The Eagles also lead the NFL in penalties, with 35. They lack discipline. That’s the coach’s fault.
In Game 2 against the 49ers last week, consecutive illegal hits by the defense helped cost the Eagles a chance to win. They were the most egregious of the eight penalties the Eagles committed. Still, rookie coach Nick Sirianni, T-shirt model and slogan addict, shrugged off the suggestion that his new team lacked discipline. He offered no course of action beyond admonishment and reminders.
He isn’t shrugging it off anymore. Then again, he’s not really doing anything about it ... like, say, benching repeat offender Derek Barnett.
He prefers a gentler approach.
“You just point out the mistakes,” Sirianni explained Wednesday. He won’t bench anybody, but sometimes, he said, he will actually raise his voice.
Yeah. That’ll show ‘em.
The Eagles committed 13 penalties at Dallas, and their total of 35 is eight more than the next team — a 23% lead. The defense leads all NFL units with 17 flags, three more than the second-place team. The offense has 16, which ties for first.
At least they’re first in something.
The Eagles aren’t just first in the league. they’re on a record pace. The Raiders set the NFL mark with 163 penalties in 2011, and that was just a 16-game season. At their current pace, the Eagles would commit 186 penalties in 16 games, or, more to the point, 198 in this, the NFL’s first 17-game season.
Sirianni probably wishes he’d done more last week than just whisper corrections to his infractors. After Dirty Derek jumped offsides in the second quarter at Dallas, Sirianni appeared to mouth, “It’s always him.”
Sirianni didn’t admit to doing exactly that, but he did acknowledge that penalties, especially dead-ball penalties, are at a crisis level.
“We have to get that fixed,” Sirianni said after Monday’s loss. “That’s just us being disciplined. We’ve got to go back to work and get better at that because that’s unacceptable. We’re all in this together. It starts with me, and it’s unacceptable on my part because we have too many penalties.”
Yes. It is. So do something.
Penalties didn’t exactly doom the Eagles on Monday. Sirianni’s predictable play sheet and Jalen Hurts’ erratic right arm sealed the 41-21 embarrassment. But the deluge of penalties indicated a more dire concern than Hurts’ accuracy or Sirianni’s strategies.
Even a team that lacks talent and depth, like the Eagles, should be able to wait until the ball is snapped. Even the least prepared coaching staff, like the Eagles’, can count to 11, then remove as many players as needed. It’s the New Math.
Here’s some more math. If the Eagles play this sort of football against Andy Reid, Patrick Mahomes, and the visiting Chiefs on Sunday, they’ll not only give up 41 points again, they’ll give up 41 by halftime.
The defense disintegrated early at Dallas. It earned five flags on the Cowboys’ first four possessions. The Pokes led, 20-7, just 22 minutes into the game, but they got lots of help.
Barnett set the tone for the evening with a scuffle on the Cowboys’ first drive, which, later in the drive, metastasized into Javon Hargrave’s unnecessary-roughness penalty. On the next drive — fruitless, thanks to Mike McCarthy’s latest, dumb fourth-and-go-for-it — 21 of the Cowboys’ 74 yards came via penalty: The defense had 12 men on the field, big-name cornerback Darius Slay committed pass interference, and Marcus Epps grabbed a face mask.
Barnett helped the Cowboys extend their next drive by casually jumping offsides, which prompted Sirianni’s casual “It’s always him” indictment. That penalty turned a third-and-7 at the Cowboys’ 38 into a more manageable third-and-2, which they converted. They eventually scored a third TD.
To review: Five penalties in 22 minutes, then eight more in the next 38 minutes, all after a pathetic Week 2 exhibition.
They cannot afford 21 penalties in two games if they expect to be competitive. Not with a rookie coach, a quarterback who has started just seven games, a rookie right guard (Landon Dickerson), and a left tackle who had four career starts entering Monday (Andre Dillard). Not with major injuries to defensive end Brandon Graham and guards Brandon Brooks and, now, Isaac Seumalo.
Better than this
It’s not as though the Eagles are having major issues lining up, or relaying play calls, or sequencing motion assignments. Further, it’s the experienced players who are making most of the rookie mistakes.
Right tackle Lane Johnson has been called for four penalties, tied for most in the NFL with five other players. If you include the Include holding penalty the Cowboys declined Monday night, Johnson is tied for first in the NFL, with one other player. He committed a total of eight penalties in 2018, ‘19, and ‘20 combined.
Seumalo, the Eagles’ left guard, also has four penalties. He had false-started three times in less than three games before a Lisfranc injury to his foot ended his season Monday night. Again, four penalties in three games is an aberration for Seumalo, who averaged just 3.4 penalties in his five previous seasons.
The veterans figure they can do whatever they want because they do not fear repercussions. Sirianni and his coordinators are all 39 or younger. Apparently, backbones don’t form in coaches until the age of 40.
Barnett is in his fifth season. Seumalo’s in his sixth, just like Hargrave. Johnson was elected to the Pro Bowl three times in his previous eight seasons. Barnett, Seumalo, and Johnson have Super Bowl rings. Hargrave went to the playoffs in each of his first two NFL seasons, with the Steelers.
These veterans all know better. They must be better.
It’s Sirianni’s job to make it so.