Philadelphia Eagles News

Entire Offense Needs To Step Up To Get On Track

Carson Wentz is not the savior here.

He's a great quarterback, one of the very finest in the NFL, and Wentz is going to be in the upper echelon for a decade to come. The Eagles are a better offense with Carson Wentz taking the snaps and using his athleticism and his big arm and his football IQ and just his top-shelf, Franchise-Quarterback talents to move the football.

But it's not all on Wentz. We learned that last season, if we needed to understand the dynamic. Nick Foles replaced Wentz from December 10 on and led the Eagles to the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs and then ranged from efficient to spectacular to dominating as the Eagles won Super Bowl LII. No, it's not all on Wentz.

But he's going to help a team that needs a nudge.

The Eagles are 1-1, still learning about themselves in this 2018 season. The offense has labored for much of two games and has had to scratch for every point it has scored. In the 18-12 opening-night win over Atlanta, the Eagles relied on the running game and a short passing attack to beat the Falcons. In Tampa against the Buccaneers on Sunday, the Eagles generated very little offense until they were behind 27-7 and then gained some traction in the passing game. The running game never truly flowed. The lone legitimate big play in the passing game came when Nelson Agholor caught a pass, outran a defender to the sideline, and then turned on the jets to gain 50 yards on the play. For most of the game, especially in that frantic comeback attempt, the Eagles relied on underneath throws from Foles to Agholor and tight end Zach Ertz to pick up yardage in handfuls, not bucketsful, which they needed.

Head coach Doug Pederson has some real challenges getting this offense where he wants it. Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery is "week to week, with no timetable" as he continues his recovery from offseason surgery to his rotator cuff. Fellow starting wide receiver Mike Wallace suffered a fractured fibula in the loss at Tampa Bay and is out for several weeks. Mack Hollins, the second-year receiver who the Eagles anticipated would take a jump this year, is on Injured Reserve with a groin injury.

"You never know which group is going to be hit with the injury bug and right now it's the receiver group," Pederson said. "We're confident. We'll get Alshon back whenever he's cleared and ready to go and then the loss of Mike is going to be big. He's a starter-caliber guy who is a big part of our system. We brought him in here in the offseason as a free agent. We've just got to continue to work and look forward and rely on some of our other groups. The tight ends, our runners, our offensive line, we have to lean on that. And then of course our quarterback and we can do that and put a good mix of offense together and try to keep some teams off-balance."

Pederson and the coaching staff will be creative here, because in addition to the No. 1 (Jeffery), 2 (Wallace), and 4 (Hollins) wide receivers out, running back Darren Sproles is a question mark for Sunday because of a hamstring injury that flared up in practice last week and left tackle Jason Peters has a quad strain that forced him out of Sunday's loss to Tampa Bay. He vowed to play against the Colts on Sunday, so we'll see. Having Peters out there, at the age of 36, is an uncertainty week to week. That's just the reality of being 36 in the physical and demanding world of the NFL.

So where do the Eagles go from here? They're keeping their eyes open for options to add to the wide receiver group, so we'll see if anything transpires there. The rule of thumb in this league is that you coach what you have, and right now the Eagles have a lot of players who are either young (Shelton Gibson, DeAndre Carter, Dallas Goedert, Joshua Perkins) or new to the offense (Kamar Aiken) trying to supplement the main threats who are tight end Zach Ertz and Agholor. The latter two were targeted a whopping 25 times among Foles' 48 passing attempts on Sunday in Tampa. That's just too much for two players and not enough moving the football around. Agholor has 16 catches in two games, but he's averaging just 7.6 yards per reception. Explosiveness is lacking all around.

The mystery of this early season has been the lack of involvement from Goedert, the second-round draft pick who looked so good in the summer. The thought coming out of the preseason was that Goedert would offer some immediate impact, in one form or another, and that he and Ertz would form a 1-2 combination at tight end that would be very difficult for defenses to cover.

Where has Goedert been?

"Nothing has happened with Dallas. A lot of times it's the way the game goes, the flow of the game," Pederson said. "Again, with the injuries to some of our perimeter guys, by just keeping guys in their regular positions, it's easier to change one guy than it is to change two or three which would disrupt the entire game plan. It's nothing against Dallas. He's improving each and every week. We're excited about him. We're looking forward to continuing to work with him and get him in there. The kid's going to be a good player."

Pederson says it's "going to be pretty electric" at Lincoln Financial Field with Wentz starting and being introduced to the sellout crowd and with Seth Joyner and Clyde Simmons going into the franchise's Hall of Fame at halftime. The environment will be terrific.

It will be enhanced by a strong offensive showing, one that's going to take an entire offense unit – players and coaches included – against a better-than-you-thought Indianapolis team coming off a dominating performance at Washington. Having Carson Wentz back in the lineup is exciting, no doubt about it. Painting him as the one who will elevate the Eagles to where they expect to be, among the league's best offenses, is not the correct mindset to have. It's about a village here, and with all the injuries and the players in and out of the lineup, the Eagles want some stability and some personality to emerge. With that, success follows.

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