WTS: Is the Eagles’ Early Season Magic Fading?

Plus: Will Doug Pederson change his playbook with Sam Bradford returning to town?

Carson Wentz. (USA Today Sports)

Carson Wentz. (USA Today Sports)

After the 27-20 loss to Washington on Sunday afternoon, let’s see what the national media are saying about the Eagles.

Mark Maske of the Washington Post thinks the Eagles’ magic has already run out.

The Eagles did not produce a touchdown on offense against the Redskins. They scored second-quarter touchdowns on a kickoff return by Wendell Smallwood and an interception return by Malcolm Jenkins. The offense failed to do its part.

“I think it was just tough for us to kind of get in that groove today,” [Carson] Wentz said. “I didn’t feel like we were in sync very well, especially in the first half. The flow of the game was weird. We had the three straight defensive drives there with the kick return and the pick-six. So we never really got in a rhythm offensively.”

And Wentz accepted the responsibility.

“I’ve got to be better, especially late in the game,” he said. “Any time an offense has a chance to win at the end of the game and you come up short, it’s frustrating. I put that on myself. We’ve got to get better. It’s one of those things I’ve got to go back and watch the tape and really critique, and we’ll be back. We’ll be better.”

The Carson Wentz hype is fading quickly after two straight losses, opines Jacob Feldman of Sports Illustrated.

September’s gleeful press conferences—which came while Wentz piled up Rookie of the Week honors, in between earning comparisons to Peyton Manning and compliments from Brett Favre—felt like a fever dream. Now he was handling defeat like a vet. But as was the case last week in Detroit, Philadelphia’s struggles stretched far beyond its signal-caller.

After being shown a glimpse of the potential future, the city now gets to come to terms with the fact that getting there requires a journey. Even if Wentz criticizes himself as if he’s an all-pro, he’s better off being judged with optimism rather than expectation. A couple come-back-to-Earth performances have helped ensure that’s the case. Just look at the questions he was asked Sunday, each seemingly hunting for the faults around him. On his way out, one scribe even gave Wentz a chance to blame the sun.

The first month of the season offered a chance to fall madly in love. Now the fan base needs to settle in for the long haul. Philadelphia seems destined for the rebuild it forecasted when Sam Bradford was shipped off for a draft pick. The No. 2 overall pick looks more like what we expected: a project, not a prophet. We should’ve known. Wentzylvania won’t be built in a day. September was doomed to end.

Wentz was one of the worst quarterbacks in Week 6, according to Sharon Katz and Jacob Nitzberg of ESPN.com.

Carson Wentz: 29.5 Total QBR

The Philadelphia Eagles scored 20 points in their loss to the Washington Redskins on Sunday, but did so no thanks to Wentz and their offense, scoring their touchdowns on defense and a kickoff return.

The problem for Wentz was his inaccuracy. He completed 11-of-22 passes (50.0 percent) Sunday, the lowest completion percentage in a game in his young career. Wentz really struggled throwing to the sidelines; he completed 1-of-8 passes outside the painted numbers on the field for 7 yards. Entering Sunday’s game he was completing 60.8 percent of those passes on the season.

Wentz was deemed to be off target on six of those eight pass attempts (75.0 percent) outside the numbers on Sunday. Largely due to that, he was off target on 31.8 percent of his total passes Sunday; entering the game he had been off target on 9.9 percent of passes this season, the second-lowest percentage among qualified QBs through five weeks.

Wentz also hurt his team by taking five sacks, which cost the Eagles 2.1 expected points on those plays. Wentz, who entered the day with the best completion percentage and second-best Total QBR against the blitz this season, only faced a blitz on five dropbacks Sunday, but took a sack on two of them.

Even though former Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford knows Pederson’s playbook, the head coach won’t change his playbook against the Vikings, pens ESPN’s Tim McManus.

Having worked in the Eagles offense all offseason, Bradford knows the playbook inside and out, and will likely be passing some nuggets along to the Vikings coaching staff this week.

Will that at all affect how Pederson puts together the game plan?

“One guy has my entire playbook,” Pederson responded. “One guy.”

He might mention it to the coaches, it was suggested by reporters.

“He’s gotta worry about getting himself ready to play, too.”

He then was asked if Bradford’s knowledge would affect how the Eagles put together a game plan.

“We also, back a few years ago, Donovan [McNabb] was in Washington when we played him, and we had a pretty good day. So, listen, I’m not going to change anything. Will we tweak some stuff? Yes.”

The Eagles are now a pretender in the NFL, opines Mike Sando of ESPN In$ider.

Philadelphia Eagles (3-2): Depth and playing with a rookie quarterback and first-time head coach were top concerns for the Eagles entering the season. Those could still be the top concerns even though Carson Wentz and Doug Pederson started fast. Wentz has plateaued some. Pederson used a timeout before punting on fourth-and-24 from his own 40 with 1:44 left in a game Philly trailed by one score Sunday. The Eagles never ran another offensive play.

The Eagles shouldn’t panic just yet, but Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com writes he expected the Eagles to be a rebuilding team this year.

Eventually, everyone looks like a rookie. Carson Wentz did for the first time at Washington, and the loss exposed a few issues that should concern the Philadelphia Eagles. The loss of stud right tackle Lane Johnson to a 10-game suspension was huge. Wentz was sacked five times, was almost ripped out of his jersey a time or two and was under more duress than he had had to deal with previously.

He struggled to complete half of his passes, and the utter inconsistency of his outside receivers would be enough to drive a veteran quarterback nuts. Jordan Matthews is simply hard to watch most of the time and catching the football does not come naturally to him. Couple that with the fact that Philadelphia’s defense, so airtight through the first three weeks, looked vulnerable for the second straight week.

I’m not saying it’s time to panic yet, and Wentz is the last thing anyone should worry about. He’s the real deal. But Johnson isn’t coming back any time soon, the lack of weapons is very real, and without a top five-ish defense, this team isn’t going to contend for the postseason. Now, none of us really thought they were going to do that, anyway, back in August, and you have to keep that in mind. This is very much a rebuilding team. It’s not getting easier anytime soon, either, with the vaunted Minnesota Vikings defense ahead next week (including a reunion with former Eagles starting quarterback Sam Bradford ) and then a Sunday night tilt with the Cowboys in Week 8.

The loss of Lane Johnson could be a season-changing problem if the offensive line continues to struggle, opines Will Brinson of CBSSports.com.

Their starting right tackle was handed a 10-game suspension this past week, meaning he’ll be out of the lineup until Week 16. The early indicator — Sunday’s loss to the Redskins — saw rookie quarterback Carson Wentz get hit early and often with Halapoulivaati Vaitai adjusting to life as a starter.

On the first offensive play of the game, Wentz was sacked by Will Blackmon and Ryan Kerrigan. Four plays later he was sacked again. The Eagles did a nice job of adjusting, giving up just one more first-half sack, but Wentz was getting pressured significantly.

The Eagles’ final two offensive snaps before punting the ball away on their last drive were sacks as well, as the offensive line simply couldn’t hold up late. PFF credited Vaitai with giving up two of the sacks and allowing five pressures total on Wentz.

It’s early to peg this as a season-changing problem, but the reality is Philly lost two games in a row and now has the Minnesota Vikings and then two away divisional games against the Cowboys and Giants.

MMQB’s Peter King awarded rookie Wendell Smallwood as his special teams player of the week.


Wendell Smallwood, running back/kick returner, Philadelphia.

Thanks to the dumb excessive celebration penalty on Washington’s Vernon Davis (dumb because a player shooting a free throw with a football should not be flagged, ever) on the previous play, Smallwood took the ensuing kickoff at the Eagles’ 14-yard line and weaved/sprinted 86 yards for the first kickoff returned for a touchdown in the NFL this season.