Eagles

Eagles

Eagles

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 18: Jaxon Smith-Njigba #11 of the Seattle Seahawks catches a pass for a touchdown passed James Bradberry #24 of the Philadelphia Eagles in the fourth quarter at Lumen Field on December 18, 2023 in Seattle, Washington.

This is not how anyone thought that Eagles season would go. The record of 11-5 is not bad on paper. But it is the way they got those 5 losses that is troubling. The 49ers and the Cowboys blew them out. They never even had a chance in those two games. Then they blew a late lead in Seattle. The defense let them march right down the field late in the game before James Bradbery got burnt for a go-ahead TD. But the real low point was blowing a lead to the Cardinals. The Cardinals’ offense had their way all game long with the Eagles defense. And coming off of that game, it would be hard to have much confidence in the Eagles going into the playoffs.

They are however still in the playoffs. The season is not over just yet. They will have a chance to travel to whatever team wins the NFC South and keep their season alive. Even on the road, that may be a better first-round matchup for them than the Packers or the Rams would have been had they won the Division. There is still time to turn it around. And while there were whispers of locker room issues, the players and the coaches are at least doing a good job of covering it up publicly. The recent AJ Brown press conference, where he defended Nick Sirianni, went a long way to restoring some fan confidence in the state of the Eagles locker room.

With that said, things are still a mess. The defense is among the worst in the NFL, and the offense is underperforming. Somewhere along the way, things went very wrong. But what led them here after they looked so dominant last season? Let’s take a look at some of their biggest mistakes.

Here are the 7 mistakes that created this mess for the Eagles:

  • Bringing James Bradberry Back

    At the time, most fans were excited to see James Bradberry brought back. He was coming off a year where he made the All-Pro 2nd Team. Bradberry was a huge reason why the defense played so well last year. So this one is said in hindsight. But Bradberry has been a big issue why this defense has struggled as much as it has. He is not the same guy he was last year? In that Seahawks game, he allowed 116 yards, and the game-winning TD. And it’s a similar story to what we have seen all season long.

    Would things be different had they kept CJ Gardener Johnson instead of him? Maybe. But CJ and his agent are a big reason why that deal never came together. I can’t blame the Eagles for losing him too much. But what we can say is they may have been better off allocating the money they gave to Bradberry elsewhere. Either at corner or elsewhere. Maybe it would have finally forced them to use a day 1 or 2 pick on a young corner.

    The good news is that it will not be too hard to get out from under it. There will be a dead cap hit, but nothing too damaging. But that won’t change the fact it kept their defense from being better this year.

    NFL on Twitter: "Lock to JSN for the lead!📺: #PHIvsSEA on ESPN/ABC📱: Stream on #NFLPlus https://t.co/bbJNB6yPkz pic.twitter.com/t7q0x5073q / Twitter"

    Lock to JSN for the lead!📺: #PHIvsSEA on ESPN/ABC📱: Stream on #NFLPlus https://t.co/bbJNB6yPkz pic.twitter.com/t7q0x5073q

  • Hiring Sean Desai

    SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 18: Philadelphia Eagles coach Sean Desai looks on before a game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Seattle Seahawks at Lumen Field on December 18, 2023 in Seattle, Washington

    (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

    Brian Johnson had only ever called plays at college. Sean Desai had just one 1 year as a DC in the NFL before now. The Eagles should have gone with more experience or pedigree at one of those two jobs. Brian Johnson made sense at the time. He came to the Eagles with a lot of hype and did a fantastic job as Jalen Hurts’ QB Coach. If they didn’t hire him, there were several other teams waiting to scoop him up. Has he worked out in year one? No. But I can’t say hiring him was the wrong choice.

    But Desai was not already part of the team, and he did not come in with the same hype. He wasn’t even their first option. They wanted Vic Fangio. But Jonathan Gannon sneaking behind their back kept them from retaining him to take over as DC. So they eventually went with Desai instead, and it did not go well.

    Would a great playcaller on defense fix all of their issues? No. The roster itself just isn’t good enough. They went to Matt Patricia and things got worse. But it could have helped.  They interviewed Jesse Minter, DC at Michigan, for the job. And while we don’t know if he would have accepted the job, he is currently drawing massive praise for his work at Michigan. Their defense is why they are one win away from winning a National Championship. Not being able to replace coaches who got a job elsewhere was part of the downfall here for Dougie P, and so far Nick Sirianni is struggling with the same thing.

  • Using a First Round Pick On Someone Who Is Not Contributing This Year

    Nolan Smith could be a great player one day. You can’t judge a guy too harshly off of one season. But the defense could clearly use more talent this year. And there were guys on the board when the Eagles drafted Smith, who could help them right now.

    Joey Porter for instance would make a huge difference on a team struggling to cover WRs right now. Porter has been the Steelers rookie of the year, and now is drawing the toughest matchups for them every week, and holding up while doing so. Likewise, Safety Brian Branch has had a fantastic rookie season for the Lions. If 5 years from now Smith turns into a star pass rusher, we won’t look back and complain about him being ineffective in year 1. But right now, he is a luxury pick by a team that did not have the luxury. This defense lacks talent, and they spent a 1st round pick on a guy who can’t get on the field enough right now.

    NFL on ESPN on Twitter: "HOUSE CALL ☎️Rookie Brian Branch pick-sixes Mahomes!(via @Lions) pic.twitter.com/O8Sty5V4lY / Twitter"

    HOUSE CALL ☎️Rookie Brian Branch pick-sixes Mahomes!(via @Lions) pic.twitter.com/O8Sty5V4lY

  • Relying On Nakobe Dean

    PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - NOVEMBER 05: Nakobe Dean #17 of the Philadelphia Eagles reacts against the Dallas Cowboys at Lincoln Financial Field on November 05, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

    (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

    Dean, like Smith, could grow into a good player one day. But putting so much stock in a second-year player who barely saw the field last season, was a mistake. He was okay when on the field this season, and then unfortunately got hurt. But they had next to nothing behind him. Their other options were Nicholas Morrow and Zach Cunningham.

    Howie has ignored Linebacker for a long time. He got lucky here and there and got guys like TJ Edwards. But then Edwards left, and he did not have any adequate replacements ready to go. The same thing happened after the 2017 Super Bowl. They eventually let Jordan Hicks leave, and then were left relying on players like Nate Gerry. And it’s deja vu this season, because once again they have let their linebackers who got to the Super Bowl walk, and the replacements are not playing anywhere near well enough.

    Every team has to go cheap somewhere. For Howie, it is LB and Safety. But one of the ways you can go cheap and still get by is by drafting well at that spot. And outside of taking Nakobe Dean after his free fall in the draft, the Eagles have left their cupboard for young LBs dry for far too long.

  • Relying Too Much On Reed Blankenship

    Everything said about Dean, can be said about Blankenship too. The big difference is that Dean came into the NFL with more pedigree, but Reed had more experience in year one. In both cases, relying on either of them to be your main guy was taking a big risk in a season where you have Super Bowl aspirations.

    If Reed was your second Safety, you could get by. He should have been your Marcus Epps replacement, not your CJ Gardner-Johnson replacement. But the only offseason moves they made at Safety were Terrell Edmunds, who isn’t on the team anymore, Sydney Brown, not ready to be a starter yet, and Justin Evans, who missed most of the year on the IR. None of them are starting-caliber Safeties. Brown could be one day, but not yet. They eventually brought in Kevin Byard, but like Bradberry, he is nowhere near the player he used to be.

    They needed someone more solid to play Safety. If not a playmaker like CJ, at least someone you can rely on in coverage. Instead, their Safety play has been at best mediocre all season. And putting too much stock in an undrafted player in his second season is a big reason why they don’t have much to work with at Safety.

    Not to say Reed is a bad player. He has had his moments this year and is at least willing to make a hit. But he is not ready to be the team’s main Safety. He was just forced into that spot because his team went cheap at Safety.

    John Clark on Twitter: "Eagles give up a 69 yard TD from Tyrod Taylor to Darius Slayton Coverage breakdown?30-25 👀 pic.twitter.com/aFPnXsuGuZ / Twitter"

    Eagles give up a 69 yard TD from Tyrod Taylor to Darius Slayton Coverage breakdown?30-25 👀 pic.twitter.com/aFPnXsuGuZ

     

  • Not Keeping Up With The Rest of The NFL When It Comes To Using Motion

    The Eagles have the talent on offense. Two 1000-yard WRS, a  4000-yard QB, and a 1000-yard RB. Add Dallas Goedert and an elite O-Line on top of that, and you have what should be an elite NFL offense. And yet, they look stale. Some of that is the players not executing on the field. Hurts has at times missed open guys, or rolled out of the pocket when he should step up and make a throw. But one of the biggest problems is how the Eagles just seem to be behind the 8-ball when it comes to how modern NFL offenses are run.

    Just take their use of motion as one example. The Dolphins, Ravens, Lions, and 49ers are all top 10 when it comes to using motion. The Eagles are dead last. Watch one of those 4 teams, you will often see players running open because the scheme gets them open. But it is rare to see that with the Eagles. They are pretty much just relying on AJ Brown or Devonta Smith to beat their man. And since those guys are great, they do that often. But no WR wins every snap. And on average, Hurts is throwing into tighter windows than almost any other top QB. Nick Sirianni has talked at length about why he thinks they shouldn’t motion just to motion. but when all of the best offenses are heavily relying on motion, and seeing great success with it, maybe give it a shot?

    Seth Walder on Twitter: "Motion report through Week 6!This is sorted by rate of motion at the snap. The second column is all motion (at snap and motion and set). Data collected by @ESPNStatsInfo. pic.twitter.com/ijpaOIL2DN / Twitter"

    Motion report through Week 6!This is sorted by rate of motion at the snap. The second column is all motion (at snap and motion and set). Data collected by @ESPNStatsInfo. pic.twitter.com/ijpaOIL2DN

  • Overusing Jordan Davis

    Early in the season, Jordan Davis was a force against the run. And while he was playing like that, the Eagles had the best defense in the league. But all that success led to using him more and more. And Jordan Davis’ biggest issue has been how low his snap count has been throughout his career, even at Georgia. By the halfway point in the season, Davis had played more snaps than he ever had in his career. And now he is at twice his prior high in snaps.

    It all started to go downhill for him after the Bills game, where he played over 60 snaps. Since then he he has played like someone who is tired. he doesn’t get the same push, and we almost never hear his name called. And the Eagles’ run defense has fallen off a cliff. After holding teams to under 70 yards per game in the first 9 weeks, they have since allowed over 140 per game.

    Davis was playing at a high level, so they rewarded him with more snaps. On paper that makes a lot of sense. But knowing his history, and knowing that his conditioning has been an uphill battle, they probably should have been more careful with how they used him. It’s like keeping a pitcher on a snap count. If you have someone who has never thrown 100 innings, you dont immediately throw them into the deep end with a 200 IP season. The same can be said for Jalen Carter, who has also disappeared ever since that Bills game. This D-Line thrived on a heavy rotation last year. But they have underused guys like Milton Williams and Marlon Tuipulotu and overused their young players like Davis and Carter. And now Carter and Davis are barely making an impact.

    Shane Haff on Twitter: "Jordan Davis getting totally washed out by a double team again pic.twitter.com/tfDiPBudUo / Twitter"

    Jordan Davis getting totally washed out by a double team again pic.twitter.com/tfDiPBudUo

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