Thoughts on Jalen Hurts’ diminishing running numbers, an insane Carson Wentz stat and Nick Sirianni passing a rare coaching barrier.
Here’s our 10 Random Eagles Observations as the Eagles try to become only the eighth team in the last 40 years to open a season 4-0 after losing the Super Bowl the previous year.
1. Jalen Hurts’ rushing numbers are down – from 5.6 yards per carry in 2020 and 2021 to 4.6 last year to 3.2 this year. Reason for concern? I really don’t think so. A couple things: First of all, if you remove kneel downs and keepers on 3rd- or 4th-and-1 – plays that aren’t designed to pick up big yards – Hurts’ average bumps up from 3.2 to 4.6. And there are two metrics that indicate that he’s actually been as effective - maybe even more effective - than in past years as a runner. First of all, he’s recorded a first down on 14 of his 31 rushing attempts – or 45 percent. (Remember, touchdowns count as a first down no matter the down and distance). For the sake of comparison, Hurts was at 33 percent in 2020, 42 percent in 2021 and 39 percent last year. Also, his running success rate is higher than his career average. Running success rate measures the percentage of runs where a back meets specific criteria – 40 percent of yards needed a first down (or touchdown) on first down, 60 percent on second down or 100 percent on third and fourth down. Hurts had a success rate of 58.9 from 2020 through 2022 but he’s at 61.3 percent this year. What all of this means is that Hurts isn’t getting the big yards he got the last few years – he had 68 runs of at least 10 yards his first three years (19 percent of his rushing attempts) and he has just one this year (3 percent of his rushing attempts). But he's become a more efficient and smarter runner. The TD pass to Olamade Zaccheaus on Monday night, he could have run for 12 yards and his rushing stats would look better. But you’ll take a 34-yard TD pass over a 12-yard run any day. And that seems to be Hurts’ approach so far this year. And it's a good one.
Stay in the game with the latest updates on your beloved Philadelphia sports teams! Sign up here for our All Access Daily newsletter.
2. Jake Elliott is 6-for-7 as an Eagle on field goal attempts of 56 yards or longer. Every other kicker in Eagles history is 2-for-25.
3. The highest passer rating in Eagles history in a playoff game does not belong to Jalen Hurts or Nick Foles. It belongs to Rodney Peete, who in the 58-37 wild-card win over the Lions at the Vet in 1995 completed 17 of 25 passes for 270 yards with three TDs and no INTs and a 143.3 rating. But what’s most amazing about that performance is what preceded it. Peete was awful down the stretch. Just terrible. In his last five starts before that wild-card game, he threw two touchdowns and eight interceptions. His 57.1 passer rating during that stretch was 2nd-worst in the NFL (ahead of only Kerry Collins). He was dreadful. He remains the only Eagles QB in the last 38 years with two or fewer TDs and eight or more INTs in any five-game stretch. But with Randall Cunningham buried on the bench, the Eagles didn't have any options. The third QB was Jay Fiedler, at the time an undrafted rookie out of Dartmouth. So Peete started against the Lions and goes out and posts what was at the time the 7th-highest passer rating in NFL postseason history (and still 15th-highest). Sheer insanity. Thank you, Lomas Brown.
4. Sam Howell on Sunday will become the 10th different Washington quarterback to face the Eagles in the last 12 matchups. The first nine: Kirk Cousins in 2017, Mark Sanchez and Josh Johnson in 2018, Case Keenum and the late Dwayne Haskins in 2019, Alex Smith and Haskins in 2020, Garrett Gilbert and Taylor Heinicke in 2021 and Carson Wentz and Heinicke in 2022. The last Washington QB to start against the Eagles twice in one season was Cousins in 2017.
5. An encouraging Jalen Hurts passing stat: The first two weeks of the season, Hurts completed only three passes of at least 20 yards, 27th-most in the league during that span. Last week in Tampa, he completed five passes of at least 20 yards, 3rd-most in the league in Week 3. Hurts’ yards per completion was 9.1 the first two weeks but 12.0 on Monday night, right on his career average. Other than the two interceptions – one was a miscommunication and one was a terrific play by a corner (and maybe DeVonta Smith could have been more aggressive to the ball) – Hurts did a lot of encouraging things against Tampa. The numbers might not look pretty because of the INTs, but I like the way he played.
6. D’Andre Swift’s 308 rushing yards are 5th-most in Eagles history the first three weeks of a season. Which is incredible considering he only had one carry on opening day. The only Eagles backs with more yards through Week 3 are LeSean McCoy in 2013 (395) and 2011 (346) and Wilbert Montgomery in 1981 (346) and 1980 (327). Because Swift spent three years with the Lions, it's easy to forget how young he is, but Swift is only 24. If he continues playing at such a high level, it’ll be interesting to see if Howie Roseman breaks from tradition and tries to keep Swift. Roseman insists he’s not philosophically opposed to signing running backs to long-term deals, he just never does it. Swift doesn’t have a lot of wear on his tires – he averaged just 9.1 carries per game with the Lions. And he’s only two months older than Kenny Gainwell. If he keeps this up? I could see a scenario where Roseman actually tries to keep a running back. Why wouldn't he?
7. With Sydney Brown and Justin Evans both injured – Brown with a hammy, Evans with a neck injury – the Eagles are down to just Terrell Edmunds and Reed Blankenship among healthy safeties. Brown is out for Sunday and Evans is questionable and could play. Since Brown was working in the slot Monday night in Tampa before he got hurt, they’re also down to just James Bradberry and Mario Goodrich in the slot. And the Eagles don’t want him exclusively in the slot. The Eagles don’t have a lot of options, but one interesting scenario to me is Mekhi Garner, the undrafted rookie from LSU who’s currently on the practice squad. Garner spent training camp playing corner, but at 6-2, 210 pounds he has terrific size and with his frame, strength and ability and willingness to stop the run, Garner definitely has safety (or slot) traits. Honestly, he looks more like a safety than a corner. The Eagles have a logjam at corner but Garner had a solid summer and I’d love to see him get some work at safety. I think safety might be Garner’s best route to the 53-man roster, if not this year than in the future.
8. The combination of the Eagles beating the Buccaneers on Monday and the Packers losing to the Lions on Thursday means Nick Sirianni now has the highest winning percentage among NFL head coaches. Matt LaFleur dropped from .710 to .700 with the loss to Detroit, and Sirianni improved from .694 to .703 with the win in Tampa. The next few guys on that list are Bill Belichick (.660), Kevin O’Connell (.650), Andy Reid (.641), Sean McDermott (.640) and Mike Tomlin (.636). Among those who’ve coached more than two years, the only head coaches in NFL history with a higher winning percentage than Sirianni are Hall of Famers Guy Chamberlin (.784), John Madden (.759), Vince Lombardi (.738), George Allen (.712) and Ralph Jones (.706). Chamberlin and Jones coached in the 1920s and 1930s. If the Eagles win their next 15 games, Sirianni will pass Chamberlin and move into the top spot.
9. Dallas Goedert has 63 yards in three games. He hasn’t had a stretch of two games with 63 or fewer yards since 2020. In his first two games after coming off Injured Reserve in October 2020, he had 15 yards against the Cowboys and 33 against the Giants. You know he expected a lot more in the receiving game than 63 yards through Week 3. Especially after averaging 59 yards per game last year, 2nd-highest in the league. Goedert had his eyes on his first Pro Bowl and his first 1,000-yard season. And he still could achieve those goals. But although the receiving stats haven't materialized, he’s blocking his butt off and one of the big reasons the Eagles are averaging 186 rushing yards per game. Which is one of the big reasons they're 3-0. And Goedert is genuinely happy no matter how many catches he gets if the Eagles win and he’s contributing to it in any way. Guarantee you will never hear him complain about catches or targets. Goedert is a pro.
10. Even though he got benched in 2020, started only seven games last year and is out of the league this year, Carson Wentz has still thrown the 12th-most touchdown passes in the NFL since 2017.