Eagles' offense a question heading to playoffs

Jan 2, 2018 - 12:20 AM PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Eagles are heading into the playoffs with some very serious questions about the capability of their offense after Sunday's 6-0 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

Most of the Eagles' offensive starters, including quarterback Nick Foles, who has replaced injured Carson Wentz, played only a quarter against the Cowboys before getting the rest of the meaningless game off.

The Eagles played as poorly in the first quarter as they did a week earlier in a 19-10 win over the Oakland Raiders.

Foles, who completed only 19 of 38 passes against the Raiders, was 4-for-11 for 39 yards with a bad interception against the Cowboys before exiting.

The Eagles managed only three first downs in four first-quarter possessions and were 0-for-3 on third down. For the game, they were 2-for-11 on third down. They were 1-for-14 on third down against the Raiders the week before.

Before Wentz went down with an ACL tear in Week 14, the Eagles were one of the best third-down teams in the league. Not any more.

Head coach Doug Pederson said the problem isn't third down, but first and second down.

"We're losing yards on first and second down with penalties, negative rushing plays, sacks, and that's what puts us in third-and-long," he said.

The only problem is the Eagles aren't in any more third-and-longs than they were in when Wentz was the quarterback. It's just that he was able to convert them because of his ability to extend plays and also use his legs to pick up first downs.

Before he got hurt, the only quarterback in the league with more rushing first downs than Wentz's 26 was Carolina's Cam Newton.

Of Sunday's performance, Foles said: "Obviously, as a whole, it's not exactly what we wanted. But there's a lot to build on, and I'm confident that we will build on it."

--Most of the Eagles' defensive starters either didn't play at all (defensive end Brandon Graham, defensive tackle Tim Jernigan, linebacker Nigel Bradham, safety Rodney McLeod and cornerback Jalen Mills) or only played a handful of snaps (defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, safety Malcolm Jenkins).

Yet, Jim Schwartz's unit did a pretty good job against a Cowboys offense that played its starters, including quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott, the entire game. The Cowboys scored their only points on a fourth-quarter touchdown pass from Prescott to wide receiver Brice Butler.

"We went in with the mentality that it didn't matter who was in there (for the Eagles), backup linebacker and special teams ace Kamu Grugier-Hill said. "We had to stop these dudes, and ultimately win. We didn't win, but held them to six points. We did a pretty decent job."

Elliott became the first player to rush for 100 yards against the Eagles this season. But the Eagles prevented him from getting 1,000 yards for the second straight season. He needed 120 and finished with just 103.

--Rookie cornerback Sidney Jones saw his first action of the season Sunday. Jones, the team's second-round pick last spring, played 29 snaps against the Cowboys. He spent most of the season on the team's non-football injury list recovering from a ruptured Achilles. He suffered the injury at his Pro Day before the 2017 draft.

"I can't even describe it," Jones said when asked what it was like to finally get on the field. "It's a whole bunch of nerves and juices going. Good juices. It's a blessing. I can't even describe it."

The Eagles put linebacker Joe Walker on injured reserve to make room on the 53-man roster for Jones. Walker supposedly had a neck injury.

--ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Sunday that Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is a candidate for the Giants' head coaching job. Head-coaching candidates for playoff teams with a first-round bye can be interviewed this week.

Schwartz is expected to travel to north Jersey to meet with the Giants. Arizona is also reportedly interested in Schwartz.

"I think any time you have success as a team I think your assistant coaches are going to be looked at for potential jobs," head coach Doug Pederson said. "We'll cross that bridge when we get there."

NOTES: LG Stefen Wisniewski, who missed the previous two games with an ankle injury, played all but eight snaps Sunday against the Cowboys. The coaching staff felt it was important for him to get a lot of work after missing the two games. ... RB Jay Ajayi was the only offensive regular who didn't play at all Sunday. He is fine. The Eagles just wanted to rest him. ... CB Sidney Jones saw his first action of the season. The rookie second-round pick, who ruptured his Achilles in his Pro Day workout before the draft, played 29 snaps against the Cowboys.

... QB Nate Sudfeld got the first regular-season snaps of his career. Sudfeld, who is the backup to Nick Foles with Carson Wentz out with an ACL tear, played the final three quarters against the Cowboys. He completed 19-of-23 passes. But 16 of those 23 attempts traveled five yards or less in the air. He was sacked three times. ... LT Halapoulivaati Vaitai played the entire game. He was the only offensive starter who did. He struggled at times, giving up a sack and getting called for a holding.


--PASSING OFFENSE: D-minus - Nick Foles completed just 4-of-11 passes for 39 yards and had an ugly, underthrown interception before leaving after the first quarter. Nate Sudfeld completed 19-of-23 passes, but averaged just 5.8 yards per throw and was sacked three times.

--RUSHING OFFENSE: C-minus - Jay Ajayi got the day off, and head coach Doug Pederson started pulling his starters after the first quarter. Still, the Eagles had just 70 rushing yards and six rushing first downs. They haven't scored a rushing TD in six games. Take out Nate Sudfeld's 22-yard scramble and they averaged just 2.8 yards per carry against the Cowboys.

--PASS DEFENSE: B - The Cowboys played Dak Prescott and most of the rest of their offensive starters the entire game, but didn't find the end zone until three minutes into the fourth quarter when Brice Butler beat backup corner Rasul Douglas on a 20-yard slant. The Eagles held Prescott to 6.0 yards per attempt, 4.9 in the first three quarters.

--RUSH DEFENSE: B-minus - Ezekiel Elliott became the first 100-yard rusher against the Eagles this season, but he had to work for it, averaging just 3.8 yards per carry against mostly backups. The Eagles held him to 28 yards on 10 first-half carries. But he opened the second half with a 25-yard run and then rushed for 39 yards on 11 carries in the fourth quarter.

--SPECIAL TEAMS: B-plus - Donnie Jones, who had a season-high eight punts last week, had seven more Sunday, finishing with a solid 41.0 net average and putting three punts inside the 20, two inside the 5. Eagles coverage units did a good job of neutralizing Cowboys returner Ryan Switzer. PR Kenjon Barner fumbled a punt inside his 5, but recovered it.

--COACHING: B - Pederson rested most of his regulars or had them play very few snaps. Nick Foles and the first-team offense struggled for the second straight week before being given the final three quarters off. The good news is they got out of the game without anyone getting hurt.

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