EAGLES

In Roob's Observations: The biggest concern on defense

EAGLES

Why a balanced offense isn’t necessarily ideal, a change the Eagles need to make on special teams, understanding the “Howie Roseman is in meetings” drama and why Nick Sirianni was cleaning up the NovaCare practice fields Saturday morning.

With the Vikings coming to town for a Monday night home opener at the Linc, it’s a Sunday morning Week 2 edition of Roob’s Random Eagles Observations.

1. How do you miss 15 tackles in a game? Out of all the terrible defense we saw the Eagles play in Detroit, that was most alarming. And there was a lot. They looked unprepared at the start. They looked gassed by the second half. They only managed one sack and one takeaway. Guys were out of position. Guys didn’t play enough. Guys played too much. A lot of this you can blame squarely on Jonathan Gannon, but I’m putting tackling on the players. Old-fashioned fundamentals. And I don’t want to hear about not tackling in training camp. The Eagles ran the exact same camp last summer, and according to Pro Football Focus they were the best tackling team in the NFL in 2021, averaging just 6.2 missed tackles per game with a high of 10 vs. the Jets. Then they got rid of most of the biggest offenders: Alex Singleton [19], Davion Taylor [8], Rodney McLeod [8], Genard Avery [7], Eric Wilson [7 in half a season] and Anthony Harris [7]. And it got worse. Those 15 missed tackles against the Lions were the most in the NFL in Week 1. A lot of the defense’s issues are on Gannon, and he clearly has to do better. But tackling? Guys who’ve been playing football since they were kids know how to tackle. You just have to want to do it. If the Eagles try that arm tackling nonsense Monday night against Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson and the rest of the Vikings, they’re in big trouble.

 

2. More than half of Jalen Hurts’ completions Sunday went to A.J. Brown, and he had more than three times as many targets (13) as anyone else (DeVonta Smith and Kenny Gainwell four each). Nearly two-thirds of Hurts’ passing yards (155 of 243) went to Brown. None of this is bad. There’s something to be said for balance, but there’s also something to be said for going with the hot hand, and if a team can’t cover Brown, and he’s making the plays he was making Sunday? Nothing wrong with feeding him. These things go in cycles, and there will be days opposing defenses do everything possible to limit Brown, and Smith and Dallas Goedert will get double-digit targets and Brown just a few. But I don’t buy balance just for the sake of balance. You do what you need to do to win, and if that means throwing to A.J. Brown every snap you do it.

3. Only three players have ever had 1,000 receiving yards in their first season with the Eagles. It’s quite a trio: Irving Fryar in 1995, Terrell Owens in 2004 and Kevin Curtis in 2007.

4.  There have been four games in the franchise’s 90-year history where the Eagles scored 38 or more points without a passing touchdown. One was a 64-0 win over the Cincinnati Reds at the old Temple Stadium at Mount Pleasant and Michener in West Oak Lane in 1934. The three others? Hurts in Detroit last year, Hurts vs. the Saints last year and Hurts in Detroit Sunday. In the last 50 years, no other NFL QB has been behind center three times when his team scored 38 or more points without a TD pass. In Week 1, the Eagles had no passing TDs and four rushing TDs, and the 31 other teams had 51 passing TDs in the NFL and 18 rushing TDs.  A different way of playing football. Anachronistic. But if it works? It works.

5. The Eagles need to get Quez Watkins off kick returns and let Britain Covey handle them as well as punt returns. Watkins is a faster than Covey, but he really doesn’t seem to be comfortable returning kicks, and we saw that in the opener. It’s not his strength. Covey is just going to make the right decision every time and max out the potential of every play. And he is plenty fast. Not Quez fast, but he did run a 4.43 at Utah’s pro day. Covey didn’t return a ton of kicks in college – just 33. But his last two years he averaged 29.6 yards per return with a TD, 6th-highest in the BCS during that span. He’s poised, confident, instinctive and has a little swagger back there. No doubt he can handle both.

 

6. This whole “OMG HOWIE ROSEMAN IS IN MEETINGS” thing has to be the most overblown ridiculous nonsense storyline I’ve ever heard. If Gannon sat there on Tuesday and said, “Howie Roseman and Nick Sirianni don’t meet, don’t talk about the roster, don’t communicate about who should be active on gameday and who should be elevated from the practice squad, and really just don’t spend any time planning out the roster,” people would be irate. Well, this is the opposite. And they’re irate anyway. Howie can’t win, and that’s why this became a story. I just think the name “Howie Roseman” triggers fans who still cling to the stupid “not a football guy” narrative. Like it or not, Roseman has gotten really good at his job. He built the Super Bowl championship roster, he put together teams that have reached the playoffs four of the last five seasons, and he had a terrific offseason. Replace the words “Joe Douglas” with the words “Howie Roseman” in Gannon’s quote and nobody even cares.

7. The Eagles have only been 2-0 three times in the last 17 years – and they’ve missed the playoffs each time. In 2012, they went 4-12, in 2014 they went 10-6 but lost three of their last four and missed the postseason, and in 2016 they won their first three games but finished 7-9. The last time the Eagles were 2-0 and reached the postseason was 2004. But the last nine times they reached the postseason – 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2013, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2021 – they were 1-1 after two weeks. And 12 of the last 14 times they’ve been 1-1 they reached the postseason (all but 2005 and 2011). So if the Eagles lose Monday night? Feel free to be disappointed. But not the end of the world.

8. With Derek Barnett now on Injured Reserve, the Eagles have only five position players left on the 53-man roster from the Super Bowl season: Brandon Graham, Jason Kelce, Fletcher Cox, Lane Johnson and Isaac Seumalo. Jake Elliott and Rick Lovato also remain from 2017. There are 15 other players from that team who are still active: Jalen Mills and Nelson Agholor [Patriots], Rodney McLeod and Nick Foles [Colts], Steven Means [Ravens], Nate Sudfeld, [Lions], Jason Peters [Cowboys],  Sidney Jones [Seahawks], Jordan Hicks [Vikings], Kamu Grugier-Hill [Texans], Rasul Douglas [Packers], Ronald Darby [Broncos], Mack Hollins [Raiders], Zach Ertz [Cards] and Carson Wentz [Commanders]. Also, Halapoulivaati Vaitai [Lions], Vinny Curry [Jets] and Kenjon Barner [Buccaneers] are currently on IR.

9. Only two running backs with fewer than 110 touches since opening day 2021 have more than four touchdowns: Boston Scott has eight and Kenny Gainwell seven. Among all active NFL RBs with at least 100 touches, Scott has scored the most frequently [one TD every 13 touches], Gainwell is second [one every 15.4 touches] and Kareem Hunt third [one every 16.4]. The only Eagles RB with more TDs in his first 17 career games than Gainwell is Charlie Garner, who had eight. The only RBs with more TDs in their first 46 career games than Scott are LeSean McCoy [33], Wilbert Montgomery [29], Brian Westbrook [26] and Tom Sullivan [17]. Amazing production at the goal-line considering neither Scott nor Gainwell has ever been a full-time starter.

 

10. You know how Nick Sirianni is always going on about how obsessed he is with competing? At anything? Anywhere? At any time? So at practice Saturday morning after team stretch, there were 10 or 12 small bands of equipment tape scattered in a small area of the practice field as the players cleared the area. An equipment staffer walked over to start picking them up, but Nick started literally dashing over and scooping each piece up as fast as he could, sprinting from one piece of tape to another before the trainer could get there. When the trainer eyed up a specific piece of tape, Nick raced over and snagged it first. Then he took the whole batch, stuffed them in a waste basket and then raised his arms in triumph. Sirianni and the equipment person were both cracking up.

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