Eagles midseason report card: Some big names receive bad grades, beginning with Carson Wentz
The Eagles reached their bye week with a disappointing 3-4-1 record, but in first place in the NFC East.
They have once again sustained injuries to many of their key players, and relied on rookies to fill in.
At times, those new players have been great, like wide receiver Travis Fulgham. At times, they have made rookie mistakes, like John Hightower dropping what should have been an 88-yard touchdown reception against the Ravens.
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That was a microcosm of the Eagles' up and down season. There was the high of beating the San Francisco 49ers on the road, and the lows of blowing a 17-0 lead to Washington in the opener and a disheartening tie against the Bengals.
All of that is reflected in the Eagles' midseason grades:
Carson Wentz is not having a good season. He ranks first in the NFL with 16 turnovers. He ranks 30th in passer rating at 73.2, well below his career low of 79.3 during his rookie season.
Wentz also has thrown 12 interceptions, just two short of his career high for an entire season, and has been sacked a league-high 32 times.
Then again, Wentz hasn't had four of his expected starters on the offensive line, his top three wide receivers and both tight ends for much of the season.
Wentz has led two fourth-quarter rallies and deserves credit for that. But the fact that head coach Doug Pederson was asked about possibly benching Wentz in favor of rookie Jalen Hurts, who has thrown just 2 career passes, says plenty.
Grade: Wentz C-, Hurts incomplete.
When healthy, Miles Sanders has shown that he can be an every-down back. He leads the NFL in yards per carry at 6.1 and has two 74-yard runs.
But "when healthy" are the key words here. Sanders, who has 434 yards rushing, has missed three games this season, yet is still ranked 15th in the league.
The Eagles passed on chances to sign a veteran as insurance. Sanders' backups, Boston Scott and Corey Clement, combined are averaging just 3.7 yards per carry.
Grades: Sanders B, Scott C+, Clement C-.
Since Week 4, Fulgham leads all NFL wide receivers in yards (435) and touchdowns (4). Fulgham was released three times this summer, and was on the Eagles' practice squad until Oct. 3.
He was promoted after a spate of injuries. Seven wide receivers have caught passes this season.
DeSean Jackson was averaging a career-low 11.9 yards per catch before going on injured reserve. He'll likely play in just 7 out of 32 games since the start of the 2019 season. But at least he played this season, unlike Alshon Jeffery, whose contract and attitude have become an albatross.
Fulgham, Greg Ward, who's tied for fifth with 14 third-down receptions, and fifth-round pick John Hightower, have taken advantage of their chances while J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, the second-round pick in 2019, has not.
Look for first-round pick Jalen Reagor to have a big role in the second half.
Grades: Fulgham A+, Ward B, Reagor B-, Hightower B-, Jackson C-, Arcega-Whiteside D-.
This was supposed to be the strength of the team with perennial Pro Bowler Zach Ertz and budding star Dallas Goedert.
But Ertz, openly frustrated about progress on a new contract, was having a poor season with just 24 catches for 178 yards before landing on IR. Goedert was off to a good start before he, too, ended up on IR before returning last Sunday.
That has left the Eagles to rely on veteran Richard Rodgers, who shined against the Giants.
Grades: Goedert B-, Rodgers B-, Ertz D.
It turned out that Jason Kelce was the last man standing from an offensive line that has used seven combinations in eight games. Nate Herbig has moved from right guard to left guard, back to right guard, then left guard.
Jordan Mailata, the former Australian rugby star, started four games – his first career starts. He was replacing Jason Peters, who's 38, and was originally brought back as a right guard to replace Brandon Brooks before moving to left tackle (with a pay raise) to replace Andre Dillard, who is out for the year.
Lane Johnson has played only one complete game because of ankle and knee injuries. At times, it was so bad that Jamon Brown started one game, gave up three sacks, then was released.
No wonder Wentz has been sacked so often.
Grades: Kelce A, Herbig B, Johnson B-, Mailata C, Jack Driscoll C, Peters C, Matt Pryor C-, Isaac Seumalo incomplete.
By far the best unit on the team, led by 32-year-old Brandon Graham, who's off to the best start of his 11-season career. He's third in the NFL with seven sacks.
Derek Barnett, the Eagles' first-round pick in 2017, is finally healthy and playing well, as is Josh Sweat, who has earned a regular spot in the defensive end rotation.
But Fletcher Cox has just 2.5 sacks, even though he finally has help next to him in Javon Hargrave and Malik Jackson. None are performing up to their lofty contracts that begin at $10 million per season.
As a team, the Eagles rank third with 28 sacks. But the run defense has been disappointing, ranking 24th, allowing 130.8 yards per game.
Grades: Graham A, Sweat B+, Barnett B, Cox B-, Hargrave C+, Hassan Ridgeway (IR) C+, Vinny Curry C, Jackson C, Genard Avery C.
As bad as this unit has been, and it's been bad, there have been some clutch plays, such as Alex Singleton's interception return for a touchdown against the 49ers, and T.J. Edwards' strip sack that led to the game-clinching touchdown against the Cowboys.
But those plays have been few and far between. Nathan Gerry has been beaten routinely in pass coverage (see the Steelers' Chase Claypool's game-clinching 35-yard TD catch).
The Eagles drafted two linebackers – Davion Taylor in the third round and Shaun Bradley in the sixth. Both have rarely seen the field.
Grades: Edwards B-, Singleton B-, Duke Riley C, Gerry D+, Bradley incomplete, Taylor incomplete.
The Eagles' revamped secondary hinges on Darius Slay's one-on-one coverage ability. So far, Slay has been up to the challenge, shutting down receivers who had burned the Eagles in previous seasons.
Jalen Mills has done yeoman's work moving from cornerback, where he played the previous four seasons, to safety then back to cornerback when Avonte Maddox was injured. But Nickell Robey-Coleman has had his ups and downs as the nickel corner, and Will Parks is just working his way back into the lineup.
The Eagles have just three interceptions. Only two teams have fewer. Yet, they rank fifth in pass defense in the NFL, allowing 209.4 yards per game.
Grades: Slay A, Rodney McLeod B+, Mills B, Maddox B-, Robey-Coleman C, Cre'Von LeBlanc C, Marcus Epps C, Will Parks incomplete, K'Von Wallace incomplete.
This has not been a banner year for Jake Elliott, who has made just 66.7% of his field goals. Sure, three of the misses were from 50 yards or more, but the other was from 29 yards.
Cameron Johnston is having a solid season, ranking fourth in the NFL in net average at 44.6 yards per punt. He has had 12 downed inside the 20, which is tied for sixth.
Grades: Johnston B+, Elliott C.
Contact Martin Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.