Good morning, Eagles fans. I know the status of Philly sports across the board has everyone smarting a little, but here’s hoping you’re well. I won’t sugarcoat things: The Eagles have significant ground to make up, and things are only going to get harder. This Sunday, they’ll host the 0-2 Cincinnati Bengals, but after that, they’ll have three straight games against teams with elite defenses in the 49ers, the Steelers, and the Ravens.
I’m reluctant to declare a game a “must-win” so early in the season, but this certainly feels like one. It’s hard to imagine the Eagles coming off a loss to the Bengals and reeling off wins against some of the best teams in the league. Honestly, if they can make it to Week 7 against the New York Giants with a 2-4 record, fans should probably be happy. If they’re 1-5 or 0-6, the season will be over before the trade deadline. Things escalated quickly, huh?
Unfortunately for the Eagles, Cincinnati will be well rested and prepared for Sunday, benefiting from the long week after playing last Thursday. Perhaps Eagles passing game coordinator Press Taylor can offer some family trade secrets about his brother, Bengals head coach Zac Taylor, but it’s probably a two-way street.
The Eagles will hold a walk-through closed to the media Tuesday before returning to the practice field in earnest Wednesday. Reporters will speak with Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and special teams coordinator Dave Fipp around noon Tuesday, and a few players will be made available after the walk-through.
— EJ Smith (firstname.lastname@example.org)
With the necessary caveat that we’re still dealing with a small sample size of only two weeks, there’s a new batch of advanced analytics and player-tracking data to comb through after Sunday’s loss.
Here are a few of the most interesting numbers:
1. Wentz’s standing in the league
It’s obvious Carson Wentz hasn’t played up to the standard he’d set over the last few years, throwing four interceptions to just two touchdowns.
But just how bad is it? Honestly, maybe even worse than you might expect.
Football Outsiders, Pro Football Focus, and Next Gen Stats all use different metrics to measure quarterback play, and Wentz is at the bottom of each of them. PFF and FootballOutsiders both have him ranked dead last. Literally the worst starting quarterback in the league. Next Gen has him behind only Dwayne Haskins in completion percentage above (or in Wentz’s case, below) expectation. Next Gen has Wentz completing 8.8% fewer passes than he should be. The league leader is Russell Wilson, who is completing 13.9% better than expected. Wentz was at minus-1.4% last season and was completing a little less than 1% better than expected in the 2017 season.
Football Outsiders' metrics have Wentz last by a wide margin. The site’s numbers claim Wentz is throwing for roughly 259 fewer yards than a replacement-level quarterback would be able to in the Eagles' last two games. He trails Ryan Fitzpatrick, the second-worst QB in the rankings, by 172 yards.
2. Wentz expected air yards
When looking at Wentz’s numbers over the last two weeks, one change from Week 1 to Week 2 stands out above the rest. In Week 1, Wentz led all quarterbacks in average intended air yards measured by Next Gen with 12 yards per attempt. Intended air yards measures how far a quarterback’s pass travels down the field to a receiver. More simply put, he took more deep shots than anyone else. Against the Rams, he was in the bottom three in the same category, averaging 6.1 intended yards per attempt.
Part of that is likely due to the Rams secondary making a concerted effort to take away the deep shots the Eagles were so obsessed with against Washington in the season opener, but it also signifies a major change in offensive play-calling in response to the poor performance in Week 1.
3. Eagles' team efficiency
It’s not just Wentz hanging out at the bottom of advanced rankings. The Eagles are the worst team in Football Outsiders' team efficiency rankings. They’ve got the lowest-ranked offense and the 19th-best defense. Last year, the team finished 14th on offense and 12th on defense.
PFF tells a similar story, ranking the Eagles fourth-worst in the league, and it has them graded as the worst offense.
4. On the bright side …
Could I interest you in some positive Nate Herbig numbers? After he was seemingly on the hot seat at right guard, Herbig played well in his second career start. He earned an 80.5 PFF grade, which is especially impressive considering he was matched up against Aaron Donald for parts of Sunday’s game. Lane Johnson’s 89.8 was the only offensive grade above Herbig’s for Week 2.
Herbig has the size and presumably the strength to handle himself in the run game. If he can string together a few more games of solid pass protection, the Eagles could be in good shape with him as a swing backup guard once Brandon Brooks returns next season.
What has been the biggest problem with the Eagles over the past 2 seasons? Player personnel decisions, coaching, or Wentz? Pick one. — from Jim Calkins (@NittanyJimC) on Twitter.
Good question, Jim. If I have to pick just one, I’d say player personnel decisions have been the biggest thing ailing the Eagles. Wentz has been a major part of the problem this season, but part of the reason his struggles have been exacerbated is that the offense relies on him so heavily. The team’s defensive situation is an even bigger indictment on the front office in recent years.
You could argue that a different coaching staff would find a way to insulate Wentz better and protect him from himself at times. Look at the way the 49ers have built a scheme that plays to the strengths of Jimmy Garoppolo. It’s early yet, but the Patriots are doing the same thing with Cam Newton. There’s definitely blame to assign to the coaching staff, but there’s enough to go around.
The jury is still out on Jalen Reagor, but this team hasn’t hit on a first-round pick since taking Wentz in 2016. We frequently praise the Eagles' front office for prioritizing the positions that matter: quarterback, offensive line, and pass rushers. Josh Sweat has been a quality rotational end so far this year, but the Eagles haven’t added a true impact player on the offensive or defensive line since taking Lane Johnson in 2013.