By Paul Bowman, Sports Talk Philly Editor
The Eagles had no chance to get into the playoffs, had 10 players ruled out and still the national media seemed to be appalled by what they saw last night.
A team taking a look at their players without a care in the world if that means they wind up with a better pick? Getting some experience to guys deeper on the depth chart while simultaneously doing what is best for their franchise? Imagine that!
What type of world do we live in where a 6-10 team cannot count on a 4-10-1 team to throw away their best future just so that their other rival can be embarrassed on national TV next week?
This game was an embarrassment, but for other reasons, chiefly that: 1. The NFL thought THIS was a prime game to flex to SNF 2. There is a playoff team with an “elite” defensive line that could barely beat an offensive line starting two tackles no one outside Philadelphia has ever heard of and with Zach Ertz as their top non-OL blocker 3. A playoff team that faced a secondary consisting of just three corners, two of which were UDFA (one whom has been with the team for just a month), and couldn’t figure out how to pass a ball downfield to take advantage of that.
The real embarrassment is that the NFL thought this playoff team, which could barely scrape by a team made up of third and fourth string guys, was worthy of SNF and that teams that couldn’t beat that very team were deserving of more effort to help THEM get into the playoffs as though there were not 15 previous weeks for those other teams to make their playoff destiny not ride on the efforts of a 4-win team.
As for the Eagles, they appeared to look pretty good, though how much of that is how awful Washington is remains up in the air.
The team has some decisions to make after a rater stagnant offense showcasing a struggling Hurts (7/20 with two touchdowns, an interception and just 106 all-purpose yards in three quarters) saw very little that would appear to help next year while Jim Schwartz’s defense, in his last game, appeared up to the task despite missing more than half of their starters and having essentially no depth.
The skeleton crew on defense allowed just 248 yards and forced two interceptions. Particularly impressive was the secondary, where rookie K'Von Wallace and rookie UDFAs Grayland Arnold and Jameson Houston essentially serving as starters for the team, giving up just 162 yards to an offense featuring Terry McLaurin (though Slay covered him and did it very well).
- Brett Toth started at right tackle with Matt Pryor making the switch to left tackle for this game.
- Grayland Arnold and Jameson Houston served as CB2 and 3 respectively.
- Walace and Blake Countess received a fair amount of snaps at the safety spots in this matchup.
- Rookie Raequan Williams got some snaps with Cox out and notched his first career sack, so that was nice to see for the UDFA.
- Jalen Reagor, though not impressive in his short time on the field in this one, was forced to leave with a head injury and so John Hightower and JJ Arcega-Whiteside got some snaps.
Buy: Alex Singleton
14 tackles (eight solo), a sack and a tackle for loss. It is amazing that Singleton was with the team all last season and only played this year due to injuries. He is a true gem that the Eagles have found and, unless another team is going to hand him a huge deal, should be a player that the Eagles look to lock up for multiple seasons before he ups his game again and is, hopefully, playing alongside improved linebackers beside him.
Sell: Jalen Hurts
Now, to clarify, I am not sure if Hurts went down, but his play remained at a low level. His mistakes of last week continued with plenty of plays that could have been turnovers, misses to wide open receivers (see fourth-down play with Quez Watkins uncovered for a TD or the pass high) and he showed a trigger perhaps too quick to run out of the pocket resulting in pressures that really didn’t need to be pressures as the OL held up at times.
The Hurts is the future crowd will point to the couple of drops and say that was why his completion percentage was an abysmal 35%, but that is the same thing that Wentz’s people have been arguing. Even if those are catches, he has maybe a 50% completion rate. It should also be factored in that the passes from Hurts were, like Wentz, not great throws where they should have been in stride (see the pass high and behind to Reagor as he is breaking clear to the sideline), so blame should be placed on both the QB and the receiver.
Hurts has shown he can be better than this, but this is not the showing that the team or fans wanted to see after a poor game last week. Admittedly, I am a bit biased at this point thanks to Cris Collinsworth explaining to me during the game how Hurts’ off passes were so impressive to him as he threw for that 35% completion rate, so that likely contributes to why he wound up in the sell category instead of a “stand pat” category or something like that.
Buy: Brett Toth
There were very little expectations for Toth, but he certainly exceeded them in this game. Going up against Montez Sweat and Chase Young in what is just his second taste of NFL action is no easy task and Toth held up most of the night with the most egregious pressures from the guy he was covering coming on plays where both Hurts and Sudfeld were way out of the pocket far too early without Toth expecting that. It wasn’t great, but he showed something and it may have been enough potential for the Eagles to consider keeping him over someone like Pryor for the 2021 season.
Sell: Corey Clement
I really wanted to believe that Super Bowl Corey was back, but in a game where the Eagles were playing guys they hope will factor into their future and ruled Sanders out, Clement managed just one carry for a single yard and a seven-yard catch. Rookie Jason Huntly proved to be more effective running the ball behind Scott, so it would not be a surprise to see the veteran not back in 2021.
Buy: JJ Arcega- Whiteside
Of course a meaningless game in week 17 is where Arcega-Whiteside shows what he can do. It was just two catches for 40 yards, but they demonstrated physicality, body control and the ability to make contested catches. Hurts took some chances on JJAW in this game, including a bad throw or two, and it showed that JJAW could be a viable receiver. The problem is that JJAW was well covered in those targets, too. In order for him to be truly effective, he will need his QB to have total faith in him to not allow a pick (which he has yet to earn) or be coached into getting a slight passing lane open to him. Is that something that the Eagles can find a coach to do or is it something another team will do after he leaves the Eagles?
Sell: Nate Sudfeld
Sudfeld is an unrestricted free agent this offseason and while there were not many expectations for him, his showing was bad. A fumble, an interception and just five completions on 12 targets for 32 yards. It would have been nice to see Sudfeld get some more completions, but he battled the same issues that Wentz and Hurts have had to all season. For the Eagles, maybe the showing actually lowered his price in FA and they have a better shot at keeping him around with their upcoming cap situation.
- All the noise was that the Washington defensive line is elite with all their first round picks, but Chase Young and Montez Sweat combined for just 7 tackles, 2 sacks and 6 QB hits against that elite offensive tackle duo of Brett Toth and Matt Pryor and a few of those hits were due to rolling out to early.
- This may have been the last game with the Eagles for some franchise legends with Ertz, Curry, Wentz, Kelce and Peters among those who may have played their final game with the Eagles.
- Ertz, along with Kelce and Curry, lingered around a bit after the game. The star tight end who refused an extension in 2019, complained about not having a new deal in 2020, then proceeded to have an awful season, is a highly likely trade candidate who has never been with another NFL franchise. He spent the most time taking in the field while Kelce (retirement) and Curry (free agent) could be facing similar circumstances.
- The trio of Kelce, Carson Wentz and Ertz spent quite a bit of time on the field together after the game. Who knows whether that is good or bad for the franchise as all three were thought to be franchise pillars just a few short months ago.
- The only team that played to the Eagles draft hopes was the Giants, who won and made it so that the Eagles could not pass them. Losses by Houston, Cincinnati and Atlanta made it so that the team could not get a higher pick in the draft while losses from Detroit, Carolina and Denver made it so that the Eagles could lose almost as much draft position as possible by winning the game against Washington. If at least two of the Lions, Panther or Broncos win, the outcome of the game doesn’t matter to the Eagles. If the Vic Fangio can take a timeout to allow the Raiders to actually get set on a two point conversion to beat them and ensure the Broncos have a chance to pass the Eagles while the Panthers sit Teddy Bridgewater to play a guy whose never seen the field in the NFL similar to what the Eagles did, why is it such a big deal that an even worse team made some of their own questionable calls?
- A message to the NFL: A 4-win team should not be on prime time or afternoon football for the final five straight games of their season. If you actually care what people see, consider putting good teams in that time slot.
The Eagles next appointment is deciding what staff to fire and/or hire then deciding what personnel decisions the team would like to make going forward in an attempt to turn this roster around.