The Eagles dropped a deuce, in a 41-21 loss that was even more lopsided than the score shows. But unlike Jalen said, they can’t just flush it and move on. In order to improve, the Eagles must study the game closely and begin to combat the many mistakes they made.
OFFENSIVE GAMEPLAN NOT HELPING
What was clear in last night’s loss to the Cowboys was the lack of a cohesive offensive game plan. There was some worry about this after the loss against the Niners and the disjointed look of the offense, but there was the hope of recovery and the offense looking more like it did against the Falcons.
Instead, the Eagles tossed out the game plan that had worked for them in Week 1 and tried to create a plan in which they kept pace with Dallas’ offense. While this may have been a nice thought, in theory, the obvious issue with this thought process is simply that the Eagles lack the talent to be able to do that.
In order for a team such as the 2021 Eagles to find offensive success, they need to focus on things they do well and have the talent for like running the ball, getting the ball into your playmakers’ hands quickly, and working the intermediate and middle areas of the field with your elite tight ends to open up the rest of the field to make life easier on your quarterback and other receivers.
Additionally, the rhythm that the coaching staff worked to get Hurts into during Week 1 has felt non-existent for the past two weeks. In over-correcting to make the “big play”, the offense has gotten away from what worked by taking random deep shots, instead of allowing them to come about naturally through the flow of the game.
Since Week 1, the offensive gameplan has not done much of anything to help Jalen and to accentuate his natural strengths, such as rolling out of the pocket and throwing on the run, simple RPOs, and quick game passing. Sirrianni harped on planning to the strengths of your players throughout the offseason and while that happened in Week 1, it hasn’t happened since. For the Eagles to find success this season and in the future, it is imperative that the coaching staff utilizes that thought process once again.
This does not mean Jalen is without blame, however. There were various occasions where Sirrianni did set Hurts up for success but Hurts kept looking for more. These are rookie mistakes, looking for the big play instead of just getting into a rhythm and marching down the field, that I feel he will work through with continued experience. It was clear that when Jalen was decisive and quick getting the ball out, that the offense could move. This was most obvious in the third drive of the second half which ended with the touchdown pass to Zach Ertz.
If you can get the run game going, you hypothetically have the ability to chew and control the clock, meaning you don’t have to make it a total shootout if you can control the time of possession. A game plan focused on controlling the clock, the flow of the game, and keeping Dallas’ offense off the field would have been significantly more successful than one predicated on going blow for blow with the elite offense Dallas has.
3 Carries for the Backs and 50 Plays on Jalen?
The split for running and passing in this game was as lopsided as I have ever seen. The Eagles ran the ball to their running backs a whopping three times. Corey Clement, who is the Cowboys 3rd string running back got as many carries as the entire Eagles backfield.
The Eagle’s running backs’ three rushing attempts were the fewest by an offense in 20 years.
Throughout the first quarter, the Eagles did not run the ball once, and when they finally did with 7:10 left in the second quarter, Miles Sanders broke off for an explosive 24-yard run. Perplexingly, he was given the ball just ONE more time two plays later for three yards. This was with 5:55 left in the second quarter and was the last time Miles would touch the ball as a runner. Out of 53 offensive plays, 3 were to running backs, the other 50 were rushes or passing attempts by Jalen…no team is going to win asking their rookie quarterback to carry that significant of a load, no matter how good the player may have the potential to be.
This inexplicable diversion from the running game only hurt the Eagles as the Cowboys’ defense quickly realized the offense was going to be one-dimensional and that they did not have respect for the run game or even play-action for that matter. In the NFL, as soon as you allow the opposing defense to pin their ears back, rush the passer, and neglect the run you will be in for a long night…especially if you have injuries plaguing the offensive line.
While we criticized Doug for getting away from the running game during his tenure with the Eagles, we had not seen anything as egregious as what occurred in “Jerry World” last night.
If Sirianni and this team want to win games or even be a competitive team, having a consistent and strong running attack will be key, as it was against the Falcons in Week 1.
While I understand the offensive line had injuries and that this may have impacted the Coaches’ game planning, the best way to get offensive linemen confident and in a groove is by getting them downhill and moving people.
With the Eagles offensive line being a perceived strength in comparison to the Dallas defensive line, even with injuries, the decision not to establish a strong run game becomes all the more befuddling.
One can’t help but wonder if this massive emphasis upon passing the ball is coming from higher up within the organization. There has been a precedence of Jeffery Lurie and Howie Roseman being overly involved with the offensive game planning, hopefully, for the benefit of the team this is not happening anymore and the offense is just going through growing pains.
Defensive Personnel is hurting…especially the lack of talent at LB
While the Eagles’ defensive unit looked as if it could be a strength for the team this year, the game against the Cowboys brought them back down to Earth.
After an exciting start to the game with a defensive touchdown recovered by Fletcher Cox and caused by Javon Hargrave and a huge goal line stand, the defense was simply exposed for lack of a better term.
Brandon Graham’s presence could be felt very clearly. With as great of a pass rusher as he has become, people often forget that he has been a phenomenal run-defender for years. His absence was obviously felt with Dallas gaining 160 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground.
The biggest hole in the defense, however, is clearly at linebacker. Years of devaluing an extremely valuable position have finally caught up with the Eagles. Dallas’ game plan was to exploit the linebackers and it worked all too well, whether it was on the ground or through the air.
While players such as Alex Singleton, Eric Wilson, or TJ Edwards are great role players, they do simply are not good enough to be three-down linebackers, and that is exactly what Gannon expects from his linebackers in his scheme. For example, in Indianapolis, their defensive system is anchored by Darius Leonard at linebacker, a player who can play sideline-to-sideline, consistently make tackles in the run game, and can excel while dropping into coverage as well. While the Eagles try to work around this with various sets of linebackers for different downs and distances, there is an obvious lack of a game-changing linebacker on the Eagles.
With the plethora of draft capital the Eagles have in the coming draft, it is crucial that they spend some of that capital to shore up the defense. While our defensive line is a wonderful strength to have, the game is evolving and the need for a three-down linebacker is becoming greater and greater. The Eagles would be wise to understand this and invest heavily into upgrading the position.
While linebackers were not a focal point within Schwartz’s defense they absolutely are in Gannon’s and for that reason, they must be valued as such now too.
The Injury Bug Strikes…Again
As with any Eagles season, the injury bug has gotten to the team and we are not even to the halfway point in the season.
Unfortunately, the injuries hit the perceived strengths of the team once again with the offensive and defensive lines taking the brunt of the injuries.
With Jordan Mailata and Brandon Brooks already out, Andre Dillard and Landon Dickerson got the start at their respective positions.
While this was already a lot to overcome with Dickerson being a rookie coming off of an ACL injury and Dillard with his well-documented struggles, the challenge was made even greater for the Eagles after Isaac Seumalo was carted off the field with a foot injury and Nate Herbig was thrust into the starting lineup.
Needless to say, the offensive line was not a strength for the team yesterday, and that Jeff Stoutland has his work set out for him once again.
The defensive line did not have as many injuries, but the absence of the heart of the unit in Brandon Graham was obvious. His impact in the run and pass game cannot be overstated and in order for the Eagles to win games in the future, one of the younger defensive ends is going to have to step up.
While the Eagles are getting significant push from their interior d-lineman, they need similar energy from their edge rushers as well. Hopefully, as Sweat and Barnett get used to their increased roles, they will be able to make more of an impact.
As a side note, the signing of Ryan Kerrigan is looking more and more like a waste. One would think that with BGs injury a vet like Kerrigan would step up, however, he still has not shown up in the box report three weeks into the season. Hopefully, he is still just recovering from the thumb surgery he had during camp, but his lack of an impact is worrisome to say the least.
GET OVER THE SHIRT
A point that has been belabored throughout the week and likely will for the rest of the week is Nick Sirrianni’s Beat Dallas shirt.
To be completely honest, the hate does not make sense to me.
I for one, appreciate that the coach is trying so hard to connect with the city and understands just how important these rivalry games are for us. Especially when we complain about public figures such as Ben Simmons not caring about the city and what we value enough.
While pandering can be taken too far, a la, the “Philly Special” off-shoot we saw in Week 2, emphasizing a rivalry with another team in the locker room and getting guys excited as a part of a team is not a negative and is honestly something we should admire about Sirianni.
Winning comes with time when you build your program the right way, that is why I am absolutely appreciative of the culture Sirianni is working to implement within the team.
It obviously would have been nice to win, but we are a team with a new coaching staff and tons of youth, and growing pains are natural.
We need to give Sirianni, Jalen, and his team, in general, some time and grace to find themselves and the identity they want to have for this Eagles team.
They have always taken accountability for their actions and that is all you can ask for. With the types of people we have in that locker room, I am sure we will see this team learn from their mistakes and grow as the season progresses and they get more comfortable in their roles.
With that, it is onto the Chiefs.