Turn back the clock: This Eagles team looks a lot like one from a few years ago (No, not the one that won the Super Bowl)by Nick Fierro, The Morning Call
After just one game, this 2020 Eagles season already is looking like the 2012 edition.
Actually, the eerily similar parallels began to unfold long before their season opener Sunday, a desultory 27-17 loss to the Washington Football Team that was accomplished by blowing a 17-0 lead in front of a crowd of 0 at FedEx Field — and without the Phillies bullpen even being involved.
The only difference might be this danged coronavirus pandemic that’s forcing most teams to play in empty stadiums. That could work in the Eagles' favor when they play their home opener next Sunday against an infinitely more dangerous team (the Los Angeles Rams) than the one they had no clue how to defeat this week. Except for on the airwaves, there will be no drunken fan abuse.
The 2012 season, just like this one, featured the loss before it began of an offensive lineman coming off his finest season. In that case, it was left tackle Jason Peters. In this case, it was right guard Brandon Brooks. Even their injuries (torn Achilles tendons) were the same.
Peters' injury turned out to be an omen. Once the season began, almost all the other starters started falling like dominoes.
Center Jason Kelce went out in Week 2, courtesy of a cheap shot delivered by Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed. Still, the Eagles, who were thought to have a very good team at the time, prevailed over a strong Ravens squad that would go on to win the Super Bowl that season.
But the Eagles would finish with just four wins before throwing coach Andy Reid a nice going-away party.
Because after Kelce was lost, so was right tackle Todd Herremans, then right guard Danny Watkins. By the end, the only starter on the line to make it through unscathed was left guard Evan Mathis.
Starting to sound familiar? If not, read on.
After losing Brooks, this year’s Eagles team also lost left tackle Andre Dillard, who went down with a season-ending torn biceps during training camp. Then right tackle Lane Johnson had to have minor surgery on his ankle in August, making him week-to-week to start the season.
And you guessed it, he wasn’t available for the Washington game.
But wait, there’s more.
Rookie Jack Driscoll, called upon to take Johnson’s place, didn’t make it through this game before getting injured. He was replaced by Jordan Mailata.
All this sudden turnover, which came after an offseason program that was cancelled along with all preseason games due to the pandemic, worked to nearly get their franchise quarterback killed. Carson Wentz absorbed a career-high eight sacks while losing a fumble and throwing a pair of interceptions. Each of those turnovers led to a Washington score.
The more the game progressed, the more confused the line and backs and tight ends became about the Washington blitz packages. As a result, a game the Eagles dominated for nearly the first 30 minutes turned into a comical mismatch that was perhaps more of a reflection of the coaches than the players.
Wentz, who looked to be in peak physical and mental form for most of the first half, alertly audibled out of a call from the Washington 34-yard line and lofted a touchdown pass to tight end Dallas Goedert streaking alone down the left side.
After that score, however, Wentz inexplicably couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat. His decision making turned awful too. Not all of the sacks he took were on the offensive line; many were on him for not getting rid of the football when he had a chance.
He didn’t get much help from the sideline, either. The first of his turnovers came when coach Doug Pederson decided that despite having seen Wentz sacked four times while building a 17-0 lead, they needed to start chucking the ball immediately after taking possession at their 28 with 1:44 left in the first half.
Five plays later, Washington completed a gift touchdown drive of 45 yards that made it 17-7 before intermission.
“The instinct was to continue to keep the gas pedal down and continue to put the pressure on Washington,” Pederson said. “That’s been my mindset. We communicated that on the sideline and they were up for it and ready to go, and I would continue to do that in those situations. Ultimately, you’re trying to score as many points as you can and you stay as aggressive as you can.”
In this case, the aggression was reckless and started the boulder rolling down the hill.
The Eagles never scored after that series because they weren’t prepared for what they would see next.
Could that be because too many cooks have been in the kitchen?
Likely forced to revamp his coaching staff after last season, Pederson is working with a lot of new offensive assistants. Of course, that sounds a lot like the sweeping changes Reid made before the 2011 season that backfired in 2012 when he fired offensive line coach-turned-defensive coordinator Juan Castillo and defensive line coach Jim Washburn.
The similarities to 2012 continue with the running back situation. Starting running back LeSean McCoy missed four games with a concussion in 2012. Starting running back Miles Sanders missed this game with a hamstring injury.
This is not to say this season is going to turn out anything like 2012.
But it sure isn’t hard to project.
Morning Call reporter Nick Fierro can be reached at 610-778-2243 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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