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  • Writer's pictureAl Thompson


Updated: Oct 27, 2021

Eagles shared positive news that running back Miles Sanders is week-to-week after injuring his ankle against the Raiders

Losing and a defense that has no answers right now are putting pressure on Eagles rookie head coach Nick Sirianni. Photo by Al Thompson

It is not so much that the Eagles are 2-5 on the season, it’s how the team got to that record.

Andy Reid’s first season concluded with the Eagles finishing 5-11.

Reid was a rookie head coach with a rookie quarterback in Donovan McNabb. Nick Sirianni is a rookie head coach starting off with Jalen Hurts, a young draft pick in his second season with just four starts under his belt coming into the season.

It’s probably not fair to compare McNabb with Hurts since McNabb was a second overall pick out of Syracuse and Hurts was drafted in the second round out of Oklahoma.

While both played prime-time college football, McNabb was expected to do well at the NFL level. Hurts has always been considered a project at the pro level.

But there are comparisons to look at.

Reid showed right away he was in charge and knew definitively what direction he wanted to take the Eagles. He dictated what the Eagles identity would from the day he signed his contract.

Sirianni is trying to find his team’s identity and seems to be using a trial and error method to figure that out.

Reid’s first defensive coordinator was Jim Johnson, a wise and successful coach who served as a defensive coordinator for Notre Dame, St. Louis/Phoenix Cardinals and Indianapolis Colts before joining the Eagles.

Sirianni picked Jonathan Gannon as his defensive coordinator. Gannon is 38 years old and has never been a coordinator at any level during his coaching career.

Sirianni’s offensive coordinator is Shane Steichen, who is 36 years old. He was the Los Angeles Chargers offensive coordinator in 2020, his first and only season in that role as a coach.

Outside of Jeff Stoutland, Sirianni has virtually no NFL veteran presence on his staff.

The Eagles defense it has been an open wound.

Last week Derek Carr completed 31 of 34 passes. Tom Brady was 34 of 42, Patrick Mahomes was 24 of 30 with five touchdown passes and Dak Prescott was 21 of 26 with three touchdown passes. Yes, these are all great quarterbacks but Jimmy Garoppolo hit on 22 of his 30 passes in the Eagles loss to San Francisco, a game many thought the Birds were a cinch to win.

The Eagles defense is getting picked apart at an alarming rate.

Veteran Rodney McLeod said after the loss to Las Vegas, that the secondary couldn’t take away the first read of their opponent’s quarterback.

The defensive line is basically bear dancing out there since the ball is out in a blink of an eye.

McLeod, Fletcher Cox, Darius Slay are all repeating the same quote…”We run the play that’s called.”

Sirianni keeps saying wants to keep the other team’s offense in from of the defense and not allow the big play.

Well, the Eagles defense is suffering a death “By a thousand cuts.”

At his press conference after the game, Cox was irritable and criticized his role.

Sirianni said he can feel his pain. On Monday he talked about it.

”You know what, frustration, everyone has frustration after you lose,” the coach said. “As players, coaches, everybody is going to have frustration. We'll talk about everything. We'll talk through it. We're going to address anything that we need to address as a team. But I'll keep those conversations private that we'll have there. I understand Fletch's frustration. I'm frustrated. He's frustrated. We just got to do everything we can do to get the ship righted.”

Sirianni was asked about the amount of time he spends with Gannon, and what he knows about the defensive game plan on a day-to-day basis.

“Obviously, I'm out there at practice with them, out there every single day watching practice,” Sirianni said. “As the defense goes, the offense is on break, so I'm sitting there watching, talking through the game plan there.

“Gannon always likes to ask me questions as far as an offensive coach what would present this play problems or this play problems," coach continued. "That's something we go through each week, we talk about each week. So that's something that happens each and every week with us, that we're going to go through those things, those questions… Yeah, (I’m) really involved.”

Sirianni was asked if Gannon has autonomy with the game plan.

“Well, when you say that, everything that goes onto that field is my responsibility,” he said. “My name is on it. If I want something done, then we're going to do it that way because my name is on that.

“Now, I trust Jonathan completely in the sense that he's doing most of the studying on it. I'm going to be there, just like I said, to support and also answer questions as an offensive style. If I see right for us to pressure on a play, then we're going to do it that way. But again, I trust our staff completely. That's kind of our process.”

The Eagles announced Monday that they traded Joe Flacco to the New Jets for a conditional 2022 draft pick. That moves Gardner Minshew to be the number two, right? Also Sirianni was asked about Reid Sinnett, a backup quarterback the Eagles acquired from Miami.

“We feel really good about Gardner being our number two,” Sirianni said. “Reid had a lot of good plays in pre-season this year. We thought we added a good prospect to our roster.

“As far as Joe goes, Joe is just a great person to be around, great pro to be around. Had a phenomenal pre-season and was really good for our room. The opportunity arose for him to go and be able to contribute somewhere else. Then also obviously we get a pick for that."

When an NFL team is struggling and its quarterback is struggling, the natural question is whether the starter’s job is in jeopardy. Has there been any thought of replacing Hurts with Minshew?

“No,” Sirianni replied.

Is there a point in which he would like to see Gardner at all?

“No, I got a ton of faith in -- obviously, I really like Gardner and I think he's a good backup. But I got a ton of faith in Jalen. He will be our starting quarterback.” *

Until he can’t be. *

NOTE: Sirianni said he thinks the ankle injury to running back Miles Sanders might not be too serious.

“We have Jordan Howard on the practice squad as well,” Sirianni said Monday. “We feel really good about him. Miles will probably be down. Actually, we are week-to-week with him, pardon me. It's a stretch for him to be up this week, but we're not ruling anything out yet.” *

Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompsoniii

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