Philadelphia Eagles: Looking at obituary from 2019 season

PHILADELPHIA, PA - AUGUST 08: Head coach Doug Pederson of the Philadelphia Eagles looks on in the first quarter against the Tennessee Titans preseason game at Lincoln Financial Field on August 8, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Titans defeated the Eagles 27-10. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - AUGUST 08: Head coach Doug Pederson of the Philadelphia Eagles looks on in the first quarter against the Tennessee Titans preseason game at Lincoln Financial Field on August 8, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Titans defeated the Eagles 27-10. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /
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2019 Philadelphia Eagles obituary
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

Primary Cause of Death: Injuries

The primary cause of death cannot be too surprising here, can it? Leaders of the team always talk with the “next man up” mentality, which is an admirable mindset to have when you are playing a sport with as many injuries as football.

But it is the player’s talent that carries a team. And while even earning a spot on the practice squad in the NFL indicates the player is in the top-five percent of all football players in the world, the difference in skill and performance is still vastly different from starters to scout team players.

For the second season in a row, this Eagles were decimated by injuries, starting in the preseason and continuing even until the final drive of Week 17, when guard Brandon Brooks suffered a shoulder injury and defensive end Daeshon Hall injured his knee. Both players were added to the Injured Reserve and were unavailable for the playoffs.

The Eagles had 32 players listed this season in injury reports, according to Pro-Football Reference. The first really big, notable players injured coming into the season were cornerbacks Cre’von LeBlanc and Jalen Mills. Both were either listed on IR or the PUP lists on opening day.

The first notable player to be injured during the regular season was Malik Jackson, the newly acquired defensive tackle meant to play alongside Fletcher Cox and together dominate the interior of opposing offensive lines. Jackson sustained a serious injury in Week 1 and was placed on Injured Reserve.

It wasn’t too long before the biggest free-agent acquisition went down too. DeSean Jackson, the wandering wide receiver beginning his second stint with the team, went down in Week 2 with an abdominal tear.

Unfortunately, Jackson refused surgery at the time, instead hoping to avoid IR and return. Jackson would eventually come back against the Bears, only to aggravate to original injury and finally go on IR.

Nelson Agholor got hurt back in late November, but considering the number of on-field gaffes he was involved in earlier this season, one may assume he was just being held out.

Finally, the last major domino to drop from the receiver room was Alshon Jeffery, who played banged-up most of the season, and was finally put on IR before Week 15.

All together, 14 players entered Wild Card Weekend on IR, including Agholor.

Even Zach Ertz got injured back in Week 16 during the win over the Cowboys, and there’s no question he received the most attention from opposing defenses all season.

Ertz was consistently double-teamed most games, as he had become the team’s most dependable receiver. Ertz revealed after the loss to the Seahawks that he had been playing through two cracked ribs, a cartilage tear, and an injured kidney.

What can account for so many injuries? For starters, this team has a bunch of veterans stars, including several players from the Super Bowl team during the 2017 season.

Many of these players have a history of injuries coming into 2019, so it’s not terribly surprising some would get hurt. This team’s roster was so stacked with veterans and high-level players, my guess is it was assumed that even if some got injured, there would be enough talented depth to plug-in when one player got hurt.

The problem with that logic is that depth gets hurt too. And when the starter and backup are both hurt, you find yourself in the Eagles position, using old quarterbacks from the AAF like Greg Ward Jr. or relying on rookie running back Miles Sanders to be your best receiving option.

What is most troubling is the way the injuries were centered around two position groups, which were wide receivers and cornerbacks.

Although nearly every position group sustained injuries, these two positions bore the brunt of the injury plague of 2019, reducing the team’s overall efficiency.

The Eagles defensive run blocking unit had been outstanding and one of the few bright spots on this team. But it starts to feel like Sisyphus rolling the boulder up the mountain, when opposing teams run for no yards on the first two downs, and then throw more than 30 yards downfield against a practice squad level cornerback like Orlando Scandrick on third down.

The prescription for injuries is not too easy to find. It is football after all, as injuries are an unfortunate part of the game. But the past two seasons should be a cautionary tale for general manager Howie Roseman, regarding which free agents to prioritize in the future.

There is nothing wrong with taking a chance on a guy with injuries in free agency or in the draft.

But certain players, such as Jackson, are consistently missing time every season because of injury. Jackson has not finished a full 16-game season since 2013.

No one could have predicted he would miss most of this season because of his past injuries. But every time a general manager signs a player with an extensive injury history like Jackson, they should have another player behind him with similar skill sets. But when the next player up is Jeffrey, who is also chronically injured, who then is backed up by Agholor, who is then backed up by Mack Hollins–well you get the idea.

Until the NFL becomes either adopts a flag football or two-hand touch game, injuries are likely to dominate every aspect of team planning. When you know injuries are going to be ubiquitous in the game, it might help to have a few players ready who don’t already have nearly as extensive of an injury file, as this team’s wide receiver and secondary core.