The Philadelphia Eagles have to make an honest evaluation: are they prioritizing winning the lousy NFC East or the long-term health of the organization? If it’s the latter, the Eagles need to consider sitting Carson Wentz.
The Eagles quarterback is in a significant rut. We pointed out Wentz’s subpar play all the way back in Week 3, and unfortunately for the Eagles things have not progressed from there. He has just 14 touchdown passes in 10 games, leads the NFL in interceptions (14), ranks second last in the league in completion percentage and is 27th out of all starting quarterbacks in QBR, an ESPN.com measure of passing efficiency.
Worst of all, Wentz looks lost from a mental standpoint — he could benefit from a few weeks off. He is constantly forcing things and making the same mistakes, passing up high-percentage plays and frequently forcing the ball into coverage, while his penchant for turnovers continues to be problematic. In Sunday’s loss to the Cleveland Browns, Wentz had an ugly pick-six and took a safety.
— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) November 22, 2020
The Eagles would benefit from giving Wentz some time to work with the coaching staff, get his mind right, and find the root cause of his issues on the field. This is far more important than gaining a few games in the NFC East in a lost season.
Eagles coach Doug Pederson said benching Wentz would “send the wrong message,” but with games against NFC contenders such as the Seattle Seahawks, New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers over the next three weeks, the Eagles likely do not have much of a chance to make a real playoff push. It is far more important to fix their quarterback, whom they gave a four-year, $128-million contract extension in 2019.
On top of that, the club spent a second-round draft pick this year on QB Jalen Hurts and could use this as an opportunity to see what his value is at this stage of his development, while simultaneously working with Wentz. It helps kill two birds with one stone.
Benching Wentz isn’t an easy decision to make, but it is the most logical one.
Bengals need to do more to protect Burrow
The Cincinnati Bengals lost franchise QB Joe Burrow for the season after the rookie reportedly suffered a torn ACL in Sunday’s loss to the Washington Football Team. This may seem like hindsight analysis as the injury was the product of bad luck more than anything, but this is a symptom of a bigger problem. The team did not spend enough resources on building the offensive line to protect Burrow and as a result the No. 1 overall pick took more hits this season than any other quarterback in the NFL.
All love for Joe Burrow as he goes off the field. Including from Chase Young, Haskins, McLaurin pic.twitter.com/t42duvQWIQ
— JP Finlay (@JPFinlayNBCS) November 22, 2020
This is very reminiscent of the mistakes the Colts made early in Andrew Luck’s career. The Bengals seemed to prioritize getting skill players for Burrow, but this needs to change going forward. This past offseason, the Bengals did not spend any significant capital on offensive linemen. They have just one high pick at the position and the veteran linemen they have invested in are not particularly good players. The Bengals will have a top-five pick and a lot of salary cap space this offseason and they cannot repeat this mistake if they want to get out of the NFL basement. With Burrow on his rookie contract, the Bengals will have plenty of opportunity to upgrade his protection.
Colts safety making case for defensive rookie of the year
The average football fan might not know who safety Julian Blackmon is, but the Colts found a quality player in the third round of the 2020 NFL draft. Blackmon slipped in the draft because of an ACL injury in his final college season, but the rookie safety has been a force on one of the best defences in the NFL. Against Green Bay, he made a significant impact, finishing with five solo tackles, including one tackle for loss, and forced a fumble in overtime that essentially won the game for the Colts.
This effort by Julian Blackmon forced a fumble in overtime and set up the game winning field goal in the Colts win over the Packers. pic.twitter.com/nyvY2F3kvF
— Jeremiah Jensen (@JJSportsBeat) November 23, 2020
On top of that, Blackmon has been relatively consistent, making big plays all season in crucial moments. He is one of the highest-graded defensive backs in coverage, per Pro Football Focus’s metrics, and is a very good tackler in space. The Colts do not get a lot of attention because they lack star power, but Blackmon is a player to watch and should be in the conversation for defensive rookie of the year. Pretty good find by GM Chris Ballard.
Saints quietly positioned for No. 1 seed
There was a lot of debate over the Saints’ decision to start Taysom Hill over Jameis Winston at quarterback in Week 11. While Sean Payton was rewarded by going with Hill, ultimately it likely wouldn’t have mattered because of how well the New Orleans defense played against the Atlanta Falcons.
The Saints’ front four dominated Matt Ryan on Sunday, sacking him eight times, and the team didn’t allow a single touchdown without their best cornerback in the lineup. The pass rush has been trending up for the Saints, who have won seven straight games, as New Orleans had similar productivity in its blowout victory two weeks ago against Tom Brady and the Buccaneers.
One player who has stood out for the Saints is defensive lineman Trey Hendrickson. He had two sacks in Week 11 and is up to 9.5 total sacks on the season. After beating Atlanta, New Orleans is well positioned in the NFC. It now has a one-game lead over any other team in the NFC standings following Green Bay’s loss to Indianapolis, and owns the division tiebreaker over Tampa Bay. The Saints have a light schedule coming up and even with their QB on the shelf, they are well positioned to manage. New Orleans is undefeated in games Brees has missed over the last two seasons.
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