Woe-and-2!: Eagles, Wentz Outclassed By Rams, Still Winless
Carson Wentz is in midseason form. Problem for the Eagles is, that’s not always the best version of their franchise quarterback.
Wentz’s struggles with accuracy and mechanics were problematic during a three-game losing streak last year that started in November but were already plaguing him in October.
This year, those same problems have surfaced earlier as the Eagles’ quarterback threw two interceptions for the second straight game and also missed several receivers throughout the game as the Eagles started their season 0-2 after losing 37-19 to the Rams in their home opener.
Defensive breakdowns didn’t help, either, and Miles Sanders’ fumble also contributed to an early hole. The Rams had their way on offense for the first half.
Right now, the Eagles are broken and need to be fixed. You’ll hear a lot of questions to Doug Pederson this week about his plans to turn this team around.
Let’s go with the observations:
1. Don’t blame the offensive line or Doug Pederson’s play calling for Carson Wentz’s mediocre game. Wentz wasn’t pressured very much and Pederson showed more balance in his run-pass ratio but Wentz was still erratic, throwing another interception – an awfully costly one, at that – and generally not seeing the entire field. Wentz’s interception in the end zone can arguably be the game’s turning point, as the Eagles were gaining momentum and then watched it all fizzle. Wentz also missed Dallas Goedert in the right corner of the end zone (at least he threw the ball away, though) and missed Goedert again on the next possession by throwing to the tight end’s wrong shoulder with Jalen Ramsey beaten by a slight step. Wentz played better than he did in the opener, but wasn’t good enough. Four interceptions in two weeks is uncharacteristic of Wentz. It’s going to be a tough week for him as the public backlash will be overwhelming.
2. Carson ain’t the lone culprit. The coaching point from Jim Schwartz all week should have been to focus on misdirection and Jared Goff roll-outs. Schwartz even said during his press conference on Tuesday that the Rams used Goff’s mobility advantageously in their season-opening win against the Cowboys and that he needed to have his defense prepare for Goff’s mobility. For whatever reason, Schwartz and defense didn’t execute as if the were expecting Goff’s roll-outs and play-actions. Not until the second half did the Eagles adjust to keep Goff in the pocket. Goff struggled at the end of the second half and in the third quarter, making most of his passes from in the pocket, and his accuracy clearly struggled. But even that development couldn’t help as the Eagles wore down in the second half and became vulnerable to the run.
3. Even with defensive adjustments, the Eagles didn’t generate enough pressure and Schwartz passed on an opportunity to get his pass rush going earlier. He let Goff get way too comfortable early. Schwartz had Derek Barnett and Javon Hargrave get back, although both came off the bench. But he had enough firepower to throw something at Goff earlier in the game and didn’t. I’m not one who calls for a billion blitzes, but when the opposing offense is comfortable on several possessions, the defensive coordinator needs to find a way to make that stop.
4. Turnovers are always critical. The Eagles had won the overall turnover battle against the Rams in their past two contests, with five takeaways compared to just two giveaways. But a lost fumble by Miles Sanders and interception by Wentz led directly to 10 Rams points and represented major swings of momentum at their respective stages of the game. The Eagles have now turned the ball over six times compared to just one from their opponents.
5. You can tell how much Pederson missed Miles Sanders in the opener. Fumble and dropped pass aside, Sanders ran hard, quick and added a dynamic element missing in the opener. Even when lanes were’t wide open, Sanders got skinny through the hole to move the chains. The Rams had a tough time takign him down on the the first hit. Pederson also felt way more comfortable dialing up consecutive runs for Sanders. Sanders also showed good hands again, catching a nice wheel to beat a blitz for 22 yards.
6. You can’t come down hard on the offensive this time. Much fewer communications issues, much fewer hits on Wentz and, once again, the collective effort kept Aaron Donald from wrecking the game. Donald now has no sacks against the Eagles in four career games. Also, and we need to see the tape, but Matt Pryor’s insertion to left guard didn’t seem to implode the line’s effort, which makes you wonder how he could’ve fallen so far down the depth chart, behind Nate Herbig at guard and Jordan Mailata at tackle.
7. Surprisingly, there weren’t many shots taken downfield by Wentz, given the amount of time he was given in the pocket. Some of that was by design, as the short game helped neutralize Donald’s pass rush. The Rams also seemed to employ a decent number of Cover 2. But with their run game working and short-passing game working well enough, Wentz should have had some chances to drive the ball deep, which he did plenty last week. Jackson doesn’t have to catch 6-8 passes per game, but this offense needs a downfield element from Jackson to thrive. Pederson needs to find ways to make sure Wentz and Jackson are on the same page.
8. We knew this game would be more of a test for Eagles linebackers than last week’s, and they didn’t exactly shine. The middle of the field was open throughout the first half thanks to Rams’ misdirection and Goff roll-outs, but there were also struggles in man coverage, none more costly than Nate Gerry’s inability to hang with Tyler Higbee on the tight end’s fourth-quarter touchdown that put the Rams ahead 31-19. Higbee, as Adam Caplan predicted several times during the week, ended up being a difficult matchup, catching five passes on five targets and three touchdowns.
9. The debut of Jalen Hurts came with mixed results. He didn’t touch the ball but the Eagles picked up a couple of first downs when Hurts was on the field, as a decoy. But by showcasing without giving him the ball, the Eagles have laid the groundwork for putting him on the field at some point and putting the ball in his hands. It seemed very risky for the Eagles to make Nate Sudfeld inactive, but that also speaks volumes about their confidence in Sudfeld. Clearly, Pederson wasn’t worried about Wentz exiting the game with an injury, or he just knew that if Wentz went down, the team stood little chance to win, regardless of backup.
10. It’s going to be a long week in Philly. If you thought last week’s criticisms of Wentz, Pederson and the offensive line were excessive, the backlash in store for Wentz and Schwartz this week will be deafening. The Eagles are 0-2 and just haven’t looked good, and it doesn’t help that the Cowboys came back from down 15 to the Falcons to win. The Eagles and Giants are the only NFC East teams winless after two weeks. Maybe they catch a break with the Bengals coming here next Sunday and maybe Jimmy Garoppolo [high-ankle sprain] won’t be ready to play for the 49ers, who were already without George Kittle and then lost Nick Bosa for the year against the Jets. A loss to the Bengals would be debilitating and you wonder if someone would lose their job if the Eagles start 0-3.
– Geoff Mosher (@geoffmoshernfl) is co-host of the Inside the Birds podcast and staff writer for InsideTheBirds.com.