An Eagles vs Packers Haiku
Opening drive runs
never to be seen again
this game really Hurts
The Eagles completely abandoned their running game, benched their starting QB, and almost came back to win. All in a game that, while disgusting, was the most exciting an Eagles game has been this season. Mercifully, the Eagles ultimately dropped their 4th straight game and kept their hopes of a top 5 pick alive. Let’s dive in and talk about some of the individual performances and an overblown narrative.
Graham had 7 sacks through 8 games for the Eagles and looked well on his way to his first career double-digit sack season and Pro Bowl. Like everything else for this team, the wheels came off during the bye week. Graham hasn’t recorded a sack in the last four games and will now need 3 sacks in his final 4 games to hit double digits. Regardless of making it to 10 sacks, his odds of making the Pro Bowl is now very slim which is a shame.
The Eagles cut Will Parks in an effort to get Wallace on the field more (instead of, you know, just playing him like a normal team would.) Then, rather than use Wallace in the box, as a big nickel, or in the slot like he was used at Clemson, they asked him to play single high on repeat. It didn’t end well. Wallace looked lost on the field and failed to contribute in any meaningful way. Ideally, the Eagles would use him in the slot. But, they can’t because their entire cornerback room is exclusively slot corners (sans Darius Slay). The next best place to get him in the game would be as a box safety. They can’t do that because they doggedly committed to Jalen Mills (who stinks) at that position. So instead, just like with Avonte Maddox, the team will continue to force a promising player into a position where he is set up to fail and then wonder what went wrong.
Alex Singleton may be a tackle machine, but it doesn’t help that most of those tackles come after he whiffs horribly in coverage. The Packers had a clear plan to pick on the Eagles linebackers and Singleton was often singled out. Singleton isn’t a terrible player, but he is basically what you would expect as the 4th option on a team that values linebackers slightly less than they value long snappers. And no, that isn’t hyperbole. The highest-paid Eagles linebacker this season is Nate Gerry who makes $825,000. Meanwhile, LS Rick Lovato is being paid $1.1 million. The Eagles literally paid Lovato more money to snap the ball 6 times against the Packers than they paid Alex Singleton to play 61 defensive snaps.
The Running Game
On the first drive of the game, Miles Sanders carried the ball 5 times. On the Eagles’ next 8 drives (40 total plays) Sanders only carried the ball an additional 5 times. Playing an opponent who struggles to defend the run with a QB who has been ineffective, the Eagles chose to drop back to pass 41 times versus 18 called running plays.
The Defensive Line
Derek Barnett, Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Malik Jackson, and Josh Sweat make up 20% of the Eagles salary cap spending (not counting dead money). They combined for 0 sacks and 1 QB hit on Sunday. That is what we call a poor return on investment.
For the 2nd week in a row, Jake Elliott missed an extra point. Nobody knows how to suck the life out of any spark that this team gets better than Elliott. I don’t care that it would cost $8 million in dead cap to cut him (lol Howie), I would gladly eat the cap to get him off this roster.
The Longevity of Miles Sanders
The Eagles have always been a forward-thinking organization. Perhaps they witnessed the Cowboys give Zeke Elliott an average of 368 touches over the last 2 years and noticed that the wear and tear on his body has rendered him totally ineffective in 2020. Realizing that this is a lost season, the Eagles have taken away a large portion of Miles Sanders’ touches in an effort to limit the wear and tear on his body. Sanders is on track to have only 182 touches this season and should come into the 2021 season with fresh legs. It’s a tremendously big-brained move for an organization that is, once again, light-years ahead of the competition.
Hargrave had a sack, a QB hit, and a TFL on Sunday. After being invisible for the majority of the season, Hargrave has now stacked 2 really nice games on top of each other.
Vets On One Last Ride
Jason Peters, for some reason unknown to man, is still a starter on the Eagles offensive line. He was bad at the beginning of the season, and that was before he sustained a foot injury that will require off-season surgery. Peters playing over Herbig is a travesty. It isn’t that Herbig is particularly good (he isn’t), but why would you not at least get him experience in the last few games of this lost season? I mean, he can’t be worse than what Jason Peters is giving you.
It isn’t just a false sense of allegiance to Jason Peters that plagues this team however. Alshon Jeffrey playing over Travis Flugham and John Hightower is a travesty. Alshon has been targeted 7 times this season and has 2 receptions for 15 yards, 2 drops, 1 INT, and 1 penalty to show for it. Worse still, after being called for offensive pass interference he was laughing on the field. Heck, I would rather see JJAW on the field over Alshon. At least there is a marginal chance that he will be on the roster in 2021.
Even Jordan Howard stealing carries/snaps from Miles Sanders is absurd. Howard won’t be on the team next year. At what point will the Eagles realize the futility of playing players who will not be on the 2021 roster?
There are a few things that we need to clarify before I talk about Jalen Hurts:
He entered the game down 3 scores and played against very soft zone coverage until his final drive
The Packers did not gameplan for him
Hurts has been lauded as a savior on Eagles Twitter in the last 24 hours. I won’t deny that seeing him on the field brought more excitement to the game than I have felt in months. That said, evaluating Hurts with such a small sample size is nearly impossible. He had some good moments avoiding pressure and completing 2 deep passes including a TD to Greg Ward. He had some bad moments like the overthrown pass to Ward for a first down and the interception.
It’s important to point out that his scoring drive came against an apathetic defense who was playing a vanilla scheme. But it is also important to point out that he made 2 throws on that drive that Carson Wentz simply isn’t making this year.
In a vacuum, I expect Hurts to play better than Carson Wentz in the short term. He brings mobility and quickness that Wentz simply doesn’t have, allowing him to win on some plays where the offensive line blows a protection. His ability to extend plays buys more time for a WR group that is one of the worst in the NFL at separating to get open. Simply put, with Hurts in the game the Eagles have a chance to win on plays where they would lose with Carson on the field. It is to the short term advantage of the Eagles to continue to play Jalen Hurts. He has earned it.
Carson Wentz in the stock up section? How? Well, I’m glad you asked. I said two weeks ago that the Eagles were doing no favors to Carson Wentz by continuing to play him. The more he has played, the worse he has looked. He continued to ingrain more bad habits. By taking Wentz out of the week to week grind, the Eagles have given him the chance to step back, get his head on straight, and get ready for the 2021 season.
Make no mistake, Carson Wentz is the Eagles QB and will continue to remain so. In the long term, the Eagles did Carson Wentz a favor by removing him from a position that he couldn’t win from. He may not feel that way right now, but this was the best move the team could make in both the short and long term.
During the draft, the front office talked about Jalen Reagor’s ability in the return game. After weeks of Greg Ward’s ineptitude as a punt returner, Reagor got his shot and answered with a 73-yard punt return TD to pull the Eagles within 7 points of the Packers. Yes, he dropped the punt before he picked it up and ripped off the return, but let’s not talk about that. Let’s focus on the positive here and say that Reagor should continue to be the Eagles return man.
Darius Slay’s Struggles
Last week Darius Slay struggled mightily against D.K. Metcalf, a fact he freely admitted after the game. This week the box score looks bad, but the tape tells a different story. Slay was sticky in coverage all game against Devante Adams for a large portion of the game and at least 36 yards of Adams’ total came against zone coverage that was not Slay’s responsibility. An argument could be made, and is likely correct, that Slay was also not responsible for another 42-yard completion that he made the tackle after.
Devante Adams is an elite NFL receiver with an elite NFL quarterback throwing him the ball. On the season, Adams averages 103 yards and 1.3 TDs per game. Against the Eagles, he turned in an average (for him) performance more or less.
Take this play for example, Slay is out leveraged after a switch concept and still recovers to make a strong play on the ball. There aren’t a lot of receivers that are going to hang onto the ball as Slay swats at it on the way to the ground. Adams does. Sometimes you make a good play as a defensive player and the other guy just makes a better play. Last week I was concerned about Darius Slay’s performance. This week I’m not. This was simply a case of a very good cornerback playing against an elite receiver.