10 observations from Eagles-Redskins

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10 observations from Eagles-Redskins

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Deep down, you knew they weren’t going to accomplish anything this year. Deep down, you knew this was inevitable.

Tonight’s 10 Observations puts a bow on a completely miserable Eagles season.

For the seventh straight year, there will be no playoff victory for the Eagles. For the ninth straight year, there won’t be a playoff win at home. And for the 55th straight year, there won’t be an NFL championship in Philly. The Eagles lost, 38-24, to the Washington Redskins at Lincoln Financial Field (see Instant Replay).

It’s ugly. It’s miserable. It’s grim. It’s embarrassing. It’s pathetic.

1. Enough of the pretending. Enough of all the talk about the playoffs. Now we can take a long, hard, honest look at what the Philadelphia Eagles really are: A 6-9 team that doesn’t do anything particularly well, has only a handful of elite players, allowed 38 or more points in three of its last four home games, has allowed a franchise-record 34 passing touchdowns and early in the Giants game will become the second team in NFL history to allow 6,000 yards three straight seasons. This is a bad team that’s getting worse under the stewardship of Chip Kelly. The product they’ve consistently put on the field this year is an embarrassment, and the extent of the embarrassment was masked only slightly the last month or so by the poor excuse for a playoff race the Eagles found themselves in. Chip Kelly inexplicably gutted the roster of its talent and gutted the locker room of its swagger, and this is the result. Kelly deserves to be back as head coach next year because of the 10-6 seasons his first two years. But Jeff Lurie cannot allow him to continue with final say over personnel decisions. Lurie must find a respected, veteran general manager to start the long task of rebuilding this roster into a group that legitimately contend for a championship. Kelly has done enough damage.

2. Let’s put some context on Kelly’s first three seasons as head coach of the Eagles: He is the first Eagles head coach since the Swamp Fox — Marion Campbell — who failed to advance a round in the playoffs in his first three years. And Campbell coached in the mid-1980s. Buddy Ryan won the NFC East and got a first-round bye in his third year. Rich Kotite won a wild-card game in his second year. Ray Rhodes won a wild-card game in his first year. And Andy Reid got to the conference semifinals in his second year and an NFC Championship Game in his third year. Kelly has less to show for his first three years than any Eagles head coach in 30 years. That’s pitiful.

3. I still honestly have no clue how to evaluate Sam Bradford. Hard to ask for any more than he gave Saturday night. Threw for 380 yards and a touchdown and got no help. None. There are so many moving parts to this story. Does Chip want him back? And at what price? Does Bradford even want to come back here next year? And who else will pursue him? And at what price? And what are the options? Maybe Chip is intrigued by Robert Griffin III or Colin Kaepernick. Bradford’s numbers were very good Saturday night. But when you take into account all the drops, the lack of help from his offensive line and the absence of a running game, they were very impressive. He didn’t get the Eagles a win, but I’m not sure what else he could have done.

4. I would love to see what Bradford could do with the receivers Kirk Cousins has. They are just such non-factors. Somebody tweeted to me Saturday night asking if Todd Pinkston were available, and the sad truth is Pink would be the Eagles’ second-best receiver right now behind Jordan Matthews. The scary thing is the Eagles have devoted so many resources to restocking the wide receiver position after cutting ties with DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. A second-round pick and a third-round pick last year on Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff and a first-round pick this year on Nelson Agholor. Not to mention some guaranteed money on Miles Austin. The Eagles have too many needs to keep drafting wide receivers with premium draft picks, so they just have to hope Agholor can blossom next year and somehow Huff can finally take that next step. Because whoever is playing quarterback for this team next year deserves an NFL-caliber group of wideouts. They didn’t have one this year.

5. Pretty clear now that Kelly has to make a change at defensive coordinator. I don’t think all the problems are Bill Davis’ fault. Certainly it’s tough running a defense when the offense is running tempo, and there’s clearly not a ton of talent here. But the Eagles are so historically bad something has to change. They’ve allowed 34 passing touchdowns, most in franchise history. They’ve allowed 400 yards in six straight games, something only four other NFL teams have ever done. Early in the Giants game, they’ll become only the second team in NFL history to allow 6,000 total yards in three straight seasons. This is just unprecedented stuff. I just don’t see how Chip can bring Davis back next year.

6. The Eagles’ inability to play competitive football at home is one of the more disturbing trends of the year. They lost by 10 to Dallas, by 28 to the Bucs, by 23 to the Cards and by 14 Saturday night. That’s just mind-boggling. If you’re routinely getting blown out in your own stadium, that’s a sign of a team that’s just not prepared to play football. They’re not just losing at home, they’re getting humiliated. This is the first time they lost four home games by 14 or more points since 1976. Just unacceptable. Embarrassing. Pathetic.

7. Some of these stats are just numbing. The Eagles allowed 33 touchdown passes in 2012, the Nnamdi year. They allowed 30 last year, the Bradley Fletcher, Cary Williams year. This year, they allowed more. They’re at 34 now, which is 17th-most in NFL history with a game to play. Two more Sunday gets them to 36, which would be seventh-most in NFL history. How can they be this bad? Part of it is pass rush, which has been largely up and down. Mainly down. But most of it is just guys roaming free and nobody there to cover them. When you see the same problems popping up again and again with the same coach and a different set of players, you know where to place the blame.

8. Seven years without a playoff win. That’s just unthinkable. From 2000 through 2008, the Eagles had only two years without a playoff win. This is the Eagles’ longest drought without a playoff win since 1981 through 1991 and matches their longest drought without reaching the conference semifinals since 1961 through 1978. Chip, what have you done with this football team?

9. We’ve spent a lot of time criticizing Kiko Alonso, but I’ll tell you what, Mychal Kendricks has not played a whole lot better than Alonso. After the way he performed the last two years, he’s been one of this team’s biggest disappointments.

10. Finally, this. I don’t think Lurie fires Kelly. But, man, I wouldn’t be shocked if he does. And honestly, I wouldn’t blame him. Down the stretch, the Eagles lost five of their last seven games, four of them in embarrassing fashion, three of those at home. This is a bad football team with not much hope for the near future. It’s one thing to lose. It’s another to just not be able to compete with teams like the Bucs, Lions and Redskins. This is a wretched football team, and it’s not going to be an easy process turning this around.

Kirk Cousins still cautious of Eagles' defense despite recent struggles

Kirk Cousins still cautious of Eagles' defense despite recent struggles

As Kirk Cousins and the rest of his Washington teammates sit down to watch film to prepare for their second matchup against the Eagles this season, it’ll probably be a very different experience than the last time. 
 
Heading into that Week 6 matchup, the Eagles were widely considered to have one of the best defenses in the NFL. Jim Schwartz’s unit had given up just 12.8 points per game through its first four weeks. 
 
In the eight games since, that number jumped to 24.4 points allowed per game. 
 
So what happened? 
 
“I don’t know,” Cousins said on a conference call with Philadelphia reporters Wednesday. 
 
“I still see a talented defense and the same players who I know are capable of making some impressive plays over and over. All of us in the NFL have moments where we’re up and down and may stub our toe from one week to the next, but it doesn’t really mean that they’re not a stout defense that’s going to be a challenge. I feel like we’ve got our hands full with these guys this week.”
 
Washington didn’t have its hands full in the last matchup. In fact, the Eagles gave up 493 total yards and 230 rushing yards – both season highs – to Washington in the first meeting on Oct. 16. 
 
On Tuesday, when discussing the recent play of the defense, Schwartz said he thought his unit was one of the best in the league through nine games, but is in a three-game slump (see story).
 
What does Washington coach Jay Gruden think happened? 
 
“We’ve kind of gone through a little bit of the same thing,” said Gruden, whose team has lost two in a row. “They’ve been close. They just haven’t made some of the plays they made earlier in the year and offenses are making the plays. And we’re the same way on defense. We haven’t changed a whole lot personnel-wise; we’re still doing some good things, but it’s just third-down plays and chances to get off the field and turnovers, we’re just not doing a good job with that. 
 
“I think the Eagles are probably in the same boat. They still have good players and a good scheme, it just comes down to making plays. And for whatever reason, the offense is making more plays than the defense and that’s our case also.”

Doug Pederson indicates Lane Johnson will start at RT when he returns

Doug Pederson indicates Lane Johnson will start at RT when he returns

Talk about too, little too late.
 
Lane Johnson is due back in two weeks, and Eagles head coach Doug Pederson on Wednesday for the first time seemed to indicate that he’s leaning toward getting Johnson back at right tackle as soon as he returns.
 
Johnson, the Eagles’ best offensive lineman the first month of the season, was suspended by the NFL for 10 games for a second positive test for a banned substance. By the time his appeal was heard and rejected, it was after the Eagles’ loss to the Lions.
 
Johnson hasn’t played since.

The Eagles face the Redskins at the Linc and Ravens in Baltimore the next two Sundays. Johnson is eligible to return to the NovaCare Complex the day after the Ravens' game, which would be Monday, Dec. 19.
 
The Eagles then face the Giants three days later on a Thursday night at the Linc and finish the season on Jan. 1 at home against the Cowboys in a game that will likely have no meaning for either team.
 
Previously, when asked about Johnson, Pederson was non-commital about playing him. But on Wednesday, he seemed to indicate he would move him back to right tackle for the Giants' game.
 
“Listen, he was a big part of our success early in the season,” Pederson said. “So I wouldn’t hesitate to put him back out there.”
 
The Eagles, 5-7 after a 3-0 start, are on the brink of playoff elimination and could well be eliminated by the time Johnson returns.
 
Rookie Halapoulivaati Vaitai started the first six games after Johnson’s suspension before getting hurt. Left guard Allen Barbre started the last two, with Stefen Wisniewski moving into left guard.
 
Even though Pederson indicated Johnson would return to right tackle as soon as he gets back, he did qualify the statement.
 
“He comes back on a short week, too, against the Giants, in a couple weeks,” he said. “Got to see where Big V is at coming off an injury and see where that’s at. 
 
“We’re beginning the conversations right now. When he does return, we’ll have to see. We still have some games. Have to get through these two games.”         
 
Johnson, the fourth pick in the 2013 draft, started 44 of a possible 48 games his first three seasons, missing only four in 2014 during his first NFL suspension.
 
After the Lions game, he said he hoped the Eagles had meaningful games remaining when he got back.
 
The Eagles are 3-1 this year with Johnson and 2-6 without him. In his four NFL seasons, the Eagles are 27-22 when he plays.
 
“Stay in shape and hopefully the team is good enough to stay in playoff contention,” he said in the visiting locker room at Ford Field back on Oct. 9. 
 
“Come back and I’ll be fresh and we can make a run for it. That’s the best-case scenario. We’ll see what happens.”