From Hungry Dogs to Puppy Dogs: What happened to the Philadelphia Eagles?

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Eagles vs buccaneers
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts reacts after being sacked by the Arizona Cardinals during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 31, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

After the Eagles celebrated down Broad Street, culminating in Jason Kelce’s famous “Hungry Dogs” speech on the Rocky Steps of the Art Museum at the end of the magical 2017 season, this team looked poised to become a force to be reckoned with in the NFL.

However, the last six years have taken more zig-zags than you would make trying to avoid Center City potholes. ‘Wentzmania’ sizzled and then quickly fizzled. Doug Pederson, the only coach to win a Super Bowl for the franchise, was fired just three seasons later. The Eagles were criticized for using a second-round pick on Jalen Hurts and for hiring an unproven Nick Sirianni as head coach.

It hasn’t been all doom and gloom of course. After all, the Eagles were in the Super Bowl last year, had a 10-point lead at halftime, and nearly took down the best quarterback of our generation in Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. Whoever is responsible for stacking up the wins whether it’s been more on the coordinators than the manager that is Sirianni, he’s the one who gets the credit for them. He’s posted a 34-17 regular season record which is a 68% win percentage and 4-2 record in the postseason.

Sirianni Feeling the Heat

Sirianni’s seat got much hotter after the embarrassing performance Sunday night. The game was over before halftime. Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. Some want him fired today while others don’t expect him to be back at the end of the season regardless of what happens next week and beyond.

One thing is for certain entering the playoffs here in 2024…this team doesn’t look like it’s on a quest to find success or to be on top like those hungry dogs in 2017. They look lost like a puppy trying to find their way. This team doesn’t have any of the soul or confidence that helped this team make it to the Super Bowl last year regardless of who was on their schedule. This team has fallen flat and is as close to rock bottom as you can get.

Eagles
Philadelphia Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni reacts to a fourth quarter touchdown pass from quarterback Jalen Hurts to tight end Dallas Goedert during the second half of an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Dec. 31, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Falling on Deaf Ears

The old adage “actions speak louder than words” couldn’t be more accurate for this team. How many more interviews from the players and coaches are we going to hear where they say they need to play better or be accountable and turn things around?

I understand the players and the coaches will say that because how else can they answer? But it’s hollow and more importantly, do the players actually believe that they can somehow turn it around and they’re saving whatever it is for the playoffs? The fans certainly don’t have that belief based on what they’ve seen over the last month-and-a-half.

Nothing has changed. Nothing. The tape is there. Check out some of these breakdowns:

The team’s best pass rusher is dropping back in coverage for another week and unsurprisingly, doesn’t know what to do when he’s caught in no man’s land. His instinct is to go after the scrambling quarterback because that’s what he does.

The defense is beyond confused with the switch to Matt Patricia who is trying to implement his own style but with Desai still involved? It’s become a foggy situation and couple that with that side of the ball not simply having the talent or experience at some positions has been a disastrous recipe.

Was it a panic move to switch from Sean Desai this late into the season? It certainly appears to be the case. The defense hasn’t improved one iota since the change.

Josh Sweat certainly didn’t have an answer on if this defense, who nearly set the NFL single-season sack record just a season ago, can fix the issues.

Newcomer Kevin Byard pointed out some of the issues the unit is having.

The defense has allowed 383.8 yards per game over the last six games where they went 1-5.

Eagles lacking offensive identity

Offensively, it’s been the same stale, poorly executed gameplan and gameplay since this collapse started in the second quarter of that Niners game at the Linc. That’s what this is. A collapse.

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Philadelphia Eagles running back D’Andre Swift (0) runs with the ball as Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Trent McDuffie (22) defends during the first half of an NFL football game, Monday, Nov. 20, 2023, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)

They became the only team in the last 35 years to start a season 10-1 and finish with five or more losses.

Did the Niners have some type of voodoo doll of Swoop? Did running through the Eagles’ secondary warmups spook this team where there was hardly any rebuttal other than Sirianni getting heated during the pregame?

They dominated in the first quarter in that game but stalled and had to settle for field goals and ever since the start of that second quarter, this offense has lost all confidence and any type of identity. Yet, one constant remains. No legitimate adjustments to help get this offense clicking. The run game was abandoned by the second half despite getting chunks at a time on a weekly basis. Teams have been sending all out blitzes more and more and it sends Hurts to the turf or running for his life to just throw the ball out of bounds.

The Giants bombarded this offensive line and Hurts Sunday night and there was no hot route read or quick dump-off to alleviate Hurts from taking long sacks. He was still trying to take 5-7 step dropbacks and had to flush the pocket or get thrown to the disastrous turf at MetLife Stadium.

This Was Supposed to Be the Time to Fix Everything

In case one forgot, the Eagles had the easiest strength of schedule remaining to “turn things around.”

The Seahawks, Giants, Cardinals and Giants. Three teams that missed the playoffs combined for a 19-32 regular season record with the Giants and Cardinals having a draft pick inside the Top-8. This was supposed to be the stretch to get this team back on track and feeling good about the playoffs. After Sunday’s beyond-uninspiring performance in East Rutherford against your division rival, this team will be lucky to escape Tampa Bay with a win to move on to another drubbing against the Niners if all the higher seeds win in the first round.

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PHILADELPHIA, PA – NOVEMBER 07: Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce (62) looks on during the game between the Los Angeles Chargers and the Philadelphia Eagles on November 7, 2021 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)

The offense can’t handle any type of blitz, a defensive strategy that has been a part of the game for decades. The offensive line has taken a step back. The quarterback has regressed. The offensive scheming is well below par, to put it kindly.

It seems the offense has given up all trust in the play-calling. Despite what A.J. Brown said last week at his locker, the fact he and Hurts ad-libbed the final play in Seattle is telling and then turning around holding a player-only meeting to say they have to believe in the coaching is a major ref flag! This offense looks like they’ve packed it in and are ready for their offseason vacation.

Can the Eagles stop the blitzing Buccaneers?

There’s a good chance the offense struggles next week when they play Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers blitz 38% of the time on drop backs, the third-highest rate in the NFL. For perspective, the Giants are second at 42%.

Below is Brian Baldinger’s break down of the lack of ability to handle the blitz.

Hurts and Mariota were sacked a combined five times. We certainly know how much Sirianni loves to pass the ball and look for those big plays. Yet, if Hurts doesn’t have enough time to let the routes develop what good is it?

If you’re looking for any type of silver lining, maybe, just maybe, this coaching staff will go back to what worked when these two teams met back in Week 3. The run game and offensive line imposing its will on Tampa’s defense.

The Eagles ran 40 (!) times for 201 yards. D’Andre Swift, who sat out the regular season finale due to illness, ran for 130 yards on 16 carries. Kenneth Gainwell added 43 yards on 14 carries. To no surprise, that also opened up the passing game and Brown had one of his best games of the season, racking up 131 yards on nine receptions.

What’s Next?

Sirianni’s messaging to the team seems to have become as stale as his offense that he takes much pride in. It’s the same rhetoric week in and week out, with a little flash of emotion and expletives, but it’s not resonating. The stubbornness and unwillingness to make the changes that he, the staff and team consistently say they need to make is evident and more so with this quote from Sirianni.

If we continue to fail at our jobs, that means our process isn’t working and we need to make the necessary changes. Somehow, Sirianni doesn’t believe that and in turn, the players don’t appear to believe in what they are being told.

Eagles
Philadelphia Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni reacts to a play during the second half of an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, Nov. 5, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Belief is powerful and plays a big role in sports. However, there is little to no belief in this team at this moment.

It’s hard to believe this team will win next Monday night on the road despite being a small favorite. It’s hard to believe that all of a sudden, this team has a magic switch they can flip at the Novacare Complex and in the locker room. It’s hard to believe this team can win against a Tampa unit that put up just nine points against the worst team in the league in Carolina.

It will be even harder to believe that Howie Roseman and Jeffrey Lurie don’t clean house if this Eagles team comes out as flat as they did to close out the regular season.

AP Photo/Matt Slocum