Ea­gles have tough road ahead af­ter medi­ocre first half


Cecil Whig - - NFL -

— Re­peat­ing as Su­per Bowl cham­pi­ons al­ready was a tough task be­fore the Philadel­phia Ea­gles had a medi­ocre first half.

The of­fense was in­con­sis­tent, the de­fense couldn’t pro­tect leads in the fourth quar­ter and in­juries were a fac­tor. So the Ea­gles en­tered their bye at 4-4 and were sec­ond be­hind Wash­ing­ton (5-2) in the NFC East.

They have a chal­leng­ing sched­ule com­ing up and it’s un­likely they’ll win enough games to get a first-round bye if they can even catch the Red­skins.

But help is on the way from the out­side and from within.

Wide re­ceiver Golden Tate was ac­quired from Detroit shortly be­fore the NFL’s trade dead­line, giv­ing Car­son Wentz a needed op­tion. The Ea­gles are av­er­ag­ing only 22.2 points


per game, down from 28.6 last year.

Run­ning back Dar­ren Spro­les could be re­turn­ing for Philadel­phia’s next game against Dal­las af­ter be­ing side­lined since in­jur­ing his ham­string in Week 1. Two more play­ers from the group on in­jured re­serve — re­ceivers Mack Hollins and Mike Wal­lace and tight end Richard Rodgers — also will be el­i­gi­ble to come back.

“We def­i­nitely have the pieces and now is the time to get hot go­ing into Novem­ber with five more divi­sion games,” Tate said. “We just need to stay on track. I plan on go­ing to the play­offs and play­ing a few more.”

Giv­ing up a third-round pick for Tate, who is in the fi­nal sea­son of his con­tract, was a risky move. It shows the or­ga­ni­za­tion be­lieves the team is still a Su­per Bowl con­tender de­spite the so-so record.

“We have a lot of con­fi­dence in our play­ers and in our coach­ing staff,” per­son­nel boss Howie Rose­man said. “Has ev­ery­thing gone ex­actly the way we thought this year? No. I don’t think any sea­son does.

“But we think we have a re­ally good foot­ball team and we are adding a re­ally good player. We are go­ing to keep our foot on the gas. We are not go­ing to sit on our hands.”

Wentz was one of the pos­i­tives in the first two months. He has been mostly ex­cel­lent since miss­ing the first two games while re­cov­er­ing from knee surgery that forced him to miss the play­offs. How­ever, the of­fense had other is­sues.

Run­ning tore his

Al­shon the first book­end back Jay Ajayi ACL, wide­out Jef­fery missed three games and tack­les Ja­son Peters and Lane John­son are banged-up and didn’t play up to their high stan­dards.

“That week off is huge both for peo­ple’s minds and their bod­ies to just re­ally heal up, get away from the game for a cou­ple days and ev­ery­thing, get your mind right so we can come back and make this run,” Wentz said.

Tate could help the of­fense get in sync. He has more time to learn the play­book be­cause the team is on a break.

“I want to do what­ever’s go­ing to help this team win,” Tate said. “When the ball is in my hand, I want to be able to make a play.”

Tate has made plenty of plays through­out his 8½ sea­sons in the league. He has more yards af­ter catch (3,910) than any­one else since 2010. He gives coach Doug Ped­er­son flex­i­bil­ity to move guys around and per­haps put Nel­son Agholor back in the slot where he thrived in 2017.

“He’s a tremen­dously pro­duc­tive player,” Rose­man said. “His run-af­terthe-catch num­bers are phe­nom­e­nal. We’re re­ally ex­cited to get him.”

The Ea­gles are now bet­ter equipped to win shootouts if their de­fense doesn’t per­form up to ex­pec­ta­tions. De­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Jim Schwartz’s unit strug­gled against the pass and al­lowed sev­eral fourth-down con­ver­sions in im­por­tant sit­u­a­tions in a cou­ple of losses when a stop would’ve given the team a win.

“We have to score more points,” Ped­er­son said. “We have to get bet­ter. Hope­fully we get some guys back healthy. We know our divi­sion. We have five divi­sion (games) in the next eight weeks, so that’s a chal­lenge, but ev­ery­thing is right in front of us.”

Some of the is­sues on de­fense have been sur­pris­ing. The line was sup­posed to be a ma­jor strength, but the front four isn’t get­ting enough pres­sure. Bran­don Gra­ham only has 1½ sacks and Derek Bar­nett had sea­son-end­ing shoul­der surgery.

The sec­ondary has been a prob­lem, too. Safety Rod­ney McLeod went down with a knee in­jury and start­ing cor­ner­backs Jalen Mills and Ron­ald Darby have given up too many big plays. NO RECORD­ING OR VIDEOS NO­TICE: R.V. PARK­ING OK - NO HOOK-UPS

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