Regression to the mean— that’s a description of the current Philadelphia Eagles organization and team roster which is gaining credibility. The first reference to it EYE saw was made by former Eagles DE Chris Long, who was part of the 2017 Super Bowl winning Birds.
A large chunk of the blame for the 0-2-1 Eagles’ struggles through three weeks has fallen on Carson Wentz, who has looked like a shadow of his MVP-level self. Injuries certainly haven’t helped. But with the team, as a whole, struggling at virtually every level, blame is also starting to be placed at the feet of general manager Howie Roseman for constructing an objectively bad football team. And in the latest episode of his Green Light podcast, Chris Long certainly didn’t call out Roseman… but he at least glanced in that direction.
“It is time to panic.
“Even if they got the win [vs. the Bengals], it’s not a good football team. If they’d won that ballgame, I’m still feeling the same way about this team.
“The roster has fallen off, really suddenly. It’s compounded by being the most snakebit team in football, when it comes to injuries. I get that. Reagor, DeSean, Goedert yesterday – they’ve gone youth, and the youth hasn’t stayed healthy. I know I’m biased, I’m the old guy who moved on and it might sound like sour grapes. I’m only airing this out because I’m analyzing the game. You know? 2017 was f***ing lightning in a bottle, and that’s maybe magic we can only recreate. We didn’t build to that. I say we, I wasn’t there before. We didn’t build to that, it just happened. Then there was a regression to the mean, and now it looks like the window’s kind of closed. They’re not a good football team right now.”
Adam Herman of NBC Sports Philadelphia offered his interpretation of Chris Long’s commentary:
“I think what Long is saying here speaks to concerns that a lot of Eagles fans currently have about the team, and the organization’s direction.
“Was 2017… just a fluke?
“It felt, when the Eagles won the Super Bowl after an MVP-level season from Carson Wentz, like the beginning of another Andy Reid-like stretch. Always good, always in the Super Bowl conversation. Instead, the team has regressed with each coming season.
“Some of the issues are tied to injuries. (That’s what happens when you add a number of injury-prone veterans.) But other issues are decidedly not injury-related, like building a team without any talent at linebacker, getting rid of your defensive leader without a firm succession play at safety, and failing to develop quality depth at offensive line despite an aging OL corps. There’s also Roseman’s uninspiring draft record.
“You can survive one glaring flaw as a team builder, but you can’t survive an entire stockpile of them.
“Long went on to say he’s worried about “heat upstairs” causing “out-of-character decisions”, potentially about Carson Wentz. One thing’s for sure: this season is going to be far more formative for the Eagles’ future than fans initially expected.”
Yeah, it looks like it’s gonna be one of those years…
The coaches and players have to shake off the “regression” theory and prepare for the national spotlight and the defending NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers on Sunday night.
HC Doug Pederson said on Monday that he’s considering a semi-radical overhauling of the offense. DC Jim Schwartz said he needs to simplify things on defense, to allow more of an attack mode and less “read-and-react” stuff.
Dave Spadaro thinks we will see these systemic changes against the 49ers:
More Emphasis on the running game—
They had the running game going early on Sunday against Cincinnati, went away from it for a spell in the second quarter, and then never got it back in the second half (111 of the team’s 175 rushing yards were gained in the first two quarters).
Use of the no-huddle offense early and often—
Go “Turbo” and keep it that way. Pick up the pace. Do something to establish an identity with this offense, because through three games it’s hard to tell what the Eagles are all about on offense.
Moving Zach Ertz around as much as possible—Target him 15-20 times every week and to do that you’re going to have to move him around the formation, because the double teams are going to be coming. Put him in motion. Shake off the coverage. Force the football to Ertz. Scheme to get him open and get him the football.
Getting DeSean Jackson involved—This may be irrelevant if DJax’ hamstring is still barking, but just get him the darn ball more than the offense has gotten him the ball through three games. Does he still have the speed? Seems that way. Why he has only 10 catches is one of the early season’s biggest mysteries.
Putting Carson Wentz in motion—It’s always seemed that Wentz is proficient when he’s out of the pocket, and he certainly has the athletic ability to get outside and be a dual pass/run threat.
On defense, bringing the heat—The eight sacks on Sunday against the Bengals were encouraging. Very much so. These things come in bunches so maybe the highly touted defensive line is ready to roll consistently. What the defense hasn’t done is take the football away. Would Jim Schwartz consider upping the intensity in the blitz game? It’s a tough proposition with starting cornerback Avonte Maddox out for some time with a lower-body injury, but why not take a chance here and there? The Eagles need takeaways.
Being aggressive, got to be aggressive— More than anything, and Pederson is usually all about this, the Eagles have to play aggressive football. The remaining schedule isn’t easy – the three-game stretch ahead of at San Francisco, at Pittsburgh, and home with Baltimore is brutal. But there are still five games remaining in the NFC East and the Eagles have to win all five of those games, no questions asked. This isn’t a time to back down. The Eagles are, truly, underdogs, so why not embrace the concept and go full us-against-the-world and just keep bringing it aggressively?
None of these ideas will solve the structural defects in a true “regression to the mean” problem which can only be addressed by the hierarchy of the organization. But at least they address the need to play a better brand of football right here and now.