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 17. (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: 6 – 7, 3rd place in the NFC East, (Points per game: +25.9/-22.4)
( W ) Denver 6 – 6
( W ) New Orleans 5 – 7
( L ) New York giants 4 – 8
( W ) New York Jets 3 – 9
On the one hand Head Coach Nick Sirianni deserves credit for staying the course to get us back into the playoff conversation. On the other hand he deserves the blame for sticking with a Defensive Coordinator who has cost us at least three games (49ers, Bucs, and Chargers.) The giants loss is on Sirianni, for trying to force-feed a draft bust. Picture us being 9 – 4 right now.
Having found a devastating ground game, the Eagles have managed to battle back to 6 – 7 after a 3 – 6 start, and have turned the season on it’s ear. The players have put themselves in a position to not only make the playoffs, but with some help, possibly even win the East.
Even now, during the Bye Week, today’s game between Washington (6 – 6) and Dallas (8 – 4) stands to help us out. A Dallas loss keeps them from pulling away definitively with the division. A Washington loss doesn’t allow them to cement the number two spot. So either the top spot or the second spot, should become far less secure before 5:00pm.
Here’s how we look with 4 games left to decide.
QB (C ) – In this last quarter of the season, Jalen Hurts has clearly regressed. His last three games have seen his passing yardage slide from 178 to 147 to 129. His accuracy has gone from 69.5% to 54.1 to 45.1. Touchdown to interception ratio? That has gone from 2:1, to 0:0, to 0:3. Over that same span, his pass attempts have gone from 23 to 24 to 31. So literally, the more he throws, the worse he’s been. Those are facts, and they are beyond dispute.
Gardner Minshew stepping in for an injured Hurts, and throwing for 242 yards, 2 touchdowns, and completing 80% of his passes, only throws more light on the Hurts issue. Granted, it was against the Jets, but it was also a QB in a new system, throwing to guys he hasn’t really worked with. It was our back-up vs their starters, and we scored on 7 of 8 drives, with three touchdown drives to open the game.
Let me say this plainly: Jalen Hurts is NOT progressing in his ability to play NFL QB. This coaching staff (and half the fan base) has been giving him a pass, because of his ability to run.
Minshew just gave fans a taste of a what an Eagles passing game could look like. From here on out, Hurts either has to be better, or the coaches will have to get better at making excuses for why a player advertised as being highly coachable, has not improved in over a season’s worth of play.
RB (A ) – Miles Sanders coughed the ball up a couple of weeks ago, but otherwise has been extremely effective, posting 308 yards and 5.6 yards per tote over this quarter. That has been regardless of whether we were running a Read Option or Traditional run concept. Boston Scott has chipped in 161 yards at a clip of 4.8 per carry.
Until this week Kenneth Gainwell hadn’t been very effective as a runner this quarter. But I guess a game against the Jets will cure that. Jordan Howard was killing defenses with 146 yards on 22 carries (6.6 per tote!). Then he hurt his knee and has missed the last two games.
WR (D ) – A month ago, Devonta Smith had back to back big games, but since then he has been de-emphasized in the passing game, in favor of Jalen Reagor, and Smith has let his frustration be known to his coach. Reagor continues to be a flop in every aspect of the game of football, and the results of force-feeding him the ball (13 targets, 5 catches, 49 yards, 9.8 ypc) has only highlighted how foolish it was to spend a draft pick, or a dollar on him. Quez Watkins ( 14 – 9 – 116 – 12.8 – 0) has played a lot of snaps, but he doesn’t see nearly as many targets as he should.
In the last four games, none of the 5 players at this position has posted 70 yards. No player at this position has seen 10 targets in a game since Week 4. It is doubtless that this position is underperforming, however it is difficult to produce without the football even coming your way.
For all the fanfare that the run game has garnered, those rushing yards would be even easier to come by if opponents had any fear or respect for our outside passing game.
TE (C ) – Dallas Goedert was effective with Hurts (13 – 8 – 90 -11.2 – 0) throwing him the ball. However, with Minshew (6 – 6 – 105 – 17.5 – 2) Goedert could be terrifying over the long-haul. Jack Stoll has seen his snaps take a steep dive, as the coaching staff has been running more 11 than 12 Personnel. So his presence on the field literally is telegraphing R-U-N to defenses. We need to throw him some passes if only to legitimize him as an eligible receiver. Still waiting to glimpse Tyree Jackson’s potential.
OT (A ) – Neither RT Lane Johnson, nor LT Jordan Mailata has missed a single snap this quarter. Also during this stretch, Mailata has gone into the business of making sure his opponents eat some pancakes.
Such a nice young man.
Seriously though, these guys have been distributing Act Right to opponents, almost like a burning bush told them it was their only mission in Life. It’s one of the primary reasons that the Eagles are running for 212 yards per game over these last 4 games. In the last game we piled up 185. With no Jalen Hurts. This position has been amazing.
OG (C ) – Landon Dickerson is the future at LG. Even when Isaac Seumalo comes back from injury. Dickerson is a mauler in the run game. That allows us to run strong anywhere along the line, not just to the right. There are still nuances of pass pro that he has to get down, but that will come with time and facing different types of pass rushers.
Jack “Of All Trades” Driscoll was solid, until he was lost for the season. Replacing him is Nate “Too Big” Herbig. So we have one versatile guy filling in for another versatile guy, who was filling in for a Pro Bowl caliber player. The step down would be massive, if not for the men just to right and to the left of the RG spot. Herbig isn’t the most explosive player (which will hurt us on QB sneaks), but he’s a wide body who isn’t easy to push round.
C (B ) – Jason Kelce Is setting a great example with his attitude and mental toughness, through what has to be his last campaign. He has missed snaps in each of the last 4 games, and it’s becoming apparent that sheer grit and the possibility of a playoff spot, is what is getting him through.
The guy who’s filled in for him has been Nate Herbig. It’s long been rumored that Herbig is Kelce’s successor at the pivot. That would be awesome. While Herbig lacks true explosiveness when playing G, that deficiency is largely negated when snapping the ball.
DE (F ) – Through 4 games this position added 2.5 sacks and 5 hits on QB’s. Josh Sweat and Derek Barnett are playing both fewer snaps in number, and a lesser percentage of the total snaps. That says that the position is becoming more of a rotation. Maybe to light a fire under the starters, maybe to see if the bench was hiding a star. Still, it’s been a low production position. There are other factors at play here, but the bottom line is that through ¾ of a season, this position looks weak.
DT (C ) – Javon Hargrave added 1.5 sacks this quarter to bring him to a career-high 7.5. Fletcher Cox has 3 QB hits this quarter, but no sacks since Week 5. In fact, he has just 1 this season. Oddly enough, whenever he misses a few downs here or there, his absence is immediately felt. Milton Williams looks like a solid rotational pass rusher, but he cannot be confused with an every down difference maker. Hassan Ridgeway started this quarter with is snap share at just 22%, but has seen it tick up each week to 37%.
OLB (C ) – Davion Taylor was making progress as a starter, when he suffered what the Eagles called a knee sprain, which later required surgery, and now has him on IR.
(The Eagles have yet to confirm exactly what the surgery is for, but my experience and my gut says meniscus tear. That’s by no means official, but when they say it in 2022, remember where you heard it first in 2021.)
Due to the injury, Alex Singleton has reclaimed his starting role. He went right back to work as a tackling machine, and had been more impactful than he was before being benched in favor of Taylor. Genard Avery is seeing fewer snaps these days as the Eagles are using more Big Nickel.
MLB (A ) – T.J. Edwards hardly ever leaves the field anymore. This indicates that the Eagles have finally stopped worrying about the rumored “athletic limitations” that stemmed from the 2019 Combine. When given the opportunity, Edwards has shown that he can flat-out play football. It only took two seasons, but being geniuses, the Eagles have swiftly caught on! (Was that too much sarcasm?)
Edwards has not only made tackles, but he’s snagged a pass and recovered fumble, giving him a pair of takeaways this quarter.
S (D ) – 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. I get the feeling that he won’t be back in 2022 and he knows it, which is why he’s playing so passively.
Anthony Harris is like a smaller Landon Collins. He’s more than willing to lay a hit, but he’s not much of a factor vs the pass, as he’s only gotten his hand on a pass ONCE this season.
Marcus Epps just snagged his first pick, and leads players at this position with 4 passes defensed despite playing just 49% of the defensive snaps this season. This position would benefit from making him a starter over McLeod or Harris.
CB (C ) – Darius Slay has posted a sack, an interception, a fumble recovery, and two touchdowns this quarter. He’s been targeted 17 times for 6 completions, and surrendered just 58 yards. Steve Nelson though! Teams seem to be picking on him these days, with 10 completions on 16 targets (62.5%), 109 yards, and two scores allowed. Avonte Maddox has allowed 17/22 (77.2%), for 181, and a score.
Two players giving up over 62% completion rates and over 10 yards per completion, is a recipe for not being able to get off the field. This has to be addressed! Rookie Zech McPhearson has played 70 snaps in the last 4 games, but is 5/2, for just 22 yards. Let me reiterate. In his last 70 snaps, our rookie has been thrown at just five times. FIVE! Keep an eye out for him.
LS (A ) – Last time I did one of these, I mentioned that Rick Lovato didn’t have an tackles yet. In the last 4 games he’s posted 2 solo. The man is a BEAST and an animal!
P (A ) – Arryn Sipos is still averaging 45 yards (45.2) per boot. Of the 12 punts he’s had this quarter, 7 were returned for 65 yards, which is 9.2 per return. Not great, but it’s down nearly 3 yards from the 12 yards per return last quarter. That suggests that his kicking is being timed better with his coverage unit. Improvement is always applauded.
K (A ) – Jake Elliott was 11/11 on extra points and 11/11 on field goals during the quarter. For points he’s been absolute money since Week 7. Absolute. As in no flaws. As in resplendent clarity. If he were a diamond, you could see next and last year in him. Flawless!
Kickoffs however, are increasingly a problem. Of his 26 kickoffs, 19 were touchbacks (70.3%). Could be better, but not alarming. The returns (7 – 221 – 31.5 – 0) are worse than the 22.2 we were giving up last quarter.
At this point, this can’t put on Elliott. At this point, Special Teams Coordinator Michael Clay owns the blame for this. Elliott is what he is. There is enough tape to know this by now. Kickoff duty should have been reassigned by now. Either that or the kickoff strategy should have been altered, to place the ball inside the numbers, to let the coverage unit cup that side of the field, from hash mark to side line.
PR/KR (F ) – WR Jalen Reagor hasn’t exactly set the world on fire with his punt returning (14 – 90 – 6.4 – 0). While he’s doing a ton more returning this quarter vs last report (just one return), he never is a threat to break one. His kick returning (7 – 116 – 16.5 – 0) is equally dreadful.
KC (F ) – This quarter’s 31.5 yard per kickoff return is again, alarming. It seems that we are not able to get this issue under control. On the plus side we’ve gone from allowing 9.5 yards per punt return to 9.4, so improvement must be celebrated.
SINCE LAST QUARTER:
I said that 2 – 2 would probably keep our playoff hopes alive, but that 3 – 1 would almost certainly do the trick. Well we went 3 – 1, and right now, are mathematically on the outside of the playoff picture. However, due to upcoming match-ups for all of the Wild Card candidates, we are still VERY much in the thick of the hunt.
In fact, we could still pull off winning the division.
Here’s how the Eagles win the East: We run the table, and Dallas gets swept by Washington. That’s it. That’s everything that has to happen. That would set it in stone.
MISSION FOR THIS QUARTER:
RUN THE FUCKING TABLE! It’s as simple as 10 wins and we’re in. Right now, I want to see us crack the playoffs and potentially get hot, right when everyone really needs us not to. I want the Eagles to scare the boiled shit out of the NFL, and possibly bring Philly another parade.
So this quarter we have to find a second receiver, so we can keep our run game open. We need a WR besides Devonta to either average 50 yards per game, or score twice in the next two games. Either would work to spread defenses. Jalen Hurts running for touchdowns in the red zone (unless they’re on QB Sneaks) has to stop. We need to diversify our attack.
For those of you watching the Draft picks:
We already have three first round picks, and any team that makes the playoffs is going to be picking 18th and lower. Currently we’re 6 – 7, the Colts are 7 – 6, and the Dolphins are 6 – 7. All of us could make the playoffs this year, which would make those picks better as ammunition for a later Draft.
All of that however, is already in the bag! So while we’re winning, stop thinking about the picks. Picks are for next season. We’re still alive in this one. We need all your positive energy and focus, on a possible parade for this season.
That said, if we lose the next two and fall to 6 – 9, then we should tank, and try to get at least ONE pick in the top 10. But while we have a chance at the playoffs, tanking is OFF the table.