You’ve read all of this before. The Eagles do not have enough talent on their roster. Specifically, they do not have enough talent around Carson Wentz. Given this lack of talent, it is a minor miracle that they were a two-point conversion away from a tie game inside two minutes against a Ravens team that has the sort of talent that a team needs to contend for a Super Bowl.
A gritty effort by Carson Wentz and the Eagles' defense wasn’t enough to overcome two huge drops, awful pass protection, and a big play by Lamar Jackson.
The key takeaways from a 30-28 loss to the Ravens that dropped the Eagles to 1-4-1:
1. The most pressing short and long-term issue for the Eagles is on the offensive line.
The fact that the Eagles waited this long to put Jamon Brown into a game suggests they did not view him as a likely solution to the protection woes that have plagued him throughout the season. His performance on Sunday suggests they were probably right. The 27-year-old guard, who entered the day with 47 starts in five seasons with three different teams, allowed a quick sack on the Eagles' first play from scrimmage to set the stage for a first half in which Carson Wentz was overwhelmed by the Ravens' pass rush. Brown was single-handedly responsible for the Eagles playing from behind on each of their first two drives. After the sack on their first drive, he jumped early on the first place of their second drive for a five-yard penalty. Early in the second quarter, Calais Campbell bulldozed through Brown and Jason Kelce to sack Wentz on third down. Campbell would finish the game with three sacks.
The Eagles' problems are bigger than Brown, obviously. Jack Driscoll started the game at right tackle due to Lane Johnson’s ankle injury, leaving the Eagles without four of the projected starters they carried out of the offseason. Driscoll himself went down with an injury late in the fourth quarter on a play in which Campbell beat Brown to the outside and then rolled up on Driscoll’s ankle.
Against the Ravens, the protection was so woeful that it was nearly impossible to evaluate the rest of the offense.
2. Once again, the Eagles were a couple of big plays away from winning this one. Once again, too few were made.
Despite playing most of the game under siege, Carson Wentz might have had the Eagles in position for the win if not for a couple of couple of inexcusable drops by a couple of wide open receivers. The first came early in the first quarter, when rookie fifth-round draft pick John Hightower got behind a Ravens defense that left him uncovered on a vertical route but somehow managed to drop a pass that hit him in the hands in stride. Hightower later managed to haul in a 50-yard catch that helped set up an Eagles touchdown, but that did little to erase the memory of the earlier drop.
Sanders drop of a sure touchdown in the end zone was just as blatant. Wentz did an excellent job of sliding up in the pocket to avoid pressure and then throwing to a spot in the end zone as Sanders ran past his defender. The pass simply bounced off the second-year running back’s hands.
3. The Eagles’ ability to stop the run was the biggest reason to believe they had a chance against the Ravens. All things considered, Jim Schwartz and his defense came through.
In addition to his two sacks, credit Brandon Graham with one of those performances that won’t show up on the stat sheet but played a big role in keeping the Eagles in the game. Graham’s ability to seal off the left edge was key to preventing several big runs by Lamar Jackson. He also contributed to a commendable effort by Schwartz’s run defense, which held Baltimore running backs to 69 yards on 27 carries. Mark Ingram, J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards entered the game averaging 5.5 yards per carry and more than 100 yards per game. Jackson made his plays, including a 37-yard touchdown run straight through the middle of the Eagles defense. But this was a good effort by Schwartz and his defenders. The Ravens had scoring drives of 2, 35, 38, and 47 yards, and only had one drive longer than 50 yards.
4. Your evaluation of Carson Wentz will probably match your prior conclusions.
The Wentz haters will have a long list of plays that illustrate the quarterback’s shortcomings. The defenders will have similarly long list of plays that illustrate his strengths. At the end of the day, though, it’s hard to see how anybody could have come away with a strong opinion one way or the other, given the complete and total breakdown in protection in front of him. Despite the two huge drops, and the relentless pressure, Wentz deserves plenty of credit for keeping the Eagles in the game into the final minutes. With 3:48 remaining, he threw a jump ball to Fulgham with pressure in his face for a touchdown that cut the Eagles' deficit to 30-22. The touchdown was set up in part by Wentz’s 40-yard rumble through the Ravens defense.
The haters will argue that Wentz could have recognized single coverage on Travis Fulgham earlier than he did with 4:38 left in the fourth quarter, which might have given the rookie receiver a better chance to make a play on a jump ball in the end zone. He could have tucked the ball and taken the sack on the next play instead of trying to throw a pass over the middle with a blitzing linebacker in his chest, a play that nearly resulted in his 10th interception of the season and his second turnover of the game. He could have held onto the football instead of allowing it to pop out on a designed run in the second quarter. He could have spotted Jason Croom wide open in the corner of the end zone on the back side of the play earlier than he did on a play that nevertheless went for a three-yard touchdown.
The defenders will point to the dropped touchdown catch by Sanders and the dropped big play by Hightower as plays that would have turned the day around for both Wentz and the Eagles. They’ll point to the 16-yard throw he made to Richard Rodgers with a man in his face and just over two minutes remaining to set up a touchdown that could have tied the game if not for a missed two-point conversion. Count me in the group that saw Wentz as a net positive for the Eagles, and as a quarterback that simply does not have the talent around him to do anything other than make singular play after singular play.