Moral Victory Monday am I right?
The Philadelphia Eagles failed to put another W in the win column this week against the Los Angeles Chargers, falling to 0-4 at home and 3-6 on the season. Despite the loss, it was probably the team’s best loss of the season. If there even is such a thing.
Facing a team that is clearly more talented on both sides of the ball, the Eagles hung in there and forced the game to come down to a last second field goal. One or two plays in the other direction, and the Eagles would have likely gotten out of The Linc with their first home victory of the season.
They didn’t beat themselves, they stuck to their formula, and nearly pulled off the upset. In a re-tooling season, as long as it’s apparent that the team is building towards something, it’s hard to come down too hard on their efforts.
The narrative around the Eagles always seems to be negative, regardless of the outcome on the field. Let’s take a look at some of the positive aspects from Sunday’s contest between Philly and LA.
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Sirianni’s offense is finding their identity
We talk about football teams’ identities a lot. What do they do well, how do they operate on the week to week basis, etc. For the first seven weeks or so, Nick Sirianni had failed to give his team a true offensive identity.
The past two weeks against Detroit and LA, the Eagles offensive identity has started to come into focus. Control the clock, run the ball until they stop you, and put Jalen Hurts in favorable positions where he can push the ball down the field.
Through the first six weeks of the season, Sirianni’s offense averaged a hair over 34 passing attempts per game. Over the past two weeks, the team averages just 15.5 passing attempts per game. The offense put together their best two rushing performances of the season over the past two weeks and didn’t commit a single turnover.
Is running the ball 40+ times a game sustainable? If you have Super Bowl aspirations, probably not.
For a team that’s trying to find ways to win with a young quarterback and first-year play caller? This offensive formula should continue for the rest of the season.
Ideally, Sirianni’s offense can continue to build and get more creative. Creativity is the next step in the evolution, and Sirianni has a quarterback that should make getting creative a little easier.
DeVonta Smith is a future star at the wideout position
In short, Smith is the best wideout this team has had in some time. He’s on pace to be the first Eagles wideout to go over 1,000 yards since Jeremy Maclin in 2014. He has the most receiving yards of any Eagles rookie through nine games as well.
Not to mention, Smith is doing all of this with a limited quarterback throwing him the ball. Could you imagine what this kid would be doing if he had a bonified franchise quarterback by his side?
We still don’t know what the future holds for Hurts, of course, but he’s clearly not a top-15 quarterback at this stage of his career. As for Smith, you could argue he’s already in that tier as far as receivers are concerned.
The great thing is, he’s only going to get better from here. Howie Roseman seems to have finally found the WR1 he’s been desperately looking for.
Hurts showed some improvement
Hurts’ final stat line doesn’t jump off the screen by any means. 11-for-17, 162 yards, one touchdown, and a passer rating of 115.3. But his late game heroics almost gave the Eagles the victory and he showcased improvement in some key areas of his game.
His legs have always been his most valuable asset on the field and he put them to good use on Sunday. He converted two crucial third downs in the fourth quarter with his legs and he finished the day with 62 total yards on the ground.
What really stood out to me was his pocket poise down the stretch. Far too often have we seen Hurts bail on clean pockets. On Sunday, he rarely did that.
This touchdown to Smith was a perfect example of that:
Hurts repeatedly looked to push the ball down the field against LA, something he’s tried to do in the past and failed. His average depth of target on Sunday was 13.4 yards and 64.7% of Hurts’ attempts were thrown past the first down marker. He completed 60% of his long passes (20+ yards down field) for 74 yards and a touchdown.
Hurts’ improved play was a symptom of a run-heavy game plan, but we shouldn’t overlook his improved pocket awareness and his down field throws. He certainly still has areas he needs to improve on, like completing balls on the left side of the field and inconsistent accuracy.
Like I said, no one knows if Hurts is actually a franchise quarterback yet, and I’d still argue that some of his limitations are permanent (i.e. arm strength). But it’s undeniably encouraging to see the young signal caller improve in the areas that he’s capable of improving in.