WTS: Eagles’ Playoff Hopes ‘On Life Support’

Plus: Why have the Eagles been struggling lately?

Doug Pederson. (Jeff Fusco)

Doug Pederson. (Jeff Fusco)

After the Eagles’ 27-13 home loss to the Green Bay Packers last night, let’s see what the national media are saying about the team.

But first, an update on Brandon Brooks. He missed last night’s game with an illness, but has been released from the hospital.

NFL.com’s Chris Wesseling thinks the Eagles’ playoff hopes are hanging by a thread after falling below .500.

3. Whereas the Packers righted the ship to revive their chances in an underwhelming NFC North, the Eagles’ postseason hopes are on life support. They are not only two losses behind the Redskins in a cut-throat NFC East, but also are fourth in line for the conference’s final wild-card spot. As well as the defense has played at home this season, it isn’t a shut-down unit. A hit-or-miss prospect even at peak strength, the offense can’t overcome the loss of talent on the line or the inexperience at wide receiver. The future is bright for a well-coached team with an ascendant young franchise quarterback and a talented defensive nucleus. Still, it’s too much to expect this flawed roster to win out against a remaining schedule that includes matchups versus the 10-1 Cowboys, the 8-3 Giants and the 6-4-1 Redskins.

5. When the NFL Competition Committee instituted the replay-review mechanism and refined the rules for coaches’ challenges, the idea was to discourage frivolous breaks in football’s natural momentum. Late in the third quarter of a one-score game, Eagles coach Doug Pederson challenged a 2-yard Jared Cook completion on first down — leaving him without the freedom to challenge any game-altering play the rest of the way.

The Eagles weren’t good on both sides of the ball last night, notes FoxSports.com’s Brett Smiley.

1. The Eagles in the trenches on both sides of the ball

The semi-vaunted Eagles front seven failed to generate much pressure on [Aaron] Rodgers as the Packers QB operated in a clean pocket, completing 30 of 39 pass attempts for 313 yards. He didn’t get sacked once and only got hit twice. And of course he bought time with his uncanny pocket maneuvering as needed. While the Eagles hardly got a finger on Rodgers, Carson Wentz spent most of the night running for his life and on occasion barely had enough to let the running backs slip out for a screen. The Packers took down Wentz four times on 40 dropbacks for 43 drive-stalling yards lost.

The Eagles get a middle-of-the-road grade from Chris Simms of Bleacher Report.

Offense: Carson Wentz could’ve entered a shootout with Aaron Rodgers. The 10 other Eagles in Wentz’s huddle? Probably not. Philadelphia lacks the firepower to take advantage of a defense that surrendered 47 and 42 points over its last two games, respectively. That’s tough to overcome.

Defense: Rodgers had one comfortable cushion to work with Monday night. Eagles cornerbacks failed to challenge Packers wideouts, instead opting for free releases and zone coverage. Rodgers carved that up with quick throws that gained five yards before any Eagle came close.

Grade: C

A limited playbook is hurting the Eagles and their chances on making the postseason, opines Cameron DaSilva of FoxSports.com.

Carson Wentz has been good, but he’s played like a rookie. The playbook is condensed, routes are short and running backs are his primary targets far too often. It’s fair to understand that Doug Pederson wants to protect Wentz, but at some point he has to trust his receivers and throw downfield. The passing game just isn’t good enough right now.

Although he struggled at times last night, Will Brinson of CBSSports.com is still excited about Carson Wentz in the long-run.

The full production from Eagles rookie Carson Wentz on Monday night probably isn’t going to look that good. There were multiple moments where he was both knocked around, sacked, intercepted and otherwise looked like a rookie.

But you watch Wentz play and it’s hard no to be excited for the future. The dude can spin it and he has that look — the same sort of poise that Dak Prescott has for the Dallas Cowboys just without the offensive line full of All-World players to protect him for 10 seconds per play.

He’s sneaky athletic, which is a huge plus for escaping that pressure. But he doesn’t throw the ball down the field very much. Part of that is by design and part of that is because of his receivers. But when he does, it doesn’t always end up well.

Wentz and the Eagles might struggle down the stretch. They’re now 5-6 and fading from the playoff hunt. But there should be hope for the long haul when it comes to the Eagles, because Wentz looks capable of emerging into a franchise quarterback.

Kevin Van Valkenburg of ESPN.com writes how Carson Wentz won his teammates’ trust in his first year in the NFL, including one veteran safety.

In practice, Wentz would sling the ball into tight spots with fearlessness and authority, make throws [Sam] Bradford and [Chase] Daniel wouldn’t even try, and then he’d flutter passes that made him look mortal. The Eagles tweaked his mechanics. They made him square his shoulders and taught him to hold the ball higher, and his consistency improved. One day he spun out of the pocket, reversed direction, rolled to his left and uncorked a laser toward the sideline. The Eagles’ veterans began whispering to one another: “Damn, this kid has some juice!” But even after his best plays, he seemed subdued. Muted, almost.

Subtle signs of his attitude and work ethic, though, began to emerge. Malcolm Jenkins, arguably the most important veteran in the Eagles’ locker room, prides himself on being the last man out of the building every Friday. Most players are done by 1 p.m., freed from the grind for a few fleeting hours, but Jenkins has made a habit of using that time to get in extra lifting, a cold tub, a massage and additional film study. One Friday, Jenkins came back from a massage and there was Wentz, five hours after everyone else had gone home, sitting at his locker and studying film.

“Hey, man, go home!” Wentz teased.

“Nah, man, you go home,” Jenkins joked in return.

It was a small moment that stuck with Jenkins. This kid gets it, the cornerback told teammates. He understands the value of routine, of fussing over the details long after the building has gone quiet.

Jim Schwartz is a candidate to become a head coach in 2017, writes John Clayton of ESPN In$ider.

Schwartz turned an underachieving 3-4 defense into a great 4-3 in his first season with the Eagles, putting himself in position to get a second chance at a head-coaching gig. And don’t forget the good job he did in Buffalo two years ago as the Bills’ defensive coordinator.

The Eagles should really look at for a cornerback or a wide receiver with their first round pick in this year’s NFL Draft, opines Lance Zierlein of NFL.com.

17. Philadelphia Eagles (from Minnesota Vikings)
2016 record: 5-6 (.533)
Top needs: CB, WR, RB
Analysis: The Eagles dealt away a first-rounder to acquire the No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 draft, and got a first-rounder in the Sam Bradford deal before the season. Cornerback should be an area in which Philly is looking for an upgrade. The Eagles have some guys at wide receiver, but they need to find “the guy” for Wentz. Finding a quality RB1 might not be difficult in the 2017 draft given the potential for depth at the position.