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  • Writer's pictureAl Thompson


Eagles rookie head coach holding himself accountable but acknowledges that is not going to be enough. Photo by Al Thompson

According to some TV analysts, the Philadelphia Eagles are the only team in the NFL where the head coach and both coordinators are 40 years of age or younger.

Offensive coordinator Shane Steichen is 36 years old. Jonathan Gannon, defensive coordinator, is 38 years old and head coach Nick Sirianni is 40.

After the Birds 41-21 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on national television in Week three, there would not be a fan or observer who wouldn’t agree that their youth and inexperience showed.

After a terrific start against the Atlanta Falcons, a game the Eagles dominated in all three facets of the game, the wheels have come off, particularly on offense.

Against Dallas, the Eagles offensive centerpiece Miles Sanders touched the ball just five times including just two carries for a more-than-respectable 13.5 yards per carry.

Kenneth Gainwell carried the ball once for two yards.

The score was 7-7 with 9:57 left in the first quarter, 14-7 after the first quarter and 20-7 at the half. The Eagles were getting the first possession of the third quarter.

Unlocking the potential in quarterback Jalen Hurts is a top priority for head coach Nick Sirianni. Photo by Andy Lewis.

Sirianni and Steichen had just 30 yards rushing and 102 yards passing at the half and failed to generate any points.

Fletcher Cox scored on a Dak Prescott fumble in the end zone to account for the Eagles lone touchdown.

But why the panic? What was the reason to get away from the game plan? Sirianni was asked how often did quarterback Jalen Hurts check out of the runs early in that first half.

The rookie head coach stuck by his player.

“There are some times there are going to be RPOs (Run Pass Option) where we're reading somebody,” Sirianni said at his midweek press conference after the Dallas game. “So, one time we're expecting to hand it off, but the guy does something a little different than what we thought, and we pull the ball. That's going to happen; I get that. But as far as checking out of plays, we had some things that we were at the line of scrimmage doing, and there weren't a lot of those, either."

Sirianni pivoted to blaming himself for the lopsided run/pass ratio in the game.

“Again, I do need to do a better job running the football,” he said. “There's no question about that. We need to be able to do that to help us be a balanced team and help us win football games. But sometimes RPOs do play out that way, and what we do is we count RPOs – if they're going to take a guy and replace – get him out of position for the pass, we actually count those as runs. But we've got to run the ball more.”

The Eagles coaching staff had the luxury of playing with a lead for most of the Atlanta game. During the losses to the San Francisco 49ers and Cowboys, Sirianni was trying to play catch up.

Sirianni and his staff seemed lost at times. The pre-snap penalties aren’t helping. Losing three starters on the offensive line halfway through the 49ers game isn’t helping at all either.

But to almost abandon one of your best players on offense like Sanders makes no sense.

Miles Sanders has just two carries against Dallas. His coach says that can't happen. Photo by Andy Lewis.

Sirianni admitted as much. He was also asked if he talked to Sanders about his lack of touches in the Dallas game.

“Does [Sanders] need more than five touches? Of course,” Sirianni said. ” The way the game went, he didn't get that. And yes, when guys -- I don't want to just single out Miles, but when guys are down because of their role and we expect more out of their role, whether because they didn't accomplish it on their own or I didn't give them a chance to accomplish it on their own, we are, we've got to pick guys up. That's what a team does, pick them up and let them know that you believe in them still.

“As far as Miles getting touches, there's no doubt, we've got to get our playmakers the ball. He's a playmaker. He's shown that he's a playmaker, whether it's in the screen game, whether it's out of the backfield or getting the ball.”

Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon still needs to find a way to overcome the loss of DE Brandon Graham. Photo by Al Thompson

Gannon’s defense played very well the first two weeks. His unit allowed just one touchdown over the first eight quarters, holding Atlanta and San Francisco to a total of 23 points.

During the 49ers game, the Birds lost Pro Bowl defensive end Brandon Graham for the season due to a ruptured Achilles tendon.

It is hard to imagine how much one player meant to the Eagles. The defense was unable to stop a Cowboy’s offense that netted 398 total yards, 160 on the ground.

Gannon was asked if he was disappointed by the way the Cowboys ran the ball, especially early. Dallas had 118 yards rushing at the half.

"It was disappointing," Gannon said. "More so than that, I think we just didn't do enough to put -- on our side of the ball -- to put our team in a position to be competitive and win the game. When you do that, you feel bad.

“We got a lot of adjustments to make, and we've got to get better in a hurry because we've got a good team coming in here on Sunday (Kansas City Chiefs).

Gannon said his players were in great spirits to start the week.

“The good thing is, though, from when they got back in the building today, I guess, the attitude and the demeanor of our team was good,” He said. "There was no finger pointing. It was, ‘Hey, what do we got to do to get better so we can put ourselves in position to win a game?’”

The Cowboys set the one on their first drive when Prescott hit wide receiver CeeDee Lamb with a 44-yard pass that set up a first and goal from the Eagles one. Ezekiel Elliott scored on the next play.

Gannon was asked if that was a play to beat his zone or was there an assignment that was bust.

“No, there was no assignment bust,” Gannon said. “The bust was on me. That call is not specific for that play. It was a good scheme. Nobody busted the coverage. I wish I had that one back because I put our guys in a tough spot with what that coverage entails, so that one is really on me.”

Hurts was the same way after the Dallas loss. He took the blame. “This one’s on me,” he said.

All that self-examination is great for now. The Eagles hired coaches and players who don’t point fingers.

Time will tell if this group learns how to win. *

Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompsoniii

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