Working from home on Tuesday with the NFL's mandate of all team facilities closed to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, Head Coach Doug Pederson staring at a puzzle that has yet to be pieced together: How to improve an offense that the night before struggled to gain any rhythm or consistency in a 23-17 loss to Seattle. We're in a short week here with Green Bay awaiting at Lambeau Field on Sunday. Pederson has been trying to unlock the offense for weeks and weeks now.
He isn't about to stop trying to answer the question: Why is this offense so consistently inconsistent?
"It's honestly a really good question, and I struggle with the whys. You know me, I'm not going to sit here and throw people under the bus. We can do that during the week of preparation and practice," Pederson said. "Guys just have to understand the sense of urgency that it takes to play a game and to prepare not only coaching, but also players. It's a long season. The season is a grind. It's a tough sport mentally and physically, and probably more so mentally than anything else. And it's frustrating because we do prep and practice and study and meet all week long, and coaches spend countless hours putting game plans together and trying to somehow come up with a plan that can beat your opponent.
"And then, whether it's execution or sometimes physically, you just get beat. It's a frustrating thing. It's something that we have got to – again, if it goes back to simplifying game plans, we can keep simplifying as much as we can. We've got a lot of moving parts, a lot of moving pieces, particularly in the offensive line. I alluded to that a little bit this morning (on SportsRadio 94WIP), that continuity and stability. That's also been an issue with us. Some young players on the perimeter, new targets that Carson is throwing to. So, we're definitely not where we want to be, that's for sure. We're going to continue to work to improve."
They aren't excuses because every team faces the same thing every season – injuries are going to happen. No excuses. Just reality. The offense has had 10 different starting combinations tackle to tackle. The wide receivers are, for the most part, very young. Quarterback Carson Wentz is not performing at his highest level and maybe one of the top-line reasons is all of the realities above.
What we're seeing is largely unprecedented from recent Eagles seasons. There have been road bumps along the way with various coaches, and Pederson has experienced some slowdowns in his five seasons here, but nothing like this. The only truly explosive period for the Eagles' offense this season was the 17 points it scored in the first half at Washington. In those opening four drives, the Eagles put together scoring sequences of 62 yards, 76 yards, and 62 yards to take a 17-0 lead.
And then the offense stagnated after a three-and-out series followed by a Wentz interception and, just like that, the offense was off track and really hasn't recovered. There was the late-game flurry to beat New York, and there were moments in Pittsburgh and against Baltimore when the offense showed some big-play explosiveness.
But that's been it, really. And the most head-scratching part of it has been the way the Eagles have opened games. In their last three outings since the bye week, the Eagles have scored three points, zero points, and six points in the first half of three straight losses. The offensive woes are troubling to Pederson, who has tried to go with a no-huddle offense, has tried to pound the ball with the running game, has tried to move Wentz out of the pocket, has tried the quick-throw game, has inserted rookie Jalen Hurts for a play here and there … and the results have not been what he's looking for.
On Monday night, Pederson called on Hurts for one play early in the second quarter, a second-and-14 play from the Philadelphia 23-yard line. Hurts completed a 6-yard pass to wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and Pederson then went back to Wentz on third-and-8. He was sacked on the play and the Eagles punted.
Frustrating for everybody.
"That particular sequence, I believe the first down, first-and-10, was right before the second quarter. Then it became a second-down play, second-and-10 actually. Went with Jalen. We had a false start. Went to second-and-15," Pederson said. "We threw a pass to Alshon that was a short route. Supposed to be a little bit deeper; it went a little bit short; it was complete. Now we're third-and-8, I believe, and went back to Carson on third down. It's kind of how our whole first quarter and a half went for us, just no rhythm. So, for me, would I like to get into a flow and use Jalen in a couple of situations? I think that's feasible. It's possible. It's been productive for us. But our first- and second-down production has to be better."
Notable for the Eagles is that, to that point, they hadn't accumulated a single first down offensively and wouldn't do so until later in the second quarter, by which time they trailed 14-0 and had to dig out of yet another hole.
It has been that kind of season. And there are five games to go to see if the Eagles can snap out of the offensive doldrums. Pederson hasn't found a solution. Nobody has a concrete answer. The Eagles have dropped three consecutive games and have allowed a commanding NFC East lead to slip away.
Frustrating might be an understatement, even if Pederson, on a long and chilly Tuesday, had nobody around him to share the feeling.