During the first three weeks it was if Doug Pederson, Carson Wentz and Jim Schwartz could do no wrong. For the past two weeks it’s as if they can do no right.
Well, Pederson and Schwartz more-so than Wentz in all honesty.
After getting off to such a great start, the wheels seem to have come off these last two games. So, what gives?
The first thing that comes to mind is that teams had three games of tape in which to study and find ways to thwart the offense and expose the defense. When coaches have film to analyze and find tendencies, many are very good at coming up with ways to expose and take advantage.
Good coaches are always a step ahead of their opponents. On offense, they will scheme in new looks, plays and philosophies to attack a specific defense. Or, they are good at anticipating what a defense may try to attack and scheme ways to exploit such an attack.
The Patriots are one of the best, if not the best, team at doing this on week to week basis. You can point to Tom Brady all you want, but they are very good at being unpredictable on offense because they scheme something different almost every week.
Just ask fantasy football players who have Patriots’ skill players besides Gronk and Brady. You just never know what you’re gonna get!
Now, I’m sure all coaches attempt to do this with some obviously better at it than others.
The question is, can Doug Pederson do it? And, can Jim Schwartz do it on defense?
Adjusting is the name of the game in the NFL. Being unable to make in-game adjustments was something Eagles fans used to go crazy with when Andy Reid was head coach. That continued under Chip Kelly as well.
While with the Eagles, neither of those guys were particularly adept at making adjustments either in-game and sometimes on a weekly basis.
Predictability was a hallmark.
Pederson is now charged with making adjustments not only in game plans, but with figuring out how best to adjust to life without Lane Johnson.
For reasons that are supposedly based on how he has looked in practice, Pederson and Co. switched his plan from moving Barbre out to RT and plugging in either Wisniewski or Seumalo at LG to simply plugging in a fifth-round rookie at RT.
I was surprised by that change in plans and didn’t understand it before the Redskins game and certainly don’t understand it now. All day everyday I would have went with the original plan.
Now, will Pederson re-adjust and go back to Plan A or stick with Big V and have to find ways to compensate? Based on what Pederson said in his day-after press conference, be prepared for another week of Big V against the best defense in the NFL right now.
For the record, I would go back to Plan A, that is adjustment number one.
Compensating by keeping in an extra blocker or two has a ripple effect on this offense that it cannot afford. The Eagles’ receivers have enough trouble getting open and the fewer of them out in routes translates into Wentz not having anywhere to go with the ball most of the time.
Adjustment number two has to be play calling/scheming from week to week. The Eagles’ offense simply does not have enough talent to be predictable. Whether it’s accurately identifying a defense’s weakness and exploiting it or simply scheming one or two players to be the focus of the offense on a given week, Pederson needs to become unpredictable.
Furthermore, if his initial plan does not appear to be working early on, he needs to have the flexibility within himself to scrap it and change his attack based on what the defense is showing.
Sometimes these in-game adjustments are too slow and too late for it to matter. Pederson and Reich need to adjust sooner rather than later (when needed).
As for the defense, the past two weeks has been a tale of two halves as far as giving up points is concerned. In each of the past two weeks, the Eagles’ defense has given up 21 first-half points versus 3 and 6 in the second half respectively.
Does that mean Schwartz showed an ability to make adjustments at half time? Against the Lions, yes it did. Against the Redskins? Not too sure yet without re-watching the game.
Either way, Schwartz needs to make adjustments in how to attack an offense from the get-go. These early deficits are proving to be too much to overcome.
First up, he has to figure out how his defense went from being sturdy against the run to being a sieve. Against the Redskins, a team that has struggled to run the ball this year, it looked like the Hoover Dam broke.
Any running back who touched the ball was just eating up chunks of yardage seemingly every time. Playing good defense starts with stopping the run. If you can’t do that, you’re in for a long day.
Besides that, what has happened to the pass rush? Kirk Cousins seemed to rarely be pressured all throughout the game. Connor Barwin, Vinny Curry, Brandom Graham…where are thee?
Pressuring the passer is always a defense’s goal. It’s also a risk/reward situation if you have to blitz often to get that pressure. However, if the defensive front four are simply not generating pressure, you’re going to have to scheme it.
That means taking more chances, but I’d rather take those chances than see a QB have time to eat a sandwich while mulling over his options about where he’s going to throw the ball.
One thing that Schwartz can adjust is the wide-nine formation. I can’t say how often he’s actually using it, but his defensive attack is predicated upon it in general.
The wide-nine only works well when you have very good linebackers to fill gaps against the run. Right now, I’m not too sure how I feel about the group of Bradham, Hicks, Kendricks and Tulloch. Sometimes they look good, other times not so much.
Schwartz will need to assess that because as stated earlier, it has to start with stopping the run. And that may mean a 100% scrapping of the wide-nine formation.
Whatever it is, Schwartz obviously needs to adjust something.
From here on out, being able to adjust on both offense and defense is going to be key for the Eagles. It will be needed in order to compensate as much as possible for this team’s weaknesses.