There is no magic formula for the Eagles to suddenly play as the team we all think they are, one that blends veteran leadership with youthful energy, one that has a variety of ways to win on offense and that has speed and an attacking mentality on defense. To turn an 0-2 start into something positive, the Eagles are going to have to do it the old-fashioned way – with hard work and trust.
"There's going to be setbacks, right. There's going to be things that don't go our way," Head Coach Doug Pederson said on Monday at his day-after-game teleconference. "But instead of just folding up our tents and going and doing something else, we're going to fight the fight, man. We're going to sit in here. We're going to grind this thing out. We're going to figure this thing out. I've got smart coaches. I've got smart players.
"Those guys in that locker room are mad. They are upset that we're 0-2 and in this position. But nobody's going to feel sorry for the Philadelphia Eagles or feel sorry for me. I'm going to come here every day and take your questions. You may not like the answers, but I don't care, quite frankly, and what I care about is our team, right, and getting our team prepared to play the Bengals this Sunday."
Pederson and the Eagles have had to dig out of a hole in each of the two seasons since the wire-to-wire success of the Super Bowl season of 2017, so this is nothing new for the head coach. The Eagles are, legitimately, in a tough spot with a very difficult schedule in the weeks to come, battling new injuries every day. Quarterback Carson Wentz was, basically, the subject of Pederson's Monday press briefing as, in one way or another, reporters wanted to know how in the world Wentz can get back to being the Wentz we all know – the quarterback who wins, who doesn't throw interceptions, and who escapes the pocket and makes something magical happen.
The Eagles are going to have to do with more changes along the offensive line as left guard Isaac Seumalo has a knee injury that will keep him sidelined for at couple of weeks, per Pederson. The offensive line's injury situation, starting when Pro Bowl right guard Brandon Brooks suffered a torn Achilles tendon in the spring, has contributed to the woes on that side of the ball, but every team is experiencing injury challenges and that's no excuse.
In fact, there are no excuses at all. The Eagles did exactly as they set out to do in the offseason. They acquired a blue-chip cornerback in Darius Slay after allowing more 40-yard-plus passing plays than any NFL team in 2019. They signed tackle Javon Hargrave in free agency, bulking up the defensive line in a way that most teams would admire. They added youth and speed throughout the defense. That was the blueprint. The NFL Draft helped the Eagles overhaul the wide receiver position, starting with first-round pick Jalen Reagor.
No team out there is crying in sympathy for the 0-2 Eagles. Every team has its own problems. The Eagles have some definitive steps they need to take to get in the win column and put the season where it needs to be. Some suggestions:
1. Believe in Carson Wentz. He's in his own head right now, it seems, trying to do too much, trying to make every throw. Pederson was asked on Monday if he was "concerned" about Wentz's mental state and the head coach couldn't have been more emphatic with his response.
"I'm not concerned about that because of just who Carson is," Pederson said. "I see his work ethic during the week. One way to get out of it is you've just got to continue to stay aggressive, right. Stay on the attack, and I don't want anybody to go into a shell. That's no way to approach our business, our craft, our jobs, and for sure I don't want the quarterback position, in this case, Carson, to do that, as well. We just have to stay on the attack, and we have to continue to work, so I'm not concerned about that at all."
2. Rely on leadership. Pederson has great trust in the veteran leadership on this team and he's going to need that leadership now. Starts like this can quickly erode into a finger-pointing disaster. In years past, the Eagles have avoided finger pointing and they've turned their seasons around. Same deal here. No exceptions.
3. Stick with the schemes but be critical of what's working and not working. The concepts are prone to change on a week-to-week basis, but the essence of the X's and O's remains the same. The coaches have to play to the strength of the personnel. There are some areas that need to improve here – the first-down offense, for example, is when Wentz has thrown each of his interceptions and the red zone defense has permitted seven touchdowns in nine opposing visits. Both are key areas. Both need to be better. But overhauling the play calls right now is just drastic a move.
4. Be aggressive. That's the nature of the business. Dictate to the Bengals on Sunday. Go after an 0-2 team with a rookie quarterback with hunger, with a purpose, and don't let Cincinnati come up for air. And, don't pretend that this is going to be an easy game. Cincinnati is a young team that believes in its rookie quarterback, Joe Burrow. Don't sit back and give him a chance to pick apart the defense, because we've already seen that he's capable of doing just that. The Eagles need to play with emotion and confidence. They need to take it to Cincinnati, another team that is searching for its first victory.
5. Challenge the roster. This is no time for complacency. If the coaching staff thinks a player is ready to challenge for playing time, by all means promote that idea. The Eagles are struggling in every phase of the game. They're turning the ball over too much. They're not finishing offensive drives. The run defense was porous on Sunday against Los Angeles. The discipline against the play-action, bootleg game just wasn't sufficient. The defense in the red zone was too giving. Everything is in play at 0-2.
This isn't a time for panic, but it fair to be concerned. The Eagles are in a tough spot at 0-2 with trips to San Francisco and Pittsburgh, and a visit from Baltimore following Cincinnati. Philadelphia cannot allow the season to get away so early. Pederson is harping on the positives and he's talking about how close the Eagles are to being where they want to be. But he's also a realist. The Eagles have two double-digit losses in two games. There is no escaping that. The urgency level at the NovaCare Complex has to be at its peak this week and sustained for weeks. The Eagles are in a hole and they've got some digging to do.