By: Joe Staszak
For the poor play and pathetic execution in a disastrous loss to the Detroit Lions, Eagles General Manager Howie Roseman is charged with being at the core of fraudulent expectations, an underwhelming, discombobulated and aging roster, poor drafting, irresponsible talent evaluation and the impersonation of a bad football team.
Just two years removed from a Super Bowl championship, this general manager should be tried for football crimes. This is Howie’s team. He is in charge of all things football. Jury trials are all about assigning blame. If you want to blame somebody for Sunday’s loss he’s as good a target as any. After a devastating loss to the Detroit Lions, 27-24, the Birds find themselves with a 1-2 record and heading to Green Bay in just four days.
Sunday’s debacle was a microcosm of a much bigger problem than I think most of us aren’t willing to accept though. Dropped passes, poor ball security, shoddy quarterback play at times, bad penalties, less than acceptable coaching and an inability to finish, again, are just symptoms of a bigger problem. Of course, Roseman is not out there dropping balls and turning the ball over himself, but he is responsible for the guys who are. These are the players who represent the present and the future of this team.
The bottom is almost impossible to call until you have come off of it. Sunday’s loss to the Lions might be an exception. I feel comfortable calling that pathetic effort on Sunday, the bottom for 2019. Except for the loss to the Saints last year, 48-7 in the Crescent City, Sunday’s calamity is the worst game this team has played in the Carson Wentz era. You cannot play worse than the Eagles did. That’s the good news. The bad news is they are now staring at a possible 1-3 start which would make them an extreme long shot to make it to the post-season, let alone the Super Bowl.
We obviously overrated this team in the pre-season falling once again into the “most talented roster on paper” trap. I too was guilty of that and because of that I can’t help but feel duped, betrayed and defrauded.
Now to be fair, I think we should first discuss the positives from Sunday’s game: Birds’ kicker Jake Elliott was 1/1 and made all of his extra points.
Okay, time for the negatives. Let’s start with the receivers, you know the guys who get paid a lot of money to catch the football. Now I understand the Birds are down their top two receivers in Alshon Jeffrey and DeSean Jackson, but I was led to believe that the next wave of receivers is here and ready to make an impact. Well, Sunday they got their chance. And they choked. They flat out choked.
Seven dropped footballs all told. Two for Mack Hollins, one from Dallas Goedert and one from J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. Two of those drops were touchdown drops including Arcega-Whiteside’s egregious whiff on what would have been the game-winning touchdown on the Birds’ final offensive play.
Goedert dropped an easy six, Mack Hollins flubbed a couple of gimmies that would have kept several drives alive and Arcega-Whiteside let the game slip through his hands. This wasn’t a lack of concentration as head coach Doug Pederson said it was after the game. This was a choke job of epic proportions.
Ok now let’s talk about the most critical aspect of any game – ball security. The turnovers on Sunday were just as costly as the drops and to a greater extent even more inexplicable.
For some reason, the Eagles are obsessed with rookie running back Miles Sanders. He carried the ball 13 times on Sunday for 57 yards and a 4.1 yard average. That’s up from his 2.5 average that he entered the game with. He did catch two balls for 73 yards. But midway through the 2nd quarter on the fourth play of the drive, he fumbled at around the Eagles’ 30 yard line. Luckily, the ball squirted out from the pile and Eagles’ left guard Isaac Seumalo recovered it at the 29 yard line.
At this point, Pederson should have yanked the rookie from the field and sat him down on the bench. In fact, if it was me I would not have played him the rest of the game. But Pederson, in his infinite wisdom, left him in the game and continued to feed him the ball. The coach said afterwards that he kept Sanders in the game to let him know that the coaching staff still trusts him. Huh? Who cares if Sanders thinks you trust him or not? That might be the most irresponsible reason to keep a fumbler on the field in an important game. So what happened next? Yeah, I think you know. Four plays later Sanders fumbled again and this time the Lions pounced on it at the their own 49 yard line. The result was a thwarted drive and a Lions’ field goal.
Why was that so mind-boggling of a decision? Because Sanders is a fumbler! The major knock on him coming out of college was his propensity to fumble the football. At Penn State, the rookie fumbled the ball ten times in 308 touches. That’s a fumble every 31 touches. That’s a problem. This year he has two fumbles in 40 touches. That’s a fumble every 20 touches. That’s an even bigger problem. In case you were wondering, the last time an Eagle rookie running back fumbled twice in a game was way back in 2012 when Bryce Brown coughed it up a couple of times against the Cowboys. But at least he rushed for 169 yards that day!
Last year, Eagles’ rookie and leading rusher Josh Adams had some fumbling issues towards the end of the season. He ended up carrying the ball just one time for two yards in the playoffs. Obviously Pederson did not trust him and didn’t care what the rookie thought. I have no idea why they trust Sanders so much. It’s almost embarrassing how in love they are with this guy, this guy who hasn’t shown us anything yet. Right now we don’t even know if he can play at this
level. Oh, and did I mention that Nelson Agholor was also guilty of a fumble, an unforced one at that, on the Eagles next possession, costing the Birds another important drive and three more critical points? So we have seven drops and three fumbles – all very costly and all from an offense already somewhat anemic, especially in the first half of games. Right now after three games the Birds are a minus 27 in point differential at the half. This is an offense that was supposed to be the gold standard by which all offenses were to be judged this year. Unfortunately this offense couldn’t even pass for the bronze standard right now.
On the other side of the ball the defense was busy not getting pressure on Lions’ quarterback Matt Stafford. That’s right, the Eagles vaunted defensive line was responsible for exactly zero sacks and only two quarterback hits on Sunday. In the middle of that all-pro defensive tackle Fletcher Cox was working on recording exactly zero stats. That’s right, the big fella did not make the stat sheet. It’s like he never even played. He didn’t record a tackle, QB hit, a sack or even a batted ball. Is Jadevian Clowney still available?
I’ve said this before, if given enough time even a bad quarterback will pick you apart. Stafford happens to be a good quarterback. Sunday he was given so much time he could have gone through his progressions thrice on most of his drop-backs. So where’s the pass rush? I hate to tell you this but it’s in New England and in Seattle. Michael Bennett had nine sacks last year for this team. He had two sacks for the Patriots yesterday. That’s two more than the entire group of the Eagles’ defensive ends and it’s as many as the entire Eagles defense has through three games this year. They miss him. Big time. The other guy is in Seattle. Yeah, that Clowney guy. That guy that this team desperately needed to trade for a couple of weeks ago. Just two sacks so far this year from a defense that was 31st against the pass last year – one from Tim Jernigan and one from safety Andrew Sendejo on a blitz. By the way, Jim Schwartz did dial up a couple of well timed blitzes on Sunday. Unfortunately, the Eagles don’t have the personnel to get home. They couldn’t even get to Stafford when they blitzed. That’s unbelievably sad.
Dropped balls, turnovers, and no pressure were the biggest problems for the Birds on Sunday but they weren’t the only problems, While all of those other things were piling up, Birds’ cornerback Sidney Jones was getting torched by the Lions Marvin Jones Jr. The former fifth round pick hauled in six balls for 101 yards and a touchdown. So that happened too.
Yes, those were just some of the mis-deeds of an ill-prepared, under talented team and the goats responsible for them. So what’s the common denominator? Yeah you know where I’m going with this. Almost all are Howie Roseman draft picks. That’s not a good look when your home-grown boys are directly responsible for a bad loss.
You build your team through the draft and Howie Roseman just hasn’t been able to do that. Instead this Eagles team was built through free agency and trades. That’s why they boast the third oldest team in the league (New England and Atlanta are older). If Sunday is any indication of what this Eagle team has or doesn’t have going forward, well it might be a long time until we see football in February again.
Here’s a look at the players at the heart of Sunday’s loss to the Lions:
Dallas Goedert, 2nd round in 2018
Mack Hollins, 4th round in 2017
J.J Arcega-Whiteside, 2nd round in 2019
Miles Sanders, 2nd round in 2019
Derek Barnett, 1st round in 2017 (zero sacks 2019)
Sidney Jones, 2nd round in 2017
Ask yourself this. Aside from Carson Wentz, when was the last time Roseman drafted a legitimate star in the first three picks of his drafts? Yeah, it was way back in 20-never. Don’t believe me?
Well here’s a look at the first three picks of the last six drafts that Roseman has been in charge of:
Marcus Smith, 1st round
Jordan Mathews, 2nd round
Josh Huff, 3rd round
Nelson Agholor, 1sr round
Eric Rowe, 2nd round
Jordan Hicks, 3rd round
Carson Wentz, 1st round
Isaac Seumalo, 2nd round
Wendell Smallwood, 5th round
Derek Barnett, 1st round
Sidney Jones, 2nd round
Rasul Douglas, 3rd round
Dallas Goedert, 2nd round
Avonte Maddox, 4th round
Josh Sweat, 4th round
Andre Dillard, 1st round
Miles Sanders, 2nd round
J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, 2nd round
You would have to go back to 2013 to find legitimate stars that the Eagles drafted within their first three picks.
Lane Johnson, 1st round
Zach Ertz, 2nd round
Bennie Logan, 3rd round
Lane Johnson and Zach Ertz are two home-grown legitimate NFL stars. Unfortunately, those two picks are credited to Chip Kelly when he was the coach and G.M.here, not Howie Roseman.
The foundation of your team is supposed to come via the draft. After that you can tweak your team in free agency or via trades. Howie is a master in free agency and he’s pretty darn good with his trades. But an imbalance of trades and signings are just a sign that you need to compensate for your drafting mistakes. The more outside players you have to bring in the bigger the indictment of your drafting prowess.
Now let’s take a look at the impact players the Eagles have on offense. Only Wentz, Johnson and Ertz are home-grown and again, the latter two were not Roseman draft picks.
QB Carson Wentz, 1st round in 2016
LT Jason Peters, trade (Andy Reid)
RB Darren Sproles, trade (Chip Kelly)
RB Jordan Howard, trade
WR DeSean Jackson, free agent signing
WR Alshon Jefferey, free agent signing
RG Brandon Brooks, free agent signing
RT Lane Johnson, 1st round in 2013 (Chip Kelly)
TE Zach Ertz, 2nd round in 2013 (Chip Kelly)
Here’s a look at the other side of the ball:
DT Fletcher Cox 1st round in 2012 (Andy Reid)
S Malcolm Jenkins, free agent signing
LB Nigel Bradham, free agent signing
CB Ronald Darby, trade
DE Brandon Graham, 1st round in 2010 (Andy Reid)
If you go back to the Super Bowl season you can add these impact guys to the list:
QB Nick Foles, free agent signing
RB LeGarrette Blount, free agent signing
RB Jay Ajayi, trade
RB Corey Clement, free agent signing
DE Chris Long, free agent signing
Check it out, not one Howie Roseman draft pick, sans Wentz. That’s alarming.
Roseman received the spoils of success two seasons ago, but two years later we are staring at a roster that we may have greatly misjudged. I know it’s early and some of the younger guys may turn into good players down the road but right now they clearly aren’t ready for the big stage as evidenced by yesterday’s inexcusable effort.
So what did we learn from Sunday’s performance? I think it was a painful lesson in reality. This team may not be as talented as advertised and they certainly aren’t that deep at many key positions like we thought they were. That all goes back to inadequate drafting from this general manager. The results speak for themselves. Now did you really think I was going to go the whole way without talking about the franchise? Yes, Carson Wentz also continues to be a concern for me. He was good on Sunday, but not great. And on a day when his teammates let him down he needed to be great.
Normally, the offensive players are given the game plan on Friday before a Sunday game and since the first 15 plays are usually scripted, Wentz probably knew for two days that the first play of the game was going to be a short out to Miles Sanders. Well, Wentz’ pass was so bad that Sanders could have laid out and he still would not have been within three feet of the ball. He underthrew Miles Sanders twice, later in the game. Both resulted in big gains, but both should have been touchdowns. He also missed Mack Hollins on an out in the end zone that cost the Birds four points in the first quarter.
But despite all of the drops and all of the turnovers and all of the missed throws, the Birds still had chances to win the game. With a little over two minutes left Wentz and the Eagles had the ball at their own 20. But in four plays they gained just eight yards and turned the ball over on downs. Then after the Malcolm miracle, a blocked field goal attempt with about a minute and a half left, Wentz once again had the ball in his hands. This time at the 50 yard line. Down just three points surely Wentz and company could be counted on to gain a meager 20 yards to at least set themselves up for a game-tying field goal right? Yeah, not so much. Once again they went four plays and out and gained only 5 yards. Two drives with the game on the line and in eight plays the Birds gained 13 yards and no first downs. It felt a lot like last year.
The Eagles will now take their 1-2 record into Green Bay Thursday night to face the undefeated Packers.That should be fun. Only twice in their history have the Eagles made the playoffs after starting the season 1-3. You don’t have to be a savant to understand the magnitude of the game.
I said on the air Sunday night that I have a gut feeling that the Birds are going to win Thursday night. It’s just a feeling. It may pass. It probably should pass but that’s my gut. My head on the other hand is asking why should we expect a different result?
My wife asked me a very good question during the game on Sunday. She asked me if the Eagles are a bad football team or are they a good football team playing badly. I didn’t have to think too long and I told her straight up that right now they’re a bad football team. Why? Because these losses don’t appear to be any-given-Sunday anomalies any more. How quickly we forget how bad this team was last year before Nick Foles rescued the season and led the Birds to a a couple of playoff games. They played 5-6 ball last year when Wentz was at the helm. Now they are 6-8 in his last 14 starts. That’s not just a trend. That is reality. And if the Birds’ reality continues we’re in for a lot more bad football from a bad football team.