Philadelphia Eagles News

Offense missing key pieces for Washington, which means what for scoring?

At some point in the course of the game on Sunday at FedEx Field, tight end Zach Ertz is going to check in with the wide receivers on the field. He's going to make sure that the likes of J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Robert Davis, and Greg Ward are in the right spot. He's going to connect with Joshua Perkins, the hybrid tight end in this offense, to make sure everyone is on the same page. With such an inexperienced group around him, Ertz has the wisdom to answer any on-field questions.

And then the ball is snapped, and it's every man for himself.

"We've had a great week of work and it's going to be fine out there," Ertz said. "We're all ready. We've put in the work. When we get out there, we're going to be playing together."

Here is the offense on the other end of Carson Wentz's throws Sunday against Washington now that wide receiver Nelson Agholor and running back Jordan Howard are officially out with knee and shoulder injuries, respectively: Tight ends Ertz and Dallas Goedert and Perkins, who can line up at tight end and at the wide receiver spots. Arcega-Whiteside, Ward, and Davis are the wide receivers. Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, and Jay Ajayi are the running backs, and they're also going to have roles – some larger, some smaller – in the passing game.

The Eagles intend to employ all nine as interchangeable parts, to a large degree, in the construction of the offensive scheme. That's how it's going to work. And the Eagles very much believe it's going to work.

"I look at it as nine bodies, with tight ends, runners, and receivers, so we have everything covered that way. We have a plan to the plan to the plan to the plan if we lose a guy during the course of the game," head coach Doug Pederson said. "It's where we are right now as a team, as an offense."

As seemingly keep-it-simple as it appears for Jim Schwartz's defense – which will play without end Derek Barnett, who on Saturday was downgraded to out (ankle injury) for the game along with Agholor and Howard – that the Eagles have two levels of must-do's: Not give up the deep ball in Washington's passing game (that means keeping wide receiver Terry McLaurin in check) and get to running back Adrian Peterson before he gets into high gear. The Eagles' offense, on the other hand, is pretty darn complicated with so many new faces.

Even if the Eagles simplify things on offense, and that's not saying they will, it's still an opportunity for Pederson and offensive coordinator Mike Groh to move pieces around and try to create some favorable matchups. They've got size at wide receiver with Arcega-Whiteside and Davis. Perkins is a tight end playing wide receiver. Ward is the shifty, short-area quickness receiver. Scott is a weapon in the screen game and Sanders is a big play waiting to happen in the passing game.

Of course, Ertz and Goedert are the versatile pieces to make plays anywhere on the field.

"I have every bit of confidence in who we're going to have out there," Ertz said. "We're never going to make excuses. Players are on this roster for a reason. When they get their shot, they are ready to go. And we'll be ready as an offense on Sunday."

We've spent nearly three quarters of this season trying to identify the offense and its strengths and its personality. Prior to the bye week, the Eagles had established something good – a strong running game they could rely upon, some play-action passing as Wentz spread the football around, good play in the red zone, and two games against Buffalo and Chicago when the offense ate up the clock in the fourth quarter to secure victories. Going forward, that was the formula for offensive success.

Then more injuries, as Alshon Jeffery (placed on Injured Reserve this week with a foot injury) and Agholor were hurt. Howard hasn't played since the Chicago game just at a time when he and Sanders had so perfectly meshed their roles in the backfield.

Add in that the Eagles won't have right tackle Lane Johnson (ankle) against Washington, and you understand the personnel challenges the offense faces. Within that, there are opportunities for other players to step up, and for the coaching staff to alter its way of thinking.

"They're hungry, they want to make the most of that opportunity," Pederson said of the young players stepping into key roles. "Again, they're professionals about their business and their craft, and they want to do well."

We know what's at stake. We know the big picture. In this week-to-week nature of the season, the Eagles have a new look and an altered approach on offense. Sometimes, those are the situations that work out the best for everyone.

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