EAGLES

Eagles overreactions: What Minshew's game says about Hurts

EAGLES

The first half was wacky, the second half was sleepy, and the Eagles beat a bad Jets team.

But the real storyline, the topic that will dominate the city for the next week (so get ready), is the performance of mustachioed Gardner Minshew, who was dealing in the first half and led the Eagles to the victory.

So let's obviously overreact to all that:

1. Gardner Minshew's big game shows Hurts should be doing more

Let's get this out front early: I know it's the Jets, and I know the Jets suck. I know, I know, I know.

But Gardner Minshew's performance Sunday, slicing up the New York defense one solid play at a time, showed that Jalen Hurts - who is a superior all-around football player - is clearly leaving stuff out there.

Minshew did numerous things well on Sunday.

First and foremost, he was largely accurate. Accuracy has been a Hurts problem all year, and while Minshew underthrew some guys on Sunday, he also never outright missed an open player. Hurts has done that this year, tossing the ball about four yards off target, and it simply can't happen if you want the offense to run smoothly.

Minshew was good in the pocket, not getting flustered and bailing early the way Hurts can. Minshew clearly isn't the athlete that Hurts is, so using his legs isn't the same kind of option, but Minshew was very good Sunday at feeling pressure and moving the pocket just enough to buy time and find guys downfield, like this third down conversion:

Minshew also simply took things that were there. It's kind of his M.O. as a quarterback, considering his limitations, but it's felt often this year like Hurts tries to do a little bit much on plays that seem to be dead (like the interception before halftime last week) and it can bite him. You don't always want to simply check down a la Sam Bradford, but sometimes the best play is the easiest one. Minshew understands that.

 

Now, Minshew was far from perfect. He left yards out there, whether on underthrows that could've been bigger gains or on throws that didn't reach their intended targets when they were open, like a miss on third down in the third quarter to DeVonta Smith. Minshew's arm strength isn't really there, and it can hamper him when he's playing better teams. There was pressure, but this throw to Quez Watkins wasn't where it should've been:

I don't think Minshew should be a threat to Hurts' status as QB1. But I do think there was plenty to learn from Sunday's win.

2. The Eagles' defense simply isn't talented enough

I'm not here to make excuses for Jonathan Gannon. The Eagles' first-year defensive coordinator has regularly misused his personnel, played a far-too-passive style of defense for my liking, and generally needs to be way better next season if he wants to stay here long-term.

But boy does this Eagles defense need more talent.

Zach Wilson was one of the worst quarterbacks in the entire league entering Sunday's game, and in the first half he completed 12 of 14 passes for 108 yards and two touchdowns. Wilson regularly found players who were simply wide open, a combination of Gannon's failures and an overall lack of skill on the defensive side of the ball for the Birds.

The Jets were once again driving in the fourth quarter, down 12, before Zach Wilson airmailed a ball to Marcus Epps for an interception and essentially sealed the game. You can't count on a blatant miss to stop your opponent; you need to go make that stop yourself.

A quick rundown of the position groups...

  • In the secondary: Steven Nelson makes too many mistakes in coverage, Marcus Epps is fine but not great, Anthony Harris is fine but not great  
  • On the D-line: Fletcher Cox isn't who he once was, Derek Barnett is regularly out of position, Josh Sweat is good but needs to make the leap  
  • At linebacker: T.J. Edwards is totally fine, Alex Singleton is bad, Davion Taylor is solid enough when healthy

There just isn't enough standout skill on this defense, especially looking towards the future when guys like Cox, Darius Slay, and Brandon Graham are either gone or have fully hit the downslope of their respective careers. 

The Eagles will have three first-round picks this year, and while it'll be tempting to ship them out for a veteran QB or use one on a wide receiver, where they still don't have enough answers, the Eagles really need to invest in building up future talent for the defense.

3. Kenneth Gainwell really should get more touches

Through 12 weeks Kenneth Gainwell has felt a bit like a gadget player, and I think that framing is in large part because his involvement in the Eagles' offense has been super inconsistent.

What hasn't been inconsistent? Gainwell's ability to make plays when he gets the ball in his hands, and in particular find the end zone.

Gainwell had four touchdowns on 66 touches before Sunday's game this season, a pretty impressive conversion rate despite irregular use in the offense. He added another touchdown on 17 touches vs. the Jets.

 

I like Boston Scott a lot, and he brings more between the tackles as a kind of off-balance RB. Miles Sanders is clearly a superior runner, as is Jordan Howard. And I know there are only so many touches to go around, so I'm not even blaming Nick Sirianni for the inconsistency.

But whether it's in the final five games of the season or next year, Gainwell needs to be more involved because he simply makes things happen.

I especially like the way Gainwell keeps his legs moving when he disappears amid the trees, like he did on his touchdown run in the second quarter:

There were multiple times during that play where I assumed his progress was done, but Gainwell kept churning and eventually spilled into the end zone for six. That's what good players do, and Gainwell is a good player.

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