In retrospect, the warning signs that not all was right in the Eagles’ locker room have been there since January.
A week after the Eagles’ playoff loss to the Saints, a PhillyVoice report was not flattering to quarterback Carson Wentz. In the article, which cited several anonymous sources, Wentz was described as “selfish.” That was in stark contrast to his backup, Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles, who was beloved in the locker room and on the field when he was running the offense.
Many teammates publicly jumped to Wentz’s defense and denied there was any truth to the report. The hullabaloo quickly died down. Foles moved on the Jacksonville, and Wentz got a hefty new contract. The Eagles entered the season as a potential Super Bowl contender, thanks to a stacked roster that included a healthy Wentz, stout offensive line, dominant pass rush, and a strong group of playmakers.
Then the season started and the Eagles haven’t looked anywhere close to elite. They’re now 3-4 and only three teams have turned the ball over more than them. The Week 4 win over the Packers seems more baffling by the day, especially in comparison to Philly’s recent woes: blowout losses to the Vikings and the Cowboys. Dallas ran roughshod over its rivals in JerryWorld, handing the Eagles a humiliating 37-10 defeat after head coach Doug Pederson had more or less promised his team would win. Instead, for the first time since Pederson took over, the Eagles have given up more than 30 points in back-to-back games.
The situation might be even messier behind the scenes. Unnamed players have ripped Wentz and the offense, and criticized general manager Howie Roseman for not trading for Jalen Ramsey. Veterans Malcolm Jenkins, Lane Johnson, and Brandon Graham can’t seem to agree on whether the team has accountability issues. The cracks are showing, threatening to collapse the Eagles’ season fast.
Panic index: Perhaps winning will cure all, but things might get worse before they get better. The Eagles face a tough upcoming slate against the Bills, Bears, Patriots, and Seahawks, before they get an early December reprieve (Dolphins, Giants, Washington).
If the season goes belly up, then changes will come in the offseason. And who knows. Maybe Foles can find his way back to Philadelphia again.
Gardner Minshew looks like a rookie all of a sudden
Minshew Mania was fun while it lasted, but the Jaguars’ rookie quarterback doesn’t look like a sensation anymore. After nine touchdowns and one interception in his first five games, Minshew has one touchdown and one interception in his last two. He completed less than half his passes in those underwhelming performances and was lucky to get through them with just one pick.
If Bengals cornerback B.W. Webb hadn’t been wearing a cast on his arm, he probably would’ve caught at least one of the two passes Minshew lobbed directly his way.
The problem for Minshew has been a complete breakdown of his pocket presence. The poise he showed earlier in the year has devolved into panic — even when there’s no pressure at all. One of those bouts of pocket anxiety cost the Jaguars a touchdown against the Bengals.
What. Is. He. Doing. Back. There?????— Laurie Fitzpatrick (@LaurieFitzptrck) October 20, 2019
Minshew get it together bro pic.twitter.com/jteejitHGY
Earlier in October, it looked like Nick Foles had no shot at reclaiming his spot as the starter in Jacksonville this season. But if Minshew can’t get his mojo back, the veteran may have to step in after all once he comes off injured reserve.
Panic index: Earning Rookie of the Week honors in four of the first five weeks made it easy to forget that Minshew was a sixth-round pick in April. Struggles were always to be expected. They’re only surprising now because Minshew managed to avoid them for a month.
It’s too early to say that a couple bad games mean we’ll never again see the version of Minshew who was tearing up the league earlier this fall.
Sam Darnold is literally falling apart, folks
And no, we’re not talking about the fact that he threw four interceptions against the Patriots on Monday night. Physically, Sam Darnold is falling apart.
Earlier in the season, Darnold missed three games after he contracted mononucleosis, which enlarged his spleen. During a press conference when he was talking about his recovery, he talked about actively not trying to die:
"I wanna make sure that I'm safe out there, and that I'm not gonna die" – Sam Darnold pic.twitter.com/w0J1MiZ2TL— Jets Videos (@snyjets) October 3, 2019
When he was finally cleared to return against the Dallas Cowboys, he had to wear protective pads that provided extra cushion for his spleen:
Sam Darnold from the Jets will be wearing these protective shoulder pads pic.twitter.com/v1YCWujUhW— ENRIQUE CABEZUELA (@Enrique66573043) October 13, 2019
Although Darnold’s outing against the Cowboys was impressive — he threw for 338 yards and two touchdowns — he came back to earth against the Pats, completing just 34 percent of his passes for 86 yards. Oh, and he’s seeing ghosts now? That’s what ESPN’s cameras caught him saying while he was mic’d up on-air:
Unfortunately the jokes don’t exactly stop there, as Darnold is suffering another, um, very strange injury:
Sam Darnold had a toenail removed, per Gase. He'll be fine.— Manish Mehta (@MMehtaNYDN) October 22, 2019
We’re not sure why Darnold’s body is basically rejecting his existence, but get well soon, Sam.
Panic index: Surely Darnold won’t add to his weird injury history this week, right?
Oh, the Jets are playing in Jacksonville. Then yeah, he’s definitely leaving there with a new disease.
Melvin Gordon’s contract year could not be going much worse
Gordon sat out the first four weeks of the 2019 NFL season while angling for either a trade or a contract extension that would pay him like a top-five running back. He got neither, and returned to the Chargers’ lineup in Week 5 in hopes of being the spark LA had been missing. A big performance wouldn’t just thrust the club back into the playoff race, but also boost the veteran tailback’s value as free agency looms in 2020.
Yet Gordon has only added to the Chargers’ misery. In three games — all losses — he’s run for a grand total of 81 yards, needing 36 carries to get there (a 2.3 YPC average). While he scored his first touchdown of the season on a Philip Rivers pass in Week 7, that’s not what he’ll be remembered for after an eventful Sunday in Nashville.
Instead, it will be the two stuffed runs at the goal line late in the fourth quarter of a 23-20 game — the latter of which resulted in a game-ending fumble that took away Los Angeles’ shot at kicking a game-tying field goal at the end of regulation.
"I don't want them to gain another yard... If they cross the line of scrimmage, I'm going to take every last one of you out. You make sure they remember the night they played the #Titans." pic.twitter.com/o4Pb5CBpAQ— Tennessee Titans (@Titans) October 21, 2019
That was bad. And it’s so, so much worse when you consider what Austin Ekeler, the man who’d taken over RB1 duties in Gordon’s absence, did on the very same afternoon:
Melvin Gordon - 18 touches for 29 total yards, 1 TD, and 2 (really 3) fumbles.— Bolts From The Blue (@BFTB_Chargers) October 20, 2019
Austin Ekeler - 12 touches 125 total yards, a TD and 0 Fumbles.
Panic index: Gordon can still attribute some of these struggles to rust, but the fact he’s getting so badly outplayed by someone who’d been a situational back in 2018 is troubling. General managers won’t easily forget that when they’re sorting out their free agent budgets next spring — nor will they forget that, so far, 2018 has been the only season Gordon’s averaged more than four yards per carry.
It’s only going to get tougher for the Bears
The Bears are off to a rocky start, with a 3-3 record after a 12-4 season a year ago. They have an incredible defense, but an offense that has been stagnant under the watch of third-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. They still have plenty of time to turn things around, but unfortunately for them, their schedule doesn’t get any easier.
While they will be favored against teams like the Chargers and Lions, both teams are capable of putting up numbers that Trubisky can’t touch. They have the Rams in mid-November, as well as an upcoming game against the Eagles.
December is where it gets really tricky, though. They have a four-game stretch against the Cowboys, Packers, Chiefs, and Vikings. They have already lost to the Packers once while beating the Vikings, but Minnesota looks a lot better now than they did a couple weeks ago.
Unless they make a trade, this is Trubisky’s show going forward and that, so far, hasn’t been working.
Panic index: The Bears can’t afford to drop any “winnable” games with their December stretch. If they’re on the outside looking in on the playoffs by the time those games roll around, they may be in trouble. It all starts with beating the Chargers next, and potentially sweeping the Lions.