Over its past five quarters, the Eagles’ first-team offense has been particularly offensive.
Once a fearsome, multifaceted scoring machine, it has scored just 13 points. It has gained just 273 yards. It committed three turnovers, and left four or five more on the table. It committed seven penalties for 69 yards. Worst, by far; it went 1-for-17 on third-down conversions.
Yes, the offense lost Carson Wentz, its most important player. No, Nick Foles cannot compare. But even that switch doesn’t completely explain this descent into utter incompetence.
It’s been like they never even practiced.
Wait a minute.
After three straight road games, the Birds looked beat, so Doug Pederson went easy on them for the past two weeks. They got their legs back, but they clearly lost their edge.
They can’t wait for the whip to crack again.
“I think the biggest thing this team needs, offensively, is practice,” said center Jason Kelce, the plain-speaking voice of the offense. “I think the last two weeks we’ve tried to get some rest in and get some guys’ legs back, and I think that is important. [But] toning down the reps, I think, is taking away from some physical things. We just have to get back after that. This will be a good week to get back out there and put some pads on and really go through things full speed. That’s what we need right now offensively.”
Pederson’s plan plainly rejuvenated the defense, which returned to dominance against the Raiders two games ago. However, after two weeks of glorified ballet rehearsals, the offense looks like a community playhouse version of The Nutcracker, only without any cracking.
“Yes, we’re fresh now. But I know we are going to practice hard, and we are going to get all of the reps we need these next two weeks to make sure we are right,” said tight end Brent Celek, who isn’t happy unless he’s hurting. “I think that can help us out a lot. It needs to help us out a lot. Obviously, we haven’t played that well these past two weeks. We have to get out there and rep this stuff. We have to get it right.”
Pederson’s punishing, precise practices are the foundation of a team that has 20 wins over the past two seasons. They’re 13-3 and the top seed in the NFC because, as a whole, they are greater than the sum of their parts. That’s true even when Foles is one of those parts.
The difference between his virtuoso performance against the Giants and his bumbling efforts since?
Hard practices the week before.
Also, it was the Giants.
Look, nobody’s happy that Wentz is on crutches and Foles is on the spot. But to judge the backup quarterback too harshly after two incomplete weeks of practice is unfair, and unwise.
Think about it. Last week, preparing for a meaningless game in which the starters would play no more than 15 minutes, Foles and the offense went through a series of light workouts to implement an elementary game plan, without featured running back Jay Ajayi, against a division opponent that had 35 game tapes of Pederson’s scheme.
Foles played in 19-degree weather, with 17-mph winds, with a wind chill factor of 3 degrees. He also played with Torrey Smith, who dropped another pass, which cost the Eagles a field-goal try on their first possession.
They’re a team with a quarterback and receivers who can use two weeks of hard work to develop a better chemistry. As Iverson would contend, practice might not make perfect; but it surely will improve this offense.
“Once we get into our normal prep week, you prepare for the game like you always do,” Foles said, “and we get ready to roll.”
If that doesn’t inspire confidence, what will?