Just a few weeks after everything seemed to be spiraling out of control, the Eagles have put together two wins in a row to get to 5-4 heading into their bye week. They have two games remaining on this brutal stretch of schedule before December begins with a road trip to Miami. While the team has shown an incredible amount of resolve to bounce back from two demoralizing defeats on the field and endless drama off of it, there are still issues to be cleaned up going into the second half of the season. Some may be fixable, some not so much. I’ve left injury recoveries off this list, because getting those players back is obvious. Before the Eagles prepare to face New England at Lincoln Financial Field on the 17th in a Super Bowl LII rematch, here is a bye week “to-do” list for the Eagles:
1) Release Andrew Sendejo and get a 4th-round compensatory pick.
Brought in to be a third safety, Andrew Sendejo has done more harm than good since he has been an Eagle. Whether it be nonsensical penalties or recklessly injuring his own teammates (Avonte Maddox), the Sendejo experiment hasn’t worked. The Eagles can gain a 4th round draft pick if they release Sendejo by this Saturday, and it should be a no-brainer. Last year, Avonte Maddox thrived in a corner/safety hybrid role in 2018 and is more than capable of being this team’s third safety, especially once Cre’Von LeBlanc returns and can play the slot CB role. The Eagles defense has stepped up in a major way the last two games, but Sendejo is a liability at this point. Time to move on.
2) Either deactivate or release Mack Hollins.
It’s beyond frightening how bad Mack Hollins has been offensively, with the Eagles in desperate need of a receiver to step up. He doesn’t have a single catch since September 26. And it’s not like he’s barely played – he’s been out there for a strong percentage of the overall snaps – he just literally isn’t doing anything. It’s painful listening to Doug Pederson come up with excuses for why Hollins can barely get targeted, let alone make catches. Even if you wanted to argue he can block, he committed an awful holding penalty to wipe away a big Miles Sanders run on Sunday. If the Eagles don’t want to part ways altogether with their 4th round pick from 2 years ago, then just deactivate him on game days for the foreseeable future. He’s basically a cheerleader already. There’s other receivers, either on the street or already on the roster, who not only deserve a chance but could do literally anything and be better than Hollins. Which brings me to…
3) Find a way to work JJ Arcega-Whiteside into the offense.
With how awful the WR corps has played for the Eagles, it’s not fair to keep the second-round rookie, who had a very strong summer, still on the sideline. Yes, he dropped the Carson Wentz 4th-down pass that would have beaten the Lions Week 3. But he deserves more of a chance than he’s gotten, and he absolutely deserves more snaps than Mack Hollins. Let Arcega-Whiteside learn through experience, let him develop by actually playing. The Eagles saw enough in him to take him ahead of DK Metcalf, and Arcega-Whiteside looked terrific in training camp and the preseason. I highly doubt he lost all of his ability in the past two months. Get him on the field, scheme up some plays for him, you never know what you might find.
4) Sign Jordan Matthews.
Yeah, I know, I can’t believe I just typed that too. But at least he can catch (at least last season he could). He knows the offense. He knows the quarterback. He was actually productive last season. He’s the last Eagles WR to catch a touchdown in a playoff game. A group of Jeffery/Matthews/Agholor/Arcega-Whitseide would be an upgrade over Jeffery/Agholor/Hollins.
5) Keep Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills as the starting CBs.
The Eagles are now 15-5 when Darby and Mills start together at cornerback. Neither of them is a great player on their own, but things just seem to work better when these two play together. Yes, the defensive line has begun to wreak havoc since Darby returned in Buffalo, which has helped the corners look better, but I doubt the secondary play would be this improved if Sidney Jones was still trotting out there. Darby and Mills bring an x-factor, a confidence, a swagger to this secondary, and they need to continue playing like they have the last two weeks as the Eagles prepare to face Tom Brady and Russell Wilson after the Bye.
There’s a lot to improve, but the Eagles are alive. If they can salvage a split of these next two games vs. New England and Seattle and get to their cakewalk December schedule at 6-5, winning the NFC East becomes increasingly likely. There are some issues to correct, but with Carson Wentz, Doug Pederson, and this strong running game, the Eagles have a shot against anyone. Sometimes just having a shot is all you need.
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By Chris Fioti