Rough 3-Game Road Trip Begins For Birds As Concerns Linger About Offense – CBS Philly


PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Eagles’ defense shined in Sunday’s win over the New York Jets, but the offensive side of the ball seemed to be lacking chemistry. The Birds need to tighten up on offense, while the strength of the run defense will be tested as the team kicks off a three-game road trip in Minnesota this week.

CBS3’s football experts have your weekly breakdown and predictions.

It was an easy win over the Jets on Sunday, however, the offense fell flat for most of the game. Is there reason to be concerned about the Birds’ offense?

Sports director Don Bell:  The Jets game was over before it began. Half those guys were probably thinking about the postgame buffet by the end of the first quarter. Having said that, yes, we should be concerned. With DeSean Jackson out, the Eagles don‘t have a home-run hitter who forces defenses to be honest. As a result, they have to play error-free football and post 10- to 12-play drives to score. That’s a tough way to live.

CBS3 sports reporter Lesley Van Arsdall: Stop the madness. The Eagles beat the Jets 31-6. They dominated. It’s easy to let your foot off the offensive gas pedal when you’re winning so easily. So no, I’m not concerned about the offense.

CBS3 reporter Pat Gallen: I think there should be some concern — four out of 10 — with the offense. The Jets’ defense isn’t horrible, but the Eagles should have destroyed them. They are missing Jackson more than they would care to admit right now. I think these next three weeks will tell the real tale when it comes to that side of the ball.

CBS3 reporter Dan Koob: Yes, they’ve been unable to stretch any defenses since Jackson went out. They can get by scheming running backs on linebackers for now, but eventually their wideouts need to win downfield — and right now they aren’t.

CBS3 sports producer Andy Wheeler: I’m not concerned just yet. Carson Wentz hasn’t really clicked yet but he really hasn’t had all his weapons available to him. The coaches have adjusted reasonably well on the fly to the injuries, but if this keeps up much longer, I will become much more concerned.

Head coach Doug Pederson recently hinted at making Jordan Howard the lead running back. Do you agree or should Pederson still go running back by committee?

Bell: Enough with this committee nonsense. Jordan Howard has the résumé and produces results. He averages 4.4 yards per carry in his career. Let that dude eat.

Van Arsdall: Make no mistake, the lead running back IS Jordan Howard. Both the play calling and statistics back that up. Coach Pederson can label it however he wants. But as of right now, Howard is the clear cut No.1 back.

Gallen: Pederson will, and should, lean a little more on Howard as the primary back. That said, putting Miles Sanders in new, innovative situations should also be a priority. You can’t discard the explosiveness that Sanders brings. And let’s be real, Howard isn’t going to bust out huge gains — in fact, he has zero rushes over 20 yards this year. He’s consistent, and that’s important. But there is still room for Sanders to play a big role.

Koob: Feed him. He’s hungry. Coming into this year, Howard was the third-leading rusher in the NFL since 2016, behind only Zeke [Elliott] and Todd Gurley. He’s not an explosive back but he moves the chains and falls forward consistently. As long as Sanders continues to dance in the hole, you’re riding Howard, who has shown an increased ability to catch the ball out of the backfield as well.

Wheeler: Doug can say all he wants about running back usage but he’s never been consistent when it comes to what he says and what he does. Darren Sproles wasn’t supposed to be getting as much action as he has, Doug said, and he’s been used way more than anyone expected. He can say that Howard is the lead back but until I see it, I won’t believe it.

The defense feasted on the Jets’ porous offensive line, accumulating 10 sacks and two interceptions. Two turnovers were returned for touchdowns. Will we see more of this defense going forward, or was this game just an aberration for the D?

Bell: Nope. The Eagles took advantage of a trash opponent. Good for them! But their secondary is held together with duct tape and crazy glue. That works against sixth-round draft choice Luke Falk and Robby Anderson, but probably not Kirk Cousins, Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen.

Van Arsdall: Unfortunately, that was a one-hit wonder for the Birds’ defense. Unless the Eagles can figure out a magical way to play the Jets again this season, you’re not going to see a better game for the defense.

Gallen: That’s clearly an aberration, however, I think they can use this sort of performance as a stepping stone. Future offenses will not look like that of the Jets, so don’t expect this kind of output in the future — and I mean, like, ever again. The Eagles’ D has always been opportunistic — a bend-but-don’t-break mentality is sort of what they preach under Jim Schwartz.

Koob: I wouldn’t get too excited. Adam Gase may be the worst coach in the league. That roster is putrid. The next four weeks will tell us all we need to know.

Wheeler: The Jets’ offense without Sam Darnold is horrific. Forget about their line, the quarterback play was horrible. I think the defense had a great game, but it should have. Not every team will be as bad as the Jets.

A brutal three-game road trip now begins for the Birds as they face the Vikings, Cowboys and the Bills. Is this road trip a make-or-break stretch for the Eagles?

Bell: My gut reaction is yes, but the primary preseason goal is to win the division, followed by the conference and then the Super Bowl. If the Eagles win one of the three games, but that lone win is against the Cowboys, they would still be in great shape to take the NFC East.

Van Arsdall: Forget the next three games. Take a look at the three games AFTER this tough road stretch: The Eagles have the Bears, Patriots and Seahawks. Right now, those teams are a combined 12-3. You read that right — 12 wins, three losses. Big picture, how the Eagles come out of the next six games will determine their season.

Gallen: I don’t think it’s a make, but it could be a break. If they go 0-3, they’re in some trouble. But, if they go 2-1 or 1-2 through these three, it’s not the end of the world. Especially if one of those wins is against Dallas.

Koob: Absolutely. Fletcher Cox said Wednesday this stretch will define this season and define this team. You’ll know going into the bye if the Eagles are in contention for home-field advantage, the division race or the wild card. This is where teams separate themselves.

Wheeler: People want to say that it’s make-or-break but honestly, the only game that really matters to me at this point is Dallas. They should beat the Bills, and the Vikings will be difficult, but I only care about the Cowboys game. Three games on the road in a row at this point of the season is difficult for sure, but as for make-or-break, no. If they lose the Cowboys game then that’s all that matters.

Who on the Vikings can give the Eagles the biggest headache?

Bell: Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer. He’s a defensive guru and controls Minnesota’s fifth-ranked defense, which is allowing 14 points per game. The cat-and-mouse game between Zims and Pederson will be fascinating to watch.

Van Arsdall: I’ll say Vikings running back Dalvin Cook. Yes, the Eagles have the best run defense in the NFL right now, but Cook is a special player and the second-leading rusher in the NFL. He has the talent to challenge the Eagles’ defense. Beware.

Gallen: Thielen or Diggs. Diggs or Thielen. One of them will go off. It’s science!

Koob: Thielen against these slot corners. Who marks him? The Birds are hurting at corner and could shift a guy like Malcolm Jenkins to cover him. We’ll see. He had seven receptions for 116 yards and a touchdown against them last season.

Wheeler: Cook. Everyone talks about how good the Eagles’ defense is at stopping the run — this week we will find out if that’s really true.

Prediction?

Bell: Vikings 24, Eagles 20.

Van Arsdall: Eagles win a tight one 24-17.

Gallen: Vikings 30-26 — but I think you could easily flip this to 30-26 Eagles. It’s a toss up.

Koob: Brutal three-game road trip that I think the Eagles go 2-1 on. This is the loss. Vikings 24, Eagles 17.

Wheeler: Vikings win, 27-20.





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