Jason Kelce doesn't like seeing quarterback Carson Wentz on the ground. The Eagles' All-Pro center, however, has seen too much of it in Wentz's two starts as the Colts and Titans pressured the line of scrimmage and hit Wentz 18 times these last couple of weeks. Why is it happening? What is going on with an Eagles offense that expected to be further along at this point in the 2018 season?
"I see, quite frankly, an inconsistent football team, whether it's the offensive line, whether it's penalties," Kelce said. "The main thing I focus on is the offense and if we had converted in the red zone a few more times and get some touchdowns in there, we're not even talking about an overtime. Red zone was one of our best areas of production last year. I think that one mistake, one guy not doing his job on each play, is culminating into stalling out drives, resulting in three points instead of seven points. All of those things make a difference in the end result."
The defining statistic in the NFL is wins, of course, and in conjunction with that it's points scored and points allowed. The Eagles scored 18 points to beat Atlanta, 21 points in a loss at Tampa Bay, 20 points to defeat Indianapolis, and 23 points in last Sunday's overtime loss at Tennessee. In his two starts, Wentz was sacked five times by the Colts and four times by the Titans.
Tennessee successfully blitzed the Eagles and kept Wentz on the move, a much different expectation for an offense that hoped to pick up where it left off last season when, with Wentz at the controls, led the NFL in scoring and in red zone touchdown efficiency and was so successful on third downs.
"We just did not execute on the game plan, especially on the blitz pickup," Kelce said. "This wasn't like some drastic, maniacal scheme that we were unprepared for, that was designed specifically for the Philadelphia Eagles offense. I'll eliminate that narrative right now. We just have to do a better job."
"Inconsistency" is the common word heard this week around the NovaCare Complex. The Eagles have circled the wagons a bit during a week that has invited a lot of critique and, in some circles, a touch of panic. Four games into 2018, the Super Bowl tidings are long gone as the fans dig into this season. And what they've seen this season has been frustrating. The Eagles haven't put together a 60-minute effort through the opening month of the season.
Where have the Eagles gone wrong offensively? The red zone is a good place to start. The offense scored touchdowns on 64 percent of its trips inside opponents' 20-yard lines last year (the percentage was at 67 percent at the time of Wentz's injury) and now the Eagles are scoring touchdowns on 57 percent of their red- zone visits. That's a significant drop. Penalties have also hurt the offense. Fifteen penalties have been called against the Eagles' offense in four games. For comparison's sake, the Los Angeles Rams, a highly successful offense through four games, have been called for eight offensive penalties.
"We're shooting ourselves in the foot too many times. We all have to be dialed in. We can't make the mistakes. We can't have the penalties," tight end Zach Ertz said. "It's missed blocks, it's dropped passes, it penalties, and it's missed assignments. We have all the talent that we need, in my opinion, to go out there and have success on offense."
The same has been talked about all week with the defense, which looks to bounce back after Sunday's game in Tennessee against a high-powered Minnesota offense. The theme is the same: Be more consistent.
It's been that kind of week at the NovaCare Complex, one the Eagles haven't had in a very long time. Go back to Doug Pederson's first season when, after a 3-0 start, the Eagles lost the tough game on the road in Detroit, dropped one at Washington, and skidded to 5-9 overall before winning the final two games of the season.
"We have a team that is resilient, that leans on each other, and that is going to work together to figure this out," Ertz said. "Everyone believes we are going to do that."
Sunday's game against the Vikings is big for a lot of reasons. One, it's an NFC opponent coming to town, so that heightens the importance. Two, the Eagles go back to back in the conference on a short week with the Giants road trip on Thursday following Minnesota and then Carolina after that. Three, the NFC East is all bunched up with Washington and Dallas playing good football after slow starts.
"It's important that we stay the course and play football the way we know we can," safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "We aren't happy that we let one slip away against Tennessee, but the important thing is to put that behind us. We've done that. We know we have to come together and beat a good football team coming in here on Sunday."