Roob's Observations

In Roob's Observations: Mulling the futures of Sean Desai and Brian Johnson

Thoughts on Brian Johnson and Sean Desai’s future, comparing James Bradberry’s 2022 and 2023 seasons and a 33-year-old veteran who’s turning the clock back.

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Thoughts on Brian Johnson and Sean Desai’s future, comparing James Bradberry’s 2022 and 2023 seasons and a 33-year-old veteran who’s turning the clock back.

1. I truly believe Brian Johnson and Sean Desai could very well be coaching for their jobs these last four weeks of the regular season. It’s not like Nick Sirianni to make knee-jerk changes, and the fact that he kept Michael Clay around and special teams has turned it around this year could affect his thinking. The Eagles are still 10-3, but these last two games have been blowouts of historic proportions. The Eagles are the first team in NFL history to open 10-1 or better and lose back-to-back games by 20 or more points at any point the rest of the season. This is only the third time in the last 50 years the Eagles lost by 20 or more points in consecutive games and the other two other times it happened, the Eagles were a losing team that was out of playoff contention – in 1998 and 2015. Both times, the head coach got fired within the next few weeks. The head coach isn’t getting fired this time, but somebody might. For both sides of the ball to collapse like they have the last two weeks is alarming. These weren’t just losses. They were largely non-competitive blowouts. This is the first time the offense has failed to score a touchdown in a meaningful regular-season game in seven years and the first time the defense has allowed at least 33 points in three straight games since 1967. Maybe both losses were the product of the 49ers and Cowboys having three extra days rest and the Eagles being worn out under the weight of too many snaps against elite teams in too short a time. But if this keeps up? If the Eagles continue to look unprepared, unimaginative and uninspired on both sides of the ball? If they fail to wrap up the NFC East when all they have to do is beat four losing teams to clinch the division and No. 2 seed? If they make a quick postseason exit? The Johnson and Desai watch will be on.

2. Since 2005, the Eagles have lost 25 games by 20 or more points. Nine of them – nearly 40 percent – have been to the Cowboys. 

3. I’m just not buying Nick Sirianni’s contention that the offense runs through three guys and that a fourth option – a productive third wide receiver – isn’t important. We’re all looking for reasons the offense is sputtering and I believe the absence of a true third receiver really hamstrings Jalen Hurts, and makes things tougher for everybody. They’ve tried Quez Watkins, they’ve tried Olamide Zaccheaus, they’ve tried Julio Jones, but those three have a combined 20 catches for 209 yards and three touchdowns, and at their current pace the Eagles won’t have a third WR with at least 200 yards for the first time since 2000. The offense is too A.J. / DeVonta-centric and that makes them easier to defend. If the Eagles didn’t care about a third wide receiver, why did they sign Julio? Why did they sign O.Z.? Why did they clear out a roster spot for Quez? Now all of a sudden they don’t need a third guy? Watkins, Zaccheaus and Jones have played a combined 744 snaps and have 32 targets. Something is wrong with this picture. Sunday’s loss to the Cowboys was the first where an Eagles starting QB only targeted three guys as far back as Stathead tracks targets – which is 1991 (remember, Zaccheaus’s one target was a pass from punter Braden Mann). I don’t know how any offense works better with fewer weapons. 

4. Opposing quarterbacks had a 51.6 passer rating throwing at James Bradberry last year. They have a 111.7 passer rating targeting Bradberry this year. Among 70 corners targeted at least 50 times last year, he had the 2nd-lowest passer rating. Among 51 corners targeted at least 50 times so far this year, he has the 7th-highest. According to Stathead’s analytics, he’s allowed an NFL-high 10 touchdowns this year after allowing two last year. The 10 TD passes allowed are the most by any NFL defensive back since Stathead began tracking cornerback stats in 2018. In case you’re wondering, Bradberry would carry $17.24 million in dead money if the Eagles release him after the season, according to Spotrac. If they wait until June 1, they could split the cap hit into $4.735 million in 2024 and $12.5 million in 2025. Bradberry was so good last year, but he doesn’t look like the same guy.

5. Fletcher Cox is 33, he’s in his 12th season, and if there’s been a dropoff in his play, I haven’t seen it. We talk so much about Jalen Carter and Jordan Davis, the Eagles’ two young interior linemen from Georgia, but Cox has quietly had another very good season, and despite missing the Bills game, he’s actually played the most snaps of all the Eagles interior tackles, and among all defensive linemen only Josh Sweat has played more snaps (676 to 549). Cox ranks second among NFL interior linemen with 10 hurries, fifth with 23 pressures and ninth with seven QB knockdowns. And you always take the Pro Football Focus grades with a grain of salt, but they do rank Cox 25th out of 98 interior linemen who’ve played at least 300 snaps, and his overall grade of 70.0 is his highest since 2020, his last Pro Bowl season. Fletch has 4.0 sacks now – 5th-most among NFC interior linemen this year - and he’s the first interior lineman in NFL history with 3.0 or more sacks in each of his first 12 seasons. (LaRoi Glover, Warren Sapp and Henry Thomas did it in 11 of their first 12 seasons). Cox may not be the All-Pro candidate he was in his prime, but he remains a very productive, very consistent, very tough interior lineman. And I’ll tell you what, if Howie Roseman can make the numbers work, I’d bring him back for 2024.

6. The Eagles have nine sacks on third down this year, fewest in the NFL. They had 32 sacks on third down last year, most in the NFL. The Eagles faced 169 pass plays on third down last year, so they averaged a sack every 5.3 pass plays. They’ve faced 141 pass plays on third down so far this year, so they’re averaging a sack every 15.7 pass plays. 

7. Haason Reddick has 27 sacks in 30 games as an Eagle, which is 0.9 sacks per game. That’s 2nd-highest rate in franchise history, behind Reggie White, who had 124 sacks in 121 games (1.03 sacks per game). Here’s the entire top 10 (minimum of 16 games played):

1.03 … Reggie White, 1985-92 [124 sacks, 121 games]
0.90 … Haason Reddick, 2022-23 [27 sacks, 30 games]
0.83 … Dennis Harrison, 1982-84 [34 sacks, 41 games]
0.77 … William Fuller, 1994-96 [35 ½ sacks, 46 games]
0.69 … Greg Brown, 1982-86 [50 ½ sacks, 73 games]
0.67 … Jason Babin, 2008, 2011-12 [26 sacks, 39 games]
0.66 … Hugh Douglas, 1998-2002, 2004 [54 ½ sacks, 82 games]
0.61 … Clyde Simmons, 1986-93 [76 sacks, 124 games]
0.56 … Michael Bennett, 2018 [9 sacks, 16 games]
0.49 … Connor Barwin, 2013-16 [31 ½ sacks, 64 games]

8. The Eagles have netted fewer than 400 yards in eight straight games, their 3rd-longest such streak in the last 20 years. They went 11 straight games with fewer than 400 yards in 2019 and nine straight in 2007. They gained 400 or more yards in 16 of their previous 25 games going back to opening day 2022.

9. The Eagles have been outscored 262-258 over the last 11 weeks. They’re 7-3 during that span. During the same stretch, the Cowboys are plus-140 in point differential and the 49ers and Ravens are plus-127.

10. All year we’ve looked ahead at those two Giants games as two easy W’s in the Eagles’ back pocket at the end of the season. Two easy wins the Eagles would probably desperately need. But 25-year-old undrafted rookie Tommy DeVito has breathed new live into that team, and during the Giants’ current three-game winning streak he’s completed 72 percent of his passes with five TDs and no interceptions with a 119.8 passer rating – 2nd-highest in the NFL the last three weeks behind Brock Purdy. The Giants were 2-7 under Daniel Jones and Tyrod Taylor, but they look like a different team under DeVito, who is only in the NFL because the NCAA denied his request for another year of eligibility at Illinois. DeVito, who played at Don Bosco in Ramsey, N.J., rallied the Giants to a last-second win over the Packers Monday night, becoming the first Giants rookie QB to win three straight starts since Phil Simms in 1979. The Giants face the Saints at the Superdome Sunday before traveling to the Linc for that Christmas Day afternoon game in two weeks. The Eagles and Giants finish the regular season at the Meadowlands two weeks later.

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