PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Eagles' issues at wide receiver have reached the point that they are considering making a move during their bye week.
"We've got to take a look at it, obviously. It's real," coach Doug Pederson said Monday, hours before news of DeSean Jackson's pending abdominal surgery broke. "We're around the halfway point of our season, and we've got time this week to make these decisions."
The hope was that Jackson's much-anticipated return to the lineup Sunday against the Chicago Bears would solve many of the Eagles' problems in the pass game. Instead, it further exposed them. Jackson, who missed the previous six games with a Grade 2 abdominal strain, lasted one series before suffering what proved to be a full tear. He is expected to miss at least six more weeks, putting his season in jeopardy.
The thwarted comeback bid threw ice water on the notion that the 32-year-old would be able to reinvigorate what has been a rather flat passing attack, and that leaves Pederson with a personnel group that continues to underwhelm.
The Eagles are second in the NFL in drops (15) and third in drop rate (4.9%), according to ESPN Stats & Information, a problem that almost cost them in the Chicago game, as Alshon Jeffery allowed multiple passes to hit the turf. Carson Wentz's weapons are 26th in receptions per target (63.5%) and 27th in yards after the catch per reception (4.62) while ranking second in fumbles (four) and first in fumbles lost (three). Jackson's replacement in the lineup, Mack Hollins, hasn't had a catch since September.
What was dubbed the deepest group of playmakers in the Pederson era has turned into a trouble spot for the 5-4 Eagles.
The trade deadline has passed, leaving Philadelphia with fewer options. Any help from the outside will have to come from a free agent. Antonio Brown is the big name, but to this point, NFL teams have decided that the risk outweighs the reward with him. The Eagles could try to woo Torrey Smith out of retirement or rekindle relationships with Jordan Matthews or Mike Wallace. They could see if Michael Crabtree has anything left in the tank.
Whatever bandage they might apply, the Eagles' most realistic chance of improving will come from within. They sank a lot of resources into the receiver position and need to start seeing better return on that investment.
They spent a second-round pick on JJ Arcega-Whiteside in April, and though he showed positive signs during the offseason, he has only two catches for 14 yards while playing a limited role in the offense. Meanwhile, a number of receivers in that draft class are producing.
Pederson suggested the Eagles will look for ways to make better use of Arcega-Whiteside during the bye week.
Although a slow start for a rookie is understandable, it's harder to accept low-impact play from some of the veterans. Nelson Agholor, who is making $9.4 million this season, ranks 87th in receiving yards (282) behind Eagles rookie running back Miles Sanders (305). Jeffery is 66th with 353 receiving yards, which puts him on pace for his lowest output since his rookie season. He missed time early with a calf strain and hasn't looked like himself most of the season.
The Eagles now know they won't be saved by Jackson, and they can't pin their hopes on whomever they might bring in to take his spot. The remaining members of the receiving corps that built up so much promise for this season need to deliver.