Could that have gone any better? The Philadelphia Eagles are 1-0 after an absolutely excellent performance against the Atlanta Falcons, winning 32-6 on the road. Here are then things we learned in the season-opening win.
Jalen Hurts has improved
He wasn’t perfect, but a 264-yard outing where he threw a hat-trick of touchdowns, didn’t turn the ball over and spread the ball around the offense made for a pretty damn good afternoon. The critics will focus on the fact that Hurts looked skittish at times, underthrew a lot of open receivers, and would still see ghosts in the pocket. However, that’s not what we should be focusing on.
The second-year quarterback didn’t commit a single turnover, one season removed from 9 fumbles in minimal action. He made smart decisions when rushing, knowing when to slide, when to head for the boundary, and when to tuck the ball in and take a sack. The rest will come. We all know how high his ceiling is, but the fact he’s raising his floor is what’s important.
Sirianni is self-aware
The run/pass ratio last year was absolutely horrendous. At one point, it looked as though history was going to repeat itself, with Miles Sanders receiving minimal carries through the opening half. What the team needed to do, if they were going to continue to emphasize the pass, was implement Kenny Gainwell in the receiving game, to at least add that presence.
Sirianni did just that. The rookie running back scored a rushing touchdown (after a receiving one was called back) and totalled 43 scrimmage yards. He looked great behind Sanders, and this opened things up for him. The Penn State product carried the workload, rushing for 74 yards on 15 attempts. It was a great game for both players, but we have to credit Sirianni for adjusting his gameplan on the fly as opposed to sticking to a script that may not have worked forever.
The pass-rush is nasty
The Falcons weren’t exactly brilliant along the offensive front today, but they did start off really well and cause some doubt that this defense may need some time to get going. Luckily, Jonathan Gannon found a spare energiser battery and kickstarted the process. The front four looks absolutely nasty and that’s in large part to the depth along the line.
Hassan Ridgeway, who lost a training camp battle for the DT4 spot, ended up with a sack and a forced penalty. Javon Hargrave ended up with a pair of takedowns himself, with the duo running rampant in the fourth quarter. Brandon Graham popped early, Milton Williams flashed as we all hoped he would, jumping on a loose ball, and Fletcher Cox looked back to his best.
This group is going to be a problem.
First up, DeVonta Smith had the debut of dreams. His first NFL reception was a touchdown, and he would go on to lead the team in receiving with 71 yards in total. His route-running was crisp, his confidence was high, and he was an absolute joy to watch.
Quez Watkins burst out of the gate making a trio of catches for 23 yards, but that first series would be the last we’d see of him from a production perspective. This was a shame, but at least he was able to build on his preseason breakout and cement a place in the starting rotation.
If there was ever a player who deserved a touchdown today, it was Jalen Reagor. After a tough rookie season and a spring of personal issues to work through, he took off to the races for a huge score today. It was a great turnaround for a wideout who not too long ago was having his ear chewed out by Nick Sirianni.
The Eagles are fun again
In all honesty, I could spend hours writing about this win, but that’s what the rest of the week is for. The main thing here is that after a season that could’ve set the team back a few years at a minimum and ripped their soul out, the Eagles are fun again. The next generation of Philadelphia football is going to be absolutely electric. With young playmakers on both sides of the ball, a charismatic coach who clearly connects with his players and puts them in the best position to succeed, and a dynamic quarterback who looks to only be getting better.
Photo by David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire