GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers (8-3) will host the Philadelphia Eagles (3-7-1) at 3:25 p.m. Sunday. Let’s get to know the foe with SI.com’s Eagles beat writer, Ed Kracz.
1. Obviously, the big question: What's wrong with Carson Wentz, who in 2017 was an MVP candidate and one of the bright young stars?
It’s a question that has been asked all season without any concrete answer. There have been plenty of autopsies performed, however, from an offensive line that has been forced to use 10 different starting lineups in 11 games due to injury and a receiving group that is young and just isn’t good enough.
Of course, Wentz doesn’t escape blame, either.
He holds the ball too long at times, which is one reason he has been sacked a league-high 46 times. Other times he seems to rush throws, wary of the pressure. Never known for being a pinpoint passer, his lack of accuracy is catching up to him with a completion percentage below 60 percent. And his 15 interceptions are a career-high, one more than he had as a rookie in 2016.
When Wentz does have time to throw, he sometimes has struggled finding the open receiver, getting too locked in on his first read, which calls into question his decision-making.
Coach Doug Pederson and his offensive staff shoulder much of the blame, as well. They don’t seem to be doing their QB any favors. Wentz, for example, has said repeatedly that he likes to roll out and throw, saying it helps his launch angle, among other things, yet the Eagles rolled him out only once in the loss to Cleveland last week and only once against Seattle.
As you can see, there is no one answer, though all of the theories offered may be the right answers in some form or other.
2. The Eagles have been hammered by injuries. They're second in games lost at ManGamesLost.com. What would you say were the most significant, whether it's to a key player or a position group?
The offensive line, as mentioned earlier, has been decimated. In started in June when they lost Pro Bowl right guard Brandon Brooks to a torn Achilles while working out. That necessitated the signing of Jason Peters, who the Eagles had walked away from in March but brought back to try to make him into a guard, despite being a left tackle for his entire 17-year career.
Then, second year left tackle Andre Dillard tore a biceps during August’s abbreviated training camp and Peters was moved back to left tackle, but not before he demanded, and received, more money as part of his one-year deal.
Also, in August, All-Pro right tackle Lane Johnson had ankle surgery, which never fully healed. He missed the opener, played three full games despite swelling and not being 100 percent, and limped out of the four games, unable to finish.
Johnson is now done for the season and is scheduling a second surgery, saying the “inside of his ankle” has collapsed.
These three injuries are most responsible for a season gone south, and the 10 different O-line combinations they have had to use in 11 games is a big reason for the struggles, according to Pederson.
3. Just looking at the numbers, the defense looks like it’s done well. It certainly kept the Seahawks in check on Monday night. Do they have the goods to limit Aaron Rodgers and Co. on Sunday?
The Eagles have won two of their last three games at Lambeau Field, so it’s not impossible. This year’s edition of the Eagles, however, isn’t close to those others that went into Green Bay and won. Pederson is on the hot seat, Wentz is having a crisis of confidence and the defense, well, it’s been OK.
The strength of it is the line, where end Brandon Graham has a team-high seven sacks with tackle Fletcher Cox and end Derek Barnett checking in with 5.5 each. Josh Sweat, another end, has four.
As a team, the Eagles have 36. They entered last weekend second in the sack department but notched just two against Russell Wilson.
The linebacker play seems to have improved recently with the addition of Alex Singleton into the starting lineup. Singleton, who was a defensive standout in the CFL and won a Grey Cup in three years there, is getting his first opportunity as a starter after a year-and-a-half of special teams work with the Eagles. He has been in double-digits tackles in two of the last three games.
Meanwhile, Darius Slay, by his own account, played the worst game of his career in Monday night’s matchup against Seattle’s D.K. Metcalf, saying he lost every 50/50 ball in surrendering 10 receptions for 177 yards to Metcalf. Perhaps he will have a bounce-back type game against Davante Adams, who he is very familiar with, as well as Aaron Rodgers, having played with the Lions for the previous seven seasons.
4. What's it going to take to get the Eagles back to contender status?
The really short answer is better personnel decisions and perhaps a new coaching staff. This current rendition has seemingly grown stale, with very vanilla play-calling and very little creativity in play design. Pederson said in a video call on Tuesday that giving up play-calling is “not off the table.” He has resisted a move to hand off some of those responsibilities since he got to town in 2016.
It’s hard to believe that it has just been three years since the franchise won a Super Bowl, but some bad decisions by GM Howie Roseman – bypassing Metcalf to draft J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, for instance – have left the roster without any playmakers on either side of the ball.
It appears that the Eagles’ run of three straight playoff trips will end and maybe force some difficult changes from owner Jeffry Lurie.