We interrupt this march to Super Bowl LIV with some reality: Nothing is going to come easy for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2019. A loss on Sunday night in Atlanta illustrated that for the Eagles, who lost defensive tackle Tim Jernigan for several weeks with a foot injury and who could be without wide receivers DeSean Jackson (groin) and Alshon Jeffery (calf) along with tight end Dallas Goedert (calf) with injuries.
The immediate challenge: Putting together a roster that can compete with Detroit, which comes to town on Sunday, and then Green Bay, where the Eagles play just four days after the Lions leave town.
It’s a quick turnaround for a team that suddenly has significant injury problems and is now chasing Dallas (2-0 with a bye week against Miami on Sunday) in the NFC East.
“It’s my job to get the team ready to go,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “It starts with me. We just have to find a way.”
So, adversity visits the Eagles. How will they respond? A talented roster has already been stripped, two weeks into the season, of a standout at defensive tackle (Malik Jackson), potentially of his backup, Jernigan, for several weeks, and of a trio of stars that light up the scoreboard offensively.
For sure, Pederson is on the spot to try to navigate his way through the injury minefield. So is quarterback Carson Wentz, who is bruised and battered after a physical outing against the Falcons.
If there is one thing that the Doug Pederson tenure as the Eagles’ head coach has taught us, it’s that the team isn’t going to back down. The Eagles have faced injury adversity the last three seasons and they’ve stared it in the face and won. This time, Wentz is the one who is going to have to carry the load on offense.
Instead of having Jeffery, Jackson and Goedert at full strength, Wentz is going to need Mack Hollins and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside to contribute at wide receiver. He’s going to need wide receiver Nelson Agholor and tight end Zach Ertz to do the heavy lifting. Wentz is going to need the running game, now clearly headed by rookie Miles Sanders, to provide a legitimate, weekly threat.
In Atlanta, Wentz rebounded from an ineffective first half to complete 19-of-27 passes for 184 yards and a touchdown and a two-point conversion and he added a 1-yard quarterback sneak as the Eagles erased a 17-6 third-quarter deficit and literally came up inches short of keeping a last-minute drive alive late in the game.
Wentz was at his best in that second half, dodging and darting away from pressure, fearlessly throwing into tight windows and withstanding some nasty hits to his body.
“I thought Carson was incredible,” Ertz said. “He made some plays that were just unbelievable.”
The Eagles need more of that until they can get their major pieces back on the field and in the right place. Wentz needs to be The Franchise Quarterback and keep the Eagles afloat early in a season that still has so much promise. Certainly, though, the big picture has changed. Without Jackson and Jeffery and Goedert, the Eagles lose considerable offensive firepower.
Minus Jackson and Jernigan, a deep defensive tackle position has been thinned considerably.
An “easy ride” to the top of the NFC East and the postseason has become intensely rougher. It’s going to take a total team effort to keep the Eagles winning, led by a head coach who has been there before in Pederson and a quarterback in Wentz who needs to take his winning ways to a new level right now in 2019. ••