Frustration seems to be boiling over in Philadelphia following the Eagles’ fourth loss in seven games to open the season. Sunday’s 21-17 defeat at the hands of the Carolina Panthers at home drew boo birds from the faithful inside Lincoln Financial Field.
And for good reason. Philadelphia had opened up a 17-0 fourth quarter lead, only to see Cam Newton lead his Panthers to 21 unanswered points in the final stanza, compiling north of 200 passing yards in the process.
Meanwhile, Philadelphia’s offense lacked the balance necessary to be successful in today’s NFL. Its rushing attack gained just 58 yards on 24 attempts while Carson Wentz dropped back to past 44 times in the loss.
There’s a plethora of issues besetting the defending champs heading into the midway point of the season. Pederson did focus on a lack of balance following Sunday’s loss, pretty much shading the local media in the process.
“You guys aren’t in there watching the tape like we are for 18 hours a day, and putting game plans together, and it’s easy to sit in a press box and say, ‘Hey, they should run the ball.’ Come down and stand on the sideline with me and make decisions,” Pederson said Monday.
That’s the crux of the issue for this team. Combine a weak rush attack with one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL, and it’s going to be hard to win many games. Philadelphia can’t rely on their running game to control the time of possession battle. This leaves a talent-stricken defense in a less-than-stellar situation on a consistent basis.
Unfortunately, there’s no real internal fixes here. Starting running back and former Pro Bowler Jay Ajayi is lost for the season to a torn ACL. Veteran Darren Sproles has played in just one game this season due to a hamstring injury.
Meanwhile, the likes of Wendell Smallwood and Corey Clement have combined for less than 400 rushing yards on the season.
All said, Philadelphia’s offense ranks 22nd in the NFL in scoring despite Carson Wentz putting up 10 touchdowns compared to one interception on the season.
This isn’t to place all the onus on Philadelphia’s rushing attack. Its cornerback play has been absolutely atrocious. Opposing quarterbacks are completing north of 65 percent of their passes and averaging nearly 270 yards per game. That has Philly’s pass defense in the bottom eight of the league.
More than the struggles we’ve seen from Jalen Mills and other notable cornerbacks on the roster, there’s simply a lack of depth at this position. The Eagles have been forced to rely on youngsters Rasul Douglas and Avonte Maddox, both of whom seem to be in way over their heads against NFL competition. Again, there doesn’t seem to be an internal fix to these issues.
That leads us to the entire point of this article. If Philadelphia wants to salvage its season and play meaningful January football, general manager Howie Roseman must make a win-now move. That includes either trading for a running back or cornerback prior to the Oct. 30 deadline.
The good news here is that there’s an overabundance of proven players at both positions available on the trade block.
Philadelphia had previously been linked to both LeSean McCoy and Le’Veon Bell. The McCoy slant is interesting in that he would return to where it all started. He’d also cost pennies on the dollar compared to Bell.
And while the Eagles have reportedly balked at the idea trading for Bell, he’d probably be the best fit for this team moving forward. A true three-down back, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ holdout would make a real impact in both the run game and through the air.
He’d give Philadelphia’s offense more balance, helping its defense in the process. It’s a simple equation. If you are able to hold on to the ball and control the time of possession battle, the onus won’t be on the defense as much to continue making stops. In a vacuum, this would improve the Eagles’ defense in a dramatic way.
The issue? Philadelphia doesn’t have the cap room to take on the remainder of Bell’s franchise-tag salary. It would need to move a high-salary player to make this work.
The fix? Nick Foles. There’s still plenty of quarterback-needy teams out there who could use the reigning Super Bowl MVP as a stopgap option. Having benched Blake Bortles on Sunday, the Jacksonville Jaguars certainly come to mind first. Offer up Foles for a less-than-stellar return and use some of said return to add Bell to the mix. Easy, right?
If the Eagles decide to go a different route and focus on defense, one Patrick Peterson comes to mind. Sure the Arizona Cardinals have publicly denied the notion that the future Hall of Famer is in fact on the trade block. But this is nothing more than a narrative the organization is throwing out through the media as a way to potentially get a better return. That’s only brought to a new level after Peterson himself reportedly requested a trade.
Arizona is in the beginning stages of a rebuild. Once it is prepared to contend again, Peterson will be far beyond his prime. The idea of moving him while he’s still playing All-Pro level football has to be attractive to GM Steve Keim and Co.
If not Peterson, there’s still some options here. Pure conjecture, but the equally hapless San Francisco 49ers might look to trade Pro Bowl cornerback Richard Sherman.
Despite some struggles with injuries this season, Sherman remains one of the best pure cover guys in the NFL. It’s in this that any hypothetical trade involving the future Hall of Famer likely wouldn’t cost Philadelphia a whole heck of a lot.
There’s certainly options here for Philadelphia. And at this point, there’s absolutely no reason for Roseman and Co. not to pull off a trade that could help save what seems to be a lost season.
They are the defending champs. They are struggling. It’s time for the front office to step in and do work. Period.