Brandon Gowton - Eagles superfan and editor of our sister site, Bleeding Green Nation - was kind enough to stop by and answer a few of our burning questions in advance of today’s showdown with the Eagles. He gave us his thoughts on everything from the Foles vs. Wentz debate, to the the Eagles’ inconsistencies on offense this season, to any weaknesses that the Texans may be able to exploit this afternoon. Check out his full answers below!
1. This is kind of a do-or-die game for the Eagles. If they win, and Foles is getting hot again for another potential playoff run, do you ride with him all the way or put Carson back in when he is cleared to play again?
To me, the answer is simple. If Carson Wentz is healthy, he’s the one who should be starting. He’s the franchise quarterback. He’s the starter.
With that said, it doesn’t seem like Wentz is going to be healthy at any point soon. He’s dealing with a back fracture that supposedly could take “three months” to heal, per Doug Pederson.
So, if Wentz isn’t healthy, Foles should be playing. If Wentz does somehow recover to a point where he’s healthy enough to suit up, he should be back in.
It’s worth noting the Eagles have declined to put Wentz on injured reserve.
2. Was Frank Reich more important to the Eagles’ offense than we realized? Is the offense’s regression more to do with some other factor than Reich’s departure, or was he really just THAT integral to the team’s success?
I think Reich is a very good coach but I don’t think losing him explains away all of the Eagles’ struggles.
The reality is the Eagles were always going to see some regression after playing at such a high level last year. Their third down and red zone numbers were really, really strong and not entirely sustainable.
I do think losing Reich hurt. He wasn’t calling the plays but he did have a role in filtering the information he received from positional coaches to Doug Pederson.
I also think Reich’s replacement wasn’t very inspiring. Mike Groh did a great job as the Eagles’ wide receivers coach in 2017 but it’s fair to question his ability as an offensive coordinator. When Groh served as the Rams’ passing game coordinator in 2016, Los Angeles ranked 32nd in passing DVOA and 31st in passing yards.
There are a number of factors that explain the offensive struggles. Not having a real deep threat hurts. So does being without two of your top running backs for most of the season. Wentz playing through a back fracture is another obvious detriment.
3. What are your impressions of Josh Adams? Can he be “the guy” going forward in that backfield?
Adams has been a pleasant surprise as far as undrafted rookie free agent expectations go. The Notre Dame alumnus has 98 carries for 440 yards (4.5 average) and three touchdowns this season. He’s been the team’s most efficient runner.
We’ve seen that he can handle being “the guy” in games this season. He saw 20+ carries in back-to-back games against the Giants and Washington.
I don’t think the Eagles are fully counting on him to be “the guy” beyond this year, though. Adams has pretty much been a non-factor as a pass catcher.
Adams hasn’t been so good that the Eagles shouldn’t look to upgrade the running back position this offseason. But he could be a nice piece in the rotation moving forward.
4. What is the Eagles’ single biggest weakness (other than injuries) that has held this team back this year?
Slow starts have been a huge issue for the 2018 squad.
The Eagles are averaging a mere 2.2 points scored in the first quarter. That’s good for … dead last in the NFL.
Starting slow has resulted in playing from behind all too often. The defense will gets some stops but then the offense will struggle on the field. And then once the Eagles finally adjust and score later on, the defense tires out and gives up a score.
5. Let’s say by some crazy miracle the Eagles win out, the Cowboys lose out, and you find yourselves as the fourth seed staring up at Chicago, New Orleans, and the Rams. Can the Eagles go on a run to beat any of those teams on the road like they just did to the Rams last week? What is your confidence level in this team to make noise in the playoffs if they DO sneak in?
I like how you’re thinking, Brett.
If the Eagles played like they did last year, it’s hard not to feel like anything is possible for this team. The problem is … that game was a complete team effort. How often are you going to get that?
Making the playoffs as a No. 4 seed ensures the Eagles will get at least one home game. Maybe they win that. The prospect of going to New Orleans doesn’t sound so good, though. The Saints haven’t been super awesome lately but I’m sure they’ll turn it on at home in the playoffs.
Making the playoffs as the No. 6 seed, which is more likely, means the Eagles need to win three road games just to MAKE the Super Bowl. That’s a lot different from last year when the Eagles had to win just two home games to make it to the Super bowl.
To be honest, my confidence level is probably higher than it should be. I’m inclined to give into recency bias and think this team can do something special for the second season in a row. At the same time, I know there’s a real chance the Eagles won’t even make the playoffs. Beating the Texans sure isn’t going to be a walk in the park. And even if the Eagles do manage to do that, they still have to beat Washington in Week 17 … AND hope that the Vikings drop at least one of their two games (at Lions, vs. Bears).
Here’s to dreaming.
A huge thank you to Brandon for answering our questions this week. You can check out all of his and others’ excellent work over at Bleeding Green Nation.