What a weekend for football fans.
Divisional weekend delivered on so many levels and had something for everyone. A quarterback battle for the history books? KC and Buffalo had you covered. A near miraculous comeback by Tom Brady only to fall short? You were kidding yourself if you didn’t think Brady was going to make that game interesting. Those offensive showcases along with the two defensive battles on Saturday satisfied every football fan’s taste buds.
As most Eagles fans do, I couldn’t help but compare this year’s Eagles team to the crop of teams we watched this weekend. The overwhelming takeaway on Twitter was that the Eagles really aren’t as close as maybe we thought they were. Despite making tremendous strides in 2021, the team still has several shortcomings that will need to be addressed before they dream of legitimately competing for a Super Bowl.
With that in mind, the Divisional Round games served as another reality check for the Eagles. Here are a few things the Eagles can learn from this past weekend’s games.
Quarterback play reigns supreme
As much as football is a team game, quarterback play will always be the biggest deciding factor in the postseason. The Sunday games were a perfect example of that. The first game between the Rams and Bucs showcased two of the best defensive units in the league. Yet, when push came to shove, it was up to either Tom Brady or Matthew Stafford to carry their teams to victory.
A lot of pundits will blame the special teams unit of Green Bay for their loss Saturday night, which is completely fair. But Aaron Rodgers did little to help his team win during the second half of that contest. He averaged just 7.8 yards per attempt and didn’t throw a single touchdown throughout the course of the game.
Quarterbacks can’t do it all themselves. Each winning quarterback had a few plays go their way this weekend, but they all made the pivotal plays when it mattered most.
We all saw how anemic the Eagles offense is once the running game is shutdown. While not every team still alive in the postseason has an elite quarterback (i.e. Jimmy Garoppolo), they all have the ability to throw the ball when needed. Jalen Hurts has proven time and time again this year that he’s not capable of doing that.
There’s still a ton of room for growth with Hurts and he did develop his game from year one to year two, but until the Eagles can rely on Hurts to win them a football game in crunch time, they’ll have no shot at reaching the Super Bowl.
Defensive personnel is more important than the defensive coordinator
I’ve been banging the table on this topic for weeks now and the Divisional Round was just another example of why defensive personnel is so much more important than the actual scheme. Yes, all of these teams have respectable defensive coordinators, but they also have borderline elite defensive personnel at every level.
Look at the Niners for example. They run a pretty similar scheme to the Eagles. They rely on their front-four to create pressure and they play zone coverage on the backend, prioritizing keeping plays in front of them. Jonathan Gannon deploys the same fundamental concepts with his defense, the only difference is he has just one great player on his unit, while the Niners have several.
Withhold judgement on a defensive coordinator until he actually has above average to good personnel at his disposal. With three first-round picks in the upcoming draft, the Eagles will have all the ammo they need to bolster that side of the ball.
While the Eagles are on the right path, there’s still a lot of work to do
Like I stated earlier, watching these Divisional Round games made it abundantly clear that the Eagles are still a ways away from being an elite team. The KC-Buffalo game in particular felt like a completely different sport than what we saw from the Eagles this season.
The Birds have some nice pieces to build around. Offensively, they have everything a quarterback needs to succeed. An elite offensive line coupled with an elite running game, along with a true No. 1 wideout and a top-5 tight end should make any quarterback successful. Hurts will more than likely have another opportunity to prove himself next season, but the jury is still out on his long-term future with the team.
Defensively, the team is still about three players away from being a complete unit. Edge rusher, linebacker, and safety will all be needs this offseason.
It may feel like I’m being pessimistic about the future of the Eagles, but that’t not my intent. With all the draft picks and cap room at their disposal this offseason, Howie Roseman could theoretically fill every single one of these needs in one fell swoop. That’s why this offseason is so important. If Howie hits all the right buttons, there’s no doubt the Eagles can take that leap into elite territory in 2022.