Eagles Offensive Line Lets Down Vs. Browns
For the second consecutive week, the Eagles botched a golden opportunity to add to the win column before embarking on a daunting four-game stretch of playoff contenders.
Instead, dreadful coaching, offensive ineptitude, and erratic defense suddenly have the Eagles at a crossroads. The 22-17 score may suggest a hard-fought, narrow victory for the Browns, but the game was never close.
Despite a Herculean effort from the Eagles’ defense, which only surrendered 13 points and made a concerted effort to suppress a heralded ground game, the offense was stuck in neutral for much of the afternoon. In fact, the hapless unit awarded the Browns nine points.
The initial game script seemingly called for a heavy dose of Miles Sanders, which yielded positive results aside from the first quarter fumble. By halftime, Sanders produced 62 yards on 14 carries.
However, the second half offensive attack told an entirely different story. Sanders curiously carried the ball just two more times for four yards after the break, as a battered Carson Wentz continued to drop back in hopes of rekindling a stagnant passing game.
While Wentz delivered another uneven performance, the polarizing quarterback received little help from his supporting cast – particularly the offensive line.
Except for Defensive Player of the Year candidate Myles Garrett, the Browns’ defensive line has struggled to manufacture pressure from its front four. Garrett aside, fellow starters Sheldon Richardson, Oliver Vernon, and Larry Ogunjobi entered Week 11 with a combined six sacks.
Against the Eagles, Vernon compiled three sacks on his own – more than any Garrett has had in any single game this season – while Ogunjobi and Adrian Clayborn contributed a half-sack and 1.5 sacks, respectively. As a defense, the Browns produced 10 quarterback hits, showing little letdown despite Garrett missing the game because of his placement Friday on the Reserve/Covid-19 list.
Sure, there were occasions where Wentz held onto the ball too long – the egregious safety being the prime example – but absorbing the kind of abuse he takes every week is indefensible.
Isaac Seumalo made his highly anticipated return to play left guard, finally giving the Eagles the starting five they envisioned going into the season. However, the reunion didn't last long, as Jason Peters, Lane Johnson, and Jason Kelce each exited the game at various points. Peters, who had played fairly well in recent weeks, struggled mightily against the Browns and didn't return. Kelce returned, but Johnson didn't.
Peters looked more like a turnstile than a future Hall of Famer, as Vernon beat him for multiple sacks. Like the offense itself, the 38-year-old Peters appeared slow-footed and lethargic.
When Peters left the game with an injury, he was replaced by the intriguing Jordan Mailata.
If and when Peters does return, it should be as Mailata’s backup. Mailata may still be learning the game and there will be more growing pains, but there’s value in getting him experience. Mailata's upside is undeniable, he gives maximum effort, and the 23-year-old could be viewed as a vital piece for the future.
As for the right guard conundrum, much like with Mailata, the snaps should be allocated to an upside-laden developmental prospect such as Jack Driscoll rather than a mistake-prone, low-ceiling fringe player like Matt Pryor. Driscoll came in to play right tackle when Johnson exited.
The Eagles have unveiled nine different offensive line combinations this season, but for long-term success and stability, it behooves the team to stick by their young talent and mold them for the future.
– Andrew DiCecco (@ADiCeccoNFL) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.