After a promising beginning to the 2016 NFL season, Philadelphia Eagles fans are now looking ahead to a 2017 that might not include their current head coach.
By Mike Diviney | December 9, 2016
The 2016 Philadelphia Eagles have been a downward spiral since their improbable 3-0 start.
Their loss in Seattle was forgivable, but a harbinger of things to come.
Their season is now dead.
It was slain and dressed in an epic beatdown at the hands of the 4-6 Green Bay Packers, the Eagles’ first loss at home.
It was buried Sunday against Cincinnati, as the 3-7-1 Bengals shoveled dirt on the Eagles’ carcass in a 32-14 beatdown that started out 29-0.
The Eagles visited Cincinnati with the chance to at least enhance the intrigue of their season and maintain a chance to make the playoffs, although such a notion seems ridiculous given the way the game turned out.
The Eagles seemed to have no interest in even playing the game. Head coach Doug Pederson did not prepare the team to play, and the team in turn simply laid down.
The Eagles were completely outclassed by a bad Bengals team, and offered little resistance as their three-win opponents ran up the score on them. With Jim Schwartz as its new and much-ballyhooed coordinator, the defense was supposed to be the strength of this team, and early on, it was. The dramatic reversal of fate since has been incredible.
After six games, the Eagles were second in the league, with 20 sacks; since then, the team has since registered only six sacks. Through six games, the Eagles were third in the NFL in third-down defense, and are now getting torched on the money down. Through the first nine games, opponents’ passer ratings were 77.9; in their last three games, it is 137.8. The drop-off is simply staggering.
Meanwhile, at the line, a supposedly ferocious front four has become tame.
Fletcher Cox has not recorded a sack in his last eight games.
Vinny Curry, who signed an enormous extension this offseason, has 1.5 sacks.
Connor Barwin has been invisible.
Brandon Graham, the most effective of the front four, has a total of five sacks in 12 games.
The linebackers have been adequate at best.
In the secondary, the safety tandem of Jenkins and McLeod, another supposed strength, has been largely invisible after a hot start, and the cornerbacks are dreadful.
Leodis McKelvin, Nolan Carroll, and Jaylen Mills do not seem to be starting-caliber NFL players, and their struggles have been accentuated by the missing pass rush.
Schwartz seems unable to make any adjustments, so the defense just continues to fail with no changes in sight.
The Eagles offense is simply undermanned and, it seems now, poorly conceived and coached: almost 80 percent of its offense against Cincinnati was taken up by passing plays against a team ranked 28th in stopping the run.
Doug Pederson, like the rest of the team, acquitted himself well early. He was managing the offensive game plans with aplomb, nurturing his rookie quarterback along.
Somewhere along the line, Pederson stopped doing that. He continuously abandons the run, even when it’s working. In last six games, he has called running plays at a 34-percent clip after having been near the top of the league in running percentage in the first six games. The strategy puts all the burden of offensive production on Wentz’s shoulders, even knowing the team has few capable pass-catchers.
Perhaps more ominous is the fact that prospective franchise quarterback Carson Wentz has regressed as well.
Wentz’s play is not alarmingly bad except when viewed against the backdrop of the superb three-game stretch that started his career. Had he begun the season playing the way he is now, there would be less cause for concern.
Fans would be more optimistic if his better games were occurring now, later in the season, after he had gotten acclimated to the pace of the NFL. As it is, Wentz showed what he was capable of at the outset, and now is playing like everyone expects a rookie quarterback to play.
While most of his struggles are attributable to simple rookie growing pains, there is more at play.
Wentz’s mechanics seemed to have deteriorated, and as a result, his accuracy has been erratic.
He has been throwing interceptions at an alarming rate, especially considering their infrequency in his first few games.
To be sure, the complete lack of talent around him has hamstrung Wentz’s development.
The Eagles have virtually no offensive playmakers, and an injured, inconsistent offensive line. The team values stability at the head coaching position, but if Pederson continues this way for the rest of the season, the front office may have to admit they bungled their coaching search and start fresh.
Lastly, the team appeared to quit on Sunday. Even missing their best receiver and their best ball-carrier, the Eagles saw more heart from a lowly Bengals squad that was missing one of the best receivers in the NFL and a good ball-carrier as well. There is no excuse for a heartless performance. That goes back to a head coach.
It is unlikely the Eagles would make such an abrupt decision as canning Pederson after a single season, but the front office has Carson Wentz’s future to consider. Are Pederson’s shortcomings going to hurt the progress of their franchise quarterback?
With three home divisional games left in the last four games of the season, fans should cast a critical eye on Pederson’s performance down the final, otherwise meaningless stretch.
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