Mon, 30 Nov 2020

Seven games in, who are the 2020 Eagles We don't know quite yet

Philadelphia Eagles
24 Oct 2020, 18:12 GMT+10

Dave Spadaro

For the next couple of days, Head Coach Doug Pederson and his staff will have the chance to parse through the first seven games of this uneven 2020 season - the good, the bad, and the injured. Let's do the same right here as the players enjoy a mini-bye weekend with the Eagles at 2-4-1 after Thursday night's 22-21 win over New York that, no matter how ugly it was, landed the Eagles in first place in the NFC East ...

THE GOOD

• Travis Fulgham is the real deal, I think we would all agree, and his upside is significant.

The way he uses his body, the way he snatches the football, runs his routes, and plays with confidence is encouraging. He has gotten better and better as teams have paid more attention to him. He runs well. Fulgham has saved this offense and it's no surprise that the last three weeks have been the offense's most productive games as Fulgham has settled in. Fulgham has 23 receptions for 357 yards and three touchdowns in only four games. In fact, the Eagles are building a nice, young group of receivers here. Greg Ward continues to produce out of the slot and his touchdown catch on Thursday night, coming through the formation and catching Carson Wentz's pass running a flat route, and sticking the ball over the goal line was a thing of beauty. John Hightower has had some rough moments, but he's bounced back with receptions of 50 yards and 59 yards the last two weeks. He has legitimate deep speed. Jalen Reagor will be back on the field soon and we've seen that he is a big-play maker. The Eagles think they have something with Quez Watkins, who also brings vertical speed to the table. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside is perking up as well.

Losing DeSean Jackson for "significant time," said Pederson on Friday is a bummer, but the Eagles now have to turn to the kids and hope that Alshon Jeffery can contribute in the very near future as well.

• Not once in his career has defensive end Brandon Graham reached double digits in quarterback sacks, but he is on the way in 2020.

Graham is third in the NFL with six sacks in seven games and his 21 total tackles and 10 quarterback hits are among the best in the league. Any reasons for the great play this season?

"I think just really taking on my nutrition this year more serious than I ever have. Feeling good. Body is feeling really good right now. I feel fast," Graham said. "Then with our rotation, that is helping a lot. I don't feel like I am taking on a lot of beating from these games because you know, got chipped a lot of times today and that could wear on your body a little bit, but it's cool when you have a good rotation of guys that you can count on. Because in that fourth quarter, when you need a play, I feel like I felt in the first quarter. So, I felt hungry and ready to go make a play. And I'm thankful that they, in the back end, took away his reads and I was able to get there."

• Wentz has been best this season in the fourth quarter, tossing six touchdown passes and only two interceptions with a passer rating of 86.7. The Eagles have scored a total of 34 points the last two weeks in the fourth quarter and, for sure, Wentz looks so good in these hurry-up situations. How can he incorporate this approach in the first three quarters of games to come?

• The offensive line is nowhere near where it needs to be, but given all of the injuries the Eagles have had there, Offensive Line Coach/Run Game Coordinator Jeff Stoutland has done an admirable job getting his group ready to play each week with six new starting combinations in seven games. Players like Jordan Mailata, Nate Herbig, Matt Pryor, Sua Opeta, and Jack Driscoll have had opportunities to earn the trust of the coaching staff and they've done that.

• Richard Rodgers is a playmaker at tight end. Richard Rodgers! He was a blocking tight end in 2018 and 2019 - one reception in eight total games - and now he's got 15 catches for 184 yards and eight first downs. Rodgers, if you look up his numbers, caught 58 passes for Green Bay in 2015. So, he's done it in his past. And he's doing it again now.

• Cameron Johnston is second in the NFL in gross punting average, 50.9 yards, and is third in net average at 45.9 yards. The Eagles have needed him to change field position, and he has done that.

THE BAD

• The red zone on both sides of the ball. The defense has allowed a touchdown percentage of 75, ranking 28th in the NFL. The offense hasn't been much better, ranking 21st in the NFL with a 60.87 touchdown percentage. On Thursday night, the Eagles were only 3-of-8 inside New York's 20-yard line, including a last-possession kneeldown. Why the offensive struggles? It could have something to do with running the football. Against the Giants, the Eagles had seven rushing attempts for only 20 yards in the red zone. They don't have a big, bruising running back and, without Miles Sanders, the only real gains were a couple of Boston Scott runs inside. Improved running inside the 10-yard line will result in more success reaching the end zone.

• Too many times this season - in games against Washington, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, for example, the Eagles have been hurt badly by tight ends in the passing game. Even against the Giants, Evan Engram had six receptions for 46 yards and dropped what would have been a drive-continuing pass on a key late-game, third-down pass down the left sideline. He was open. The pass was on his fingertips. He just dropped it.

• The linebackers haven't been nearly productive enough for the defense. That's across the board. Not one or two players. All of them. The Eagles need more from the linebackers.

• Wentz has 10 interceptions. That's just too many. He tries to make something out of nothing at times and it hurts the offense. Wentz has heart, he's tough, he's a great leader, and he is going to get this right, but the first step is reducing the giveaways.

THE INJURED

• The list is too long to detail here, but the various position groups that have been severely impacted include the offensive line (Brandon Brooks, Andre Dillard, Isaac Seumalo, Jason Peters, Lane Johnson, Jack Driscoll), the tight ends (Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert, along with Joshua Perkins before the season began), wide receivers (Jackson and Jeffery and Reagor), running back (Miles Sanders), defensive line (Javon Hargrave, Malik Jackson, Hassan Ridgeway, Derek Barnett, Vinny Curry), linebacker (T.J. Edwards, Duke Riley), cornerback (Avonte Maddox, Craig James), and safety (Will Parks, Marcus Epps). Am I missing anybody?

WHAT IS AHEAD

Let's end this on a positive note. The Eagles haven't played consistent, strong football this season. They know it. They're 2-4-1. The record is reflective of the team. A lot needs to be fixed here. But the good news is that the Eagles have nine games remaining and they are in the thick of it in the NFC East with a home game against Dallas ahead next Sunday in prime time followed by a bye week and then road games at New York and Cleveland. These are winnable games. Here is a chance to get the season back on track.

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