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Assessing the Eagles


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Assessing the Eagles

Posted: December 10th, 2021 | Author: Tommy Lawlor 

Heading into the 2021 season, the Eagles were seen as a team that lacked the kind of talent needed to compete for a Super Bowl, but had too much talent to be a flat out bad team. Sure enough, they find themselves at 6-7 in the bye week and still competing for a playoff spot.

Not bad, but not good enough.

It would be easy to rip the team for finding themselves in No Man’s Land. Why not go for a total rebuild? Or if you want to keep the Kelce-Cox-Brooks-Graham guys happy, go get a quality veteran QB. Instead, the Eagles added a rookie coach and stuck with a young QB, as well as their veteran stars. That’s the greedy approach, trying to rebuild while still competing.

The big picture questions remain unanswered, with Nick Sirianni and Jalen Hurts having expected ups and downs. Sirianni feels more and more like a coach who will pan out. Don’t read that as Andy Reid, Pt. 2, but rather a coach who gives his team a chance to win more often than not. Sirianni has shown the ability to adjust his offense on the fly.

The screen happy offense of the early season gave way to an adjusted passing game and that has now been replaced by the NFL’s best rushing attack. The Eagles have 7 games of 173 or more rushing yards. They have three runners averaging more than 5 yards per carry. Five players have at least 200 yards rushing. This isn’t about feeding some star RB. This is a unique run game operating at a very high level.

Sirianni seems to connect with his players, something that helped Reid and Doug Pederson have success. Sirianni weathered the storm of a 2-5 start and kept veterans and rookies all believing in his ideas and themselves. The team is 4-2 since then and has a real shot at the postseason.

Hurts is a more complicated discussion. I thought he was a lost cause through October. Hurts had shown only minimal progress from his rookie season and that was concerning. He’s been a different player since then. Hurts still has issues, but you can see signs of improvement on almost a weekly basis. He’s better at staying in the pocket. He’s better at using the whole field. His decision-making is improved.

The Hurts situation is more complicated than most people think, but not because of Hurts. The Eagles thought Carson Wentz was their franchise QB and that fell apart. Jared Goff took the Rams to the Super Bowl, but got dumped this past offseason. Baker Mayfield had a career year in 2020, but is struggling this season. Tua Tagovailoa has been erratic since coming to the NFL.

Young QBs tend to be volatile. Just because you get a good or even great season doesn’t mean you’ve got The Guy. It takes time to find out who is a true long term answer. Knowing who to stick with and who to move on from can change the fortunes of a franchise.

I think Hurts has shown enough to get an extra year as the starter, but what he does in the final month will have an effect on what happens. Does he play well and lead the Eagles to the playoffs? Does the pressure get to him and lead to sloppy play like we saw in the Giants game?

Let’s go away from coach and QB and talk about the rest of the team.

The offensive line has been great this year. Jordan Mailata looks like a stud LT. He’s good for a mistake or two every game, but physically dominates opponents as well. The mistakes should go away as he continues to learn. He has special potential. Landon Dickerson is an outstanding run blocker. He’s been dominant at times. Dickerson does need to work on his pass protection. I had questions about the pick back in April becuase of his injury history. So far, Dickerson looks like a terrific pick.

There is a good mixture of experience and youth on the line. This group looks like they’ll be good for a while. Heck, even Andre Dillard has shown real potential.

The skill players are a mixture. Dallas Goedert, DeVonta Smith and Miles Sanders could form a dynamic trio. Goedert is really coming into his own. Smith looks like a stud receiver. Sanders is the most erratic of the trio. There are times when he is an explosive runner who would be ideal for a team that wants big plays. There are other times when Sanders dances too much and doesn’t attack big holes right in front of him. He also has had some torturous moments, like his costly fumble vs the Saints and forgetting to stay in bounds twice at the end of the Panthers game.

Jordan Howard, Boston Scott and Kenny Gainwell have been good as role players. The Eagles need to try and find another young back to add to the mix, preferably a power runner like Howard.

The receiving corps has been disappointing. I hoped the new staff would bring out the best in Jalen Reagor. Oof, was I wrong on that one. He has struggled as a receiver and returner. You just don’t see the burst, speed and athleticism he showed at TCU. Quez Watkins has been good, but inconsistent. He seems like a guy you want as your #3 or #4 receiver. Greg Ward and JJ Arcega-Whiteside have to be replaced. They are role players with no upside.

The offense has averaged 29.7 points per game over the 6-game stretch. That number would be over 30 if not for the stinker against the Giants. The coaching staff has figured out how to use these players.

There were high expectations for the defense coming into the season. That group has been disappointing. The defense does look good at times, but you can’t ignore some of the struggles. The Chiefs and Cowboys both scored more than 40 points against the Eagles. Neither the Chiefs nor Chargers had to punt when facing the Eagles.


The Eagles pass defense was on the way to NFL history (or should that be infamy?). Luckily Jonathan Gannon finally embraced blitzing and press coverage. He took more chances and the defense has responded. The Eagles have climbed from 32nd in opponent completion percentage up to 30th. That’s progress.

While the defense has struggled at times, it has also worked more than some realize.


None of those games featured good offenses. The Eagles are able to shut down bad teams. That isn’t saying a lot, but it’s a start.

Javon Hargrave was great early in the season. He’s cooled off a bit, but does have 7.5 sacks and 8 TFLs. That’s excellent production for a DT. Fletcher Cox only has one sack and 4 TFLs. There were times when he looked to be struggling, but Cox has become more disruptive in recent weeks. Josh Sweat leads the edge rushers with 5 sacks. I was hoping for him to be more consistently disruptive. Derek Barnett’s numbers aren’t good and penalties remain a problem, but he does show up on tape. Ryan Kerrigan has been a huge disappointment, no matter what JG says.

Rookies Milton Williams and Tarron Jackson have shown promise. Williams looks like he could be a stud. His athleticism is legit. Jackson relies more on effort than talent, but looks like he could be a solid rotational end.

The linebacker situation has been wild. Eric Wilson was awful early on and thankfully got benched, then released. TJ Edwards took his place and has played really well. Alex Singleton got benched for Davion Taylor, who looked good. Taylor then got hurt and Singleton has struggled since returning. You love his grit and effort, but he’s simply not good enough to start in the NFL. Edwards and Taylor could be a good young duo to build around. The Eagles need to keep adding talent. They’re headed in the right direction, but still aren’t good enough.

Safety is a mess. Anthony Harris and Rodney McLeod aren’t productive. Part of that isn’t their fault. It is hard to make plays when you’re lining up in Delaware and the corners are usually playing soft coverage. Marcus Epps is playing the best football of his career. I don’t know that I see him as a future starter, but he can be a valuable role player. K’Von Wallace has struggled to get on the field. The team must address this position aggressively in the offseason.

Darius Slay is finally playing like the corner the Eagles hoped to get when they traded for him. He’s been terrific, in coverage and as a playmaker (3 INTs, 3 TDs). Steve Nelson has been solid. Avonte Maddox is having a career year and looks at home in the slot. This is the best group of corners in a while, which makes all the soft coverage so frustrating. This is a group you take advantage of.

Behind the starters, the Eagles have about 37 other corners. Rookie Zech McPhearson has played some and the team is high on him. Tay Gowan and Kary Vincent are other corners with good potential. CB could be in good shape in the future.

Michael Clay’s special teams units have been solid. Jake Elliott could get Pro Bowl consideration. Arryn Siposs is doing a solid job. Rick Lovato remains in the shadows, which is exactly what you want from a long snapper. The return game isn’t good. The Eagles need to figure this out for next year.

The roster sure looks better now than it did in August. The new coaching staff has been able to develop young talent and find ways to use them. The coaches also embrace playing backups, which helps.

The final four weeks will be an interesting test. The Eagles have been able to bully bad teams like the Falcons, Lions, Saints and Jets. Their best win came in Denver, but the Broncos are hardly great. The Eagles face Washington twice and then Dallas in the season finale. Washington has won four in a row and is playing their best football of the year. Dallas is up and down, but has some elite talent.

This is the time of the year when good teams stand out. We’ll find out just how good this Eagles team is.

Or isn’t.


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