Philadelphia Eagles

Eagles Observations: Is Jalen Hurts Or Nick Sirianni a Bigger Concern?

Is Jalen Hurts or Nick Sirianni a bigger concern in Roob's Eagles Observations originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Who was most responsible for the Eagles’ offensive meltdown Monday night in Dallas? What's the latest on the quarterback in Indy? How about an all-encompassing Miles Sanders stat to put his lack of use in perspective?

It’s all here along with a lot more in this week’s Roob’s 10 Random Eagles Observations.

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1. Whose fault is it? It’s everybody’s fault. But for me, I’m more concerned with Nick Sirianni’s play calling than Jalen Hurts’ performance. Sirianni may be a rookie head coach, but he’s in his 13th year as an NFL coach. He was an offensive coordinator for three years. He should be better than this. He should be able to call a football game without forgetting about Miles Sanders and the running game. Hurts is a 23-year-old kid who’s started seven games in his career, and it’s just about impossible for any young quarterback to flourish if the coach isn't helping. His play calling simply gave Hurts no chance. I’m not saying Hurts has played well. He hasn’t over the last two weeks. The underthrown passes, the locking onto one receiver, the misfires to open guys are absolutely his fault. We’ve seen some really promising moments from Hurts and also some really disappointing ones. But until Sirianni figures out how to call a game that keeps defenses off-balance, that involves the Eagles’ best weapons, that gets the offense into a rhythm, it’s impossible to get a feel for what the Eagles have in Hurts. Right now, his coach isn’t giving him a chance.

2. One stat to sum up Miles Sanders’ career so far: Since he entered the NFL in 2019, Sanders has the third-highest yards-per-touch of any running back [5.70] and the 3rd-most plays of 25 yards or more [18]. He trails only Austin Ekeler [6.22] and Christian McCaffrey [5.72] in yards per touch and trails only Derrick Henry and Nick Chubb [19 each] in 25-yard plays. During the same span, he’s 16th among running backs with 459 touches.

3. The QB in Indy has won 3 of his last 16 starts, and he’s generated 17 or fewer points in 12 of those 16 starts. Including eight straight.

4. Howie Roseman’s failure to draft impact defensive players has really had a catastrophic effect on the franchise. Since the 2013 draft, the Eagles have drafted 37 defensive players — 15 in the first four rounds. As Eagles, those 37 players have combined for 27 interceptions, 53 1/2 sacks and 13 forced fumbles. That’s 93 1/2 impact plays in 131 games over eight-plus seasons. The only draft picks during the last nine years with more than two interceptions as Eagles are Jordan Hicks (7), Rasul Douglas (5), Jalen Mills (5) and Nate Gerry (3). The only draft picks with more than six sacks over the last nine years are Derek Barnett (19 1/2) and Josh Sweat (10 1/2). And the only draft picks with more than two forced fumbles during that span are Sweat, Barnett and Bennie Logan (3 each). For the sake of comparison, Brian Dawkins had 34 interceptions, 21 sacks and 32 forced fumbles just by himself in his 13 years here. So one guy had 87 impact plays as an Eagle, and the entire 2013 through 2021 draft classes have 93 1/2. Mind-blowing.

4A. Just to put this in perspective, the Eagles have selected three defensive Pro Bowl players in the last 15 drafts (not including this year’s): Trent Cole in the 5th round in 2005, Brandon Graham in 2011 and Fletcher Cox in 2012. Three in 15 years. Soon to be three in 16 years.

5. I don’t think Ryan Kerrigan is going to last the month.

6. It’s time to start thinking about Derek Barnett in terms of being a colossal bust. The dude was the 14th pick in the 2017 draft and he’s averaged 4.9 sacks per year. Over the last 25 years, the Eagles have drafted 10 players with a top-14 pick and only Barnett and Brodrick Bunkley – the 14th pick in 2006 – failed to make a Pro Bowl. Four years-plus into his career, he’s got more career penalties than sacks, and he’s earned nearly $23 million, or more than $1 million per sack. Since he was drafted, 64 players have more sacks than Barnett. Eleven players have twice as many sacks. We all just keep waiting to see something special, and it’s just not going to happen.

7. When it comes to yards-per-target, Quez Watkins (26.6), Dallas Goedert (12.0) and Zach Ertz (8.5) are way ahead of any other Eagles skill players, but DeVonta Smith and Jalen Reagor have far more targets – 21 and 19 – than Goedert and Ertz (11 each) or Watkins (7). The Eagles should be trying to get Smith and Reagor going, but when you have a struggling offense, an inconsistent quarterback and wide receivers still trying to find their way, it makes sense to make your tight ends a bigger focus of the offense. Goedert and Ertz rank second and 12th among all NFL tight ends in yards-per-target but they’re tied for 21th in targets. They’re the two most experienced skill guys on the team. Goedert, Ertz and Miles Sanders are the three guys who have a proven track record of playmaking. And they’re the three guys getting the ball the least.

8. Hurts’ 10 touchdown passes equals the most by an Eagles QB in his first seven career starts since Sonny Jurgensen had 12 TD passes in his first seven starts from 1957 through 1961.

9. Speaking of Quez … he’s got three 40-yard catches in his first nine games. DeSean Jackson didn’t record his third 40-yard catch until his 18th game. Now, by his 32ndgame, D-Jack had 14 catches of at least 40 yards. DeSean was also playing with a five-time Pro Bowl quarterback, and Quez is playing with a 23-year-old project who’s made seven career starts. Watkins has only been targeted seven times this year but he’s one of only eight NFL WRs with more than one 40-yard catch. Jackson is the greatest deep threat in NFL history. Watkins – a 6th-round pick who didn’t even start playing until late last year – is on his way to being a pretty good one himself.

10. This next month – Chiefs, Panthers, Bucs, Raiders – is a flat-out minefield. Two Super Bowl teams and two 3-0 teams. The Eagles could very well be 1-6 in 22 days with a six-game losing streak. If that happens, how do they react? How do they respond? Do they keep fighting? Do Sirianni’s messages about core values and Dawg Mentality and overcoming adversity still get through? It was 22 years ago that Andy Reid’s first Eagles team opened the season 0-4 and 2-7 with several blowout losses along the way. But Big Red never lost that team, and by the end of the season Donovan McNabb was playing well, the defense was gaining confidence, the blowouts turned into close losses and they even won their last two games. You could tell they were on the right track. You could tell Reid’s message was getting through. Not by their record – they finished 5-11 – but by how they stayed together through all the losses, all the blowouts, all the adversity. That was an 11-win playoff team a year later. Does Sirianni have it in him to keep this thing on the rails?

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