By Connor Thomas

 

The Eagles dropped a close one yesterday evening to the Los Angeles (yeah, that still sounds weird) Chargers, but there were certainly some positives to take away from the game despite the final score. The Eagles have been very boom or bust so far this year, with games either being hugely positive or hugely negative, but this week’s takeaways feel as balanced as any through the first 9 weeks of this season. A loss is a loss, but in a season where expectations were low from the start, this week’s game felt like a step in the right direction, even if it was a baby step. Here are 5 takeaways from yesterday’s action:

  • 1.) The Eagles are hiding Jalen Hurts

    The past couple weeks’ game plan has been different, and it speaks volumes about what the Eagles think of their young QB. One of the biggest goals of this season was to evaluate Hurts as a potential franchise quarterback, and it seems the coaches have come closer to a conclusion. Over the past 2 weeks, Hurts has thrown a total of 31 times. In 5 of the first 7 weeks of the season he threw 34 times or more. There’s a simple explanation for the drop off in passing attempts: the Eagles are trying to hide Hurts from opposing defenses. It took nearly two months, but it appears the coaching staff has decided that their best chance to win football games is to pound the football on the ground and throw when they have to. Does this mean it’s curtains for Hurts’ chance to be a long term QB in Philly? Not necessarily; we have seen teams take game managing QBs to Super Bowls before (think Jimmy Garoppolo in 2019-20). What it does mean, though, is that the Eagles are already trying to cover for their QB. It’s not a death sentence, but not the best sign for Hurts’ future in Philly.

  • 2.) The offensive game plan was solid once again

    One of the best things that the Eagles did in Detroit in week 8 was the major improvement of the balance of the offensive game plan. The hope was that it wasn’t a one off performance, and yesterday Nick Sirianni proved that he has learned a little something since the season started. The birds saw a 30th ranked rushing defense and decided to run the ball 39 times to the tune of 176 yards. It was the right call considering the Chargers’ shortcomings in that facet of the game, and even though it didn’t result in the win, it gave the Eagles – an inferior team talent-wise to the Chargers – a chance to be in the game late. That’s all you can really ask for this season, and this week Sirianni delivered. Now, the game plan still needs to include pass plays that build off success in the running game (there’s this little thing called play action that you can use), but compared to what we were seeing in the first couple months of the season, this has been a step in the right direction.

  • 3.) It really is always him

    Derek Barnett man… What is there left to say? If you’re an opposing team playing the Eagles and need a big play to extend a drive, don’t worry about the play call. Just call whatever you want and wait for number 96 in midnight green to commit a crippling penalty. He did it again yesterday on a pivotal 3rd and 6 for the Chargers with the Eagles holding a 4th quarter lead. Barnett jumped way offsides, creating a 3rd and 1 that Los Angeles converted and led to a TD drive. Now, with the way the defense was playing, Justin Herbert may very well have converted that 3rd and 6 anyway, but thanks to Barnett he didn’t have to make a play. Barnett now has 20.5 sacks for his career and has committed 20 penalties, not a great ratio for any player, much less a former 1st round selection. We’re passed the point of Barnett losing playing time. It’s now time to find a way for him to not play for the Eagles anymore once this season is over. He’ll be a free agent at the end of this season, and there is no way the birds should consider paying him the amount of money he’ll be looking for. It should be the end of Barnett’s time in Philly, and outside of the fumble recovery in the Super Bowl, there won’t be many good memories.

  • 4.) Jonathan Gannon might be a problem

    Unlike the offense, which seems to be improving, the Eagles defense does not seem to be taking steps in the right direction. The rushing defense has been porous all season long, but more concerning is the pass defense of Jonathan Gannon’s unit. Yesterday they allowed Justin Herbert, who has struggled over the past few weeks, to complete 84.2% of his pass attempts for 356 yards and 2 scores. This has been a consistent trend for the Eagles defense this season, and the unit is now allowing a 75.5% completion percentage IN TOTAL through 9 weeks. That includes matchups with Jared Goff, Sam Darnold, and Jimmy Garoppolo. It’s an unbelievable clip that the Eagles allow completions at, and with two premier cornerbacks in Darius Slay and Steven Nelson manning the outside, you have to believe this falls more on Gannon than his personnel. There are still 8 more games left in the season, and it’s not too late for the defense to turn around, but if the season ended today, there would certainly be a number of people who would prefer the Eagles move on from Gannon. He will really need to show some adjustment over the remainder of the year if he wants to solidify his spot for another year in Philly.

  • 5.) There is hope on the horizon

    It’s funny, 3 of my 5 takeaways were negative this week, but ultimately the mood I had following yesterday’s game was positive. This game made me the most hopeful of any games so far this season in the Eagles’ ability to create a competitive team from this nucleus. Will all of the players/coaches currently with the team work out? Absolutely not. But there were some very encouraging things yesterday that point to hope of a competitive future for the birds. DeVonta Smith looks like the real deal. Despite the lower production than expected (possibly due more to Hurts than anything else), Smith seems to ALWAYS be open. And not just kind of open, wide open. He’s a weapon you can build around. The game plan showed that the offensive side of the coaching staff can adapt, even if right now their learning curve is slow. Hopefully that will speed up with time. Maybe the most important, this team is continuing to fight. It may not result in many wins this season, but yesterday’s performance was something that largely was one for a young team to build on.