Late October is a time of great conflict. Between meteorologic seasons. Between political opponents. And between the business models of the NFL and those who write about it for a living.
What happens when you cross a sport whose economic structure disincentivizes midseason personnel moves with a business whose economic structure incentivizes content about such moves? You get the NFL trade deadline, an event previously known as that week when your favorite team added that guy who you occasionally forget is now on the roster. Are you wondering why your team is picking three times in the seventh round on draft day? Or why the name Genard Avery sounds vaguely familiar? Or why Golden Tate keeps showing up to team alumni functions? Just remember: if you forget that it happened, it probably happened at the NFL trade deadline.
Most years, we could leave it at that and pivot to a discussion about the daunting road that Doug Pederson and his coaching staff will need to navigate over the next nine weeks. If Avery and Tate taught us anything, it’s that good help is hard to find in the middle of an NFL season. Except, the Eagles are a team in a unique situation in that the help that they need doesn’t actually need to be all that good.
This is particularly true along the offensive line, where the situation has grown so grim that Howie Roseman can’t in good conscience resign himself to the realities of supply and demand. We’ve reached a point where the Eagles' pass protection isn’t just a competitive concern but an ethical one. The Eagles need to do something between now and Nov. 3. As bad as the situation is at wide receiver and linebacker, neither of those positions plays a direct role in preventing your organization’s most valuable asset from spending his physical prime collecting workman’s compensation benefits.
That is how bad the situation was on Sunday, when the Eagles finished the game with two third-stringers, two second-stringers, and 33-year-old Jason Kelce as the only line of defense between Wentz and one of the best front sevens in the NFL. Through six weeks, Wentz has been sacked 25 times, more than any quarterback in the league. According to Pro-Football-Reference.com, he’s taken 22 hits, a number that does not include the 28 times he has been credited with a rushing attempt. Despite the helpless situation in front of him, Wentz has dropped back to pass 235 times, more than all but three players in the league. Compare that number to the two quarterbacks who have taken more hits than he has. Kirk Cousins has attempted 175 passes. Russell Wilson has attempted 169.
Just because Wentz is a man of faith doesn’t mean he should need it every time he drops back to pass. Philadelphia might be the only place in the world where a guy who has spent the past month getting his kidneys tenderized can step up in a collapsing pocket, spot a receiver clearing a defender deep down the field, hit that receiver in the hands with a pass, and spend the next week listening to people complain he threw the ball over the wrong shoulder. It isn’t Roseman’s fault that Eagles fans wildly overestimate the singular nature of the quarterback position. I won’t even blame him for the state of the offensive line, given the inconceivable number of injuries the unit has endured. But something needs to be done.
Last October, the Rams traded a fifth-round pick to the Browns for offensive lineman Austin Corbett, who started each of their last eight games of 2019 and has started all six this season. I’m no scout, and I couldn’t even tell you what number Corbett wears, but I’ve watched Jamon Brown play football, which makes me qualified to say that he would be a dramatic upgrade. I don’t know who this year’s Corbett is, but I know there are nine teams in the league with zero or one win, and that each of those teams has at least five offensive linemen on their rosters, and that at least one or two of that group is old enough or mediocre enough to be expendable.
Substantive midseason improvements are difficult, but they are possible. In addition to Corbett, the Rams acquired All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey and rotational linebacker Kenny Young after starting last season 3-3. This, for a net total of two first-round picks and a fourth-round pick (the Rams traded cornerback Marcus Peters for a fifth-round pick). They didn’t make the playoffs, but they did go 6-4 in their last 10 games while acquiring three players who have combined to start 15 games for this year’s 4-2 squad. More significantly, they finished the season with a franchise quarterback who still had all of his vital signs.
That last accomplishment is the one that Roseman most needs to replicate over the next couple of weeks. Even if they end up with the O-Line equivalent of Tate or Avery, it will have been something. Forget the fact that they are now the clear favorites to win the division. Protecting the quarterback is priority No. 1.