It’s week 17 of the NFL season and the 6-9 Washington Football Team will be facing a 4-10-1 Eagles team on the road in Philadelphia on Sunday at 8:20 PM EST. The Eagles are last in the division and the only team in the NFC East that is completely eliminated from the playoffs, but their head coach Doug Pederson never seems to back down even when the outcome of a game is irrelevant. I expect the Eagles to play as hard as they can this week, regardless of division rankings.
The Eagles are a tough team to figure out. They have consistently been one of the top-2 teams in the division for the last several years and were predicted by many to win the division this season, but have catastrophically imploded instead. After signing an extension that will keep him under contract through 2024 in the offseason, Carson Wentz has regressed to being one of the statistically worst QBs in the NFL. Despite winning a Super Bowl only 3 seasons ago, reports have surfaced that head coach Doug Pederson’s job may be in danger. And ever since Chip Kelly was fired, the Eagles have seemed to be one of the most injured teams in the NFL. This week they may be missing DT Fletcher Cox, RB Miles Sanders, TE Dallas Goedert, DE Derek Barnett, and LT Jordan Mailata to injury, among others.
It may also be worth noting that the WFT were 4 point underdogs earlier in the week, when the QB situation was uncertain, but are now 3.5 point favorites on news Alex Smith seems likely to start.
I asked Brandon Lee Gowton of Bleeding Green Nation five questions to better understand the state of the Eagles and what to look for in this game.
1) I’m sure you’ve had to answer some version of this question almost every week, but what the heck happened to Carson Wentz? I’ve never seen a QB regress so dramatically without age or injury being the obvious reason why. What do you think will happen with him in the offseason? Would he find success on another team?
Yeah, you could say that it’s come up a couple times.
Multiple factors have contributed to his downfall. If you watch his 2017 highlights, you can see that he’s not quite the same athlete he used to be. Injuries have taken a toll. Beyond that, though, the Eagles haven’t really done the best job of supporting him. Howie Roseman clearly hasn’t built a good roster around him. Doug Pederson and his coaching staff lacked the answers to get him back on track prior to his benching.
But Wentz also deserves a lot of blame for his struggles. He isn’t very coachable and that’s a big problem. His mechanics were a mess this season. And it’s not like he’s merely running the plays that Pederson calls out there; Wentz has a big imprint on the offense.
The feeling here is that Wentz needs to be humbled and I was hoping the benching would do just that. But I have my doubts that it did when I saw Adam Schefter’s report about him wanting to move on if the Eagles continued to start Jalen Hurts this season. Maybe I’m wrong but I got the sense that Wentz feels like he wasn’t so much to blame for his own decline.
I think the Eagles might try to hire a head coach with the idea that they’ll be able to “fix” Wentz. I have my concerns about that as a sound plan if the quarterback doesn’t prove to be more coachable moving forward.
I think the Eagles should turn the page on Wentz. With the way his contract is configured, it’s not like they can bring him back for just one more season. It’s really either 1) trade him this offseason or 2) commit two more years to him since $15 million of his 2022 salary becomes fully guaranteed on the third day of the 2021 league year.
Wentz could very well be salvageable but I have my doubts it’ll happen here. I don’t think he’ll forever be bad as he was this year. But I do wonder about what his ceiling is now if his floor is literally the worst starting quarterback in the NFL.
2) How would you describe Jalen Hurts’ play so far this season? Do you think he’ll be the clear starting QB next season and what’s your confidence in him on a scale of 1-10?
On the whole, I’d say more encouraging than not. The offense has been more functional with him than it has with Wentz. Really like his mobility and his touch. Kind of has an “It” factor. Needs to improve when it comes to repetitive accuracy and breaking the pocket too soon. Not unlike Wentz, fumbles have also been a big issue.
I think the Eagles should turn the page on Wentz and move forward with Hurts, yes. To be clear, that sentiment is not about definitively knowing Hurts is a franchise quarterback. It’s that I think the ship has sailed for Wentz being successful in Philly and Hurts is on an inexpensive rookie deal. It’s not like the Eagles need to make a serious long-term commitment to Hurts anytime soon.
Do I think Hurts WILL be the clear starter? Hard to say. Jeffrey Lurie might not be ready to give up on Wentz. And if Wentz is back, one would think there will be a quarterback competition.
My confidence level in Hurts moving forward is about a 5. Again, there have been some encouraging signs. And one must consider he’s a 22-year-old rookie who didn’t have the benefit of a full offseason or an ideal supporting cast around him. But there’s a pretty good chance Hurts doesn’t come close to being an elite starter in the NFL. He might just be “fine.”
In short, the Eagles’ quarterback situation is a mess.
3) What is your opinion of Doug Pederson and has it shifted over the course of the season? How real is the talk of friction between him and the front office?
Pederson clearly hasn’t had a good season. But I’m not ready to make him the scapegoat for all this team’s issues like some fans — and the organization (?) — might be ready to do.
Pederson ultimately deserves blame for the Eagles’ offensive struggles. But he also had coaching staff changes forced on him earlier this year and, as previously noted, Wentz has a large influence over the offense. And it’s not like Pederson has any serious power when it comes to the player personnel department, that’s all Roseman.
I think Pederson’s power is pretty limited, especially for what you might expect from a guy who helped lead the Eagles to their first ever Super Bowl win. In this vein, I believe Pederson has grown frustrated taking a disproportionate amount of heat for the team’s struggles.
I’m fine with the Eagles moving on from Pederson if they feel like they need to clean house. There’s a strong argument this franchise needs a fresh start. But I think it’d be downright pathetic if the Eagles fired Pederson and kept Roseman.
4) The Eagles are set to be in a very tough spot with regards to the salary cap next year. Which players do you expect to be cap casualties in the offseason and how confident are you they can field a competitive team next year?
It’s a bad spot to be in, especially with the unforeseen COVID-19 impact.
Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson are obvious goners. Malik Jackson should be one of the Eagles’ two post-June 1 designations. Zach Ertz should be traded.
Beyond that, the Eagles are probably going to have to restructure some deals, which is what got them into this mess in the first place.
I think the Eagles can be relatively “competitive” if the NFC East is weak again next year but I don’t think seriously competing in 2021 should be a serious goal. The Eagles need to think about taking steps for them to get back on track in 2022 and beyond.
5) You’ve had 15 games to get a sense for how this Eagles team plays. What trends have you seen that you expect to be continued in this game and how do you expect Washington to gameplan the Eagles on both sides of the ball?
I’ll keep it simple. I expect Washington to count on their defensive front to create ample disruption against an injury-ravaged Eagles offensive line. I expect Washington to throw to whoever isn’t being covered by Darius Slay because that guy will probably be open. Doing those things should lend to success.
And, yet, I’m pretty confident that the Eagles will find a way to win this game. It’d be the perfect disappointing ending to a miserable season. Ruin draft position and likely hand the NFC East crown to the Cowboys, who I think will beat the Giants. For your sake and mine, hopefully I’m wrong.
Thanks again to Brandon Lee Gowton for taking time out of his day to answer our questions about the Eagles.
As of right now, Vegas has Washington as 3.5 point favorites over Philadelphia. How would you bet?
This poll is closed
Washington wins by more than 3 points
Washington wins by 3 points or fewer or it’s a tie
Philadelphia wins outright
As of now, Vegas has the over/under for this game at 43.5 points. Which would you bet?
This poll is closed
44 or more total points are scored (both sides combined)
Fewer than 44 total points are scored (both sides combined)
Since this is the final game of the season and determines whether or not we get into the playoffs, which would you prefer?
This poll is closed
Washington loses a close game and misses the playoffs, but drafts 7th overall in the next draft.
Washington crushes the Eagles and goes to the playoffs, but drafts 20th or later in the next draft.