Doug punted. I don’t even know what else to say. All 10 of my 10 Observations after the Eagles’ 23-23 tie with the Bengals should just be … “Doug punted???”
This was a tie that felt like a loss, and I guess 0-2-1 is better than 0-3, but let’s not kid ourselves. This was a third straight embarrassment for the Eagles. A third straight disaster.
Let’s get to our 10 Observations:
1. Before we get into Carson Wentz and everything else … PUNTING ON 4TH- AND-12 WITH 19 SECONDS LEFT IN OVERTIME FROM THE BENGALS’ 46-YARD-LINE? WHAT IS DOUG THINKING? Good grief, Doug. You don’t have a 12-yard play? Try to get a first down, and if you don’t get it, the game’s over anyway, at least you tried. If you do get it, spike the ball, then go kick a field goal. There’s enough time. That was just terrible. That was giving up. Whatever happened to aggressive Doug? Where is that guy?
2. And good grief, Matt Pryor should be cut tonight. That was a make-able 58-yard game-winning field goal for Jake Elliott. He crushed his 54-yarder earlier in the game. He’s made a 61-yarder in the past. Jumping offsides on a FIELD GOAL ATTEMPT and costing your team a chance at its first win of the year just can’t happen.
3. OK, let’s talk Carson. We saw some signs of life late in the game. He kept fighting, and you give him credit for that. He made some big plays on a fourth quarter drive that forced overtime. He almost got the Eagles into field goal range twice in overtime. But let’s be honest. It never should have gotten to that point, and I’m not going to sit here and celebrate a tie against the freaking Bengals. The bottom line is once again Wentz wasn’t good enough and he hasn’t been good enough all year. The mistakes, the misfires, the fumbles, the interceptions continue, with no end in sight. That’s just who Carson Wentz is right now. A good play here, a bad play there, a worse play here. And with each passing week, it just seems more and more unfixable. Wentz is now the first Eagles quarterback to throw multiple interceptions in three straight games since Ron Jaworski in 1985 and the first to throw six INTs the first three games of a season since Sonny Jurgensen in 1961. If he’s not the worst quarterback in the NFL, he’s close. And it’s not just one thing. It’s his accuracy, his decision making, his pocket presence … everything. Yeah, Wentz did show a few signs of life Sunday, and maybe he can build on them. But the disasters continue to outnumber the signs of life, and at this point I don’t see much reason for hope.
4. As for the defense, in some ways this performance was even more discouraging than giving up 37 points last week to the Rams. You’re facing a rookie quarterback making his third career start, you have him on the ropes early, he’s getting no help from the running game, and you still let him put up 23 points? Why were guys running wide open again after halftime? Why can’t this defense build on a good early start? How can you go three straight games without a defensive takeaway? Yeah, the defensive line all of a sudden looked great in overtime. Too late. Where was the pressure the rest of the game? I know most of the blame is going to be on Carson, and he deserves it. But this defense is a problem too. They should have smothered this team and they couldn’t do it.
5. More on Doug. He drives me bonkers getting away from the running game. Miles Sanders had 6-for-41 on the Eagles’ first two drives, then doesn’t get a carry on the next two drives. Doug finally goes back to Sanders just before halftime and he gets you 29 yards to set up a touchdown. Against a team allowing 185 rushing yards per game, Sanders only had 18 carries – just nine in regulation after the first two drives. He averaged 5.3 yards a pop, which you expect against this defense. But he should have had 25 carries. Maybe 30. You’ve got a QB who’s struggling and a running back who might be your best player right now. It’s inexcusable not to give him the chance to carry the team.
6. It’s really sad watching Jason Peters play right now. His level of play dropped last year and seems to have dropped another level again. He gave up three sacks Sunday, including one that caused a Carson Wentz fumble. Maybe going from right guard to left tackle has been harder than he expected. Maybe he’s still working himself back into shape after signing late in the offseason. Maybe he’s done. Not sure what options the Eagles have. Are you really going to bench Peters for Jordan Mailata two weeks after giving him a pay raise? J.P. got banged up in overtime and hobbled off the field and hopefully he’s OK. But seeing an all-time great turn into a liability is tough to see. And right now, that’s what J.P. is.
7. Watching Trevor Williams – Trevor Williams? – come in for injured Avonte Maddox and immediately give up a touchdown it’s impossible not to think about Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas. Two corners the Eagles spent high draft picks on three year ago who aren’t here anymore. Not even good enough to be backups. Not even good enough for the practice squad. This mess is everybody’s fault, but when you draft corners in the second and third rounds in 2017 and they’re not even good enough to make the team ahead of Trevor Williams three years later it’s a damning indictment of your personnel department.
8. Doug’s role in this disaster? It’s huge. His biggest strength has always been getting his team to shrug off adversity and believe in itself and dig themselves out of whatever hole they’re in. You have to wonder if his voice is even getting through anymore. Sure doesn’t seem like it. That Super Bowl seems so far away now. The next one seems even farther away.
9. We talked a lot coming into the season about the lack of experience at linebacker, and after three games it’s pretty clear this group is just not NFL-ready. I thought Nate Gerry played OK last year and T.J. Edwards is a solid short-yardage backer. But as a group, they’re just not good enough, and when you see L.J. Fort starting for the Ravens and Kamu Grugier-Hill making plays for the Dolphins you just have to wonder how it got this bad.
10. A couple positives I have to touch on. 1) Was good to see Cre’Von LeBlanc’s role expanded after Nikell Robey-Coleman struggled so badly in the Rams game and LeBlanc only got three snaps. LeBlanc is really good and needs to be on the field. 2) The Eagles are so lucky to have Greg Ward. He’s been their best wide receiver so far. A guy they released six times between 2017 and 2019, including twice from the practice squad. With Alshon Jeffery and Jalen Reagor hurt, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside invisible, DeSean Jackson not doing much Sunday and John Hightower still finding his way, Ward made plays not only in the slot Sunday but outside as well. He had 8-for-72 Sunday, and his 29-yard TD just before halftime gave the Eagles the lead for good. 3) Sanders finished 18-for-95 with four catches. He’s a heck of a player, even if he’s still underused.