EAGLES STACKING WINS WHILE FINDING THEIR IDENTITY
The Philadelphia Eagles have won their first two games of the season in spite of mistakes, penalties and an inconsistent offense.
The Birds are figuring things out, but were able to stack up wins.
There teams with solid rosters like the Los Angeles Chargers and Cincinnati Bengals who are off to 0-2 starts and are trying to figure things out under the weight of possibly pressing for that first win.
After two games, the Eagles have just 362 total passing yards, two passing touchdowns, 12 penalties for 94 yards and 356 rushing yards, but just 97 in the opener.
Quarterback Jalen Hurts, a 2022 MVP candidate, has been sacked seven times.
The Birds had just one offensive touchdown week one in New England and last week against the Minnesota Vikings, head coach Nick Sirianni injected himself in a sideline discussion between Hurts and All Pro wide receiver A.J. Brown that was getting a little heated. Brown has yet to catch a touchdown pass.
Tackle Lane Johnson, coming back from sports hernia surgery, has an overall PFF rating of 68…far below what is expected from the 11-year veteran.
“We're not in a panic mode or anything like that,” Sirianni said at his Monday press conference. “Have the pass numbers been down? Yeah. Does the defense play into that? Of course it does. Fortunately for us -- and not everybody has this luxury -- but fortunately for us we're able to win on the ground and we are able to win in the air, and so you are able to balance off what the defense does.”
Week one, the Eagles leaned on Jake Elliott, who was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week after booting four field goals, two from beyond 50 yards.
Week 2, the Eagles pounded the Vikings defense for 259 yards on 48 carries that led to three rushing touchdowns.
Sirianni was asked, as he looks back on first two games, what have some of the issues been with the passing offense and what does he need to do to get them corrected?
“Some of the things that happen is, again, you're taking what the defense gives you in different ways there,” the third-year coach said. “Speaking of the last game, to have 450 yards offense and still moving the football, is just a little bit different way of how you had to move the football.
“I thought (offensive coordinator) Brian Johnson and the offensive staff did a phenomenal job of saying, ‘hey, okay, they're packing this in the middle of the field right here and keeping all these guys high and having this three-down front. All right, cool. You guys are doing that. We'll do what we have to do to win the game.’
“So, Jalen was, what? 18 of 23 in that game so he was completing a high percentage of his passes. It was just, hey, we had 48 runs to 23 passes. Well, of course your run stats are going to look different than pass stats and it's going to appear that your pass stats may be down.
"Was our first game our best game passing the football? No. But there were some similarities in that game plan as well.
"Again, we are talking about a two-game sample size. We're just going to keep doing what we need to do to put the guys in position to succeed, and that's our job as coaches. We know for sure that we have the right guys in this building to go out and execute against the defenses that we see.”
The Eagles defensive line has been impressive. Second year defensive tackle Jordan Davis has made a big leap from his rookie year that was slowed because of injuries.
Rookie d-tackle Jalen Carter has also stood out. Both had big plays down the stretch in both wins.
New defensive coordinator Sean Desai was told at a recent press gathering that his run defense is ranked about second overall, but his passing defense was near the bottom.
Is that a matter of the young guys feeling their way? How can that improve?
“Starts with me. I have to do a better job in terms of our preparation in our techniques and fundamentals, a better job putting our guys in positions to make those plays,” DeSai said.
“Then collectively I think there are some things that we know that we have to get cleaned up with techniques and fundamentals that we have to emphasize better and differently from my end as the coordinator.
“Then we keep mixing things up with coverages and keep putting our guys in better positions on situational plays to make plays.
“Then when we have opportunities to get eyes on a quarterback, our eyes on a check-down or a ball carrier, we go and make them feel the presence of a bunch of guys coming to break on that ball and tackling it.”
The Birds have six takeaways after two games that includes a 70-yard pick-six by Darius Slay against the Patriots and a fumble recovery by Fletcher Cox that set up a first-and-goal at the seven-yard line.
Desai was asked about what he said before the season about wanting your defense to be felt by the other team, how does he feel his defense has accomplished that in the first two games?
“It's early. I'm proud of our guys,” Desai said. “I think they have demonstrated a level of physicality and consistency and relentless effort, and those things are palpable that people can feel. They've gotten after the ball. They've created disruption, they created havoc, and I'm proud of them for doing that.
“Does that mean we're the final product yet? Not close. I think our guys know that also. That's okay. It's week two and we're getting better, and we want to keep rising with our level of play and get humming when it's time to hum.
“And we will. We're going to get there. Each week we're going to make progress and progress and get better, and then we're going to go. I think we're getting there. We're going to continue to get better.
I am proud of how they have been felt, and I think they're going to continue to raise that level also.”
Eagles fans can only hope these are signs the Eagles will develop into the contender their talented roster suggests they should be. *
Email Al Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org