EAGLES

Eagles overreactions: Why this win was big for Sirianni's future

EAGLES

The Eagles absolutely steam-rolled the Lions in Detroit on Sunday, running all over Dan Campbell's team en route to a ridiculously easy 44-6 win.

Are the Eagles suddenly back in the playoff picture? Let's maybe slow that roll.

But the win taught us a bunch, so let's dive into three overreactions from a monster Birds win:

1. Nick Sirianni is not afraid to be wrong

The Eagles' first-year head coach received of flack early in his time in Philadelphia for inexplicably refusing to use Miles Sanders - or any running back - on offense, leading to a historically unbalanced attack at points.

On Sunday, even with his No. 1 running back sidelined in Sanders, Sirianni changed his gameplan and ran the ball into the ground, just flattening Detroit's defense by pounding the rock with Jordan Howard, Boston Scott, and some Jalen Hurts scrambles. The team looked completely unrecognizable to those who watched the first seven weeks of the season, and that's a good thing.

Because it showed Sirianni is willing to change things up when he realizes what he's been trying isn't working.

Unlike infamous ex-Eagles head coach Chip Kelly, who had one plan on offense and refused to adjust even as things tumbled into oblivion during his third season at the helm, Sirianni seems willing to listen when his team is struggling. 

It shouldn't be hard for someone who's supposed to be a leader of men, but there are plenty of ego-driven head coaches out there who can't accept their own failures. It's really what made Doug Pederson so successful during his time in Philly, accepting all voices in his meeting rooms and coming up with the right answer, even if it wasn't his.

 

Sirianni wasn't running the ball hardly at all in the early going, and the offense suffered for it. On Sunday - an outlier, sure, but still a teaching moment - he put the ball in his running backs' hands and let them eat:

For someone who was fielding calls for him to give up playcalling duties before the halfway mark of his first year at the helm, Sunday had to feel good for Sirianni.

And, yes, it's just one week against the worst team in the league. But it's a good sign for the young playcaller.

2. Okay, maybe DeVonta Smith's drops are a problem

Alright, I'll be honest: through seven games I was doubting that the Eagles had anything to worry about with DeVonta Smith and perceived drops. I saw a bunch of bad throws from a bad quarterback, and didn't really think there was cause for concern.

But the Eagles' first offensive snap of the game on Sunday was a layup of a play, a little curl over the middle that should've yielded seven-ish yards without any resistance. Jalen Hurts put the ball right on the money for Smith, and the rookie wideout... simply dropped it. For absolutely no reason.

Okay, sure, I guess I'm a little concerned.

Through eight games, Smith has caught just 33 of his 56 targets this season. Some of that is on Hurts generally being an inaccurate quarterback, but some of that can probably also be placed on Smith, who has made some strange and unexpected rookie mistakes.  

A big selling point for Smith coming out of college was how polished he was; he just did everything well. His routes have been crisp and he's managed to get separation, but those sure hands seem to have disappeared through eight games. 

I was trying to tell myself there was nothing there, but if Smith isn't making the huge game-breaking plays that Ja'Marr Chase is making in Cincinnati - in large part because his quarterback doesn't let him - he needs to make the easy ones 10 times out of 10. 

Smith made a nice play in the third quarter on another curl route, this one on the right sideline, for his first catch of the day. He clearly has the talent to be an elite wide receiver.

But the elite receivers in the NFL are the ones who do all the little things perfectly, and then go out and do the big things. Smith might not be able to do the big things this year, hamstrung by Hurts' play, but he needs to make sure he's getting the little things right.

3. Jordan Howard should stay up, even when Miles Sanders returns

Is Jordan Howard the future of the running back position in Philadelphia?!

Even for a column based around overreactions, that's a bit much.

However! When Miles Sanders returns from IR, the Eagles should find a way to keep Howard up on the 53-man roster. Because the guy clearly has something left in the tank.

 

Howard turns 27 in a couple days, but he only has 166 carries since the end of the 2018 season. That's not a lot of action, and on Sunday he looked particularly rested. The Eagles didn't really have a power back in the rotation, relying on a more finesse run game with Sanders and Kenny Gainwell (who was oddly absent from the gameplan on Sunday, but that's another conversation for another day). 

Howard brings the kind of physicality that Chargers head coach Brandon Staley was talking about a few weeks ago during his discussion of why the run game is so important. It's nice to have Sanders' shiftiness, Scott's mixture of power and playmaking, and Gainwell's ability in the passing game, but Howard's power game shouldn't be forgotten. 

If JJ Arcega-Whiteside and Eric Wilson are on the active roster each week, you can absolutely find room for Howard, a player who is actually contributing to winning.

(Also, not for nothing: if the Eagles can find a contender taker for Sanders, I would still deal the third-year running back.)

Subscribe to the Eagle Eye podcast:

Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | Watch on YouTube