Doug Pederson’s message Monday was that singling out one underperforming Eagle — whether it’s left tackle Jason Peters, or quarterback Carson Wentz — is unfair, because blame for this 3-6-1 mess of a season should be much more widespread.
The upshot is that Peters will remain the team’s starting left tackle, despite limping through one of the worst games of his 17-year NFL career in Sunday’s 22-17 loss at Cleveland. And Wentz, Pederson said, reiterating his postgame stance, will remain the starting quarterback, despite an NFL-high 14 interceptions and a tendency toward horribly timed, spirit-crushing mistakes.
In trying not to point the finger at individual players, Pederson follows in the footsteps of his mentor, Andy Reid. You might recall that whenever Reid was faced with a debacle, everyone always had “a piece of the pie.” (Andy was fond of pie.)
The problem with that approach is, if everyone is to blame, then effectively no one is to blame; accountability gets watered down until it becomes undetectable. If your boss says everyone is to blame for a bad third-quarter performance, it’s easy for you to rationalize that he’s really talking about some of those other squares in the Zoom gallery.
Pederson was asked if, by not considering the benching of Wentz, with the Eagles 2-for-21 on third-down conversions over the past two games, is he sending a message that the quarterback is not accountable, that mistakes are excused?
“We still have a lot to play for, and we still have a lot to fix,” Pederson said. “In this city … it’s all about the QB and the head coach. And everybody else can almost go by the wayside, I guess. It’s almost like a two-man band. But there’s enough work to be done … by all positions. Receivers can play better, you know? The O-line can play better — we played all nine [active] offensive linemen yesterday. … It was another one of those days.
“Running backs — we need to hang on to the football. Quarterback needs to play better. Defensively, we’ve got to get off the field on third down; we’ve got to be able to tackle better. The same way on special teams, you’ve got to be able to tackle in space.
“There’s enough to go around. None of it’s excusable. We all hold each other accountable, coaches and players. And that’s why I keep saying that we’ve got a lot to play for, there’s a lot of pride here, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
So, in summary, almost everything is wrong, which is hard to fix, frankly, in Week 12.
Pederson wouldn’t address a hypothetical question about whether backup Jalen Hurts might get a chance if the NFC East looked different, if the Eagles weren’t still in line for a playoff spot.
Pederson said he is to blame for the scarcity of rollout-type plays, which seem most effective with Wentz right now. “Probably it’s just me calling it more,” he said. Pederson said some such calls Sunday were checked down to runs, based on how the defense lined up.
Pederson said Wentz did have a chance to get the ball out to Jalen Reagor before he was hit by Denzel Ward on a blitz, leading to the first of two interceptions, and that tight end Richard Rodgers saw Ward too late, missing the block that would have kept the hit from happening.
Peters, meanwhile, seemed to suffer some sort of leg injury early in the game when running back Boston Scott fell across the back of his lead blocker’s legs. Peters left then, came back, and finally left for good after he and Isaac Seumalo failed to handle Olivier Vernon on an attempted double-team that Vernon split to sack Wentz in the end zone for a safety.
“He’s our left tackle moving forward,” Pederson said. “There were several things that stood out after watching the film, from a number of positions, not just one spot or aspect of the game, offensively.”
Peters had a brutal day against a Cleveland defensive front that was missing its best player, Myles Garrett. Three of the Browns’ five sacks were charged to Peters, who is tarnishing his legacy at age 38.
Many Eagles fans seem to be as frustrated with Peters as they are with Wentz; no one points out that Peters actually played very well against Dallas and at the Giants, his first two games back from a toe injury. Pro Football Focus rated him over 70 (60 or better is starter-level) in every category in both games.
But with a 38-year-old tackle, another injury and a resulting drop-off in performance were probably inevitable. In the long run, the Eagles might have benefited more from just keeping Jordan Mailata at left tackle, since he will be here long term.
Mailata’s PFF numbers for the season are not as good as Peters’, but his numbers for this game were better. Mailata played 26 snaps, first at left tackle, and then at right tackle, when Lane Johnson went out. He graded out at 67.7 overall, 65.7 in pass-blocking, and 67.7 in run-blocking. Peters’ PFF numbers were horrendous: 41.0 overall, 29.9 pass-blocking, 45.2 run-blocking.