By Connor Thomas
Well… that didn’t go great. The Eagles primetime trip to Dallas to take on the Cowboys on Monday Night Football was nothing short of an absolute disaster. Penalties, injuries, poor game planning, and just all around rough play was on display last night from the folks in midnight green, as the Cowboys dropped a 40 piece on the birds. It’s honestly hard to narrow it down to just 5 takeaways from last night’s dreck, but here are the 5 most noticeable things from the Eagles’ drubbing at the hands of Dak Prescott and the rest of their division rivals.
Like many things in life, football play calling is largely about balance. The great teams can get away with an imbalance; just look at how often the Kansas City Chiefs throw the ball. Here’s the problem though: the Eagles are far from a great team. That means that Nick Sirianni cannot afford to have a game plan that results in throwing the ball 39 times and running the ball (Hurts scrambles not included) just THREE (3) TIMES. It was an absolutely preposterous balance, or rather lack thereof. To give Miles Sanders, probably your most proven offensive play maker, 2 rushing attempts, is completely negligent. On top of that, you saw a young QB in Jalen Hurts struggle mightily at points. A good play caller would rely on the run to bail out a QB on a tough night, but Sirianni did no such thing. Top to bottom, the offensive scheme last night was unacceptably bad.
The Eagles do lead the league in something! It’s penalties, and it’s not really close right now. The birds have 35 penalties through 3 weeks, good for tops in the league by a margin of 8. Last year, the team had penalty issues under Doug Pederson, but this year is in a league of its own so far. The Eagles 35 infractions is the 10th most in THE HISTORY OF THE NFL THROUGH 3 GAMES. Not exactly the type of record you’re looking to be setting. Nick Sirianni’s play calling was atrocious, but his team’s discipline was even worse. This young coaching staff is going to have to get a handle on the mental focus of their team, or some of them will be searching for another new opportunity next season. By the way, here’s a link to the NFL rulebook if any Eagles players are reading: https://operations.nfl.com/the-rules/2021-nfl-rulebook/
After week 1’s dominant win in Atlanta, it seemed like Jalen Hurts had the potential to become the franchise QB the Eagles needed. Now, after 2 lackluster performances, Hurts stock is starting to drop. He only completed 12 passes against the 49ers last week, and last night he had possibly his roughest game as an Eagle, throwing 2 interceptions, one being a bad pick 6. The 326 passing yards he amassed in Dallas last night is misleading, considering the number of times he dropped back and the garbage time drives that added to it. The biggest issues so far with Hurts seem to be decision making in the pocket, and arm strength. Decision making can always improve, but with every deep ball that is either light on zip or is simply underthrown, the concerns about Hurts’ arm talent grow. This DOES NOT mean that Hurts is for sure unable to be a franchise QB, but right now, $HURTS stock is showing red on the ticker.
Jonathan Gannon was one of the shining stars of the Eagles’ start to the season, but last night, he did not shine brightly at all. His defense was torched for 380 yards and a 41 point performance (ok, 34 if we don’t count the pick 6), and there were multiple blown coverages leading to big gains for the Cowboys. Sometimes it’s fair to blame bad ingredients rather than the chef, and Gannon does not exactly have elite defensive talent, but he did not make a good stew last night. The pressure on Prescott was sparing, and the run stopping was non-existent. Losing Brandon Graham is clearly going to be an issue for the Eagles the rest of the way, and Gannon will have to tighten up his scheming to cover for the deficiencies in personnel on the defensive side of the ball.
Insult sucks, but adding injury to it? Well, there’s a reason that saying exists. Losing to Dallas in primetime is bad enough, but the Eagles also lost more key pieces to injury over the course of last night’s contest. Most notably, starting LG Isaac Seumalo was carted off with a foot injury, leaving the Eagles with an offensive line that consisted of Andre Dillard (backup), Nate Herbig (backup), Jason Kelce, Landon Dickerson (rookie backup), and Lane Johnson. The Eagles have 14 more games to go, and that offensive line is already at least at Defcon 2 (Defcon 1 is the worst, yes I know, it confuses me all the time too). The birds are also thin at safety now with K’Von Wallace suffering a shoulder injury. As Rodney McLeod remains unavailable, the Eagles defensive backfield has steadily become weaker thanks to issues with the team’s health. The NFL is a war of attrition, and the Eagles are losing that battle badly just 3 weeks into the longest season in league history. It will feel even longer if the trends from last night’s debacle continue.