SEASON Reviews are usually done at the end of the season. A few are also done at the halfway mark. Starting in 2017, Eaglemaniacal.com began treating the season like a game, and breaking it into four quarters.
In 2021, the NFL expanded the season to 17 games, which makes for an uneven split. So this year (at least), these Quarterly Reports will come after Weeks 5, 9, 13, and 18. (Ugh. I hate even looking at that format.)
Since football is a hard sport, we’ll take a hard look at where our team currently stands, in relation to where it started. Then we can discuss where it needs to go next.
STATUS: 9 – 8, NFC Wild Card 7th seed, (Points: +26.1/-22.6)
( W ) Washington 7 – 10
( W ) New York giants 4 – 13
( W ) Washington 7 – 10
( L ) Dallas 12 – 5
We’re in the playoffs! Stop and appreciate that for a moment. From a 2 – 5 start with a rookie Head Coach in Nick Sirianni, to 9 – 8 and representing our division in the playoffs. By the way, I want to say that calling us the NFC Least…THAT’S GOTTA GO! The NFC West sent three playoff teams. The NFC North? Just one. The NFC South? Just one. The NFC East sent two. Apparently even our 7th seed Eagles, are better than at Least 9 other teams in the conference. (Mic drop)
QB: (C )During this quarter, Jalen Hurts went 54/81 (66.6%), with 3 touchdowns vs 1 interception (for 5 total scores and 2 turnovers) He also had three consecutive slow starts vs bad teams. With the high ankle sprain that he’s nursing, he now has to lean on his skills as a passer. Like Dak Prescott, Hurts may possess a lot of locker room intangibles, but as a passer, he cannot be mistaken for a top 10 player at his position.
The question all year long has been: IS HURTS A FRANCHISE QB?
I sent my answer in early, and my answer was “No.” However, for those who wanted to take the whole regular season to assess… Well, here we are, and my answer remains unchanged. If you want to look at the season in its entirety, fine. Let’s wait until after the playoffs.
In fact, the playoffs are the very measuring stick that GM Howie Roseman used to measure QB Carson Wentz: “We loved Carson, but we played four playoff games” (actually six Howie) “and we’ve needed our backup quarterback for all of them. It’s too important of a position not to have that. I think that just thinking about where we were at the moment, and I think it was the right thing to do. It’s a hard decision, but it was the right thing to do.”
Hurts will go into his first playoff game next week, and so far he doesn’t seem to have mastered the position’s subtleties. Scoring a nod as a Pro Bowl alternate was cute, but no one really cares about that. The Pro Bowl lost the credibility of being real football years ago.
RB: (C ) The best ability is availability, and Miles Sanders (25 – 176 – 7.0 – 0 – 0) has come up short in that, for the second time this season. Concluding this season in street clothes, he will post career lows in rushing attempts, rushing yards, receptions, and receiving yards. Despite 166 touches, he will not post a single touchdown in 2021.
Jordan Howard (35 – 132 – 3.7 – 0 – 0) hasn’t been quite as effective with Sanders out. In fairness, his use has also become more sporadic, in a position that relies on rhythm. With Sanders out, Boston Scott (26 – 88 – 3.3 – 3 – 0) somehow leap-frogged Howard to become the starter. In the season finale Kenneth Gainwell (13 – 82 – 6.3 – 1 – 0) got the start, and Jason Huntley (13 – 51 – 3.9 – 0 – 0) was activated.
With Sanders being out and Jalen Hurts nursing a sore ankle, the personality of the run game has shifted severely. It went from battering teams inside, to trying to use a little guys (Scott, Gainwell, Huntley) to exploit creases. Without the physical edge to the run game, the passing game has been negatively impacted, as pass rushers are now staying fresh, longer.
WR: (D ) Devonta Smith (22 – 14 – 215 – 15.3 – 1) failed to reach 100 yards in any game, this (or last) quarter. While his statistical contribution would be great for a #2, his role on this team is that of a #1. More is expected of him! He is either being hindered by his own talent/work ethic, the coaching, or who is throwing to him. Those are the only three choices. Fix the problem.
Quez Watkins (16 – 12 – 156 – 13.0 – 1) is being utilized completely wrong. As a deep threat, he neither sees two long balls per game, nor are many post routes run out of the Slot to keep Safeties from bracketing him deep, to get him one-on-one.
When Greg Ward (7 – 5 – 65 – 13.0 – 1) gets opportunities, he produces. He isn’t as physically gifted as the other receivers, so the coaches aren’t intrigued enough to try to manufacture opportunities for him, like they do with Jalen Reagor (11 – 7 – 91 – 13.0 – 0), who is trash, or J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (3 – 0 – 0 – 0.0 – 0) who is also trash.
TE: (C ) Dallas Goedert (20 – 15 – 234 – 15.6 – 0), and Jack Stoll (1 – 1 – 7 – 7.0 – 0) have been the Eagles 1-2 punch, since the trade of Zach Ertz. As you can see, the 2TE attack has been severely de-emphasized. When Ertz left, no one picked up the slack with regard to the production vacuum. Both Tyree Jackson and Richard Rodgers combined for 5 catches, 33 yards, and touchdown in the season finale. Otherwise neither had a catch all season.
OT: (A ) LT Jordan Mailata and RT Lane Johnson continue to be one of the best duos in the sport. Just to drive that nail further into our opponents coffin, Lane caught a 5 yard TD during our Week 16 runaway victory over the giants. Andre Dillard continues to be high quality depth. Le’Raven Clark on the other hand, is a career back-up, who will never push for a starting gig.
G: (A ) LG Landon Dickerson and RG Nate Herbig have been consistent, and despite being young players with the mounting pressures of a playoff chase on the line, there’s been just one penalty between them since November. That is discipline and poise.
C: (A ) Jason Kelce is a future Hall of Famer.
DE: (D ) Josh Sweat must have heard me badmouthing him all year, because he’s really turned it up this quarter. In his last three games, he’s added 2.5 sacks, 3 batted passes, and a FF. If badmouthing him makes him play this much better, then let me just say (clears throat) “Josh Sweat ain’t shit! The only way he’ll ever see a QB, is with a telescope. He sets edges worse than Naomi Campbell.”
Violence towards QB’s is apparently against Derek Barnett’s religion. Tarron Jackson hasn’t played a ton, but when he does, he just looks like a guy. Ryan Kerrigan started the last two games and didn’t have much impact at all. A draft pick will be spent here in April.
DT: (B ) Fletcher Cox in his last three games has racked up 2.5 sacks, 10 tackles (3 for losses), 1 forced fumble and 5 QB hits. THAT, is how to roll into the playoffs! Javon Hargrave’s 12 tackles and 5 QB hits, are not to be overlooked.
Hassan Ridgeway is a high motor, rotational guy. He hasn’t produced many stats, but he’s played quite a bit during the last quarter. That likely has been to keep the starters as fresh as possible for the playoffs. The story of the quarter however, has been Milton Williams. The rookie has stepped up, with a sack, 9 tackles (4 for losses), 3 QB hits, and 2 passes knocked down, during these last 4 games.
OLB: (C ) Alex Singleton grabbed 28 tackles, forced a fumble, and returned an interception for a score. All this as he set the Eagles all-time mark, for tackles (137) in a season. He had his 6th double-digit tackle game of the season, with 12 against the giants.
Though Genard Avery has been used less as a blitzer this quarter, the blitzes have been smarter. As a result he’s added 3 hurries and his only sack of the regular season. To compare, he’d had 1 hurry in game one, and none again until this quarter. Patrick Johnson got the Week 18 start and turned it into 5 tackles. Still, I think he’d be better as an edge rusher, with his fingers in the dirt.
MLB: (A ) T.J. Edwards had 36 tackles and 2 passes defensed in his last three game. That includes 16 and then 14 tackles, in his last two games. He also has 6 double-digit tackle games this season. In a rare instance where Edwards wasn’t on the field, Shaun Bradley got the Week 18 start and posted 5 tackles.
S: (C ) “Rodney McLeod is no longer an impact player on the back end. He always seems a step (or two) slow, and his tackles lack any authority.” That’s what I said during the last one of these reports. Let me just say now, I’ll have my crow with a side of mashed potatoes, please. McLeod came out of nowhere to grab two picks, in his last two games. Nothing in his play this season indicated that he had anything left in the tank. Then suddenly… Crazy. Just crazy.
Anthony Harris has shown a little more aggression towards the ball with a pass deflection in each of the last two weeks. Marcus Epps is a solid Nickel player, who is learning to let the game come to him more. K’Von Wallace doesn’t miss tackles, but unfortunately, tackling seems like all he does.
CB: (B ) Darius Slay and Steve Nelson haven’t been flashy this quarter, but the showing off is there, if you know how to look. In the last 5 games this duo has played, no opponent has reached 20 points in a game. Neither has surrendered 100 yards or a touchdown this quarter.
Avonte Maddox has been making tackles to “cauterize the wound” when receivers make short grabs. However, he could be doing more to influence fewer passes to his zone. Rookie Zech MacPhearson has played 83 snaps, been targeted just 10 times, and allowed 6 completions for 71 yards and no scores. In fact, on the year, he’s played 179 snaps, but been targeted just 17 times, allowing 9 completions for 96 yards and no scores. QB’s avoid throwing at him. Let that sink in too.
Andre Chachere (pronounced sash – sherry), and Josiah Scott are Nickel/Dime types. They will allow a high percentage of completed passes, but they will also stick their whole face in on a tackle as well.
LS: (A ) Rick Lovato. Has done a consistent and reliable job of getting the ball to the leg men.
P: (D ) Arryn Siposs saw his per boot average drop from 45 to 36.9, yards. Of course, of his 11 punts, only 3 were returned, and for just 27 yards. (The longest being 13 yards.) Big picture: It’s 9 yard per return vs 36 yards per punt. That’s a net gain of only 27 yards in field position. We can’t live that way.
K: (A )Jake Elliott was 11/11 on extra points, making him perfect on the year. He nailed 8/9 field goals this quarter. Scoring is not Elliott’s issue. Kickoffs are. On 24 KO this quarter, team’s felt confident enough to return 9 of them (37.5%), for 225 yards (25.0). That’s down from last quarter’s 31.5, but it’s still too much.
PR/KR: (C) Jalen Reagor’s punt returning (8 – 79 – 9.8 – 0) improved last quarter’s. He was however, practically striped of his kick return duties. Kenneth Gainwell took a shot at that. His numbers (7 – 122 – 17.4 – 0) would suggest that the Eagles keep looking.
KC: (D ) Giving up 25 yards per kick return, and 9 yard per punt return, means that our opponents are chipping away at winning the hidden yardage battle.
SINCE LAST QUARTER:
We were in the process of running the table, when an outbreak of Covid-19 forced half of our key players into quarantine. No matter. We won enough games to get to the tournament.
MISSION FOR THIS QUARTER:
The mission for this next quarter is simple. Win one game. Then win a second. Then win a third. Then, win the fourth. We’ve been here before. The stage is just the right size for us. We didn’t come this far, just to get this far. To my dawgs: Keep. On. Running.