Maybe Philadelphia fans are getting spoiled by too much success. With the Phillies on another epic playoff tear, and seven wins away from a World Series title, the standard has been set higher than ever. And the city’s professional football team has a lot to clean up before trace amounts of panic start to creep in.
The Eagles know they didn’t meet that standard during an uncharacteristically sloppy performance in Week 6. The offense was more stagnant than floodwater from the Schuylkill River; Jalen Hurts chucked three interceptions while running for his life behind an offensive line missing Cam Jurgens and Lane Johnson. It was hard to watch.
“The object is to play to our standard at all times and demand excellence of ourselves. We were not today,” Hurts told reporters. “The standard is the standard. It only rises.”
7 Major Reasons to Hit the Panic Button Now for the Eagles
1. Injuries, injuries, injuries: The Eagles were devoid of major injuries over their dominant 2022 campaign, save for a late-season shoulder sprain for Jalen Hurts. Rest healed that right up. This year has been the complete opposite with key starters going down every week. Eight starters — Cam Jurgens, Lane Johnson, Reed Blankenship, Darius Slay, Jalen Carter, Nakobe Dean, Avonte Maddox, Quez Watkins — are either banged up or on injured reserve. Their replacements are nursing wounds, too: Justin Evans, Eli Ricks, Sydney Brown, Marlon Tuipulotu. Health is the ultimate equalizer.
2. The Shane Steichen Effect: It’s way too early to pin all the offensive struggles on new play-caller Brian Johnson. In fact, Nick Sirianni already went on record to take the blame. Still, Jalen Hurts doesn’t look as comfortable as he did under Shane Steichen’s guidance. They lack a consistent rhythm and explosiveness, especially in the RPO game while the splash plays down the field have been few and far between. Take Jalen Hurts’ deep heave on fourth-and-8 with 1:24 remaining … why go for it all there? They could have worked the sideline for a quick curl to A.J. Brown. Instead, Hurts stared Dallas Goedert down and threw into double coverage. Prior to that, on third down, the Eagles could have run the ball and pounded out five yards to make it a shorter down and distance. That was one of many glaring examples of head-scratching decisions all afternoon.
3. Offensive Line Showing Cracks: It’s become a universal fact that the Eagles own the best offensive line in football. No one controls the trenches better. That is, if everyone is on the field. With right tackle Lane Johnson out, they struggled to set the edge and keep the pocket clean against New York. And their inefficiency inside the red zone remains a work in progress. Yes, the Eagles went 2-for-3 in the red zone on Sunday but the first touchdown — a 3-yard run by Jalen Hurts, on another horrible play-call — was a gift from the refs. Hot take: the Eagles are starting to look a little long in the tooth up front.
4. Turnover Machines: Philadelphia has now turned the ball over five times in two games, with Jalen Hurts throwing four interceptions in his last six quarters. The Eagles quarterback has eight total turnovers this season. Six games is a small sample size but it is alarming to see it trending in the wrong direction. The Eagles are -1 in turnover differential for the year after going +8 last season.
5. Clock Management: Hindsight can cause blindness, right? It’s easy to look back on what could have been after it’s been. However, it’s fair to criticize Nick Sirianni’s decision to go for a first down late in the fourth quarter with the game on the line. The Eagles were leading 14-12 at the two-minute warning when Jalen Hurts tossed a misguided pass to Jets safety Tony Adams. The Eagles could have opted to run the ball there and take the play-clock down to roughly 1:20 before punting it back to the Jets. New York had zero timeouts, plus the Eagles’ defense had stifled the Jets’ offense all day. Game over.
6. Turmoil in the Locker Room: We’re only introducing this one because Donovan McNabb brought it up on the radio. And, to be honest, the Eagles legend appears to have misconstrued the situation as A.J. Brown was quick to point out. Let’s revisit it anyway. Brown and Jalen Hurts exchanged words during the second half of a lopsided win against Minnesota. They brushed it off as nothing. Fast forward to Week 6: Brown appeared frustrated with an errant Hurts throw against the Jets. He turned around and threw his arms down in disgust. Just something to monitor for the conspiracy theorists out there.
7. Upgrade at Slot Receiver: Quez Watkins is out for at least four games after the Eagles placed him on injured reserve with a hamstring injury. He hasn’t exactly been wowing with his play on the field when healthy. And his backup, Olamide Zaccheaus, hasn’t been lighting the world on fire either. It might be time for general manager Howie Roseman to start working the phones for real and add another pass-catcher. Jerry Jeudy is reportedly available in a trade; Jarvis Landry remains unsigned in free agency.
UPDATE: Scratch this need off the list (for now). The Eagles signed seven-time Pro Bowler Julio Jones to presumably be their new slot receiver. He’ll be reunited with A.J. Brown who was his teammate for one season in Tennessee.
AP Photo/Noah K. Murray