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Looking Better

Posted: September 12th, 2023 | Author: Tommy Lawlor 

The Eagles looked far from great in the season opener, but they won. After seeing the rest of the league, that’s a big deal. Maybe it is recency bias, but it sure feels like that was one of the sloppiest, strangest opening weekends in a long time.

When you survive an off-game and still find a way to win, that’s a good thing. I just watched Josh Allen turn the ball over four times and lose a divisional game to the Jets and Zach Wilson. Joe Burrow had a nightmare performance in a loss to the Cleveland Elves Browns. The Steelers turned a great summer into an opening day beatdown by the Niners. Seattle hoped to build on a good showing last year, but somehow lost to the Rams. The Giants…they lost by 40 and the game wasn’t even that close.

The Eagles have a lot of things to clean up. They can do that knowing they won a road game in bad weather against a tough team. The Patriots aren’t a Super Bowl contender, but adding a real offensive coordinator and drafting some special rookies has made them a better team than the one that went 8-9 last year.

What Went Right

The Eagles played good run defense, limiting NE to 22 carries for 76 yards. The long run was 11 yards. Last year run defense was an issue at times. The Pats had a good 1-2 punch of Rhamondre Stevenson and Zeke Elliott. They combined to go 19-54 on the ground. Teams had success playing small-ball last year. The Eagles limiting the run game will make it tougher for teams to do that this year.

Jake Elliott is one of the best kickers in the league. He went 4 for 4 on FGs on Sunday, including a 56-yarder. By comparison, Bill Belichick passed up on a chance for a long kick. The Eagles prefer TDs, but Elliott is a guy you can lean on when things aren’t clicking.

Javon Hargrave, Linval Joseph and Ndamukong Suh are gone. The Eagles are relying on Jalen Carter, Jordan Davis and Milton Williams to replace them. So far, so good. Carter had a great debut.


Davis clogged the middle to really limit the run game. He also made plays, finishing with 6 tackles, 0.5 sacks, a TFL and a FF. Williams was disruptive as well. The Eagles have to be thrilled at the way their young DL played.

The Eagles defense made clutch plays on Sunday. That proved to be the difference in the game. The Pats got down to the Eagles 36-yard line late in the game. Davis and Josh Sweat sacked Mack Jones for a 7-yard loss. Jones had incomplete passes on the next two plays to end the drive. Jalen Carter came up with a sack on the next drive and that put NE behind the chains. They didn’t convert on that drive either. NE finished the game 1 for 4 on fourth down. That was huge.

Overall, I thought Sean Desai did a good job with the defense. It is hard to assess a coach after one game, but I thought he had a solid start.

The Eagles spoiled Tom Brady Day. There is good in the universe.

What Went Wrong

The Eagles have the best O-line in the league. They didn’t play like that on Sunday. I saw Landon Dickerson get stood up and knocked back. That just doesn’t happen much. Lane Johnson struggled, which is a true rarity. Jordan Mailata had some struggles. It was shocking to see the line play so erratically. They settled down in the second half, but still never played like the group we expected.

Jalen Hurts did not have a good game. The sloppy protection sure didn’t help. Hurts looked like his 2021 self in the first half, bailing outside at the first sign of pressure and throwing the ball into the stands. The protection got better and he showed better pocket presence in the second half.

Hurts did not make good reads or decisions on a consistent basis. The perfect example came late in the game when he overlooked a wide open Dallas Goedert on consecutive plays and then forced the ball to Goedert on third down, when he was covered. Ugh. Give Belichick and the Pats credit. They do creative things. There was one play where Tony Romo said NE ran a coverage he had never seen before. Still, Hurts is too good of a QB to be that sloppy. One bad game isn’t a big deal. It just needs to stay one game.

The Eagles love chunk plays. They only had two plays on Sunday that went for more than 15 yards. The Pats made the Eagles play small-ball on offense and that strategy worked pretty well. Expect other teams to try that.

The Patriots did an excellent job of using bunch sets to get their receivers open. Jones then got the ball out quickly and somewhat neutralized the pass rush. He dropped back 58 times and got sacked twice. The back six or seven needs to do a much better job in coverage. They didn’t always communicate well and that led to some open guys in the flats or middle of the field.

I’m sure Sean Desai will study the tape and work with the LBs/DBs to improve this.

Zach Cunningham was up and down. He had 4 tackles and a FR. He struggled at times in coverage. Christian Elliss was sloppy. He overran plays and didn’t always tackle well. This was a problem in the preseason as well. With Dean out for a while, Elliss needs to clean his game up and play well.

I know some people would put Brian Johnson in this category. With the OL struggling and Hurts being so up and down, it is hard to know just how good of a gameplan the Eagles had. Still, the offense sure didn’t pass the eye test.


Nakobe Dean belongs in both categories. He played well…until he got hurt. Dean looked like a good MLB. He tallied 7 tackles and got to the ball quickly. He tackled well. It stinks that he’ll miss multiple weeks.


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