We’re a little over three weeks from the start of the Eagles’ 2021 season and there are a lot of questions left to answer.
After watching them practice for a few weeks and play in two preseason games, here’s your latest batch of questions.
We start with one from that awful preseason performance on Thursday night:
The Eagles were embarrassed on Thursday night. They lost 35-0. And after Nick Sirianni has stressed competition since he took the head coaching gig in January, they were simply not competitive against the Patriots in that preseason game. I’d be lying to you if I said that wasn’t a little concerning.
But it’s also important to understand the context. The Eagles were without their starting quarterback, 3/5ths of their offensive line, their entire defensive line, their No. 1 cornerback and a starting safety. Even beyond the amount of starters who didn’t play, the Eagles had already admitted they were going to keep their schemes in these preseason games very vanilla … and they did.
A lot of the players we saw in that game on Thursday night are not going to make the team. Many of them will be street free agents in a few weeks. But there were also some players out there who will be on the team and their struggles are concerning. Heck, the apparent lack of depth overall is concerning.
Here’s what we know about Sirianni and the franchise, though: They value joint practices more than preseason games. And the pathetic performance from Thursday night doesn’t take away the fact that they clearly outplayed the Patriots in those two joint practices. That’s not to dismiss or excuse Thursday’s performance, but the Eagles were much better in a setting they prioritized.
Of course, the problem with being much better in practice than preseason games is that the entire fanbase doesn’t get to see practice. They’re left watching a 35-0 beatdown and are forced to take the word of the team and reporters that they look much better in practice. It’s a tough sell. I get that.
Well, hopefully it will be a tad more entertaining than this one. But I wouldn’t expect the Eagles to suddenly change philosophies and play everyone and try to win it. That’s just not how they’re operating this preseason.
And if the coaching staff is pleased with the work they see from the two joint practices with the Jets, there’s even less of a chance they play everyone in the last preseason game.
The Eagles in that preseason game against the Patriots were without Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave, Derek Barnett, Brandon Graham, Josh Sweat and Ryan Kerrigan. So they were without their six best defensive linemen. Two of those guys won’t even be starters.
It’s a bit of a stretch to say the Eagles don’t have depth on their defensive line. By the way, I have really liked what I’ve seen from rookie Milton Williams, who has the ability to play inside and outside. Primarily, though, he’s been a defensive end in Jonathan Gannon’s system.
If the Eagles are concerned about any position on the line, it’s probably defensive tackle, not edge rusher. So I don’t know if adding a guy like Beasley would make sense. The Eagles’ top defensive tackle backups — if Williams is more of an end — are Hassan Ridgeway and T.Y. McGill. Ridgeway has been a decent NFL player but has struggled to stay healthy. And McGill is a veteran journeyman who has had a nice camp. The Eagles haven’t gotten anything out of sixth-round pick Marlon Tuipulotu, who has really looked overmatched.
So the Eagles appear to be deeper at defensive end than defensive tackle, which is why I’m a tad surprised we haven’t seen Williams line up more inside. Still, I think the Eagles will stick with Ridgeway and/or McGill and hope they have enough depth inside.
The Eagles are stuck with Flacco. He hasn’t looked good but they clearly value his experience and they paid him $3.5 million to be their backup this season. There might be room to upgrade via trade but then the Eagles would be sinking more money into the backup spot and I’m not sure that makes a ton of sense.
The third-string QB? I’m surprised how much Nick Mullens has struggled in the preseason. He’s been awful. And it’s weird because this is a guy who looked good early in camp and has a body of work in the NFL. To see him struggle this much against third-stringers is pretty shocking. The hope for Mullens was probably to keep him around and groom him to be the backup for Jalen Hurts or whoever next season. But at this point, I think the Eagles should look around at what’s available and maybe sign a different quarterback for the practice squad.
Tough one. I think Pitbull would get to him more. I’d go with that.
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