The wide receivers, a group that looked so deep and promising in the spring and summer, have been ravaged by injuries impairing their playing.
By Dave Spadaro
Way back in the early Andy Reid days, as the Eagles year after year made it all the way to the NFC Championship Game (three straight seasons from 2001–2003, in fact) only to trip and fall, the constant battle cry from the fans and media was something along the lines of, “You can’t win it all with the wide receivers we have!!!”
The fans had seen enough of Todd Pinkston and James Thrash and Freddie Mitchell and Antonio Freeman and, oh, the pain. Oh, the obvious need! Why wouldn’t the Eagles go out and add a big-time receiver?
They did that in the offseason prior to the 2004 campaign, trading for Terrell Owens and, lo and behold, the Eagles climbed to the top of the mountain. They lost in Super Bowl XXXIX, but they were there and they battled New England and Owens was a superstar and, well, as long as he was around, the Eagles would be a great team. We know how that turned out.
Last season’s Eagles team featured Alshon Jeffery as the lead pass catcher and Torrey Smith as the №2 and Nelson Agholor as the slot receiver who came into his own and the Eagles not only made it to the Super Bowl, they won the darn thing. And they scored 41 points in the process. And the passing game was dynamic.
But this year, early in this 2018 season, the wide receivers are struggling. A group that looked so deep and promising in the spring and summer has been ravaged by injuries. Jeffery has yet to play after having offseason surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff that he played through in ’17. Mack Hollins, a second-year player expected to be a contributor in the rotation, is on Injured Reserve with a groin injury. Mike Wallace, a veteran signed to replace Smith, who was released, made zero impact before suffering a serious ankle injury that puts his season in jeopardy.
The Eagles are forced to turn to players like veteran Kamar Aiken and Joshua Perkins, a tight end serving the role of a wide receiver, as well as first-year man DeAndre Carter. No lack of respect to those men, but defenses aren’t shuddering at the sight of those three lining up in the Eagles offense.
And here are the fans sounding off: “You can’t win it all with the wide receivers we have!!”
That may very well be true, because the Eagles offense has lacked consistent pop and explosiveness in the 1–1 start to 2018. Agholor has been great, with 16 catches and a touchdown, but he’s averaging only 7.6 yards per reception. Tight end Zach Ertz is a Pro Bowl player, but defenses are bracketing him in coverage and not giving him any room to breathe in the middle of the field. Rookie Dallas Goedert has been invisible, a surprise to those who saw him contribute heavily in the preseason and indicate that he would have a chance to make an immediate impact. Hasn’t happened.
This is no time to panic, of course. The Eagles were 1–1 last season and then ripped off nine straight wins. This is a marathon of a season. Still, the Eagles need some answers. Maybe the return of quarterback Carson Wentz will provide the lift — which would help prove what many believe, and that the quarterback makes a wide receiver better, not necessarily the other way around — but it’s foolhardy to think that the Eagles can perform offensively at a championship level without better play all around at wide receiver.
It’s been a long time since the cries for help at wide receiver were heard. But based on two games of play and little punch from the position, those sounds are valid. ••