Was this Eagles season a success?
It’s hard to quantify it as a success when you start 3-0 and go 3-9 the rest of the way.
But what I can tell you is that these two players going out took the Eagles from a playoff team to cellar dweller in the NFC East.
The first one is obvious. It’s Lane Johnson.
With Lane out there, the Eagles were moving the ball up and down the field and running it much more effectively. He also helped ease Wentz into the NFL by giving him a pretty clean pocket to work out of. Lane being active allowed Allen Barbre to remain inside, at LG, where he was a stud until being forced to shuffle around.
The Eagles averaged 27.6 points per game with Lane in the lineup this year. They only averaged 20.1 points per game in his absence. Now, there’s of course little factors that changed these games and it wasn’t all Lane being out, but still the Eagles were 7 points worse when he was out of games this season. That has to mean something. If Lane alone is active for all 16 games, are the Eagles a playoff team? I think so.
They probably win that first Washington game, when Big V got absolutely abused all afternoon long. Even with V getting destroyed the Eagles were still in a position to win that football game. I also think they win that first Giants game as well if Lane is good to go and probably the first Dallas game (even though they should have won anyway). The simple matter-of-the-fact is that had Lane been active all year long, the Eagles would have been able to balance out there offense much better and likely wouldn’t have had Carson drop back a record amount of times for a rookie.
But here’s what I think is pretty important. The Eagles learned how to live without Lane and I think that’s paramount heading into next year. Sure, it might have been at the sacrifice of the 2016 Eagles campaign, but seeing what you got in V and Seumalo is key with Jason Peters and Jason Kelce getting up there in age. Also, Carson learned how to move the pocket much, much better without Lane out there. He couldn’t settle into his comfort zones, like when Lane was healthy, and it forced him to adjust and be more creative in the pocket. Now with that experience, and Lane being back, we should see Carson take more steps forward next year.
“Please don’t leave us again, Lane. Life without you is a dark, dark place.” – Carson Wentz or Jack Fritz?
So, who’s the other guy that I was talking about?
How about Ron Brooks… Who?
Not enough people are talking about Ron Brooks’ injury derailing this Eagles defense.
Believe me, this is not me saying that Brooks was a world-beater or a perennial Pro-Bowler, but his presence out there was undeniable, why? Because it allowed Malcolm Jenkins to play in his normal free safety position. With Brooks out, we frequently saw Jenkins covering the slot receiver. This took Jenkins out of his comfort zone and really hurt his play. It’s kind of like when Jahlil Okafor plays with Joel Embiid, it makes Embiid way less effective. Against the Giants two weeks ago, Schwartz experimented with Jalen Mills in the slot and allowed Jenkins to play his usual position. Jenkins responded by picking off Eli two times. Brooks was playing solid enough that the Eagles didn’t have to worry about him being a liability out there, which is a good thing.
The numbers also back it up.
In the six games Brooks played in, the Eagles defense was only allowing 14.6 points per game and were being talked about in the same ilk as the Vikings, Broncos and Seahawks. In the 10 games without Brooks in the lineup, the Eagles defense was allowing 24.6 (!) points per game. Good lord! AND they were consistently getting burned for big play after big play. Before the Brooks injury, it was usually one big play a game and it would be corrected, but not when he went out– then the Eagles CB’s turned to burnt toast.
Had these two played, I guarantee you that this Eagles season turns out differently and we’re maybe even heading to Green Bay this weekend.