Grading the Eagles after their Christmas Day win over the reeling Giants

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Eagles
Philadelphia Eagles running back D’Andre Swift celebrates after scoring against the New York Giants during the second half of an NFL football game Monday, Dec. 25, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

It’s been two days since Christmas and we are all rummaging through the wrapping paper and leftovers from the holiday. The Eagles also treated fans to a much-needed victory, although they certainly made it much closer than it needed to be Monday night at the Linc against the Giants.

Some still think the sky is falling. Maybe it is? Winning out against the Giants and Cardinals won’t instill a ton of confidence in many fans, but they still have a chance to get the top seed in the NFC after Dallas and San Francisco both lost over the holiday weekend.

As for the Eagles, there were definitely some positives to take from the victory, while most of the concerns that have been worrying fans could not have been masked enough by the win. Here’s a look at how I grade the Eagles’ position groups and their performance in the win over the Giants.

Quarterback: Grade A

Eagles
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts pushes off New York Giants linebacker Micah McFadden during the first half of an NFL football game Monday, Dec. 25, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Jalen Hurts had one of his better games of the season. He surpassed 300 yards through the air for the first time since Week 8 against Washington back in October. Aside from a Dallas Goedert slip that resulted in the pick-six and dropped his QB-rating, the only throw that stood out as a poor throw was the pass before the pick-six where he tried to force it into double coverage on a slant route. Other than that, Hurts put in a better game than we have seen over the last few weeks, completing 63% of his passes and added 34 yards on the ground on eight carries, scoring the first touchdown of the game with the “Brotherly Shove”.

Running Backs: Grade A

Philadelphia Eagles running back D’Andre Swift scores against the New York Giants during the second half of an NFL football game Monday, Dec. 25, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The fact that D’Andre Swift hasn’t been utilized more than he has this season is a whole discussion in of itself. It’s clear that he isn’t fatigued, and the Eagles leaned on him heavily in the win. Swift provided the spark on the ground, finishing with 92 yards on 20 carries, averaging 4.6 yards per carry. He found the end zone in the fourth quarter to give the team some breathing room to cap off an 8-play, 75-yard drive.

The 20 carries marked the second-most for Swift this season, trailing his 28 he had back in Week 2 against Minnesota when he racked up 175 yards in the win against the Vikings.

Kenneth Gainwell quietly had a solid game as the backup to Swift, rushing for 41 yards on six carries while adding 38 receiving yards on three catches for 79 total yards.

The “Giant Killer”, Boston Scott, who has a knack for scoring against the NFC division rival, wasn’t much of a factor offensively, getting one carry for three yards. He made a negative impact in special teams.

Wide Receivers: Grade B+

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Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver A.J. Brown runs a route against the New York Giants during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Neither A.J. Brown nor DeVonta Smith reached the century mark in receiving yards, but the duo did come up with some big plays when needed. Smith was able to find the end zone on this 36-yard touchdown to give the Eagles a 17-3 lead.

Smith finished with 79 yards on four catches while Brown hauled in six receptions for 80 yards. Brown set a new franchise record for most catches in a season by an Eagles’ receiver, surpassing Smith’s mark. Brown has 101 receptions on the season, becoming the first Eagle to reach the century mark milestone.

Perhaps what was more newsworthy than the record-setting night for Brown or Smith surpassing 1,000 yards on the season was what took place post-game. Brown declined to speak to the media following the win while Smith was blunt on his thoughts on the offense’s performance.

Tight Ends: A-

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Dallas Goedert has been a staple of the Eagles offense since he was drafted back in 2018 Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire

We finally saw the Dallas Goedert of old. The tight end led the team with seven catches and had 71 yards on nine targets. He certainly was a focal point in the gameplan and was a reliable target for Hurts. His seven receptions were the most in a game this season for the 6th-year tight end since Week 5 against the Rams when he had eight grabs for 117 yards. Goedert was able to rip off a 21-yard gain on his longest catch in the win while almost hauling in a tough, one-handed grab in the end zone earlier in the game.

Grant Calcaterra only had two catches for 21 yards, but they both came in crucial spots, especially his first catch where Hurts was able to turn a broken play into a surprising third down conversion.

Offensive Line: Grade A-

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Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) helps up Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce (62) during the first half of an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, Oct. 22, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

The offensive line was sloppy at times with some false start penalties, but they allowed just one sack while providing Hurts enough time to get the ball out and paving the way for Swift in the running game. Sua Opeta didn’t have any glaring deficiencies filling in for the injured Landon Dickerson. Not too much else to say here for a unit that should be regarded as a Top-3 group in the NFL each and every week.

Pass Rushers/Interior Line: Grade C+

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Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Jalen Carter, left, runs with the ball while scoring on a fumble recovery as teammate Haason Reddick (7) gestures and Dallas Cowboys offensive tackle Terence Steele (78) chases him during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 10, 2023, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Did anyone ask Santa for a pass rush for this Eagles team? Where has it gone? Just one sack against that woeful Giants’ offensive line who allowed a league-high 76 coming into the game is unimaginable. The pass rush is just not on the same level as it was last year where they led the league in the department. Hassan Reddick was the only consistent pass rusher in the win, although it didn’t lead to any sacks. However, Reddick needs to get some help from Jalen Carter, Jordan Davis, Fletcher Cox and company who need to find a way to generate more pressure.

The interior line and defense as a whole did do a solid job bottling up Saquon Barkley and the running attack from the Giants, so they get a few points there.

Linebackers: Grade B-

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New England Patriots running back Ezekiel Elliott (15) pulls in a pass reception as Indianapolis Colts linebacker Shaquille Leonard (53) covers in the first half of an NFL football game in Frankfurt, Germany Sunday, Nov. 12, 2023. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

I wasn’t sure what to expect coming into this game with the top three options at linebacker were all out in this one. Newly added Shaq Leonard led the way playing 54 snaps and he turned back the clock, leading the team with seven tackles, two for a loss and picked up the lone sack for the defense. Leonard seemed to be more comfortable with his new team and perhaps this can ignite him for a little run.

Rookie Nolan Smith played more as well due to necessity and played out of position, but the athletic linebacker held his own in his 17 snaps.

Secondary: Grade B

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GLENDALE, AZ – FEBRUARY 12: Philadelphia Eagles cornerback James Bradberry (24) warms up during Super Bowl LVII between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles on February 12, 2023 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, AZ. (Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)

For a second straight week, rookie cornerback Kelee Ringo turned some heads and made an impression. He got his first-career interception to close out the game as the Giants were looking to tie the game on a last-second heave to the end zone. The former Georgia Bulldog finished the game allowing just 18 yards, allowing three catches on five targets to go along with a pass break up and that game-sealing interception.

It’s a promising development regarding Ringo who hadn’t played much prior to the previous two weeks. With James Bradberry clearly regressing, and Darius Slay injured, Ringo has filled in admirably. With Slay and Avonte Maddox expected to return soon, Ringo should have forced his way into a more prominent role moving forward.

The rest of the secondary was average. Reed Blankenship getting beat on the 70-yard touchdown to Darius Slayton allowing the Giants back in the game was potentially back-breaking. Sydney Brown played in 21 snaps, as he also is seeing more playing time in his rookie season.

Special Teams: Grade A-

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PHILADELPHIA, PA – OCTOBER 22: Philadelphia Eagles kicker Jake Elliott (4) misses a field goal at the end of the first half during the game between the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles on October 22, 2020 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)

If it wasn’t for the Scott fumble when him and Olamide Zaccheaus collided, gifting the Giants the ball on the Eagles’ 14-yard line which resulted in a touchdown, the special teams unit would have easily received the highest grade of any position group.

I wrote here on PSN how Jake Elliot is right on the cusp, or perhaps, already the best kicker in franchise history and he continues to cement himself as such. Elliott went a perfect 4-for-4 on field goals and 3-for-3 in extra points, accounting for nearly half of the team’s points (15). There is rarely any trepidation from fans, or the coaching staff when Elliott is called upon to kick a field goal regardless of distance or situation.

Braden Mann has been a solid upgrade as the punter and Britan Covey should be named to the Pro Bowl and All-Pro returner at season’s end. He ignited the team and stadium with his first punt return of the night.

Overall, the Eagles played slightly better than they had during their three-game skid. It wasn’t pretty. There’s no doubt about that. The two turnovers essentially gave the Giants 15 points, allowing them to hang around and make it much closer than it should’ve been.

The concerns are still there, but it was a step in the right direction and getting help with the Niners getting blown out and the Cowboys losing over the weekend were nice stocking stuffers as the coveted top seed in the NFC is still attainable.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke