An Eagles vs Cardinals Haiku
Special Teams is NOT
very special; they lose the
game for the Eagles
The Eagles offense turned in another good day while the undermanned secondary really struggled to get stops. In the end, it was the Special Teams that cost the Eagles the game. Let’s dive in and talk about some of the individual performances.
There really isn’t much to be said about Matt Pryor other than he is terrible. He has allowed 6 sacks in 2 starts at right tackle. Pryor would never see the field if the Eagles had any other options. His only redeeming quality is his run blocking ability. But in pass protection, he simply can’t move well enough to hang with an edge rusher. You can maybe hide that weakness at guard, but he was exposed time and time again at tackle. Unfortunately, the Eagles have no one else and Pryor will likely remain the starter for the next 2 games.
Jalen Hurts put the ball on the turf 3 times yesterday. They weren’t all necessarily his fault, but you simply can’t put the ball in harm’s way that many times and expect to win football games.
Boy oh boy. The Eagles special teams were something to behold on Sunday. Boston Scott never ran a kickoff back past the 25. Greg Ward never bothered to attempt a punt return. Jalen Reagor hasn’t been given a chance since his punt return TD against Green Bay. The Eagles had a punt blocked, gave up a fake punt, and botched an extra point attempt. This is literally the worst special teams unit I have ever seen.
Like why are you even doing anything except playing punt safe? Greg Ward doesn’t return punts anyways. He usually doesn’t even bother to catch them.— Shane Haff (@HAFFnHAFF_TPL) December 20, 2020
The fake punt was especially unforgivable since the Eagles have neither blocked a punt nor seen Greg Ward do anything positive with a return this season. The only thing that should be on their minds during a punt is watching for a fake.
The long snapper skipping one to the backup holder sums up the Eagles' season.— AJ Iezzi (@AJ_Iez) December 20, 2020
The Eagles proved once again that they can invent new and creative ways to screw up on the botched extra point attempt. Punter and regular holder Cameron Johnston was out of the game so TE Zach Ertz attempted to hold the extra point. He wasn’t even the problem. Rick Lovato skipped the snap back to Ertz and the rest was history.
Darius Slay, Avonte Maddox, and Rodney McLeod were out. And yet, K’Von Wallace barely got onto the field. The Eagles elected to play Kevon Seymour at cornerback and keep Mills at safety. They could have rather returned Mills to his original position and play Wallace at safety. There was a lot of hype surrounding K’Von Wallace in the offseason. However, the coaching staff clearly doesn’t trust him. It doesn’t bode well that he can’t manage to get on the field when 3 of the top 4 defensive backs are out of the lineup.
Reagor hasn’t been awful this year, but he has definitely failed to live up to his draft slot. There are 7 receivers who were drafted after him who have more receiving yards. He is routinely weak at the catch point, struggles to get off of press coverage, and runs very poor routes. Reagor also has a nasty habit of turning his head on streaks way too early. He did it once again on Sunday, causing what would have otherwise been an on-target pass from Jalen Hurts to sail out of his reach. After the play, the cameras caught Doug Pederson pointing at his eyes. It isn’t time to slap the bust label on Reagor yet, but he continues to make small mistake after small mistake and they add up in a big way. Maybe his development was stunted by the strange offseason and the early season injury and he will bounce back next year. But he is essentially the same player now that he was when he was drafted, and that is problematic for a young player who should be developing.
Hurts had an abysmal start to the game, committing an intentional grounding penalty in the Endzone on the first possession and then killing the 3rd drive with a poorly placed screen pass. It was about as poor of a start as you could have.
Hurts needs to bounce back here. Terrible start, but don’t let it snow ball. Go on a sustained drive.— Shane Haff (@HAFFnHAFF_TPL) December 20, 2020
Down 16-0, Hurts rallied the offense and went on touchdown drives on 3 of the next 4 possessions. He remained poised, played within the offense, and provided a spark. Hurts routinely delivered passes to the sideline on target and in rhythm. He ran the ball less and stayed in the pocket more. The Eagles schemed less roll out plays for him and he was still successful in the offense. Relying on his legs less and his arm more was a step that Hurts needed to take.
There are still some major steps that Hurts needs to take if he is going to be a long term starter in the NFL, and it starts with being allowed to throw over the middle of the field. Hurts only attempted 1 pass inside the hash marks on Sunday and it was a hail mary at the end of the game.
It isn’t necessarily that he can’t make middle of field reads and throws so much as he isn’t being trusted to by the coaching staff. This approach is minimizing risk now but also hampering the efforts to fully evaluate Hurts as a starter. You can only make a living throwing outside the numbers for so long, and it would be in the best interest of the Eagles to open up the playbook and see what Hurts can do.
He also appeared slow to pull the ball on read-option plays on Sunday, either being hesitant at the mesh point or giving the ball to Miles Sanders when the defense gave him the edge. Sunday was a good step for Hurts, but there are many more that he needs to take over the next few weeks and this offseason.
The Eagles moved from pick #9 to pick #7 on Sunday, and have the potential to move as high as number 4 if they lose their remaining 2 games. While there is a path to making the playoffs (Carolina win over Washington, Baltimore win over the Giants, Eagles win out), it seems fairly unlikely. The best-case scenario for the team is to lose exciting games like the Cardinals game while evaluating young players and elevating their draft slot.
Watkins was electric on his 32 yards TD reception. That play was dead in the water as the Eagles were content to take a field goal, but Watkins made something out of nothing to get the Eagles on the board. In that 1 play, he was more electric than Jalen Reagor has been this entire season.
Ward caught 4 passes for only 15 yards, which is a paltry performance for a wideout until you see that 2 of them were for touchdowns. He did a great job uncovering in the endzone for Hurts and appears to be turning into Hurts’ favorite target in high-leverage situations.
Jacquet, a rookie UDFA, was tasked with the near-impossible task of covering DeAndre Hopkins on Sunday. Hopkins put up 169 yards and a TD, but if you weren’t impressed by the way Jacquet battled then I’m not sure what to tell you. He had good coverage on Hopkins on several occasions and Hopkins made the catch anyway. Jacquet ended up with 2 passes defensed, 1 QB hit, half of a sack, half of a tackle for loss, and 2 forced fumbles. He deserves the opportunity to start opposite Darius Slay for the remaining 2 games and a shot for significant playing time next season.
Jake Elliott didn’t miss a kick which automatically puts him in the stock up category. He wasn’t terrible as an emergency punter, even booming a 42 yarder on his 2nd attempt. His yards per punt ended up higher than Cameron Johnston’s which is misleading since Johnston was punting inside the 20. It is a fun stat if you take it out of context.
Alex Singleton had another standout performance on Sunday. He is a tackle machine, notching 11 tackles against the Cardinals. Singleton has had double-digit tackles in all but 1 game since becoming a starter. He has been outstanding against the run, and provided solid coverage to a unit that spent the majority of the season without the faintest clue how to cover anyone. Is Singleton a 3 down linebacker for the Eagles moving forward? Honestly, maybe he is. You could easily get me excited about a linebacking unit featuring Singleton and a day 1/2 rookie for next season.