Carson Wentz hasn’t played well, period. There’s just no way around it. Coupled with injuries, resulting in a depleted receiving corps and an o-line that has struggled, the offense has averaged 19.7 points per game (5th worst in the NFL). With that said, Wentz is still the starting quarterback of this football team, and Doug Pederson has to be the pillar of stability that this offense can lean on to put them in the best position to succeed.
In week 1, the Eagles started out to a 17-0 lead and lost to 27 unanswered points by Washington. This lead was somewhat deceiving. In truth, it appeared that Philadelphia was going to blow Washington out. But looking back, a lot of the problems they dealt with early in the game were present throughout.
Right from the get-go, the Eagles showed signs of pass protection issues, and Wentz had some trouble with his accuracy. Despite this, the Eagles got bailed out by some costly penalties and mistakes by Washington on defense. Early in the game, the score didn’t reflect Philadelphia’s shortcomings. But then of course came Wentz’s interceptions, giving way to the momentum shift in the game.
The Eagles offensive game plan was predicated around the passing game. But after it became clear that the o-line couldn’t hold up, Pederson adjusted his approach and started calling more max protections, having both TEs in to block, giving Wentz more time. But even this wasn’t a sustainable solution as the Eagles still couldn’t consistently attack down the field. Often Wentz’s mistakes — both inaccurate throws and holding on to the ball — compounded Philadelphia’s troubles.
After the abysmal showing by the offensive line in week 1, allowing eight sacks, it appeared that Carson Wentz and the Eagles were going to be manhandled by Aaron Donald and the Rams pass rush, but this was not the case. The Eagles did not allow a single sack, going to show the effect a play-caller can have on an offensive line’s performance.
Pederson placed a clear emphasis on keeping his quarterback upright. The play calling revolved around quick passes over the middle, screens, out-breaking routes to take advantage of one on one coverage, and running the ball. Most importantly, Pederson didn’t try to push the ball down the field. He did his best to stay out of passing downs as they were able to run the ball effectively and keep the chains moving. As a result, the offensive line stayed out of situations in which they would have to go head to head against LA’s pass rushers for over 3 seconds. Despite starting off to a 21-3 deficit, Pederson stuck to his game plan, and the Eagles were able to climb back into the game and found themselves in the red zone with an opportunity to take the lead midway through the 3rd quarter.
On 1st and 10, at the LA 21 yard line, Pederson called a soft-play action pass designed to get the defense flowing one way and have Goedert and Ertz cutting across the field; they were both covered. The Rams disguised their defense with an ambiguous look pre-snap. Post snap, safety Jordan Fuller appeared to be doubling Ertz, but he was reading the quarterback’s eyes the whole way. Wentz made a poor decision to attack the endzone. As he flipped his hips to throw the backside post to Arcega-Whiteside, Fuller made a beeline to the receiver and made contact as the ball arrived, allowing Darious Williams to close and pick the ball off.
Although the 37-19 loss may not reflect it, head coach Doug Pederson had a game plan in place against the Rams that put his guys in positions to succeed. Unfortunately for the Eagles, Wentz was yet again underwhelming with his accuracy and decision making, and the offense was unable to execute in pivotal moments.
Looking back on the Bengals game last week, Pederson was calling the same concepts. The Eagles primarily worked Ertz over the middle, Ward in the quick game, and got the ball to Sanders on the ground. Wentz didn’t play too well against Cincinnati either. There were a few key plays where he just missed throws. Most notably, he sailed the ball to a wide-open Miles Sanders down the sideline on a double move (missed touchdown), and threw an interception where he put the ball inside on a slot fade to Ertz one on one against LeShaun Sims, who had inside leverage and made a play on the ball.
In the end, Wentz found a way to use his feet to make plays and scored a rushing TD to extend the game. Nevertheless, he was inconsistent but made enough plays to put his team in a position to kick the game-winning field goal. Unfortunately for the Eagles, penalties held them back, and the game ended with Pederson taking the conservative approach and playing for the tie.
Now the question remains, how do the Eagles turn their offense around?
In truth, despite the injuries, Carson Wentz has been a big part of what has hurt the offense in the first few weeks. With that said, he’s their franchise quarterback. He’s in a tough spot right now, and he needs to lean on his coach and his teammates to get out of this dry spell.
What that means for coach Pederson is that he needs to continue to trust his quarterback and make the game easy for him. Pederson needs to take the weight of the world off of Wentz’s shoulders and run the ball as much as he can, call plays to get the ball out fast, and put his players in the best position possible.
With all that’s going wrong in Philly right now, Doug Pederson needs to be the guy they can count on. He can’t get frustrated and try to dial up the big play down the field and hope they hit the lottery. Moreover, he has to get creative. Given the lack of offensive production, Hurts is going to see the field as a gadget player. Unproven guys like Deontay Burnett and John Hightower are going to get opportunities too. It’s easy to give the Eagles a pass this year, but injuries are obstacles, not excuses. Pederson has to bring the best out of his players and he’s shown that he has what it takes to do so.
The Eagles take on the 49ers tonight, and as the Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan said, “[Wentz is] an unbelievable player … It’s a matter of time before he plays at a high level. He’s too good not to.”
But until that time comes, it’s up to Doug Pederson and his coaching staff to help their quarterback, trust their players, and turn this offense around.