time2rock Posted October 28, 2022 Share Posted October 28, 2022 Eagles mailbag: Thoughts on second half of season Even though most of the focus of Philly sports fans is devoted to the World Series right now, the Eagles are pretty exciting right now too. They’re 6-0 and we got a ton of questions for this mailbag. Part 1. Part 2. Part 3: There are several players who come to mind but the guy at the top of my list is Jordan Davis. Because the 22-year-old first-round pick has been seemingly getting better every week and if that continues, he’s going to be dynamic by the end of the year. It’s really fun to watch such a big guy who is also this athletic. We’ve seen glimpses and then prolonged glimpses of really special play for Davis and this feels like just the beginning. Some folks questioned the value of using a first-round pick on a large nose tackle who wasn’t known for his pass-rush prowess. But six games in, I’m already convinced Davis is going to be an excellent pro and he’s going to prove that to more people over the final 11 games. There are still some questions to be answered about Davis, mostly about his usage. Through six games, Davis has played 135 snaps (35%), which averages out to 22.5 per game. He can probably play some more. And another big question will be if Davis will continue to primarily play as the nose tackle in the Eagles’ odd-man front or if he’ll eventually get some snaps in the four-man front. That will be important to watch. He’s never going to put up crazy stats but Davis has the ability to wreck games and we might see that down the stretch. It’s a fair question after the start we’ve seen from Britain Covey. He has averaged 6.6 yards per punt return, which ranks 20th in the NFL (99 yards on 15 returns). And has averaged 23.0 yards per kickoff return, which ranks eighth (69 yards on 3). That’s not exactly what the Eagles had in mind when they handed the job to Covey, who was a dynamic returner at Utah. To make matters worse, he’s also muffed a couple punts too. But I’d stick with Covey. He was so good at this in college and, sure, it’s different in the NFL, but he has shown little flashes. It’s not all on him either; the blocking could certainly be better. The big problem is this: If not Covey, who else? The Eagles don’t exactly have anyone else on the roster with much punt return experience. DeVonta Smith can be used in some high-leverage situations but he’s not going to be the everyday punt returner. The Eagles could potentially elevate Greg Ward to return punts; Ward is on the practice squad now. But that isn’t exciting either. Ward’s career punt return average is 5.7. Since 2019, among players with at least 20 punt returns, Ward’s average ranks 49th of 51 players across the NFL. You might as well stick with Covey. And on kick returns, the Eagles already took those responsibilities away from Quez Watkins, who had five returns for 51 yards (10.2) before the switch. Wouldn’t make much sense to go back to him. Allen, the world-class hurdler, is still on the Eagles’ practice squad and is available for the Eagles to elevate at any time. But the problem is that he can return kickoffs but doesn’t have much experience returning punts. And it’s not worth elevating a player just for kick returns because that play is pretty rare these days anyway. At Oregon, Allen returned 8 kickoffs for 209 yards (26.1) way back in 2014 and those were the only kicks or punts he returned. In training camp this year, while Allen was often with the kick returning group, he did not get work as a punt returner. So unless that has started in practice since the season began, he’s not an option there. Through six games, Quez Watkins has just 6 catches on 9 targets for 88 yards. He hasn’t been a very big part of the Eagles’ offense aside from his 53-yard touchdown catch. On one hand, you’d like to see him involved. But on the other, I get it. The Eagles are going into game plans worried about how to get the ball to A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert. That should be the priority and it is. Although in the last few weeks, we haven’t seen many deep balls from Jalen Hurts and it feels like one is coming. I have been waiting for the Eagles to take a shot and Fast Batman could be the guy to make it happen. Interesting question. Sanders has been very good through six games this season with 105 attempts for 485 yards and 4 touchdowns. He’s on pace for a 1,300 yard season with 11 touchdowns. And he’s done all that with a rushing average of 4.6 yards per carry, which is the lowest he’s had since his rookie season. Sanders absolutely looks like a guy you’d want to re-sign. The problem for Sanders over the last few years, though, has been his inability to stay healthy. He played in just 12 games in each of the last two seasons. That’s really what Sanders needs to prove: That he can stay healthy. Because his play on the field is definitely deserving of a contract, but the Eagles have to know there’s some risk involved with that. Spotrac estimates his next deal at four years, $25.6 million, which comes out to an average annual salary of $6.3 million. That would rank 11th in the NFL and you can make an argument that Sanders belongs in the top 10 based on his age and production. Sanders has shown his value as a running back but there’s also no rush here. I’d let him play out the season. Through seven weeks, the Eagles are ranked 12th in the NFL in rushing defense but that’s a little skewed because they’ve seen just 132 attempts. (They’ve been ahead in most games.) And their yards per attempt average is 5.0, which ranks 28th in the NFL. They need some improvement. Some of it is schematic and we’ll get to that but some of it is just execution too. The Cowboys have a good rushing offense with a couple of good backs and they did some damage last week. Not to give coach-speak, but those guys get paid too. As far as schematic things, I’ll go back to what I said above about Davis. It’s not a cure-all but I’d like to see him in more four-man fronts, which is something we haven’t seen at all. DC Jonathan Gannon said he feels comfortable with Davis in those looks but there’s no proof of that. It’s not as simple as putting Davis in the four-man front will clean up the Eagles’ issues giving up rushing yards in that package but it would at least stop the tell. If Davis is in there, it’s pretty obvious the Eagles are putting him on the center and running their odd-man front. The Eagles have mixed up their bear front at times by using Javon Hargrave as the nose and putting Kyzir White as an outside linebacker, essentially shifting the line and sliding White down. That’s a good start. But the next evolution of mixing things up is getting Davis in the four-man. The bye week came at a good time for the Eagles’ offensive line. Four of their five starters had been on the injury report recently and the only one who wasn’t, Lane Johnson, suffered a concussion in the last game. The good news is that this extra week should have been great for Jason Kelce, Landon Dickerson and Isaac Seumalo, who were all dealing with ankle injuries. They were nagging injuries so I’d expect all of them to be much healthier coming back. As far as Johnson, we’ll find out soon if he’s cleared the concussion protocol. The extra week could only help. It’s really fun to watch Dallas Goedert and you’re right that he continues an impressive line of tight ends here, following Brent Celek and Zach Ertz. What makes Goedert so special is his dual-threat ability. Even when he’s not catching the football, he’s a weapon as a blocker. I used to have a theory that Goedert’s blocking ability might have been taking away stats because of how often in his career he’s been asked to stay inline and block. But last month in an interview with tight ends coach Jason Michael, he brought up the point that the threat of Goedert’s blocking opens up some passing situations that other tight ends might not have. Because he’s a legitimate threat to block, they can eventually leak him out for big gains and they do. It’s Game 1 of the World Series on Friday. Phillies all the way. https://www.nbcsports.com/philadelphia/eagles/eagles-mailbag-thoughts-second-half-season Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
Create an account or sign in to comment
You need to be a member in order to leave a comment
Create an account
Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!Register a new account
Already have an account? Sign in here.Sign In Now