The New York Giants travel to the always-friendly (cough, cough) City of Brotherly Love on Monday to take on the Philadelphia Eagles. Neither the 2-10 Giants nor the 5-7 Eagles are having the kind of seasons they hoped for.
So, in this week’s ‘5 questions’ segment with Brandon Lee Gowton of Bleeding Green Nation, we try to find out what is wrong with the Eagles. We also want to know if an Eagles’ fan could possibly consider Eli Manning a Hall of Famer. Let’s get started.
Ed: Two seasons ago, the Eagles were Super Bowl champs. They looked like they had a young, cost-controlled roster with a great young quarterback, a front office and coaching staff that were the envy of the league. Yet, less than two seasons later the Eagles are 5-7, Doug Pederson and Carson Wentz are being questioned. You could probably write a book on this, but in a nutshell what has gone wrong?
BLG: The Eagles are 15-15 in their 30 games since winning Super Bowl LII. In other words, they’ve been perfectly mediocre. As you’d imagine, a lot of different factors have contributed to their mediocrity.
The offense taking a big step back has been a big issue. The Eagles put a ton of emphasis on the value of hiring former offensive coordinator Frank Reich and former quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo back in 2016 but then didn’t make a great effort to replace them when they got hired away. Rather, the Eagles opted to lazily promote from within, thinking they already had all the answers in house. Spoiler alert: They didn’t.
Wentz’s regression from his 2017 form has obviously been a big issue as well. He’s healthy now after playing at less than 100 percent in 2018 but he’s just not playing at the near-MVP level he was two seasons ago. It’s not all his fault; he’s failed to get help from his “supporting cast” all year long. Wentz is working with arguably the worst wide receiving corps in the NFL. He’s thrown multiple game-winning touchdowns that’ve simply been dropped. The Eagles don’t have a receiver who can reliably create explosive plays, which forces the offense to have to methodically string 15-play drives together to score touchdowns. It’s a totally garbage and aesthetically unenjoyable brand of offense in the year 2019.
I can’t totally let the defense off the hook, since, you know, they just allowed the MIAMI DOLPHINS to score a season-high 37 points. Jim Schwartz’s unit has hardly been all bad but his secondary has been shredded too many times. The defense was certainly culpable in back-to-back blowout losses to the Dallas Cowboys and the Minnesota Vikings earlier this season.
Questions also need to be raised about the front office. Howie Roseman did an excellent job of pressing all the right buttons en route to the Eagles’ Super Bowl victory in 2017. But was that an outlier year? Take out that season and the Eagles are just 71-73 since Roseman was first hired as general manager back in 2010. The Eagles have the league’s most expensive and second oldest roster in the NFL. And all they have is 5-7 to show for it.
To make a long story short: there are a lot of issues, it’s not about one simple fix.
Ed: The stats look fine for Carson Wentz. Not as good as last season, but still fine. Are things really, though, fine with Wentz?
BLG: Again, it’s tough to evaluate Wentz when you consider what he’s had to work with at wide receiver. Alshon Jeffery, who turns 30 in February, is his best receiver and he hasn’t looked very spry after suffering a calf injury earlier this year. The Eagles were counting on Nelson Agholor to be a valuable contributor considering they kept him at his $9.4 million price tag but instead he’s been an abject disaster. Pro Football Focus had him graded as THE worst receiver in the NFL. Wentz and DeSean Jackson had a great connection that only lasted one game before Jackson suffered a season-ending injury. The Eagles’ quarterback has since been left with no kind of viable deep threat to work with.
This isn’t to suggest Wentz is blameless. There are clearly instances where he’s struggling independent of the situation around him. He’s left too many plays on the field this year due to inaccuracy, for example.
The Eagles are locked into Wentz as their franchise quarterback for the foreseeable future so they owe it to themselves to give him more support. Giving him some competent NFL wide receivers would be a start. Firing current quarterbacks coach Press Taylor and replacing him with someone who isn’t as shy to challenge Wentz would also be welcomed.
If the Eagles make those kind of changes and Wentz is still struggling, well, then it’ll be time to panic.
Ed: I can understand losses to New England and Seattle. Miami, though? Really? How did that happen?
BLG: Didn’t you hear Doug Pederson’s explanation? The Dolphins are a good football team! You just have to ignore the fact they entered Week 13 ranked last in the NFL in point differential and DVOA.
For real, though, the defense was obviously a huge issue. The Eagles somehow managed to allow Ryan Fitzpatrick to lead five straight touchdown drives. The veteran quarterback showed no fear in throwing the ball up to DeVante Parker and Mike Gesicki, who made jump ball catches against the Eagles’ overmatched cornerbacks.
The offense deserves some blame as well. They scored 31, yeah, but they should’ve been able to put up even more points against an awful Dolphins secondary. The Eagles only scored one touchdown on nine non-short field drives in Miami. That’s just not good enough.
Ed: Give me the one Giants player you would really like to have in your lineup. Tell me why?
BLG: Saquon Barkley feels like too obvious of an answer; that’s no fun. So, I’m thinking Sterling Shepard or Darius Slayton considering the Eagles’ dearth of quality receiving options. Slayton gets the edge if I’m accounting for contract status given that he’s on a rookie deal.
Slayton, a fifth-round pick, has been much more productive for the Giants than JJ Arcega-Whiteside, the Eagles’ second-round pick. Slayton’s also had a lot more opportunity with 529 snaps compared to JJAW’s 275. Still, Slayton’s 4.39 speed is something that this very slow and plodding Eagles offense desperately needs more of.
Ed: What are your thoughts on facing Eli Manning instead of Daniel Jones? And since you asked me, let me ask you. If you had a vote, would it be yes or no for Manning as a Hall of Famer?
BLG: Well, this is either going to go one of two ways.
1 - The Eagles dominate Eli like they always do. He’s only 4-18 in his last 22 starts against the Birds. To put that into perspective, Donovan McNabb also led the Eagles to four wins in that same stretch.
2 - Eli comes off the bench and his teammates rally around him for one last hurrah as he torches an Eagles secondary that just got shredded by Ryan Fitzpatrick.
I tend to think the former is the more likely outcome but it’s impossible to discount the latter scenario after watching the Eagles lose to the Dolphins.
I do think the Giants could’ve put up more explosive plays with Jones starting since he’d take more shots down the field. But I also think the Eagles could’ve counted on him turning the ball over multiple times since that’s been an issue for him all season.
I’m guessing Giants fans won’t be surprised to know that I don’t believe Manning should be a Hall of Famer. It’s entirely possible he’ll finish his career with a losing record. And was he ever truly one of the very best players at his position during a given era? I think not.
Again, the Eagles have always owned Manning. He’s 10-20 against them in his career. It’s hard to see him as a Hall of Famer when I’m used to see him getting dominated.