Eagles midseason report card: Underwhelming performances all around
Let’s break down the different Eagles component groups and grade performances to see where the most improvement can be made.
The Eagles have reached the midseason point. They are about what most expected during Nick Sirianni’s first year as head coach. Let’s dish out midseason grades.
Jalen Hurts, Gardner Minshew, Reid Sinnett
The Hurts-Nick Sirianni dynamic has been ... interesting. The offense is far from a finished product, and it is continuing to evolve as Sirianni learns on the fly. Over the past two weeks, Hurts’ workload has looked much different compared to his responsibilities during the first seven weeks. Sirianni has factored in new wrinkles in his game planning, helping alleviate some of the burden weighing on Hurts’ shoulders. In his first full year as the starter, Hurts is grasping the balance between trusting his pass protection and allowing routes to develop, and creating on his own.
It’s evident his legs are a weapon — Hurts is the team’s leading rusher with 494 yards on 83 carries. But the steps he takes as a passer might be the signal to the front office on whether Hurts is the long-term solution under center. Hurts has completed just 61.5% of his passes for 1,981 yards, 11 touchdowns, four interceptions and a 49.4 quarterback rating.
Boston Scott, Kenneth Gainwell
Injured reserve: Miles Sanders
Practice squad: Jordan Howard, Jason Huntley
This group was tough to analyze considering Sirianni’s early reluctance to incorporate the run game. Sanders is the team’s most talented tailback, but he didn’t get nearly enough touches before his ankle injury in Week 7 at Las Vegas. In the two subsequent weeks with Sanders on injured reserve, the Eagles finished with higher rushing totals (236 and 176 yards, respectively) compared to 114 and 155 passing yards. It remains to be seen if this exact formula is sustainable, but it appears Sirianni has finally identified the issue and he has started to balance out the run-pass ratio.
Dallas Goedert, Jack Stoll, Tyree Jackson
Injured reserve: Jason Croom
Practice squad: Richard Rodgers
With Zach Ertz gone, this is now Goedert’s show. Goedert has nine games remaining to improve his stock as TE1, which is already pretty steep, heading into free agency. Stoll is arguably the team’s best blocking tight end, while Jackson was recently activated from injured reserve. Jackson is still considered a long-term project, although he projects as a lengthy red-zone target with his 6-foot-7 frame. Most recently, the team has deployed all the tight ends in 13 personnel, which worked well in run-heavy concepts. Sirianni has shown a commitment in prioritizing Smith and Goedert in the passing game; Goedert has 27 receptions for 375 yards and two touchdowns.
DeVonta Smith, Jalen Reagor, Quez Watkins, JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Greg Ward
Practice squad: John Hightower, KeeSean Johnson, Deon Cain
There’s Smith — who’s in his entirely own class — and then the rest of the group. The reigning Heisman Trophy winner has been as advertised, backing the hype that came with being the No. 10 pick from April’s draft. Smith is coming off a five-catch, 116-yard performance versus the Chargers. He leads the team in receptions (38) and receiving yards (537). For perspective, Watkins has 22 catches for 375 yards, while Reagor has 21 receptions for 159 yards.
Smith is already making an impact as a 22-year-old, and his numbers might be even higher if the team had more consistency in play-calling and quarterback play. Considering Sirianni’s receiver background, more could be done to get the rest of the group involved. If anything, Smith needs more targets.
Jordan Mailata, Landon Dickerson, Jason Kelce, Jack Driscoll, Lane Johnson, Andre Dillard, Nate Herbig, Sua Opeta, Jack Anderson
Injured reserve: Brandon Brooks, Isaac Seumalo
Practice squad: Le’Raven Clark, Brett Toth, Kayode Awosika
Despite a slew of injuries, the offensive line has remained firm as the team’s most consistent position group. Every lineman besides Kelce has dealt with documented injuries, which has resulted in multiple shifts and changes across the line. Johnson missed three games while he treated his anxiety and mental health, but has since returned. Between Mailata and Johnson, the two players represent one of the best tackle duos in the league. Dickerson experienced early growing pains, but he has matured quickly and has the ability to play at both guard spots. At age 34, Kelce is still playing like a top center.
» READ MORE: Nick Sirianni’s ground game creativity took advantage of the Eagles’ consistently good blocking
Interior defensive line
Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave, Hassan Ridgeway, Milton Williams, Marlon Tuipulotu
Practice squad: Marvin Wilson, Raequan Williams
Hargrave played like the best defensive tackle in the league over the first 1½ months of the season. His production has slowed in recent weeks, but he’s still the team’s most dominant force up front. Hargrave has already tied his career-high in tackles for loss (seven) and his six sacks are tied for most in the league. Cox, 31, has expressed his frustration with his usage in defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon’s scheme. In his 10th season, Cox has registered just one sack and four quarterback hits.
Derek Barnett, Josh Sweat, Tarron Jackson, Ryan Kerrigan
Injured reserve: Brandon Graham
Practice squad: Matt Leo, Cameron Malveaux
There’s a fine line between playing with too much aggression and staying under control. In Barnett’s case, he has often fallen on the side of playing with too much aggression. Since being selected in the first round of the 2017 draft, Barnett has committed 24 penalties compared to 20½ sacks. After signing a contract extension earlier in the season, Sweat has compiled 27 tackles, including 3½ sacks. Graham’s season-ending Achilles injury has proved to be a large hurdle. In 204 defensive snaps, Kerrigan has registered one tackle.
Alex Singleton, T.J. Edwards, Davion Taylor, Shaun Bradley, Genard Avery, Patrick Johnson
Practice squad: JaCoby Stevens
The Eagles are slated to have three picks in the first round of the 2022 draft. General manager Howie Roseman might use the capital as leverage in a trade, but he’d be wise to use one of those selections on defense, specifically linebacker. More often than not, this unit has been the weak link of the defense. Neither Gannon nor Sirianni will ever dis their personnel, but it’s evident the team is going to need to add outside talent if they want to effectively deploy their packages.
The team recently released Eric Wilson, a free-agent signee from the Vikings. Since earning starter reps, Edwards has finished as the team’s leading tackler in consecutive games with a combined 25 tackles.
“It’s not so much what Eric didn’t do, it’s what other guys did do,” Gannon said. “And we feel like the guys that we have right now that are playing, or that are backing up those spots, can play winning football for us.”
Said Sirianni: “Howie and I, we talk about everything. Obviously our biggest talking point is the players on this football team. So, it’s everything. We are evaluating. We’re talking through who played well, who played poorly, who played OK, all sorts of things like that. So, there are so many pieces to getting better every single day. ... I think we have everybody in this building that we need to win football games. I believe we have good pieces on this team and I’m excited to work with all the pieces on this team. But as far as the discussion of players and what we’re looking for, we have a constant communication with that.”
Darius Slay, Steven Nelson, Avonte Maddox, Zech McPhearson, Andre Chachere, Tay Gowan, Kary Vincent Jr.
When analyzing the defensive backs, it’s critical to remember the team’s two featured corners — Slay and Nelson — are being tasked with new responsibilities with Gannon deploying a zone-heavy scheme. While they have experience playing zone, both players have traditionally favored man-to-man press coverage. There have been a few instances where Gannon has allowed Slay to play man, and/or shadow a team’s top receiver, but that has been on a week-to-week basis, which causes issues with consistency in scheming and game planning.
After moving back to the slot, Maddox has played much more comfortably and to his strengths. As with his roommate Goedert, Maddox is on the verge of hitting free agency. The Eagles will need to decide whether to extend him; Nelson is also a one-year rental. If Maddox and Nelson aren’t retained, the team could groom one of the young defensive backs into those roles.
Rodney McLeod, Anthony Harris, K’Von Wallace, Marcus Epps
Practice squad: Elijah Riley, Jared Mayden
The Eagles have done an admirable job at limiting explosive plays. But their preference to cover the deep ball — with the safeties playing in high coverage — has opened the path for opposing offenses to complete way too many underneath and intermediate throws. Of nine opponents, five quarterbacks have completed 80%-plus of their passes, while Derek Carr and Justin Herbert both set career-highs in completion percentage versus the Eagles.
K Jake Elliott, P Arryn Siposs, LS Rick Lovato
Following a shaky season in 2020, Elliott has rebounded well. He has made 11 of 13 field goal attempts and is a perfect 22-for-22 in extra-point attempts. Siposs has answered a lot of questions that hovered over him during training camp.
“We’ve been very pleased with those three,” coordinator Michael Clay said. “They’re just kind of a calming factor for the whole special teams room.”
Punt returner Reagor has been a non-factor; he has returned 12 punts with an average of 4.8 yards per return.