Philadelphia Eagles News

'I Think We Can Be Better' Up Front

The main concern for the Eagles and Eagles fans alike with Carson Wentz back on the field is his health. It is crucial to make sure Wentz can stay on the field for the 2018 season without reinjuring the knee that ended his possible MVP campaign in December of 2017.

So, it isn't ideal that in Wentz's first two games he has been subjected to a combined nine sacks and 18 hits.

The offensive line has had two difficult and uncharacteristic games. But when Wentz addressed the pressure he's face, he wasn't willing to cast all the blame on the offensive line.

"It's not just them," Wentz told reporters on Wednesday. "You see a sack, and everyone wants to point out the specific guy or this and that. But sometimes it's me … it's a combination of things. So, I think just the more we keep working together, the more we keep ironing out our communication and everything, I think we'll be fine."

Against Tennessee, Wentz was sacked four times and hit 11 more. One sack included a direct hit to the helmet and another in the fourth quarter forced a fumble that gave the Titans the ball in Eagles' territory down by seven. Against the Colts in Week 3, a Wentz sack-fumble set the Colts up in the red zone.

Wentz said the Titans did a good job of mixing up their schemes. But the offensive line knows it needs to protect the team's franchise quarterback, especially right now. Pro Bowl right guard Brandon Brooks said sacks are his top concern and each one is taken personally.

"It's always a focus every week," Brooks said. "You never want to give up any sacks, any hits, things like that. It's the same focus as it was last week, and we've got to be better this week."

All-Pro center Jason Kelce said that it takes just one mistake to let up a sack and that staying perfect as a unit is tough. Kelce is often in charge of making sure Wentz and the rest of the line are aware of a coming blitz.

"There are three aspects really of picking up the blitz," Kelce told reporters at his locker Wednesday. "There's one, being in the correct situation; two, communicating it; and three, everybody executing. I think if you look back to the game, we didn't handle any three of those aspects well.

"Obviously, they got us on a couple bootlegs and that's kind of a luck of the draw. Unfortunate, but I think at the end of the day, we just have to make sure we're all on the same page. That's all you want to be. If we can all be on the same page, that's going to drastically change the blitz situation."

Getting everyone on the same page is a bit of a bigger challenge than it sounds. All-Pro right tackle Lane Johnson said that while most of the offensive line has remained together since last season, there are a lot of moving parts that make communication and continuity difficult for the offense.

"We're starting to get everybody back," Johnson said. "It's only Carson's second game, we're getting Jordan Matthews back, getting Alshon Jeffery back, so it takes time for a cohesive group to get back into a rhythm and sometimes it's not pretty, but that's how it is."

The problems with protection extend to more than just sacks and quarterback hits. Breakdowns against the blitz on several occasions led to broken plays and Wentz having to throw the ball away before receivers could get open. As Kelce mentioned, several play-action and bootleg passes were blown up immediately and a couple ended in quick sacks that lost a significant amount of yards.

These plays slow down the offense, kill drives, and put the defense right back on the field. It's why Johnson recognizes the critical role the offensive line plays for the entire team.

"I think we can be better," Johnson said. "It's still obviously early in the season, but I think a lot of our success whenever we are doing good is because the line is doing well and when we're not, a lot of times we're not winning games. So, from that standpoint, we need to pick our stuff up. And we will."

Despite some struggles to begin the season, members of the line seemed confident on Wednesday that mistakes will be eliminated, and they will get back to their old selves soon. In 2017, this offensive line was named the best by the NFL. The success of the team depends on it getting back to that form.

"The reality is, we have high expectations because we performed well here in the past," Kelce said. "We had a great season last year. In order to do that, we know the attention to details has to be on point, we all have to be on the same page, the communication has to be there, the technique has to be there, and it's really not far off."

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