Carson Wentz was fantastic. The O-line was solid. The receivers were flying. The offense was efficient. The defense was aggressive. The Eagles were up 17-7.
Then it was halftime.
To say that the Eagles should have won this game would be far too simply put. They had this game in the metaphorical “bag” before it tore through the bottom and buried them alive like a quarterback being sacked eight times (that’s called foreshadowing). This performance left Eagles fans with an unending amount of questions as the season begins. Let’s get into what happened.
Truly a tale of two halves, the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Football Team went head-to-head for the first time this season on Sunday. Marked in likely every single prediction as an easy “W,” the Birds came in confident and showed it early in the game. Wentz torched the secondary by firing missiles to DeSean Jackson, Jalen Reagor, Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert with regularity. Reagor saw a 55 yarder drop into his hands, and Goedert was hit in stride for a beauty of a touchdown. Doug Pederson’s offense was running on all cylinders.
…the Birds came in confident and showed it early in the game.
But the ferocious Washington front line began to feast on an inconsistent, inexperienced and injury-ravaged offensive line. We knew that Andre Dillard and Brandon Brooks were lost for the season, and news came soon after that Lane Johnson would be missing the game. Peters looked exactly like a tackle his age would look: old. Chase Young capitalized on his opportunity and displayed his superior athleticism over the veteran tackle all day. Ryan Kerrigan roared to life as he usually does against the Eagles. As if it couldn’t get worse, the right side of the line faltered with two rookies getting the start with no preseason under their belt and getting injured through the game. Needless to say, Wentz was not on his feet for long.
The Washington front four harassed Wentz, and he wasn’t able to handle the pressure. After starting 9 for 11 with over 100 yards alongside two touchdowns, Wentz collapsed, literally and figuratively. Regardless of the offensive line problems, Wentz, a fifth year quarterback, should not have made the mistakes he did. It seems every year that Carson has struggled with the same core issues: not protecting himself, inaccuracy and not knowing when to let a play die. These issues came on display following his first interception, and he never seemed to shake it off.
After starting 9 for 11 with over 100 yards alongside two touchdowns, Wentz collapsed, literally and figuratively.
Sailing passes on Reagor, Ertz, Goedert and Jackson isn’t a good look for a former MVP candidate who is supposed to be in his prime. To make matters worse, Wentz took sacks that were completely unnecessary. These both increase the potential loss of Wentz to an injury and cost the team potential field goals. It isn’t clear if the lack of an offseason with his new receivers could be the problem (probably part of it), but Wentz carried the likes of Deontay Burnett and Greg Ward to the playoffs last season without almost any practice with them. He should be able to hold a 17 point lead against who many call the worst team in the NFC East!
After watching the game and re-watching the highlights, I see Wentz doing, again, what can make him MVP caliber or a dumpster fire: not throwing the ball away. We all miss the 2017 days (for many reasons) when Carson could evade every tackle, extend the play, and launch a fireball 50 yards downfield. We miss his ‘vintage Wentz’ moments. Sometimes I want to see them again, and apparently, so does Wentz. The problem is, that type of play is not sustainable, and, like it has in the past, it leads to injury. Take last year’s playoff game for example. Wentz took a shot by Clowney after deciding to extend the play and run. He was knocked out of that game with a concussion and couldn’t complete his first playoff game. On Sunday, Wentz did almost the exact same play and decided to run, again. Fortunately, the defenders didn’t nail Carson in his head, but this kind of play needs to be limited. There is a time and a place to be the hero, and it’s not every single down.
There is a time and a place to be the hero, and it’s not every single down.
Pederson takes some blame, of course. First, he should have game-planned better for his offensive line. You cannot be able to consistently throw downfield when your offensive line is like a sheet of paper. The offense seemed desperate to be that dynamic juggernaut we have been dreaming of ever since Jackson returned and Reagor was added to the team. Alas, the line is not strong enough, as of now, to sustain such an offense. Pederson and his staff should have realized that after the first four sacks.
As for the defense, for the most part, they were a solid bunch. Josh Sweat made the most of his opportunity for the majority of defensive end snaps as Derek Barnett sat this one out. The secondary was solid at keeping Terry McLaurinin in check and the front four held the running game down for most of the day. Mills looked like he needed a preseason at safety, and the linebacking corps looked confused and was shaky throughout the game. That position group will definitely be a target for opposing offensive coordinators to exploit.
Looking ahead, the Eagles stare down a stretch of difficult opponents in the Rams, 49ers and Steelers. Heck, even the Bengals game could be difficult if they fold as bad as on Sunday. Wentz and Pederson have some big questions to answer, and they better get cracking. Fly Eagles Fly.
Joseph Gill is a second-year student majoring in English with a writings track. JG923276@wcupa.edu