The NFL trade deadline is Tuesday afternoon, the annual moment of demarcation for teams wishing to add talent for an upcoming postseason drive, and those intent on shedding it in favor of better days ahead.
Until further notice – which could arrive in London's Wembley Stadium on Sunday – the Eagles still consider themselves among the first group. They have followed up their Super Bowl season with a disappointing 3-4 start, but that record is marked by asterisks, mostly because the team has been beset by injury.
If the Eagles do go shopping for help, they can pick almost any aisle. The offense is lacking at the skill positions, and the line has been gimpy and inconsistent. On defense, the secondary is down two starters and playing like it, and the line, already thin at tackle, lost second-year defensive end Derek Barnett this week to a season-ending shoulder injury.
The good news is this is still a potent football team if it can get healthy and put a reasonable lineup on the field. Playing in the lackluster NFC East doesn't hurt, either. With just a little luck and a little help, the Eagles could win the division and, riding late-season momentum, enter the playoffs as a dangerous team.
At the moment, the see-saw could go either way for them, and that is what the front office has to judge as it considers what, if any, resources to invest in improving the roster at the deadline. Without spending a dime, it is possible the team could have running back Darren Sproles rejoin the mix, and that two players on injured reserve – receivers Mike Wallace and Mack Hollins would be optimal additions – could return as well.
That would be a nice boost for the offense, but it is also optimistic to think all three could come back and be effective. Sproles, 34, has played in only four games in the last two seasons.
Simply getting their own players back, even if they can, might not be enough to plug all the holes in the roster, though. That is where the decision making must take place between now and Tuesday. It is very likely that you will be able to tell whether the front office believes this team can be righted by how much or how little it does at the trade deadline.
The most popular local parlor game among Eagles fans is ranking where the team is most desperate for help, and there is no lack of candidates. If you choose defensive backfield or wide receiver – two popular picks – I can't blame you, but the lack of an effective running game is the team's most glaring weakness from a statistical standpoint.
A year ago, with LeGarrette Blount and trade deadline-addition Jay Ajayi solidifying the run game, the Eagles were third in the NFL for rushing offense. Having that element is part of the reason it was also overshadowed by the blossoming of Carson Wentz into an MVP-caliber quarterback. Without the run threat, Wentz couldn't have done a lot of what he did.
This season, the run game is 21st in the league. The team averaged 35 pass attempts and 30 rushing attempts in 2017. So far this year, it is 40 pass attempts and 26 rushing attempts on average. The nature of the games doesn't explain the disparity, either. The Eagles have only trailed significantly twice in seven games. The rest were good opportunities to control the game at the line of scrimmage.
The only credible explanation is that without Blount, and with Ajayi now gone because of a knee injury, head coach Doug Pederson doesn't trust Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood and Josh Adams to get the job done when asked.
"He called the run last game. We just didn't really ever get it going. We called some runs at the end, but they were RPOs. and they ended up being passes," center Jason Kelce said, referencing a come-from-ahead loss to Carolina in which the running game was all but shelved. "In general, the more success you have throughout the game running the ball, the more it will get called and the more confidence the playcaller is going to have in it."
Adding an explosive, dependable back will cost the Eagles something, but not adding one will cost them, too. That wouldn't heal all their wounds, but it would apply the largest band-aid to the biggest need.