It has been just two games.
That was part of the answer from Nick Sirianni about why the Eagles’ passing offense isn’t a major concern yet.
“We're not in a panic mode or anything like that,” head coach Nick Sirianni said on Monday. “Have the pass numbers been down? Yeah. Does the defense play into that? Of course it does. Fortunately for us — and not everybody has this luxury — but fortunately for us we're able to win on the ground and we are able to win in the air, and so you are able to balance off what the defense does.”
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Through two games, the Eagles have a total of 325 passing yards, which ranks 29th out of 32 teams in the NFL. The only teams with worse passing numbers than the Eagles are the Bengals, Jets and Panthers. The biggest difference between the Eagles and those three teams behind them is their record. The Eagles are 2-0. Those other three teams are a combined 1-5.
And it’s not like the Eagles didn’t have offensive success on Thursday night. They ended up with 430 yards and 24 first downs. It’s just that 259 of those yards and 19(!) of those first downs came on the ground. Sirianni saw that as a positive for new offensive coordinator Brian Johnson.
“I thought Brian and the offensive staff,” Sirianni said, “did a phenomenal job of saying, ‘Hey, OK, they're packing this in the middle of the field right here and keeping all these guys high and having this three-down front. All right, cool. You guys are doing that. We'll do what we have to do to win the game.’
“So, Jalen [Hurts] was, what? 18 of 23 in that game so he was completing a high percentage of his passes. It was just, hey, we had 48 runs to 23 passes. Well, of course your run stats are going to look different than pass stats and it's going to appear that your pass stats may be down. Was our first game our best game passing the football? No. But there were some similarities in that game plan as well.”
Hurts through two games hasn’t looked like the MVP-runner up version of himself from 2022. While he has completed 71.4% of his passes (well above his career mark of 62.3% coming into the season), he hasn’t looked nearly as comfortable in the pocket, has made some bad decisions and has taken too many sacks.
Like Sirianni said, you do have to give some credit to the defenses. Bill Belichick muddied the waters pretty successfully in the opener and Brian Flores had a wacky game plan in Week 2, either blitzing or dropping everyone on just about every play. As the Eagles get ready to face the Todd Bowles defense in Tampa in Week 3, Hurts can expect to see a ton of pressure in his face again.
But the hope for the Eagles has to be that talent wins out and things get easier as time goes on with a new offensive coordinator. There’s just too much talent on offense to be held down forever. Hurts had a tremendous summer. The Eagles still have a great offensive line. And their top three weapons — A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert — are still dangerous.
“Again, we are talking about a two-game sample size,” Sirianni said. “We're just going to keep doing what we need to do to put the guys in position to succeed, and that's our job as coaches. We know for sure that we have the right guys in this building to go out and execute against the defenses that we see.”
Sirianni: My bad
By the time Sirianni held his virtual press conference on Monday afternoon, he already had to answer for his mistake. His brother asked him right after the game, “so I had to answer that tough question with him.”
When the Eagles scored with just over 4 minutes remaining in their win over the Vikings, they took a 12-point lead (33-21) and Sirianni elected to kick an extra point instead of going for 2. That was a clear go-for-2 situation — FiveThirtyEight and ESPN Analytics back that up.
“As I looked at that, I should have. I should have gone for two there,” Sirianni said. “I didn't do a good enough job there. I didn't go through my process of what I do in that one. That's before any drive in the fourth quarter, before the drive even starts, to have that conversation, ‘Hey, this is a two-point conversion opportunity or this is not.’ Again, just missed a step in my process. I'll be better at that, so mistake on my part.”
Sirianni said nothing has changed as far as the operation as he decides what to do in that situation. He just called it a “lapse” in his process.
On the mend
The Eagles are going to miss Avonte Maddox, who needs surgery to repair a torn pec suffered on Thursday night. But there is some good injury news.
The other injured Eagles — namely Kenny Gainwell, James Bradberry and Reed Blankenship — could all be back when they face the Buccaneers in Tampa on Monday night.
“We feel good everyone has a chance to play this week,” Sirianni said.
In addition to those three, the Eagles also picked up another couple of injuries in the Thursday night game. Quez Watkins left with a hamstring injury and Boston Scott left to be evaluated for a concussion. So we’ll keep an eye on those guys when the team gets back to practice on Thursday.
Sweat’s hot start
One of the biggest storylines of training camp was just how good Josh Sweat was daily and that has now carried over into the regular season.
Through two games, Sweat has 1 1/2 sacks, 6 QB hits, 1 FF and 1 PBU. He’s been excellent. Sweat was unstoppable against a backup left tackle on Thursday night and when he knocked him out of the game, he continued his dominance against the third-stringer.
The last time the Eagles had a player with 1 1/2 sacks and 6 QB hits through two games was Fletcher Cox in 2018 on his way to the only All-Pro season of his long NFL career.
“I work against Lane (Johnson) and Jordan (Mailata),” Sweat said of his training camp. “That’s probably the toughest matchup I’m going to get. Just practicing against them all the time, they get me ready.”
One of the biggest plays on Thursday night was Sweat’s strip sack on Kirk Cousins to start the third quarter. It came on the second snap of the second half. Cox picked it up and returned it 8 yards to the Minnesota 7-yard line.
“I was hyped,” Sweat said. “But Fletch was supposed to have scored that. So I was mad too. He went country (fumble) and then didn’t score. Come on now. It was nice though. I was excited. We needed that. It got everything rolling.”
Cox agreed that he should have scored his fourth-career touchdown but wisely made sure to secure the ball. The Eagles punched in a touchdown two plays later in the win.
CJGJ injured in Detroit
Maddox tore his pec in Week 2 and it doesn’t sound like he was the only player to suffer that injury this week. Former Eagles safety, and current Detroit Lion, C.J. Gardner-Johnson suffered an injury and the fear is that he tore his pec, NFL Network reported.
That would be a huge blow for one of the NFC’s better teams. Gardner-Johnson had played just about every snap for the Lions through two games and they’ll miss him. CJGJ joined the Lions on a one-year, $8 million contract after the Eagles couldn’t work out a long-term deal with him.
What does this mean for the Eagles’ compensatory picks? Probably not much.
If the Eagles end up getting all those compensatory picks from the past offseason, here’s an updated look at their projected picks in 2024:
First round (own)
Second round (own)
Second round (from Saints)
Third (projected comp)
Fifth (from Vikings)
Fifth (from Buccaneers)
Fifth (projected comp)
Fifth (projected comp)
Fifth or sixth (projected comp)
Sixth (Own or Titans, better of two picks)