After hot start, Eagles are flying low

After starting the season 3-0; the Philadelphia Eagles looked like a dark horse to win the NFC, but since then, Philadelphia has sunk back down to a mediocre level that is all too familiar for Philly fans.

After the first three weeks, things were looking quite peachy in the City of Brotherly Love. Carson Wentz looked like the best rookie QB since Andrew Luck, Doug Pederson was going to be the Coach of the Year and the defense was the stingiest in the NFL. But since then, Philly has lost four of their last five and after a disappointing loss to the Giants, are now 4-4 and in the basement of the NFC East.

The most frustrating aspect of their loss Sunday was that it highlighted areas of weakness that were originally believed to be strengths. It began when Wentz turned the ball over twice in the first quarter, throwing two interceptions, the second being a classic “What was he thinking?” pick to Landon Collins.

 

Wentz was terrific early in the season taking care of the football; during the first three games of his career he threw 5 touchdowns and zero interceptions. Since then, Wentz has a TD:INT ratio of 4:5 and has made a litany of rookie mistakes that he was avoiding earlier in the season. Wentz is still an exciting prospect, but he isn’t going to fast-forward through his growing pains and it is going to cost Philadelphia sometimes.

Through the first three games, Philadelphia had the best defense in the league, surrendering only 9 points per game. Since then, opponents are scoring at the rate of 23.6 points per game. A big issue has been the secondary, which had several crucial blow-ups on Sunday.

 

The secondary is giving up 243 yards per game over their last four contests and have made errors in a multitude of ways. Whether it was taking awful angles to make tackles in the open field; or getting burned on fairly simple routes, the Eagles secondary has been awful in recent weeks.

 

And yet, despite two earlier turnovers by Wentz and some errors in the secondary, Philadelphia was still very much in the game. However, the real nail in the coffin was that three times Philadelphia failed to convert in fourth-down situations. The main catalyst for failure was a series of uninspired play-calls and even worse execution. The blame there falls to rookie coach Doug Pederson and his staff. The first poor call came on a 4th-and-2 play in the second quarter at the Giant 23; a designed run play for Wentz that fooled nobody except the Philadelphia offensive line, who apparently forgot to block on the play.

 

The second mistake was on a 4th-and-1 play at the Giant 6; which was a designed run play for Darren Sproles. Sproles is a dynamic offensive player but at 5’6″ and 190lbs, he is not your prototypical short-yardage back and he was stuffed by the Giant defense.

Philadelphia still could have won the game as they were down five and driving the ball with 90 seconds left to play, but faced a 4th-and-10 at the Giant 17. The Eagles ran fade route into the endzone for Jordan Matthews, but although it was a decent ball by Wentz, Matthews never really turned around to catch it. Considering he was already five yards deep in the endzone, when was he actually expecting the ball to ball to arrive?

Philadelphia has a lot of exciting parts–but they are still a young team in so many areas it is unlikely they are going to contend this season. The NFC East has emerged as one of the more competitive divisions in football; with all four teams sporting records of .500 or better. The Eagles are good enough to hang around in games against good teams, but they are never going to win many of those close games if they continue to make so many basic mistakes.