The 2020 Philadelphia Eagles season can be perfectly summarized by what we saw during this game against the Dallas Cowboys: missed opportunities, bad coaching, boat-loads of mistakes and penalties, and poor defense, specifically with the play of defensive backs, and yes, tons of injuries…still. It appears that the Eagles have had a 54th member of the team since 2017, the Injury Bug.
The game started off with the electric rookie quarterback Jalen Hurts showing us that he has potential to be a very good starting quarterback in this league, in Philadelphia or elsewhere. He showed some serious toughness on that reversed touchdown run and he plays with a very high-level of confidence. The Eagles started out with a heavy-dose of the running game and it was firing on all cylinders as both Hurts and Sanders were gashing the defense for decent gains on seemingly every rush. The Eagles were getting chunk play after chunk play and moving with fluidity, something the offense has lacked for a majority of this season.
And then Hurts launched an absolute bomb on an 81-yard touchdown to the returning DeSean Jackson, who essentially disappeared afterwards. As soon as the ball left Hurts hand on that play, it felt like we all knew Jackson was going to score. At one point, the Eagles appeared to have this game firmly under control and held a 14-3 lead. However, as we have come to see since 2018, the Eagles are second only to the Atlanta Falcons when it comes to blowing leads and losing control in very important games.
The euphoria following the Jackson touchdown evaporated very quickly as Michael Gallup victimized the short-handed Eagles secondary with 6 catches for 121 yards and two touchdowns. The Eagles defense and secondary continues to be one of the primary weaknesses of this team and it is something that absolutely must be addressed in a big way this coming offseason. Darius Slay is fantastic and had his first interception as an Eagle at a very pivotal moment, but this defense simply needs more. Michael Jacquet giving up 182 yards receiving on 7-of-9 completed targets is flat-out inexcusable.
Getting back to that Slay interception, it appeared that it would rejuvenate the offense by giving them the ball in Dallas territory. The Eagles offense was down by 13 and struggling to score at that time. However, in perfect unison with how this season has went, the offense committed three incredibly bad penalties and neutralized the opportunity Slay handed them by coming away with no points.
The biggest reason this Eagles team lost today was blatantly obvious: this defense. Whether we want to look at injuries, poor scheme, or any other factor, the bottom line is that this defense is painfully bad and needs a complete overhaul.
Why are the cornerbacks playing so much off-coverage? Why did Schwartz refuse to take the struggling Jacquet out of the game until the damage was already done? I found it very strange when Schwartz gave Michael Jacquet such high praise prior to this game. Now, having seen how poorly Jacquet performed, it only proves how out-of-touch Schwartz is with the reality of where this team and his players really rank. I am never one to call for someone’s job, but it is about time that the Eagles let go of Jim Schwartz. It is highly reminiscent of the performances we saw during Chip Kelly’s tenure as the head coach of the Eagles.
To speak my piece about Hurts, I thought that he performed fairly well given the circumstances. However, the turnover issue we saw Carson Wentz struggle with this season showed its ugly head again and Hurts did have two interceptions and two fumbles lost. He also took three sacks in this game. This does not change my mind that he has a shot to be the future quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles, however it does give me a slight sense of pause and makes me wonder whether too much of the blame was left on Carson’s shoulders.
Aside from this defense’s performance, today showed that head coach Doug Pederson is also a much bigger issue than many fans and media outlets want to admit. While Wentz’s miserable season was highly concerning, today we saw that Pederson’s coaching and “game-planning” (or apparent lack thereof) has been a massive hindrance to this team’s success in its own special way. When playing the league’s worst rush defense, why abandon the running game entirely?
More concerning than that was the fact that the beginning of this game showed you what this offense could be if you prioritized running the ball. His play-calling was highly questionable for much of this game and leads me to believe that Pederson should be on his way out too. His stubbornness and refusal to run the ball consistently, even when it is working, is dumbfounding. Another frustrating aspect of his stubbornness came when he passed on a field goal opportunity to go for a 4th and 15. While you can make the argument that he has to remain aggressive, throwing a short pass to Zach Ertz who has probably broken less than 5 tackles in his entire Eagles career is hardly the smartest option available to you if you have to pass up the field goal.
Now that this season is officially over, the future for the Philadelphia Eagles hangs in the balance. There are many directions in which this team could possibly go. As we saw today, this defense needs an infusion of playmakers and a new defensive coordinator who can find a system that sets players up to succeed. The future at quarterback is cloudy and needs to be addressed sooner rather than later. The head coach should also be re-evaluated as he has struggled to put together game-plans and give his team a consistent chance to win games, which will be addressed in a future post. Frankly, if we had to look at the 2020 Eagles and summarize their season it would be simple and easy to label it: Not good enough. Across the board.