By Paul Bowman, Sports Talk Philly Editor
This game was a tough one for the players and likely for those fans who are still holding onto some semblance of hope for a playoff run. The Eagles lost a close one with the Cardinals, which was good news for those who are looking for the higher draft pick as there was both good play and the draft pick improved.
Though the offense took a bit to get started, sticking to the run and that improved play calling helped the Eagles to get back into the game. Then, the good play calling vanished again and Jalen Hurts still managed to keep the Eagles alive.
As for the defense, they played as well as could be expected throughout the game.
33 points to an offense with Deandre Hopkins and Larry Fitzgerald, in addition to other competent pass catchers, is nothing to sneeze at considering the secondary consisted of Jalen Mills and Marcus Epps at safety and a rookie UDFA (Michael Jacquet) as well as a guy signed off the street earlier this month (Kevon Seymour) at the corner positions.
This is one of those games that can be pointed to in defense of Jim Sxhwartz. Does his defense let the team down sometimes, sure, but this is the third season in a row he has put up an admiral defense using players that were not in the building to start the season.
- Michael Jacquet and Kevon Seymour started at outside corner with the Eagles “top two” guys out. While Slay can certainly offer more, it is hard to argue that the other two were major downgrades beyond what has been out with Slay.
- Punter Cameron Johnston left the game with a head injury, leaving kicker Jake Elliott to punt and tight end Zach Ertz to serve as the holder. The former worked excellently while the latter was quite the opposite.
- Though Richard Rodgers left with injury, that really only had an impact on the special teams as he is used sparingly on offense since the return of Ertz.
- Alshon Jeffery once again got a ton of snaps. The good news is that he was very productive. The bad news is that he clearly chooses who to play for and when to put forth effort (both of which should make fans furious considering his stealing money for the past two seasons) as well as the fact he is taking snaps from young guys like Travis Fulgham.
- Josh Sweat left the game early with what appeared to be a similar shoulder injury to the one he had suffered last week. Genard Avery took some snaps with Sweat limited to just the couple early plays.
Buy: Michael Jacquet
The rookie undrafted free agent out of Louisiana (not LSU) was asked to guard the best receiver in the league all night man to man. There is no player in the game that was going to shut Hopkins down completely in that scenario, but Jacquet did an admirable job. The game-winning touchdown was into his coverage, but the play by Hopkins was just so good there isn’t much more that Jacquet could have done on the play. Additionally, he registered seven tackles, half a sack, two passes defensed against Hopkins and forced two separate fumbles.
There is no reason for Maddox to have ever been starting ahead of him after that and if he does so moving forward, the Eagles will be squandering one of their best pickups. A UDFA with high CB2 potential is just not something you find everyday.
Sell: Jalen Reagor
Reagor had -10 yards rushing on a blown-up play but added just 49 yards on five receptions. None of his plays were particularly electric and with all the praise he is heaping on new starting QB Jalen Hurts each week, there was at least some thought he’d start laying out to make some of these catchable balls he simply reached for and allows to fly by. That lack of effort in this one is why his stock dropped, though he could still be far more effective with better plays called for him.
Buy: Quez Watkins
Late-round pick Quez Watkins, in just his second game getting real snaps showed potential. His skill was far more noticeable than that of John Hightower and even though he had just four targets, his speed was on display as his three short completions totaled 40 yards and a touchdown. Watkins is showing some ability, which is good news for the franchise heading forward.
Sell: Marcus Epps
He registered seven solo tackles and two passes defensed on the box score, but those defensed passes could also have been called pass interference and he showed some more sloppy tackling, particularly early in the game. While he did clean it up in the second half, his first half was poor enough that his stock falls.
Buy: Jalen Hurts
Hurts improved his standings again this week with a 338 yard, three touchdown performance where he registered a passer rating of 102.3. He also added 63 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. Most importantly, he showed more skill completing passed downfield as his yardage last week was so heavily weighted from YAC. Instead, he took some nice shots in this one and really kept the team in the game despite a failing offensive line and poor play calling taking hold in the second half.
There were once again negatives – quite a few blatant misses, two fumbles, an interception that was simply dropped and taking a safety on the opening offensive drive.
Despite that, Hurts is proving to be an NFL player and is making this tough on the Eagles.
Sell: Nate Herbig
While Herbig has been the best guard for the team this season, he struggled quite a bit in this matchup. Was Pryor playing to his right part of that issue? Potentially, but Herbig also missed some blocks downfield where he just seemed not to be looking in the proper direction to make the block and was too busy watching the runner instead. He should still be a part of the team moving forward with his abilities and low cost, but it was a disappointing game from him for sure.
- Hurts has yet to make any truly incredible plays as we have seen Wentz do so many times; can Wentz get back to that form? The veteran offers the higher ceiling at this point, but Hurts’ mobility seems to fit the team better and therefore offers a lower floor. How do the Eagles approach the future? I’d say both should be around to start the offseason and neither should be moved for any deal not including a first-round pick
- The Eagles will likely need to do at least a re-tool with the cap issues they will face in 2021, but there are good signs for the team. Two possible quarterbacks means the team really has no need there. Positions like CB, LB, WR, and OL have had young players show major potential for the Eagles to build around low-cost. The team could find itself in a position to trade back and build a treasure trove of high picks for the future, especially with the potential for players like Wentz/Hurts, Ertz and/or Dillard to be moved for high picks to clear some cap at positions of depth.
- With the Eagles set to play at 4:25 next Sunday and the Giants and Washington playing at 1, fans should know if the Eagles have any chance at the playoffs or a better shot at a top-five pick. If the Washington Football team wins, the Eagles are out (Washington must lose their next two games, the Eagles win out and the Giants lose at least one of their remaining games). At that point, what do the fans want more: the win over the hated Cowboys despite its otherwise meaninglessness or the higher pick that might help the franchise build a contender in the future?
The Eagles will take on the Cowboys in Texas next week. The game is at 4:25 pm.