LAS VEGAS: It is becoming more and more obvious that Eagles players are losing or have lost their belief in the rookie coaching staff hired by owner Jeffrey Lurie and General Manager Howie Roseman.
Players openly resisted saying they believed in head coach Nick Sirianni and defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon after the Birds lost to the Las Vegas Raiders 33-22 at the still shiny new-looking Allegiant Stadium.
Quarterback Jalen Hurts was asked directly if he believed in the strategy given to him by the Eagles coaching staff.
“I believe in myself to go out there and execute,” Hurts said after going 18 of 34 for 236 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He turned the ball over on a missed snap from center Jason Kelce. “That’s something I haven’t done a good enough job of doing clearly. We’ve been losing games. We’re putting ourselves in position to do things and we’re messing it up. That’s something we have to be better at...executing.”
Since he didn’t answer the question, Hurts was pressed on how can he execute plays if he does not believe in the strategies he is being given to operate with?
“We believe in ourselves,” Hurts said. “We believe in the coaches, we believe in everything we have going on here in Philadelphia.”
Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni told Eagles fans last week he used mini-bye week to self-scout and make changes on both sides of the ball to help straighten out his inconsistent team.
The Eagles offense dazzled on its first drive going 67 yards on eight plays ending with a 13-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jalen Hurts to rookie running back Kenneth Gainwell.
Quarterback Jalen Hurts was under center for a number of plays, handing off the ball to Miles Sanders four times for 23 yards. He also hit tight end Dallas Goedert for a 24-yard gain.
The Birds offense was clicking.
Likewise for the Birds defense.
Derek Carr led the Raiders on a long drive that featured him hitting two back breaking throws for 59 yards after holding calls to set up at the Eagles nine-yard line. Carr then threw a ball behind his running back Jalen Richard, the ball was tipped and picked off by Eagles cornerback Avonte Maddox at their own four-yard line.
The Eagles ensuing drive was bad on many levels. Not only did Hurts and the Birds not move the ball past the 26-yard line, Mile Sanders who had 30 rushing yards on six carries, was injured on the last carry and was helped off the field and was seen being taken to the locker room on a cart. Sirianni said after the game it was an ankle injury. His status was unknown after the game.
It was downhill from there. Hurts admitted after the game that losing Sanders deflated the entire offense.
The Raiders and Carr scored 30 consecutive points to turn the game into a blowout. Carr picked the Eagles apart for 323 yards going 31 of 34 with two touchdown passes and no sacks.
The Eagles scored 15 points in the fourth quarters, but it was garbage time by then.
When asked how Carr could complete 31 of 34 passes, safety McLeod said, “We couldn’t take away any of his first reads.”
Gannon wants to keep opponents offense in front of his defense. He does not give up big plays often but, according to players, the defense takes fewer chances and thus is less aggressive.
“I just play what’s called,” said McLeod, echoing the sentiment of many of his teammates. “We just have to find a way to live out the play. As players, we make the plays come to life. Regardless of what’s called. There’s a lot of situations where you’re never in the perfect call. There is no such thing as a perfect call. But as players we just have to bring those plays to life and execute.”
Execute is a word that is overused by Eagles players on both sides of the ball. The Eagles are 2-5 on the season and any chance of making any noise in the NFC East is slipping away.
“We are practicing hard, but we’re coming up short,” McLeod said. ”Time’s running out”
McLeod, one of this year’s captains also avoided giving any endorsement of the playing calling that comes in.
“I don’t have the answers, I wish I did,” McLeod said. “That’s why we have to look at this film and find ways to get better and we have to figure it out fast. We can’t keep coming back in here and feeling the way we have and being satisfied with just having great effort. It has to translate over to wins.”
The ten-year veteran continued.
“I think we just have to look at this film and be critical of ourselves as a whole,” said McLeod, who finished with eight overall tackles (five solo). “First as players, myself included and then as coaches as well…to figure out what’s best for this team and what’s going to allow us to win games. That’s what most important…winning.”
Because Carr was getting rid of the ball quickly the Eagles expensive defensive line was rendered almost useless.
Fletcher Cox recorded just two tackles. Two of the top three tacklers against the Raiders were members of the secondary. Marcus Epps had 11 combined tackle and McLeod recorded eight.
Cox repeated what many of his teammates were saying after the game.
“Obviously we’ve got to play what’s being called,” Cox said. “When you are used to playing so aggressive for so many years I’ve been playing. It just changed. You can’t be as aggressive …but you’ve got to play what’s being called.
“We’ve got to be more aggressive up front and that starts with me,” Cox continued. “Sometimes when I’m too aggressive it helps us sometimes and sometimes it hurts us.”
What does Goedert say to Eagles Nation, who routinely number in the tens of thousands at away games like they did in Las Vegas?
“I don’t think Eagles fans are ever going to lose faith,” said Goedert, who was targeted five times and came up with three receptions for 70 yards. “They may boo us, they might do all that. But most of the time when they’re booing us, we don’t give them a reason not to boo us. Philadelphia has some of the most passionate fans there are. They are going to continue to support us. But we’ve got to start winning.”
Goedert is right on one level. Eagles’ fans will always love the Eagles. At some point soon they will start losing faith in these players and coaches….if they haven’t already. *
Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompsoniii.