Good morning, Eagles fans. The Eagles get back to business today ahead of a road trip to New Orleans. The players will speak to media in the locker room after meetings at 1:35. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and offensive coordinator Mike Groh will speak to the media at 2 p.m. and we will carry those live. Here's what you need to know in today's Morning Roundup presented by Microsoft leading off with yesterday's disappointing news.
1. Darby Done
Head coach Doug Pederson announced in his press conference Monday that cornerback Ronald Darby would miss the rest of the 2018 season after tearing his ACL in Sunday night's loss to the Cowboys. Three cornerbacks are now on the mend as Sidney Jones and Jalen Mills continue to rehab from injuries.
Rookie Chandon Sullivan replaced Darby Sunday night. If Jones can play Sunday, which Pederson said is a possibility while Mills is further behind, he will likely start on the outside instead of the slot. Darby leads the team with 18 pass breakups and had 53 tackles.
2. Big Picture Going Forward
The Eagles lost a crucial game to the division-rival Dallas Cowboys Sunday night and crippled their playoff chances going forward. Now with a 4-5 record, the Eagles will have to travel to New Orleans and take on Drew Brees and the 8-1 New Orleans Saints. A depleted secondary will have to battle a quarterback with 21 touchdowns and just one interception.
There are plenty of reasons for the Eagles' 4-5 record. Injuries have piled up massively, even more than last year, and have taken their toll. On the field, slow starts, a lack of takeaways, and mental errors have contributed to losses.
It's time for a reality check – the Eagles are in trouble. And in a brutally honest column, Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro identifies what is happening with this team:
The positive spin is that seven games are remaining and the NFC East is still there – the Eagles trail Washington by two games, with two games remaining against the Redskins – and the Eagles are going to fight. They are going to be "resilient," and that's a good thing.
But let's also be real here: The Eagles blew a terrific opportunity on Sunday night to establish themselves in the NFC East to open the second half of the season. The loss was telling in so many ways. How can this team allow the Cowboys to take command at Lincoln Financial Field? Where was the fire? Where was the passion? The urgency?
3. Sluggish Starts
A recurring problem in losses this season has been slow starts. Sunday night was no exception. The Eagles went three-and-out in their first possession and had an interception on their next one. It stifled the energy and put the defense's back against a wall.
The Eagles have scored just 21 points in the first quarter all season. They have been shut out in the first quarter of seven games this season. This week, they have to face the second-best scoring offense in the first half at New Orleans. Pederson scripts the offenses first 15 plays and yesterday at his press conference, he took some blame for the disappointing starts:
"That's solely on me. And I base it based on the film," Pederson said. "In the case of some of our struggles, it has just been, just our execution. Just sustaining a block or the read by the quarterback or – and to me, that's kind of where if there's an urgency moment how we start games, that's where the urgency, I think, coaches, players, everybody involved really needs to sort of heighten so that we can stay on the field and go down and score points."
4. Eagle Eye: Inopportune Offense
There were a lot of plays on the offensive side of the ball that the Eagles would like to have back. The offense looked stagnant in the first half and only put up three points thanks to a late 56-yard field goal from Jake Elliott. In the second half, the Eagles kept pace for a while but missed opportunities haunted them in the end.
Fran Duffy watched the tape of some of the most important offensive plays on Sunday night and broke down what the Eagles did and what they would do if they could rewind, starting with a third-down play the pivotal fourth-quarter drive that ended with a turnover on downs:
Pederson thinks he's going to get a man pressure scheme, and he hit the nail on the head. Dallas sends linebacker Jaylon Smith on a blitz with straight man coverage behind it and a safety deep in the middle of the field. Rookie Leighton Vander Esch is manned up on Corey Clement in the backfield. This is the perfect situation to hit a screen in a similar scenario to when Smallwood took one to the house two weeks ago against Jacksonville. All the Eagles have to do is block Vander Esch or, at the very least, make him miss in space. Brandon Brooks and Jason Kelce release after the snap, but the rookie is quick to scrape over the top. Neither linemen can reach him, so he's unblocked. Instead of cutting back against the grain, toward his blockers, Clement carries outside and is tackled for a 5-yard loss. That brings up fourth-and-7.