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A Bigger Toolbox


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A Bigger Toolbox

Posted: August 1st, 2023 | Author: Tommy Lawlor 

Nick Sirianni likes to talk about his players and coaches having a toolbox, answers to overcome whatever the opponent is doing. The Eagles had a lot of answers last year, but teams will now figure out ways to attack the Eagles. It is up to the coaches and players to grow their toolbox and come up with some new answers.

The Eagles were last in the league in catches by RBs last year (48). They traded for D’Andre Swift who had 48 by himself in 2022. Sirianni talked the other day about how the passing game will still go through Dallas Goedert, AJ Brown and DeVonta Smith, but there is a need to have different wrinkles for defenses. Swift is a major upgrade as a pass-catching RB.

Check out this note from Jimmy Bama.

The play of camp so far was made today by D’Andre Swift, who was streaking down the left sideline trying to track a deep ball from Jalen HurtsNicholas Morrow and Justin Evans were in coverage, and Morrow very cleared interfered with Swift as the ball coming down. Swift fell to the ground but kept his focus on the football and made the catch anyway. He has been very active as a receiver out of the backfield through the first three practices of camp, and is going to give the Eagles’ offense an added element as a pass catcher that they did not have in Miles Sanders.

According to Chris McPherson, that play went for 43 yards. Last year the Eagles used the empty formation as a way to open running lanes for Jalen Hurts or to get an advantage for a WR. With Swift in the mix, Hurts has another weapon to work with.


Rookie LB Nolan Smith has been a standout so far in camp. We’ve read multiple mentions of him dropping into coverage. It will be interesting to see if Sean Desai uses this tactic with his other edge rushers. I know many fans hate watching good pass rushers drop back. You certainly don’t want it to happen too much, but it can be valuable to have rushers who can do this well.

Defensive coaches have to build their defenses to stop Patrick Mahomes and other elite QBs. You cannot count on simply rushing the passer to beat those guys. You’ve got to mix up coverages and looks. That may only slow them down by a fraction of a second, but that just might be enough to help on a given play.

Desai brings real value if he can be more creative against top QBs. I also think Matt Patricia can help in this regard. Building high quality game-specific gameplans did not seem to be a strength of JG.


Everyone noted that Quez Watkins had a good practice on Sunday. Here is Jeff McLane’s take.

A year later, Watkins appears locked in, and as a result, has been one of the early stars of camp this summer. Sunday, he caught a number of passes on a variety of routes. The most eye-opening came when he turned cornerback Zech McPhearson around on a slot fade and elevated for a Hurts dart. But Watkins’ day didn’t end there. He caught a short cross in space vs. zone coverage and then got inside Josiah Scott on a slant.

Watkins has so far looked like the 2020 camp version of himself and the receiver that supplanted Jalen Reagor, who was drafted five rounds ahead of him, that season. Brown, DeVonta Smith, and tight end Dallas Goedert are still around and should still see the majority of targets. But Watkins, who’s in a contract year, could be in a better state of mind when the ball does find its way to him in this, his fourth season.

Watkins showed real promise in 2021, but took a step back last year. This is a contract season for Watkins so he needs to show the league that he can be a good #3 WR, or maybe even better. He’s got speed to burn, but needs to eliminate key drops and needs to be more consistent.

It is very encouraging to hear he’s off to such a strong start.


The coaches are mixing up the depth chart and roles.

  • K’Von Wallace replaced Terrell Edmunds and worked with the 1’s.
  • Jack Driscoll moved over to backup LT and Dennis Kelly slid to the right side.

The coaches like to look at different things. You might be punishing someone by demoting them or rewarding someone by promoting them. Training Camp is the time for mixing things up. The RBs get totally rotated on a regular basis.

I do think Driscoll is better at LT than Kelly so I’m glad they made that move. We’ll have to wait to see if it sticks.


Zach Berman with a note on Rashaad Penny.

Penny is someone else who has worked on cutting weight. He played at 235-237 pounds with Seattle and is down to 230 pounds with hopes of getting to 225, which was his playing weight at San Diego State. He said he feels lighter and his ankles and knees feel better, which he hopes will allow him to finally stay healthy.

It is smart for Penny to do whatever he can to stay healthy.

He averaged 6.1 yards per carry last year at the heavier weight. He might be even faster and more of a big play threat now that he’s in even better shape.


I’ve read a few positive notes on UDFA receiver Jadon Haselwood. He missed OTAs, but seems to be making some plays in camp. Joseph Ngata was the more heralded UDFA, but Haselwood caught my eye and felt like the guy who had the better skill set for the NFL. Here is a note from C-Mac.

During the individual position portion of practice early, I’m watching as the wide receivers enhance their footwork through two specific drills. First, the wide receivers go through the ladder, quickly tapping their feet in and out of each box, before releasing into the route and catching the ball over their shoulder. It’s no surprise that DeVonta Smith, who is outstanding at getting his feet in bounds along the sideline, was outstanding at this drill. Undrafted rookie Jadon Haselwood also looked very quick and fluid going through this session.

Haselwood played with Hurts at Oklahoma so it would be cool for them to reunite. That only happens if Haselwood continues to flash.


I’m not a huge uniform guy, but this is cool.

A couple of people have asked what the big deal is. The Eagles never won anything big in those uniforms.

Those of us who watched Reggie, Randall and all those other great players have a lot of fond memories of that era. They disappointed in the postseason, but that hardly wipes out the House of Pain Game, the Body Bag Game, Randall to Fred in Buffalo, 11 sacks of Aikman, the overlooked Miracle at the Meadowlands, 42-37 over Washington and so on. That era should absolutely be celebrated. Those were good teams. They were fun teams. And they made a lot of people Eagles fans.

Like me.


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I think having Swift as an option to throw to is really going to help open this offense up this year. Teams have to account for him when he’s on the field otherwise it’s going to be an easy completion and a gain of yards. And Swift has the ability to do more than just gain a few yards. He’s going to be a weapon and even if he’s not catching a ton of passes he’s going to open up things for others.

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