D’Andre Swift’s future, a crazy A.J. Brown stat, James Bradberry or Kelee Ringo and an assistant coach who deserves a lot of credit.
You want 10 Random Eagles Observations? You got 10 Random Eagles Observations.
1. I wonder if D’Andre Swift has priced himself out of Howie Roseman’s running back range. Swift has had a weird year. He’s got 988 rushing yards and 1,197 scrimmage yards despite five games with 15 or fewer touches and five games with 12 or fewer rushing attempts. And just two games with 20 carries. He’s 5th in the NFL in rushing yards despite being just 9th in rushing attempts. And his 4.6 average is 8th-best in the league (minimum 10 carries per game). Swift has set career highs in rushing yards and scrimmage yards and he’s shown he can be a lead back. He's also playing on the final year of his rookie contract, costing the Eagles just $1.78 million. But he’s also going to probably want something north of $5 million per year on a multi-year deal, and Roseman hasn’t given a running back a significant second contract since LeSean McCoy in 2012. I could see the Eagles going next year with Kenny Gainwell, a rookie mid-round draft pick and maybe another year of Boston Scott. They really like Gainwell and after averaging 2.8 yards per carry through Week 7 he’s at 6.0 since. Gainwell is signed at $1.06 million in 2024 on the final year of his rookie 5th-round deal, so he's cap friendly. Gainwell is talented, but he isn’t Swift. Maybe if Swift doesn’t like the long-term offers he’s getting once free agent starts he’d come back on a one-year bet-on-himself deal. Running backs are always going to look better running behind this line – Miles Sanders is evidence of that – although if Jason Kelce retires that could change. But Swift is a guy that gets stronger as the game goes on – he leads the NFL with 686 rushing yards after halftime – and that is a valuable trait. All I know is Swift has been very impressive with the opportunities he’s gotten and if there’s any way to keep him around another year at a reasonable price, Roseman needs to make it happen. But I'm not sure he can.
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2. Kelee Ringo has to start and James Bradberry has to sit once Darius Slay comes back. I don’t think it will happen. This is a coaching staff that values experience over just about everything and is generally deferential to veterans. But what you lose in experience and savvy with Bradberry you more than make up for in speed, athleticism and energy with Ringo. I know he’s only played three games, but opposing quarterbacks have a 57.3 passer rating when targeting the rookie corner from Georgia. They have a 116.3 rating when targeting Bradberry. Among 142 cornerbacks who’ve played at least 100 defensive snaps this year, Bradberry’s passer rating is 19th-highest. Ringo’s is 12th-lowest. It’s not a big sample size, and Ringo is going to face better receivers and quarterbacks in the playoffs than in this late-season run. And it is a bit of a risk playing a 21-year-old kid who’s only been playing regularly for a few weeks. But I’ve seen enough. Ringo is just the better player right now.
3. Braden Mann has thrown one pass this year, a 28-yard completion to Olamide Zaccheaus. Nick Foles still had a higher passer rating in 2013 (119.2) than Mann has this year (118.8).
4. JALEN HURTS STAT OF THE WEEK: Jalen Hurts has recorded 104 total touchdowns in his first 49 career starts, which makes him the 15th quarterback in NFL history with at least 100 total touchdowns passing and rushing in his first 50 starts. He’s currently tied with Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert for 10th place on that list and would move up to a tie for 9th with Daunte Culpepper with one TD against the Cards, a tie for 8th with Lamar Jackson with two on Sunday and a tie for 7th with Aaron Rodgers with three. (He’d need seven to move up to a tie for 6th with Daryle Lamonica.)
5. The Eagles are the first team in NFL history to win 11 of their first 15 games without winning any of them by more than 14 points. They’re also only the third team to win games by 14 or fewer points through 15 games. The 2003 Patriots were 13-2 after 15 games with two wins by at least 15 points (including 31-10 over the Eagles at the Linc) and the 2004 Steelers were 14-1 through 15 games with just one win by 15 or more points (27-3 over the Eagles at Heinz Field).
6. There are a lot of theories about why the Eagles’ sack numbers are down so dramatically this year – from one every 8.9 opposing pass plays last year to one every 15.7 opposing pass plays this year. That’s a 43 percent decline and that’s massive. And it’s been even more pronounced the last two months. After averaging a sack every 13.1 attempts through nine games, they’re at one every 23.5 pass attempts the last six games. A lot has gone into this decline. Jalen Carter is an overall upgrade over Javon Hargrave, but at this point in his career he isn’t quite the pass rusher as Hargrave. Brandon Graham’s natural drop off at 35 years old from 11 sacks last year to 3 this year wasn’t unexpected. Nolan Smith hasn’t produced the way you’d hope from a rookie 1st-round pick. Josh Sweat has one sack in his last eight games. Haason Reddick is having a good year but not quite up to last year’s standard. A lot of guys have played too many snaps. The Eagles have faced better quarterbacks. A secondary that’s struggled means rushers don’t have as much time to get to the QB as last year. One thing I keep hearing as a reason for the drop off is that because the Eagles haven’t blown teams out this year, teams aren’t throwing as much against them. But teams are actually throwing at record pace against the Eagles. They’ve faced an NFL-high 587 passes, on pace to face the 5th-most passes in NFL history. So the opportunities are there. They just haven’t gotten home.
7. How good has A.J. Brown been the last two years? He’s got 202 catches, 3,036 yards and 19 touchdowns since he joined the Eagles. Only 13 other wide receivers have put up those numbers in their entire Eagles career. Brown has done it in 34 games.
8. Fletcher Cox hasn’t made a Pro Bowl since 2020, but he just may have a shot this year. His 5.0 sacks are 5th-most among NFC interior linemen, his 17 QB hits are 3rd-most, his 26 pressures are 2nd-most and his eight QB knockdowns are 4th-most. In his 12th season at 32 years old – he turned 33 earlier this month – Cox is really enjoying a career resurgence. Over the last two years, the only NFC interior linemen with more sacks than Cox’s 12 are the Commanders’ Daron Payne (15 ½) and Jonathan Allen (13.0). Of course, Jalen Carter has a shot too with 5.0 sacks, two forced fumbles, a touchdown, nine hurries, 17 pressures and two QB knockdowns. Carter is the flashier player and has unlimited upside, but Cox has been the more consistent player and has played about 250 more snaps than Carter. The past and the future are both terrific players, but if I could vote for only one of them for the Pro Bowl, I’d probably go with Fletch.
9. One guy who deserves a ton of credit is D.K. McDonald, who in his first year as secondary coach has had to deal with constant injuries, roster changes and practice squad call-ups. The Eagles have used 15 different defensive backs on defense (3rd-most in the league), 12 different starting d-backs (2nd-most), five rookie or 2nd-year starters (most in the league) and 11 different starting lineups. Not one d-back has started every game and 12 have started at least one (2nd-most in the league). There was James Bradberry’s decline, long-term injuries to Avonte Maddox and Justin Evans, 11 different slot corners along the way. And McDonald handled all this while getting the rookie db’s – Sydney Brown, Kelee Ringo, Eli Ricks – to the point they could be significant contributors. That’s a lot. And it hasn’t always been great, but considering the circumstances McDonald has held it all together as well as anybody could have hoped for.
10. On a related note, since opening day 2018, the Eagles have used an NFL-high 43 different starting defensive backs.