The Eagles weren’t supposed to be good this year, but they also weren’t supposed to be this bad.
We embarked upon a fact-finding mission to begin the campaign. Wins and losses weren’t going to matter if we learned enough about the young quarterback and head coach combo, and we’re learning quite a bit. We’re learning that they stink. Same with the defensive coordinator, who is intimating that he doesn’t have the personnel do anything other than play two-deep safeties, which results in quarterbacks not named Sam Darnold looking like Johnny Unitas reincarnate on a weekly basis.
They get a full year, Jalen Hurts, Nick Sirianni, and Jonathan Gannon, but some of these losses have not been competitive. That’s the rub. It’s not that they’re losing; it’s that they’re looking totally overmatched in the process, and that’s the thing that raises red flags. The reps have to mean something, and there needs to be a positive environment in which young talent can gain meaningful experience with eyes toward 2022.
That’s not happening right now, and Howie Roseman deserves a lot of blame for letting the personnel situation fall this far. He’s still public enemy #1 in my mind.
All of that said, I only did nine takeaways today, because the Eagles don’t deserve ten.
1) Jalen Hurts, racking up garbage time stats
The box score always looks kind to the quarterback because the Eagles inevitably find themselves down three scores and the opposing defense throttles down to neutral.
A couple of mistakes that I jotted down:
- two of his first three DeVonta Smith targets were off (on the one he honored Donovan McNabb with a worm burner)
- he slid short of the sticks on 2nd down during a Birds drive that ended up stalling
- threw behind a couple of receivers on the afternoon
- jogged out of bounds on the play where he could have gone 1v1 with the safety and tried to get in the end zone
It’s hard to say how much of the ineptitude is on Hurts himself, vs. Sirianni’s scheme and play calling. At this point, it seems like a little bit of both, because Hurts is missing enough throws and making enough questionable decisions that you could put those in a coach-less vacuum and analyze them on their own. Analyze them negatively. He’s just missing too many throws and making too many questionable decisions. Still fleeing to his right at the first sign of trouble.
If someone put a gun to your head and said “is Jalen Hurts the QB of the future?”, we’d probably be answering “no” right now.
2) at least they tried to run the ball
Credit to Sirianni, because he came out running the ball on that first drive. They put Hurts under center. They got the ball to Miles Sanders and drove downhill. Then they went play action off of that and looked like a completely different team in the process.
Jeffrey Lurie must have been so mad to see them running the ball (wish I was being sarcastic).
Sanders going out injured was a huge bummer. You finally get the touches you want and then a screen is blown up and you’re injured. But even with his departure, Eagles running backs got the ball 18 times in this game and if we’re trying to pull a positive out of this stinking shit pile, you could point to the fact that they did show improvement in the running game and tried to establish it earlier.
These guys were happy:
3) Defensive malpractice
Holy cow with the defense. It’s hard to know where to start, but we can begin by mentioning that the Raiders came into this game with one of the worst rushing attacks in the NFL, averaging less than 80 ground yards per game and showcasing a league-worst 3.3 yards per carry.
This time around, Vegas put up 119 yards on 4.1 YPC and found the end zone twice. They did it despite Josh Jacobs leaving the game injured.
Beyond that, Derek Carr looked like prime Joe Montana out there, completing 31 of 34 pass attempts and throwing two touchdowns as well. He faced very little pressure, because Gannon is the most conservative defensive coordinator on God’s green Earth. He’s sitting back with two deep safeties, playing soft in the box, and rarely ever blitzing. It results in opposing offenses dinking and dunking and dicking around on 80 yard drives where the Eagles are conceding short routes and favorable running conditions. The scheme puts a lot on the linebackers, who stink, and since Gannon refuses to play dime, it means one of Eric Wilson or Davion Taylor is always going to be out there. They don’t have three good linebackers, nor do they have six good DBs, so the personnel is what it is.
At least try to mix it up or show something different, because game planning against the Eagles’ defense is so easy a caveman could do it.
Say what you will about Jim Schwartz, but he mixed it up. Single-high safety. Dime looks. The occasional blitz. And you see what happens when you don’t have a strong safety like Malcolm Jenkins who is capable of getting down and dirty at the line of scrimmage. Long gone are those 60/40 looks with Jenkins in the box, helping against the run. They are just so vanilla that it’s unbelievable. The Eagles defense is like an ice cream shop where there are 10 flavors on the menu but you’re only allowed to buy one, and it’s the most bland offering.
“I don’t get paid to play screens, I get paid to get sacks.”
Fletcher Cox said that it’s still an adjustment for him not playing in an aggressive scheme.
Said he will be aggressive when he can. Was pointed out a successful screen that he got upfield. #Eagles
— Jeff McLane (@Jeff_McLane) October 24, 2021
4) Zebra watch
The Kenneth Gainwell fumble was the big call in this game, and I think the refs got it wrong. It seemed like the knee was down, but they just didn’t have enough to overrule the call on the field. This was the best camera angle we had, and Quinton Jefferson’s rear end is blocking the football:
Knee was definitely down there. Was the ball out? Can’t tell. They had to stick with the call on the field.
Huge turning point in the game.
5) Mistakes and breaks
In this game, they didn’t commit a ton of errors, they just got their doors blown off by a better team with a better game plan.
- Landon Dickerson 3rd and 3 false start
- Gainwell fumble
- Jordan Mailata penalty wiping out big Hurts run (Mailata really struggled in this game)
- 3rd and 3 delay of game
- Jason Kelce taking an unsportsmanlike for shoving a dude after his helmet came off (looked like said dude tried to get him in the crotch, so I don’t blame Kelce for retaliating)
- Hurts fumbling the snap after Jack Driscoll touched it with his hand*
*Jalen will get the blame for this, but a pulling Driscoll hit the ball as Kelce was snapping it. That definitely threw Hurts off.
- Darren Waller not being available to play
- automatic first down on a Vegas defensive hold
- Hurts not throwing a pick on the play where Ngakoue got to him in the pocket
- rare lowering of the helmet penalty on the offense, with Henry Ruggs going into Marcus Epps like a battering ram
- Raiders missing an extra point
It was actually a clean game, but one team was way better than the other.
6) Ancillary wins and losses
- lost time of possession 32:31 to 27:29
- -1 turnover margin
- 6-13 on third down (46.1%)
- 2-3 on fourth down
- allowed Raiders to go 3-9 on third down (30%)
- lost 13 yards on 2 sacks
- 3-4 success rate in the red zone
- 4 penalties for 37 yards
- 22 first downs, 23 for LV
- ran 68 total plays, LV 63
Las Vegas was only 30% on third down, but no biggie, because they were moving the ball so well they barely even got to third down. They had one touchdown drive where it was only 1st and 2nd down, all the way across the field.
One of the things killing the Eagles this year is time of possession, and when the defense is so conservative they are staying on the field for a long time. Even dinking and dunking tires you out after a while. When the offense sputters and defense isn’t aggressive in trying to get off the field, then you have a recipe for getting your ass kicked in TOP.
7) Nick’s best call?
Loved the first drive. They lined up under center, ran the ball, turned that into play action, and then the touchdown was fantastic. They went 13 personnel, cleared downfield on the left side and threw underneath for Gainwell instead. Really nice drive by Nick Sirianni.
Third drive? No issue running on 3rd and 9 there since Vegas was in dime and sat back a little bit, but if you have any thought of going for it on 4th down, you can’t burn that timeout there. Just line up and sneak it.
Also, zero problem with the onside kick. They were gonna get gashed for 80 yards or 40 yards, so why not give it a try? Get that possession back after the fumble that ended the second half. I actually thought they executed the onside kick well, but the ball hopped up on the final bounce and Jake Elliott wasn’t able to make a play on it:
— DIE-HARD 🦅 Fans (@Eaglesfans9) October 24, 2021
8) Nick’s worst call?
There was a lot of talk about the decision to accept the holding call on the Raiders’ first drive. If Sirianni declined that penalty, it would have been 4th and 3 from the Eagles’ 45. Instead, they took the penalty to make it 3rd and 15 from the Vegas 43, and Carr threw deep and won a 1v1 ball to move the sticks. I’m sure it was an analytically-backed decision, with the Eagles assuming the Raiders would go for it on 4th and 3, but not make the big connection on 3rd and 15.
The weird thing is that the Raiders’ offense seemed to have walked off the field before Sirianni’s decision, but it wasn’t totally clear watching the broadcast. Vegas certainly could have called timeout to reconsider the punt, and ended up going for it instead, so there were a lot of moving parts there.
Beyond that, Sirianni was just about average. Play calling left something to be desired after Sanders went out injured, and he seems to be lacking a “feel” for the game, if that makes any sense. He’s trying to become a head coach and play caller at the same time, and that is a massive undertaking. At this point, I wouldn’t mind letting Shane Steichen call plays for a game, see if it runs more smoothly that way.
9) Making shit up on the broadcast
Kenny Albert and Jonathan Vilma on the call. We didn’t even get through the first five minutes before Albert called Derek Carr “David” Carr, but Vilma quickly made the correction. No big deal. It happens.
We’ve been pretty complimentary in this section of the column this season, but Vilma was a total disaster on Sunday. You can tell he doesn’t watch the film or do much prep. He was talking about the Eagles’ defense being “good” because they have good interior players in Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave. That’s technically true, even though Cox hasn’t done much this season, but having a couple of good d-linemen doesn’t make you a good defense. They stink!
Vilma also didn’t know it was a three-score game at one point in the second half, and kept talking as if the Eagles had a chance to get back into the game. Spoiler: they didn’t. He also made mention of Mailata’s rugby career when discussing a facemask penalty, even though they don’t wear helmets in rugby. Guy was all over the place.
Keep in mind, this is the same Vilma who called Doug Pederson a “run first” offensive coach last year.
I agree with Les:
I could do commentary better than Jonathan Vilma
— Les Bowen (@LesBowen) October 24, 2021
Final note, I do have to give credit to the production crew for playing us out to break in the third quarter with some Judas Priest. Breaking the law, breaking the law! That was probably the only good thing to come out of this game. Take this game, put it in the rocket with the other billionaires, and fire it into another galaxy.