Back-to-back losses to playoff bound teams had the Eagles slipping to a losing record. Injuries are an easy excuse, with an entire receiving corps on the treatment table. The flames were fanned by a video from former NFL quarterback Dan Orlovsky, who ruthlessly gutted the raw birds with a fowl chargrilling of the backup wideouts. He highlighted imprecise route running as the major obstacle, pointing out poor discipline from a combination of JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Mack Hollins and Greg Ward. But does throwing to such a raw receiving corps absolve Wentz and Pederson from blame?
Let’s start with the quarterback, seeing as the union appears to have kicked into full PR mode. Wentz played poorly, regardless of whether he got no help from his teammates. Aside from the obvious issues with ball security, he’s doing terribly within the structure of the offense. In a number of Orlovsky’s clips, particularly the last, he delivers on that crossing route so late the defensive back has an age to break on the ball. It explains the gross total of sacks he’s taken in the past couple of games, even if the pass protection has been less than ideal. It’s fair he takes some blame considering how hesitant Wentz looks when he plants his backfoot. Regardless of Arcega-Whiteside’s mistake, Wentz hitches that pass twice, then turns his square to make a sidearm throw. We haven’t seen footwork that poor since he was a rookie, and the alarming regression should be a concern. He’s missed a number of short and intermediate throws because of mechanics.
The man in charge has also had an underwhelming few weeks. The lack of offensive understanding at this stage of the season is undoubtedly the responsibility of the players, but did anyone expect a pair of limited route-tree college pass catchers to adapt to the subtleties of the west coast offense immediately? Arcega-Whiteside should know how to run a slant, but that was never his strength at Stanford. He thrived on jump-ball and contested catch opportunities on vertical routes. Asking him to settle in a zone on a timing pattern is exposing his weaknesses. He’ll never be mistaken for Alshon Jeffery but why not throw him a back-shoulder fade against the Seahawks’ heavy single-high coverages. If the Eagles receivers can’t beat single man-to-man, it’s perfectly reasonable to expect the offense to adapt to generate chunk plays in situations where they fail to consistently generate separation. It might not have been Doug Pederson’s decision also, but thrusting Andre Dillard into the starting right tackle spot without a minute of experience was a disaster. Investing in the development of Vaitai and others only makes sense if the staff keep stability up front. Messing around with Dillard won’t only hamper his progression, but will also exacerbate Wentz’s weak form.
Fortunately, because Jason Garrett refuses to abandon his pre-war plan for revolutionising the NFL, the Eagles remain in contention in the NFC East. A three-game run of winnable games is welcoming, but the offense must be ruthless to capitalise on the favourable progression.