Jalen Hurts’ performance against the Patriots was a strong indictment of the Eagles preseason strategy. Hurts was slow with his reads (and too often wrong), hesitant with his runs, and obviously intent on avoiding contact. I get it. Preseason football isn’t worth the risk of injury. I completely agree. However, regular season football games are equally as dangerous and significantly more important, so why is using real games to get up to game speed the better alternative?
Hurts’ 4th quarter fumble should have cost the Eagles the game. I don’t think it’s a leap to assume that fumble is a direct result of not being hit for the better portion of seven months.
Football is a contact sport. Part of preparing is contact. The body for sure needs it, but the brain does, too. Dallas Goedert was left all alone so many times Sunday he should have had a babysitter. Hurts never saw him. His processing bandwidth was still at August rates. I was glad to hear Nick Sirianni admit he’ll reevaluate how the team handles preseason, but I highly doubt he’s going to remember the intensity of this moment 11 months from now, and who knows, despite the early struggles, maybe limiting risk is still the right call.
Look at the Steelers and Commanders. Both Kenny Pickett and Sam Howell were heralded as budding quarterback stars after stellar preseasons. Both were pretty close to horrific in Week 1. Pickett looked completely lost. In fact, I’d argue he looked more confused and unsure about himself than any other Week 1 quarterback, and that includes three rookies taking their first NFL snaps. Howell wasn’t much better. Like Pickett, Howell looked lost after appearing in complete control of the offense in August. Obviously, pressure changes the production of any quarterback and both were sacked at least five times.
So what point am I trying to make? My point is this: I don’t know. Maybe there isn’t a good option. Hurts clearly needed more game reps. Pickett and Howell got those game reps and it didn’t do a dang thing for them. Ultimately, the Eagles escaped with a win they didn’t deserve and Hurts now has those first reps of the season under his belt with a win and without injury. Hopefully one game is enough to knock off the rust.
- Something happened in the playoffs last year that made Sirianni and the Eagles believe Kenny Gainwell was a lead back. He got more carries than Pro Bowler Miles Sanders in both the NFC Championship and the Super Bowl. At the time it wasn’t a huge surprise because we all knew they liked Gainwell slightly more than Sanders and weren’t going to pay Sanders anyway. Fast-forward to Sunday and Gainwell got all but two of the running back carries. I like Gainwell too, but come on. Why bring in two proven veteran backs with a track record of production to leave one inactive and the other limited to two touches?
- Every one of us Eagles fans counted the departure of Defensive Coordinator Jonathan Gannon as a victory. While I still feel that way, taking three-and-a-half quarters to adjust to a check-down/screen offense was not what I had in mind for the 2023 version of the Eagles defense. It was pretty obvious Mac Jones did not have the time or the stomach to sit in the pocket with his eyes downfield. It was continuous check downs and it kept working as if the Eagles had no answer. Again, it’s the first week with two new coordinators, so I should just shut up and be thankful for the win, but neither unit was overly impressive.
- Jalen Carter was really good. Not often a rookie gets continuous double teams in his NFL debut, but Carter did and was still effective. He hurried Mac Jones’ throws on numerous occasions.
- The Eagles offensive line was not great. Their blitz pick up was poor (cost the Eagles in the red zone in the 3rd quarter) and Hurts never really looked comfortable in the pocket because of pressure. Again, maybe that’s a lack of live reps together or maybe it’s due to a New England defense I expect to be among the NFL’s best. Regardless of why their play was sub standard, the Eagles won’t accomplish much if the line isn’t at or near their 2022 level.
Thursday Night Pick; Eagles -6