The Philadelphia Eagles looked rusty to start the franchise’s third season under Nick Sirianni. Perhaps his decision to skip the preseason had something to do with all that corrosion. Jalen Hurts and the starters didn’t see a single snap in an exhibition game, something Sirianni admitted that he would re-evaluate in the offseason.
“I’ll definitely re-evaluate some of the preseason stuff next year,” Sirianni told reporters. “You know, I know they played the first two years that we were here, they only played one series against the Jets in 2022. Maybe I should have played (Hurts) a series or two this preseason, and I already wrote that in my notes. I’m constantly self-evaluating myself.”
The Eagles escaped New England with a 25-20 victory despite it being a struggle at times for the first-team offense. Maybe everyone is hitting the panic alarm too soon. Overreactions are the norm this time of year, so let’s add to those disproportionate thoughts by blowing things further out of whack.
Top 10 overreactions to the Eagles season opener
1. D’Andre Swift Must Be Injured: There is really no other reason to justify Kenny Gainwell out-snapping Swift 41-19. The pride of St. Joseph’s Prep was nowhere to be found as he finished with one carry for three yards, plus two targets out of the backfield and one catch for zero yards. Swift wasn’t listed on the injury report, but it’s very odd that he didn’t see the field much after all the preseason hype surrounding him.
2. Shane Steichen’s Genius Missed: The offense wasn’t supposed to skip a beat, with some believing it could be even more explosive with Jalen Hurts’ childhood mentor (Brian Johnson) calling the shots. It was the complete opposite in Week 1. It was vanilla and bland while relying on dump-offs and checkdowns. Their longest play went for 23 yards – thanks to A.J. Brown inserting his will on the gameplan – and Dallas Goedert failed to record a reception. Shane Steichen has long carried a reputation as an “offensive mastermind” and it sure looked like the Eagles missed his dynamic play-calling in this one. Johnson has his work cut out for him moving forward.
3. Trade for New Safety: The Eagles lost a starting linebacker to start the year. We’ll get to that. However, the eye test at safety was a little more worrisome considering how thin that position group is. Justin Evans (7 tackles) started alongside Reed Blankenship (12 tackles) versus New England. Evans won the job with a strong showing to end camp, but he doesn’t look like the long-term answer there. He was slow to get over and help when James Bradberry was beat for a touchdown. It might be time to make a trade, maybe Budda Baker still wants out of Arizona. Or throw rookie Sydney Brown into the mix.
4. Eagles HC Nick Sirianni Playing Scared: Offensively, the Eagles lacked the aggressiveness that made them so feared in 2022. Nick Sirianni seemed content to run the ball in critical situations, including a bizarre hand-off to Boston Scott on a 3rd-and-10 to from their own 14-yard line to start the second quarter. Scott gained three yards. The Eagles went 4-for-13 on third down; 0-for-1 on fourth down. Sirianni said: “A run call could be aggressive. It doesn’t have to be a pass to be aggressive and so I actually think calling a run play in a third and eight situation is aggressive.”
5. Jalen Carter, Rookie of the Year: It wasn’t all negative news in Week 1. Rookie Jalen Carter lived up to the movie-star billing. The first-rounder recorded eight pressures – most of any defensive tackle in the NFL – and posted an impressive 32% pass-rush win rate. Carter was arguably the best player on the field, and his candidacy for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year is well underway.
6. Watch Out for Fletcher Cox: The other bright spot for the Eagles was the stellar play of veteran defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. He had back-to-back plays that swung momentum in the third quarter: a clutch tackle for no gain, then a pressure on fourth down. He underwent an MRI for a possible rib injury after the game, but it’s not expected to be serious. Cox (50 snaps) looked focused and motivated. Pro Bowl year loading.
7. Cowboys Far Superior Squad: First off, I firmly believe the Cowboys preyed on an overrated Giants team on Sunday night. No team with Daniel Jones under center should be considered a Super Bowl contender. But, it was hard to watch the opener and not think Dallas is going to be a problem this year. They are. Micah Parsons is literally un-blockable. He also gift-wrapped sacks for his teammates all night (see: Osa Odighizuwa, Dorance Armstrong). The NFC East, and maybe the entire NFC, might have to go through a historic defense to get to Vegas.
8. Injuries, Injuries, Injuries: If there was one thing that sought to disrupt a repeat trip to the Super Bowl for these Eagles it was injuries. They simply didn’t have them last season. After one game, Philly is looking for a new starting middle linebacker after Nakobe Dean hurt his foot. Meanwhile, Pro Bowl cornerback James Bradberry (concussion) is likely out for Week 2. And don’t forget to factor in preseason injuries to Zech McPhearson and Shaun Bradley who were two huge assets on special teams. It’s early in the season, though.
9. Punter Problems: Arryn Siposs was elevated from the practice squad and served as the lead punter. The move was expected. The Eagles can do it two more times before they have to add him to the active roster. How did he do? Well, Siposs walked away with a net average of 49.3 yards per punt. Very good. However, a 54-yard boot jacked his numbers up a bit, plus he bobbled a snap and nearly cost them field position. Sign a real punter.
10. Sign Jarvis Landry: Quez Watkins operated as the primary slot receiver and did his job. He hauled in two catches for 17 yards while seeing 52 offensive snaps. Olamide Zaccheaus saw only seven snaps. There was never a real competition there; however, the Eagles might want to look at bringing in a playmaker like Jarvis Landry to upgrade the slot. If nothing else, Landry would provide veteran leadership and capable hands at a position of need. He could also be thrown back for kickoff returns.
AP Photo/Michael Dwyer