I was going to harp on some of the “not so lovely” things about the 2-1 Eagles this week, things we saw in the most recent win over the Colts. But then I realized what coach Doug and the rest of his staff are doing is actually preparing this team for the long run in a long season. This is still a work in progress. They are working with less than 80 percent of a full deck in a league which at the same time is changing interpretation of the rules of play almost daily. Almost every other team in the league is equally disadvantaged in terms of personnel and new rules adaptation right now.
Yeah, we’re being bailed out a little so far by our red zone defense which is redefining the cliche “bend but don’t break.” But sooner or later we’ve got to see a lot more consistent pressure from the defense. There are still too many penalties—10 for 110 yards against the Colts, including a couple of costly PI calls on Jalen Mills (which truth be told were on underthrown ducks from the currently noodle-armed Andrew Luck—something which is difficult to prepare for, like facing a knuckle-ball pitcher in baseball). Often our tackling looks sloppy. The left side of the offensive line is struggling at times with pass protection. The timing on our offense in general has just been a little “off”.
But again, Doug is coaching for the long haul. He is “blooding” young players (as Beans from Botnay Bay would say) who are basically filling in for still-injured or PT-limited veterans, knowing that these young guys will have to get up to speed now in order to contribute down the brutal home stretch of the long schedule.
You’re going to have timing and miscue issues when you are giving so much playing time early to guys like Isaac Seumalo, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Shelton Gibson, Wendell Smallwood, Matt Pryor and the rookie TE’s…Same applies to defensive newbies like Destiny Vaeao, Sidney Jones, Rasul Douglas, Nate Gerry, Avonte Maddox, Josh Sweat, and dare I say Jalen Mills…But allowing these guys to take their lumps early in the season is the long-haul approach to achieving full strength depth by the time November and December rolls around.
So instead of looking backwards too much at previous game mistakes, I think Doug and staff are more focused on planning for the next two or three steps ahead.
Right now the Eagles are statistically a very average team— maybe below average in pass defense at the moment. The return of Carson Wentz as a starter at QB is extremely encouraging, however. The baseline for his return was worrisome— sacked five times and pressured and hit a lot as Indianapolis brought the heat and the blitz. The offense has a lot of perking up to do.
But Doug’s “work in progress” approach is based upon his belief that by exposing his squad to duress and less-than-ideal personnel combinations now, the group as a whole will come together at full strength sooner than later, and just in time to be able to peak with a superb finishing kick in the marathon.