Eagles Evaluation: Birds Hang With Another Top Team Despite Injuries

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By Paul Bowman, Sports Talk Philly Editor

It hurts to say it yet again, but this was a winnable game for the Eagles.

For the second week in a row, the Eagles faced one of the league’s most elite teams.

For the second week in a row, the Eagles played that opponent down to the wire.

For the second week in a row, it came down to a handful of plays that all went in the opposite direction that decided the game and the Eagles needed just one of those things to win the game.

In this game, John Hightower dropped a pass that hit both his hands, went over half the field and was probably a touchdown on the first drive. Miles Sanders watched as a pass bounced off both his hands in the endzone to give up more points. Travis Fulgham had a hail mary pass fall incomplete in the endzone on the final timed play of the first half when a defender ripped on his helmet and it wasn’t called. Jake Elliott missed yet another critical field goal, this time to end the first half. In a game decided by just two points, the Eagles lost between 17 and 21 points on these plays (the Fulgham touchdown would have meant no field-goal try).

That stings.

Still, this young squad figures, in the coming weeks, to get veterans back at some key positions that are struggling to bump their talent level back up; a team that can already hang with the 49ers, Steelers and Ravens getting the type of talent back that the Eagles currently have on their injury lists should be dangerous.

Personnel Changes

  • The already beat-up offensive line took another hit with Jack Driscoll leaving with injury. This left Jamon Brown and Brett Toth, each of whom was acquired just a few weeks ago, as the team’s right side of the line.

  • Eagles 2020 Offensive Line

    Andre Dillard
    Isaac Seumalo
    Jason Kelce
    Brandon Brooks
    Lane Johnson
    Jason Peters
    Nate Herbig
    Jason Peters*
    Jack Driscoll
    Jordan Mailata
    Nate Herbig*
    Brett Toth
    Matt Pryor
    Jamon Brown

  • The Eagles lost Miles Sanders in this one and simply turned to Boston Scott and occasionally Corey Clement. Jason Huntley still did not play.
  • The Eagles moved Robey-Coleman to the outside as their second corner this week and moved Jalen Mills back to safety. At safety, Mills left with an injury for some time and K’Von Wallace left with an injury, as well. Marcus Epps was already out with injury.
  • Wit Duke Riley out, Shaun Bradley and even Davion Taylor saw some defensive snaps this week.
  • Zach Ertz left this game a few times with injuries, so the team had Richard Rodgers in as TE1 and Jason Croom, who is still on their practice squad, as TE2. Croom did manage to catch a touchdown on a play that no one seemed to realize he was even on the field, so that worked in his favor.

Stock Evaluations

Buy: Carson Wentz

Wentz had a fumble when he got tackled in the open field by two defenders, but he was on fire. He completed just 21 of his 40 passes for 213 yards and two touchdowns. Wentz suffered through dropped passes by Hightower, Sanders and an uncalled pass interference (or unsportsman like conduct) on Fulgham that would have brought his totals to around 320 yards and three touchdowns without any yards after the catch. Not only did he throw this team back into the game despite the game being called a loss by everyone else in the third quarter, but his legs added an additional 49 yards and a touchdown on five rushes. Wentz was an MVP player on the field this Sunday and if he had more than one player on the offense with him, he would have beaten another of the leagues top teams. All this despite being pressured on 51%(!) of his dropbacks.

Sell: John Hightower

More routes run in this game and very little to show for it. To be fair, Hightower did have a pass interference in the endzone go uncalled against him and did make a 50-yard grab, but the Eagles could have won the game and had momentum in the first half if he didn’t drop a 50+-yard bomb and likely touchdown that hit both his hands on a 3rd and 22 on the first drive of the game. Not only that, but on the 50-yard grab he did make, he turned around after he secured the ball (he turned back to his right to make the catch and then turned 27 degrees back to run sideways) and lost all his speed and separation, allowing the defender to make the tackle instead of just turning up the field and running. Hightower has gotten consistent separation, but still shows a lack of ability to catch the ball routinely and managed to get caught almost immediately instead of running down the field.

Buy: Josh Sweat

Sweat, in more limited snaps, registered five tackles (three for loss) and a pass deflection in this game, but also gained quite a few pressures on Jackson that do not appear on the scoresheet and, at times, showed greater speed than JK Dobbins by changing directions and still beating the running back to the outside.

Sell: Jamon Brown

Eagles fans found out that Jamon Brown was available mid-season not because of cap restrictions, but because he is not very good at football. Brown was routinely beat and allowed plenty of sacks and pressures, including a sack on the first play of the game. He also managed to get a false start called on him. He said this week that he would have to rely on his experience this week, but is certainly seemed like he had none and it is honestly questionable why Sua Opeta is even on the roster if he isn’t an upgrade over Brown.

Buy: Brandon Graham

Six tackles and two sacks to go with a QB hit was a big performance from Graham, who often managed to pressure Lamar Jackson, forced a holding call and managed to do an excellent job of also containing Jackson as he was crashing in – something not many ends are able to successfully do.

Sell: Jake Elliott

For the second straight week, Elliott missed a critical field goal, one that could have won the Eagles the game against Baltimore. There were some reports that the Eagles brought in a kicker for a workout this week, which makes sense considering Elliott seems to think he needs to kick at the right pillar of the field goal markers and subsequently miss instead of kicking straight. The Eagles only went for two in this one, even when that didn’t make sense, so it might be that the team doesn’t even trust him for those kicks. The cap-strapped Birds can’t get out of his deal until 2022 unless they also part with major names just to get rid of him.

Sideline Chatter

  • Though I wouldn’t say his stock has gone up, Travis Fulgham played a huge game this week as a known entity against some top corners and still managed six catches on 10 targets for 75 yards and a touchdown. Not on the scoreboard are a touchdown he simply missed or never saw that flew past his head, a touchdown on a hail mary that fell incomplete when a defender ripped on his head/neck on a no-call and a he pass interference that he drew against Marcus Peters. Fulgham is the real deal and finding him should be huge for the franchise’s future.
  • For as many times as he has been cut by the team, Richard Rodgers has consistently made plays for Wentz and the Eagles and it is really a no-brainer to keep him around as long as he is on a minimum deal.
  • The Eagles handled their defensive line nicely with Curry’s return this week as they still managed to get Avery and Sweat a reasonable amount of snaps along with the veteran defensive end.
  • Although the final score would appear otherwise, Jim Schwartz’s defense only gave up maybe 20 points to one of the best offenses in the league this week. At least 10 points can be contributed to poor field position from offensive turnovers.
  • JJ Arcega-Whiteside, though not super impactful, had a decent game with an excellent block for Miles Sanders and then the heads-up play to grab the ball for a touchdown after Sanders attempted to fumble the ball away, JJ also had his man beat on a two-point conversion play. It would be crazy to expect big things at this point. But fans can at least have some hope that these developments help to unlock his potential moving forward.
  • There is reason to have faith in this team’s abilities to complete going forward. The offense alone should be getting back Alshon Jeffery and/or DeSean Jackson to replace JJAW or Hightower on the field at points, Goedert, Seumalo, Sanders, Peters and Johnson this year (in addition to the off chance they get Brooks back for the playoffs) and, without them, played three of the leagues top teams to the wire in consecutive weeks without any of them. If a team with this depth chart can hang around with the best in the league, it makes sense that they can beat worse teams and that the addition of a couple top-tier players can put this team in contention.
  • Offensive Depth

Team Focus

The Eagles have a short week this week to prepare for the division-rival Giants. They figure to get DeSean Jackson back for the game and Jackson has had some of his best games against New York. They cannot get ahead of themselves, but they can feel good about beating the 49ers and then playing two more of the league’s top teams to the wire with an almost entirely second or third-string offense.

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