Eagles' offense grounded while Carson Wentz keeps taking punishment


PHILADELPHIA -- The NFL is a fickle beast, isn't it?
One season your biggest concern is picking a touchdown celebration, and the next you're being twisted into knots and getting run over by the wheel instead of looking like the one who invented it.
Welcome to the Philadelphia Eagles' 2018 season.
An offense that ranked second in points per game last season at 28.6 is currently 25th at 20.6. The Eagles have failed to hit the 24-point mark through five games -- something they did an NFL-high 12 times during their Super Bowl run in 2017.
Unable to get their offensive engine humming, they have fallen to 2-3 on the season and face a critical game Thursday night against the New York Giants in the Meadowlands (8:20 p.m. ET, Fox). Per ESPN Stats & Information, Philly is the fifth reigning Super Bowl champion since the playoffs expanded to 12 teams in 1990 to go under .500 through the first five games. Only one of the previous four such teams -- the 1996 Dallas Cowboys -- rebounded to make the playoffs.
Most of the central cast members have returned and the Eagles are still led by the same aggressive, offense-minded head coach in Doug Pederson. What has changed? How much falls on the shoulders of quarterback Carson Wentz? And is there reason to be hopeful about a turnaround?
Let's dive in.
Decoding the RPO
Pederson's mantra heading into the season was "Embrace the Target." He wanted to drill into his players that they would get the opponent's best shot, week after week, as defending champs.
It goes for coaching as well.
"Each year you're going to study the team, whether it's an offense or defensive structure that had success the year before," Pederson said. "Everybody wants to see what worked and see if it fits for them. Obviously, studying us and looking at some of the things we did, they've had a whole offseason to prepare, a training camp to prepare."
One key component to the Eagles' offense is the run-pass option, or RPO. Opponents had few answers for it last year. If the defender they were keying dropped into coverage, the quarterback would hand it off to exploit the numbers advantage on the ground. If he committed to the run, the QB would pull it and throw it behind his ear to the open receiver. All day. Nick Foles rode them through an improbable playoff stretch that ended with him being named Super Bowl MVP.