– Bill Annechino
The Eagles look to have struck gold with Carson Wentz, 2 starts into his career. What stands out the most to me is his willingness to take what the defense is giving him. I haven’t seen him make a terrible decision with the football in either of his starts yet. His receivers also have not been giving him much help in this game, with several big drops. Make no mistake, Wentz played a great game and if his receivers had done their job, his stat line would have been truly impressive. Doug Pederson deserves a lot of credit for not only resisting the urge to play Chase Daniel (a player he knows well from his years in Kansas City) but also for incorporating RPO (that’s run-pass-option) plays into their offense that Wentz ran in college.
Nelson Agholor does not look like an NFL receiver to me. He’s picked up right where he left off from his terrible rookie season. His hands seem to be the biggest problem, and not just on straight drops. Wentz hit him with a gorgeous ball in the endzone that ended up in his hands, and he didn’t have the strength to hold onto it through contact. That’s going to be a skill he will need to improve on quickly, although I’m not sure how feasible that is. I always thought it was a little unfair to criticize a team based on who they have played, but it does bear mentioning that the Eagles have played two of the worst teams in the NFL to open the season. Having said that, this team looks like one of the more well-rounded teams in the league. Jim Schwartz is one of my favorite defensive minds in the game right now, and he has this Eagles D checking off all the boxes on the list of clichés that you want to see in a defense. They’ve got a nose for the football, they’re flying around making plays and they are meeting at the quarterback. This was a complete team performance by the Eagles, except for special teams which allowed a return touchdown and that does need to be mentioned because special teams are a big part of the game.
Switching gears, let’s look at what happened with the Bears. I think we knew going into this season that the Bears’ offense would struggle. Alshon Jeffery is great, and I hope that he finally makes his way out of Chicago and moves to a real contender after this season (he’s playing on the franchise tag). Beyond him, this offense is shockingly low on playmakers. Kevin White is looking like he may not ever live up to his top-10 draft pick status. Jeremy Langford seems to lack the vision and burst that is required of a starting NFL back. Last year, he averaged 3.6 yards per carry and he’s down to 3.4 this year. He was especially awful tonight, gaining 2.5 yards per rush. I expect him to lose his job sooner rather than later.
But the offense isn’t the only problem here. Before the season started, I assumed the Bears’ defense would be one of the most improved units in the NFL due to their addition of Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman, two of the better inside linebackers in the game. 2 games in, that doesn’t really look like the case. Last year, the Bears were 20th in the NFL, allowing just under 25 points per game (it’s important to note that there was less than a point per game separating the 20th through 25th ranked teams on that list, so there wasn’t a ton of difference between any of those defenses). Through two games this year, they’ve allowed an even 26 points per game, which is really about as bad as they were last year. If, for some reason, someone was holding a gun to your head and forcing you to pick better or worse, you would say they’re worse. Beyond that, an injury to their top corner, Kyle Fuller, has rendered this defense as one of the least impressive in the league. Carson Wentz is no ordinary rookie, but it speaks volumes about the Bears’ defense that he was able to carve them up like he was.
Final takeaway: As Saturday Night Live once said, the Bears are not in there. The Eagles have all the looks of a well-rounded team that could end up being a contender simply by not doing anything poorly. In 2016, a rookie quarterback can step in and lead his team to the playoffs. With the Eagles and Giants both 2-0, this looks like it’s going to be another good year of football for the NFC East, home to 3 of the most insufferable fan bases in the NFL.
– Bill Annechino (Twitter)