McMullen: Scapegoating Wiz Isn’t the Answer for the Eagles
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - The Eagles haven't been themselves when it comes to pass protection early in the 2018 season and everyone from Doug Pederson, Mike Groh and Carson Wentz have correctly pointed out the context to that.
A knee injury that the tough-as-nails Jason Kelce is playing through, age, inactivity and a quad contributing to Jason Peters finally looking like a human being, injuries in the backfield which have complicated blitz protections, Lane Johnson coming down from the plateau of a career year, and Wentz's willingness to hold onto the football in an effort to extend plays are the types of things that have contributed to nine sacks over the two games Wentz has been back.
Groh was particularly testy when asked about the protection issues in Tennessee earlier this week.
"Those are your words. I wouldn't say that," Groh said when asked why picking up the blitz has become "a real adventure." "We've got as good an offensive line as there is in the league, and [I] wouldn't trade any of those guys."
Despite that scouting report and the belief that the Eagles have "as good an offensive line as there is in the league," turns out the fix for that complicated formula of pass pro is the basic arithmetic of turning the hand-wringing outside of the NovaCare Complex into scapegoating inside of it with veteran left guard Stefen Wisniewski serving as the sacrifice to the altar of change for the sake of change.
For that I bring in WWE superstar The Miz to explain my reaction:
From a talent perspective, Wisniewski is clearly the runt of the litter on an O-Line which features two All-Pros from last season (Kelce and Johnson), a Pro Bowl selection in right guard Brandon Brooks, and a potential future Hall of Famer in Peters. The final piece to that superb puzzle was supposed to be Isaac Seumalo until the 2016 third-round pick imploded when handed the job without having to earn it last season.
So the Eagles are going Back to the Future here with an NFL source telling 973espn.com Friday that Seumalo is expected to start against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday and Wisniewski will return to the role of interior backup.
This isn't a Band-Aid on a broken leg because the Eagles' issues really aren't that bad to begin with when compared to the rest of the league and Seumalo does have talent.
It does, however, point to a panic that the Eagles claim does not exist.
Through the first four games of the season, Wisniewski has been what he is, solid if unspectacular, grading out as the 39th best of 68 total players at the position by ProFootballFocus.com. Seumalo, meanwhile, has been in on just 13 snaps, mainly as an extra offensive lineman in jumbo formations.
"I'm just going to say this: we're constantly evaluating everybody," Pederson said. "This week we've rotated some guys around. Isaac has played left guard, he’s played some center. Just giving guys an opportunity to see."
Seumalo, 24, spent most of training camp this summer as the backup center behind Kelce as the Eagles started a reclamation project on his confidence. Offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland has always liked Seumalo's versatility and ceiling as a player and the Eagles feel he has more physical gifts than Wisniewski so the hope is things finally click.
Former Eagles coach Buddy Ryan once got a chuckle for breaking out the time-tested thesis that "If you listen to the fans, you'll be sitting up there with them."
The Eagles aren't exactly listening and Pederson has built up enough capital in the bank to make more than one mistake but it's also evident this organization at least overheard the concerns and reacted by swapping what they feel are inconsequential deck chairs to satiate the uneducated and give a once premium draft pick one more opportunity to earn a starting job.
That's not quite the definition of change for change's sake but it's awfully close.
The Eagles have been there before. Now it's time to act like it.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen