Eagles offense teething problems: Much ado about nothing?

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) gestures during the first half of an NFL football game against the Washington Commanders on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The Philadelphia Eagles are 4-0. No matter how you slice it, all that matters right now is that this team is undefeated and in sole control of the NFC East. However, the start of the season has not been without bumps and bruises and there is one area of the team drawing consistent criticism.

One would expect that area to be Sean Desai’s Defense. The unit has been mired by injuries and the first-time coordinator has forced to adapt on a weekly basis. Strangely enough, it’s the opposite group, one without any injuries or excuses for a drop in performance, that’s drawing the heat, while the defense dominates on a near-weekly basis.

Should fans be concerned about the Eagles offense?

The Eagles had to make a change at offensive coordinator this year. Shane Steichen was poached for a Head Coaching gig and Philadelphia decided to replace him by promoting from within. Brian Johnson – the teams’ former QB Coach, was given the nod and this felt like a dream situation.

Jalen Hurts and Brian Johnson have a long-tenured history together. He used to play football for Jalen’s father at Baytown Lee High School, and has been a factor in Jalen’s life since he was a child. In fact, he even tried to sign the future Eagles QB to Mississippi State at one point.

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver A.J. Brown (11) makes a touchdown catch in front of Washington Commanders cornerback Emmanuel Forbes (13) during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Johnson has been a huge impact in the growth of Jalen Hurts as a quarterback, but coordinating an offense is a very different ballgame.

Through 4 weeks, it feels as though there is so much meat left on the bone that we haven’t even finished the starter course. That’s not necessarily a bad thing when you’re 4-0, but the patterns continue to repeat themselves. Much like a game of blackjack, there are only so many times you can double down before the odds swing the other way.

Situational play-calling has been bad. Production down in the Red zone had been poor (24th in the NFL). Converting on third down has been an issue (just 33% last week).

Jalen’s average passer rating would sit him 14th in the NFL, and the Eagles sit 11th in yards per pass. If those metrics were presented to us 4 weeks into the 2022 season, it would be accepted as normal. But the truth is that the expectation back then wasn’t ‘Super Bowl’ – it was growth.

Expectations have shifted

Jalen Hurts has been paid $255M to be one of the best quarterbacks in the league. He’s had one good game.

The team ranks 29th in seconds per play, but 11th in yards per pass. The RPO game that was once the backbone of this offense has seemingly disappeared into oblivion and replaced by a weird foundation that sees Hurts either hand the ball off, tuck it and run, or drop back 5 steps and go through a play-action process. Those quick-hitters underneath are few and far between in comparison to what we saw in 2022 and even in the latter stages of 2021, and it’s led to consistent miscommunications and questionable decision-making from Brian Johnson.

Philadelphia Eagles running back Kenneth Gainwell (14) runs with the ball under pressure from the Washington Commanders during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

However, the unit is still scoring 29.5 points per game (5th in the NFL), with the offensive line ranking in the top 6 in both pass and run blocking. The offense also sits 7th in DVOA. Also, can we really be mad about the offense when D’Andre Swift is running like LeSean McCoy 2.0?

What we see on TV is an offense that brings consistent stress with pockets of excitement. What the stats suggest is that the Eagles offense is thriving in all the right areas. So which one is the right representation?

Much ado about nothing

The answer lies somewhere in the middle. The Eagles have to improve in key areas if they are to sustain this kind of record and push on to make another Super Bowl run. There are no no excuses here. Jalen Hurts is one of the best quarterbacks in the league and has been paid like one. The wideout tandem is arguably the best in the league, and the offensive line has long been regarded as elite. There is no reason why this group should be struggling on third down, or failing to score down inside the redzone.

However, it’s a problem until it’s not. Can we really be critical when the Eagles are scoring 29.5 points per game? Can fans be mad when D’Andre Swift is on course to smash franchise records this year? Is it worth overthinking when the team is 4-0?

Philadelphia Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni speaks with an official during the second half of an NFL football game against the Washington Commanders on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Until the Eagles either breakout against a big team or come crashing back down to Earth against a bad one, it’s much ado about nothing. But we’ve been here before with Jonathan Gannon, and in the biggest game of all, all of his flaws rose to the surface and have haunted the dreams of those in Philadelphia ever since.

So long as Nick Sirianni has the foresight to prevent history repeating itself and taking authoritative action if it comes to it, then this team will be just fine.

AP Photo/Matt Slocum