leaders in rushing yards per game and having a quarterback with a 35 TD and seven interception season. What many deemed an abysmal year coming for the defense ended up being an average year in terms of league ranks, but they only allowed just over 240 passing yards per game.

But what changed?

The Seahawks brought in players committed to a certain culture. A culture that built team chemistry. According to Football Outsiders, the Seahawks were sixth in 2018 in team volatility, meaning that they were one of the most stable teams in the NFL.

They committed to the run, as apparent by their 160 rushing yards a game.  They had, and still have, a quarterback who can make plays with his legs and they were averaging 33.3 rushing attempts per game. Even in a game where Russell Wilson threw for only 72 yards, they won on the back of a rushing attack that gained 214 yards.

The backfield allowed Wilson to establish the play action and average the fifth most yards in the NFL off of those plays.

They drafted hungry players. They didn’t need early round players to make an immediate impact because they had late round picks determined to make their names known. Veterans that were once castoffs on another team, were brought in to show the league that they belong.

Management paid their quarterback what he was worth, but did so in a way that doesn’t cripple the cap in future years. Pete Carroll brought staff in that matched his vision. The 2018 Seahawks proved doubters wrong, and the 2019 Seahawks continue to put pieces around their franchise quarterback to hopefully bring them back to a place they haven’t been in five years.

How are these 2019 Eagles similar?

The 2019 Eagles

As I stated in the beginning of the article, these 2019 Eagles have had some turmoil this season.  It all started when an “anonymous source” told ESPN’s Josina Anderson that general manager Howie Roseman “dropped the ball” in not acquiring cornerback Jalen Ramsey:

After this report, Anderson appeared on ESPN’s NFL Live and added some more from that source:

With the team being 3-3, obviously, an Eagles source also talked to me about how they feel like that offense is functioning. One of the things that they said is, ‘We need to make bleep simpler. Sometimes we just need to handle what is manageable.’ They said, ‘Even Peyton Manning knew when to check it down.’ Carson Wentz right now is 38 percent on passes that travel 15 air yards, has three interceptions on passes like that, which is tied for most in the league. He also has 148 passes on those that are 10 yards or fewer. Right now, he has nine touchdowns and zero interceptions on passes like that. So I do think it is an apt point.

Many people speculated that this source was Alshon Jeffery, but he denied any involvement.

Last season Anderson reported from an apparent source within the Eagles locker room that players felt as though Wentz was targeting tight end Zach Ertz too much.  Another report came out saying that players were questioning Wentz’s leadership.

On top of the Anderson reports, wide receiver Nelson Agholor has been suspected as being behind a “burner account” on Twitter that had many tweets defending Agholor and his play so far this season. One particular tweet from “@efam33” made many people convinced it was Agholor:

The name “efam” is short for Efamehule, which is Agholor’s middle name.

As soon as this account went active, thousands of people reacted to this.  Many showed support for Nelson, proclaiming that Agholor is not the type of player to make a burner account.  Also referencing his relationship with the media and how he’s been very open in all of his answers to reports.  Many other people are convinced it is him, referencing the “we” and “us” used throughout “efam”‘s tweets.

Here is Nelson bringing it up to reporters himself and being adamant that it is not him:

Whether it is him or not (again I do not think it is him), these types of stories are not conducive to a healthy locker room environment.

The whole Orlando Scandrick/First Take situation is another blemish, but one that led to the team coming together more than anything else.

An article by Jeff McLane from the Philadelphia Inquirer was released on November 23rd highlighting some of the language in Alshon Jeffery’s contract and how his season has been up to that point.  There was an interesting quote in that article about Wentz’s attempts to have offseason workouts with all of his receivers:

In July, he flew many of the Eagles’ skill position players down to Houston, where they stayed at his new home, for workouts and socializing. Wentz bought Jeffery a plane ticket, but the receiver never showed, sources familiar with the trip said.

This puts more speculation on Jeffery being the anonymous source for Josina Anderson.  He declined an interview on Friday by reporters.

The more negative stories come out, the more questions that will rise up in the locker room. Is it time to follow in the footsteps of the Seahawks?

What the Eagles can learn from the Seahawks

Let me preface this section by saying I do not compare this Eagles defense to what Seattle had. While the Eagles have been playing incredibly efficient defense over the past few weeks, it is no where near the level of the “Legion of Boom”.

However, what both teams share is a locker room problem.

It seems like forever ago that the Eagles were the talk of the league for their touchdown celebrations, their group poses after a turnover, and the masks.  You’d never think that a team with this much drama in 2019 is just two seasons removed from having some of the best team chemistry in the league.

Howie Roseman, Doug Pederson, and Jeff Lurie need to sit down this offseason and do what Pete Carroll, John Schneider, and Paul Allen did in 2018. Surround Carson Wentz, their franchise quarterback, with players who buy in to what he does. Surround Doug Pederson with coaches who share his vision.

Whether you like it or not, Carson Wentz is the present and future of the Eagles. The entire team needs to start performing as one cohesive unit instead of individual people with their own agendas. It’s time for Howie Roseman to put players on all three phases that buy in to what Pederson wants to do. It’s time for coaches to come to this team that Pederson trusts as much as he did Reich.

Before any changes come, the Eagles still have six games left in this season.  A 6-0 or a 5-1 finish to the season could send them back to the playoffs, or maybe even a division title, and this portion of the season could be looked at as the turning point of the year.

Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

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