Listing the Eagles' 5 biggest issues

Eliot Shorr-Parks
October 14, 2019 - 7:48 am
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The Eagles are supposed to be better than this. 

A team owned by Jeffrey Lurie, put together by Howie Roseman, coached by Doug Pederson and quarterbacked by Carson Wentz isn’t supposed to get embarrassed like it did on Sunday in their 38-20 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. 

It also isn’t supposed to be 3-3 this season and it certainly isn’t supposed to be 8-9 in their last 17 games overall together, a very disturbing trend that now dates back to the start of 2018. 

Despite their issues, however, the reality is that with a win in Dallas next Sunday night the Eagles, problems and all, will be in first place in the NFC East. The season isn't over. 

So how can they turn things around? Here are the clear-cut, obvious problems with the Eagles that need to be solved:  

Secondary: The Eagles’ secondary is a mess right now, due to a devastating combination of injuries, mental mistakes and lack of talent. On Sunday they allowed Kirk Cousins and the Vikings’ passing offense, a unit that has been so bad at times this season they had to publicly apologize to each other, to complete 22 of 29 attempts for 333 yards and four touchdowns. Receiver Stefon Diggs had a whopping 167 yards and three touchdowns, running free throughout the game. 

The biggest issue, even with the injuries, might be talent and mental mistakes. 

The first Diggs touchdown was the result of Rasul Douglas, arguably their best cornerback, simply being beat. The second was a mental mistake by Malcolm Jenkins, their best player on defense overall. The Eagles need both of them to play at a higher level than they did on Sunday. Sidney Jones was also a problem. The Vikings went after Jones early-and-often on Sunday and he struggled to stop them. The Eagles need the former second-round pick to start playing better and start showing a little bit more of the elite-level talent he displayed in college. 

The team should be getting some reinforcements soon. Jalen Mills potentially playing next Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys. Cre’von LeBlanc, Avonte Maddox and Ronald Darby should play again at some point this season as well. There is no Patrick Peterson or Jalen Ramsey in that group, however, and it is fair to wonder how quickly any of them will be able to contribute given how much time each has missed. 

The Eagles desperately need the young players on their roster, once they are all healthy and on the field, to play to the level they are capable of -- or a trade needs to be made. 

Penalties: Bad teams find a way to shoot themselves in the foot and the Eagles have consistently been doing that for over a year. One of the main issues has been penalties. Sunday was a perfect example, as the Eagles’ defense held the Vikings to 2-of-10 on third down, but gave up four first-downs via penalties. 

Douglas was called for a defensive holding on 3rd-and-1 in the first quarter on Sunday. The Vikings scored a touchdown two plays later. A pass interference penalty on Jones turned a 4th-and-nine into a 1st-and-10. A delay of game on the offense pushed them from a 3rd-and-4 into a 3rd-and-9 with the game still on the line in the fourth quarter. 

Those are just examples from Sunday. Not only did the penalties turn punts into scoring drives, but they also allowed the other Vikings to control the clock. If the Eagles don’t stop playing like a sloppy team they are never going to get out of the .500 football funk they are in. 

Wentz’s accuracy: Wentz finished 26/40 on Sunday, but overall, his accuracy has been an issue at times in the passing game. Wentz just hasn’t looked great from the pocket, and overall, the numbers support that. After Sunday's showing Wentz is 30th in completion percentage out of the 32 quarterbacks that have started the majority of their games this season, which is actually up one spot from where he was heading into Sunday's game. 

Even on completions, Wentz hasn’t consistently put the ball in great spots, whether it is too high, causing his receivers to reach for passes, or not get as much YAC as possible after the catch. 

There were multiple examples on Sunday. On 4th-and-1 with just under 10 minutes to play, Wentz put the ball too high and slightly behind receiver Alshon Jeffery, who was able to get both hands on the ball but couldn’t make the catch. Later, with the Eagles down 11 and just under 14 minutes to play in the game, Wentz had receiver Nelson Agholor down the middle of the field. Agholor was open and had a step on his man — but the ball was just put too far ahead of him. Two plays later the Eagles had to punt the ball, and on the next drive the Vikings scored a touchdown to put the game away. 

There have been plays each week like that from Wentz. No quarterback is expected to be perfect, but Wentz struggling to deliver consistently accurate passes from the pocket is an issue for the offense.

Skill players: Going into the season it was up for debate if the Eagles had perhaps the best set of skill position players in the NFL, a group some thought were as talented as the collection of weapons in Kansas City or other high-powered offense.

Whoops. 

Yes, DeSean Jackson has been hurt, but the play of the Eagles' skill position players on offense has been dissapointing. There is little-to-no seperation each week, causing Wentz to have to throw into some very tight windows. Backup receivers Mack Hollins and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside have not been able to step up and contribute with Jackson out, a concerning sign considering the Eagles invested a second-round pick in Arcega-Whiteside and have spent two years coaching up Hollins. Even Jeffery, who has led the way for the receivers, has mostly done his damage inside 10-yards from the line of scrimmage. 

Outside of the mostly encouraging play of the tight ends -- who have also had their issues at times -- the Eagles' front office has to be concerned with what they have seen from the team's skill position players recently. 

Slow Starts: The most alarming trend going on with the Eagles right now might be how often they are falling behind to start games. Look at how they have started games this season, outside of their matchup with the New York Jets: 

Washington: Behind 20-7

Falcons: Behind 17-6

Lions: Behind 20-10

Packers: Behind 10-0

Vikings: Behind 20-3

The Eagles were able to come back in two of those games, but expecting to continually comeback in each game just isn’t realistic for any team. The concerning part is that falling behind is nothing new. Doug Pederson and Carson Wentz have been behind at halftime in 8 of their last 11 games together. They are 2-6 in those eight games.

There have certainly been games where the blame belongs on the defense. The Eagles’ defense was terrible to start the game on Sunday against the Vikings, and were equally as bad against Washington and Green Bay. It is the offense, however, that was 31st in the league last season in first-quarter points and 18th in the league this year -- without a single point scored in the first quarter on the road. For a team that is supposed to have an elite offense, led by an elite offensive mind, that is unacceptable. 

The Eagles can improve in the secondary and cut down on the penalties, but if they keep falling behind to start games, it won’t matter. This team has been trying to fix this issue since last year and haven’t been able to solve it yet. Simply put, it is on Pederson and Wentz to fix this offense at the start of games. 

Their 2019 season depends on them doing so. 

You can follow Eliot Shorr-Parks on Twitter at @EliotShorrParks or email him at esp@94wip.com!

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