Philadelphia Eagles

Eagles will struggle behind depleted offensive line

October 9, 2016: Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce (62) and Philadelphia Eagles guard Brandon Brooks (79) look at the scoreboard during game action between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Detroit Lions during a regular season game played at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan.
(Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire)

Through the first four weeks of the NFL season, things looked pretty good in Philadelphia. The Eagles were 3-0 coming off the bye week, had the best scoring defense in the NFL, and Carson Wentz looked like the hero quarterback Philly has waited for the majority of its existence as an NFL franchise.

Fast forward to this week, though, and the wheels appear to be falling off the wagon in Philadelphia.

The Eagles have dropped two straight, the defense has given up over 20 points in back-to-back weeks, and Wentz appears, well, mortal.

However, one glaring weakness stood out over every other shortcoming the Eagles displayed in their loss to the Redskins on Sunday: the offensive line. After Lane Johnson’s suspension was held up this week, leaving the Eagles without their starting right tackle for the remainder of the season, Philadelphia went into full panic mode. Not only did the Eagles trade Dennis Kelly, Johnson’s backup, over the of season, but they were forced to start Halapoulivaati Vaitai, a rookie tackle out of TCU selected in the fifth round of this year’s draft. While Vaitai may be solid in the long run, fifth round rookies typically don’t start in the NFL, and the Eagles’ right tackle showed exactly why on Sunday.

In his debut performance for the Eagles, Vatai gave up two sacks, a hit, and two hurries, according to Pro Football Focus, on just 27 drop backs by Wentz. That means that roughly out of every five times Wentz dropped back to pass, Vatai’s man was the one supplying pressure on the rookie QB, which is a wholly unsustainable prospect for an Eagles team that wants to win.

In addition to Vatai’s rough day, the rest of the Eagles’ offensive line didn’t exactly hold up against a mediocre Redskins’ pass rush. Wentz was pressured on 11 of his 27 drop backs on the day, which completely disrupted the offense’s rhythm and ability to move the football successfully.

September 1, 2016: Philadelphia Eagles offensive tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai (72) and Philadelphia Eagles guard Barrett Jones (77) block for Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Chase Daniel (10) during a Preseason National Football League game between the New York Jets and the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)

(Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)

On the 14 drop backs when Wentz wasn’t pressure, he completed eight passes, for an average of 10.4 yards per catch, and held a very respectable QB rating of 92.9. However, on the 13 drop backs when he was pressure, his QB rating dropped to 51.0, his completion percentage plummeted to 37.5%, and he was sacked five times.

Clearly, if teams can get after Wentz, they can completely disrupt this Eagles’ offense, which could be a major problem in Philadelphia.

In fairness to Vatai, it wasn’t completely his fault. While he was the primary offender on the Eagles’ offensive line, center Jason Kelce was also terrible against Washington, committing his sixth penalty of the year to derail the Philadelphia offense once again. PFF has Kelce as the worst rated center in the entire league, and after his play through the first six weeks, it’s hard to argue anyone else is deserving of that dubious title.

However, the biggest problem for Eagles fans is it’s hard to see how this problem gets better.

The Dennis Kelly trade seems asinine now, as Philly is desperate for at least a competent right tackle. Vatai could be good in the future, but his rookie year could shatter his confidence if he continues to play like he did against the Redskins. Kelce might return to form, but after five terrible games that seems unlikely.

Quite frankly, the Eagles’ offensive line is in complete disarray, and that could be the nail in their coffin for this season. Once considered a strong point of the offense, the line in Philly appears caught between aging veterans, suspensions, and injuries, which will likely cause thee offense to tail spin in the coming weeks.

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