By Rob Maaddi
The Eagles beat the Cowboys, covered the spread and secured first place in a weak division at the midpoint of the season.
That’s the good news.
The offense’s miserable performance had everyone treating the win like a loss.
That’s the reality check.
Carson Wentz was inconsistent again. The playcalling was questionable again. There were a few drops, missed blocks, missed reads and miscommunication. We’ve seen it throughout the season.
Fortunately for the Eagles, they play in the NFC East and 3-4-1 is enough to give them a comfortable cushion atop the standings. They could remain inconsistent, sloppy, mistake-prone and probably win the division with six wins.
Nobody wants to see that.
The bye week arrived at the perfect time. Some of the injured starters have an extra week to heal. COVID-19 protocols prevent players from taking the week off and heading off to a vacation spot so they’ll be at the practice facility on Wednesday working.
“We’ve got to get better,” Doug Pederson said. “This is the time where we can look at the first eight games and really self-scout and evaluate and find ways to improve all three areas of our team. It’s also a chance to get some guys healthy and prepare.”
It’s easy to pile on after the Eagles struggled to beat the Cowboys. Scoring 14 points on offense against a team that had allowed 34.7 per game was unacceptable. Sure, Dallas stepped up defensively. The Cowboys have been embarrassed this season and were due to play better. But the Eagles helped them with four turnovers. Wentz threw two picks and lost two fumbles. One of the fumbles came on a fourth-down sack. That one doesn’t matter. But Wentz needed to secure the ball with nobody open on the first turnover.
The two picks seem to be Wentz’s fault on the surface. But listening to Wentz explain it after the game, it’s clear there was miscommunication.
The first pick came on first down from the Cowboys 34. Wentz was on the move outside the pocket when he threw to Jalen Reagor in the end zone. Reagor appeared covered and Trevon Diggs made an excellent, sliding grab.
“I thought Reagor had a step on (Diggs), so I was out of the pocket and I pulled the trigger quick,” Wentz said. “I was trying to give (Reagor) a chance but (Diggs) beat him to the spot.”
That sounds like Wentz saw Reagor open with a step on Diggs so he threw it. But Diggs closed on the ball faster than Reagor.
Is it Wentz’s fault for trusting his receiver to go make a play? Yes. Does Reagor deserve some blame for letting up after he had a step? Yes.
The second pick came on a deep pass to John Hightower on second-and-13 from the Eagles 49. The wind was gusty but Wentz didn’t use that excuse.
“We weren’t on the same page with the angle of the throw there,” Wentz said. “The coverage definitely dictated that was where to go with the ball and John and I just weren’t on the same page.”
It happens with rookies. It’s not the first time this season. Won’t be the last.
But here’s some comforting thoughts for Eagles fans. The rookies are gaining more experience each week and have the luxury of learning on the job this season because the division is dreadful. Miles Sanders should be back after the bye. Zach Ertz, possibly Alshon Jeffery and others are closer to returning.
The second half of the season is an opportunity for the Eagles to work through their issues without feeling pressure from the Cowboys, Giants and Washington.
“You go back to 2017 in that championship run, there was consistency and there was stability around our offense,” Pederson said. “With so many moving parts, offensively, right now with the amount of injuries, so many guys are shuffling in and out of the lineup that it’s hard to get continuity and rhythm and timing and flow. It makes it look really bad on the outside when, quite honestly, you probably don’t believe it, but it’s encouraging from our side that, yeah, one, we won the game, right? We’re a game and a half up in the NFC East. We have a chance to get healthy here at the bye. We have a chance next week against the Giants to hopefully get some more starters back and see what happens, and correct some of the things that are going on.
“Are we where we want to be? Yeah, we’re first place in the NFC East, but at 3-4-1, it could easily be the other way, right? It could be 4-3-1 or 5-3 or whatever it could be. But there’s a lot of positive that we see as coaches on the inside that give us the encouragement and the opportunity to get better as a team.”