Why it’s not all Brian Johnson’s fault, Sean Desai’s needless press conference and Josh Sweat’s recent struggles.
It’s a must-win game against the Giants Monday afternoon and this is a must-read Roob’s 10 Random Eagles Observations.
1. Brian Johnson has become an easy target the last few weeks because the offense has been terrible, and while there's no question he shares a chunk of the blame, it’s not all on him, and sometimes what appears to be a bad play call in reality is a bad decision or poor execution. Keep this in mind when we’re talking about Jalen Hurts’ ill-fated deep throws, which have become a real problem lately: Most play calls include a deep shot, a medium-range throw and a safe underneath throw, and the quarterback is going to look deep first, then mid-range and if there’s still nothing there he’ll dump it off. Not every call has those options built in, but in this offense most do. So where the ball goes is often up to the quarterback within the options of the play call. So it’s not like Hurts has to throw deep when he throws deep. And when Hurts gets picked off trying to connect with Quez Watkins instead of just making a safe throw to continue a drive that started out with three methodical plays for 30 yards or when he gets picked off in the final seconds forcing a deep shot to A.J. Brown when Kenny Gainwell is open underneath for a potential gain to get into Jake Elliott range, these aren’t necessarily bad play calls. They’re quite likely bad decisions by Hurts. “All of these plays really have multiple options,” Johnson said Thursday. “And the ball can go to a bunch of different places based on how the defense is presented.” He also started to question Hurts’ decision making on the second INT before stopping: “With two timeouts there you’ve got to just – we’ve got to put ourselves in a position.” The most concerning thing about Hurts’ play Monday night was his decision making, and honestly poor decisions have been behind as many of his 12 interceptions as poor throws. Hurts is naturally aggressive and it’s one of the things that makes him such a dangerous player. But he’s got to be smarter when it comes to understanding the situation and what is best for the team at that point in the game. Sometimes a boring eight-yard gain is the perfect play.
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2. At their current pace, the Eagles will face 673 pass attempts this year and intercept seven passes. No team in NFL history facing 673 or more pass attempts in a season has ever intercepted fewer than 14 passes.
3. Six of the last 24 Super Bowl champs had a losing streak of at least three games at some point during the season. The 2000 Ravens, 2005 Steelers, 2009 Saints, 2012 Ravens and 2021 Rams all lost three straight and the 2011 Giants lost four straight. Potential 2023 playoff teams that lost three straight at some point this year: The Jaguars, Steelers, Colts, Rams, 49ers and Bengals. The Eagles have reached the postseason nine times in seasons that included a three-game losing streak: 1979, 1981, 1988, 1996, 2006, 2013, 2019 and 2021.
4. I still can’t believe Nick Sirianni quite likely had Sean Desai go out in front of the Philly media a week ago Wednesday – Dec. 13 – and pretend he was still the defensive coordinator after he had already almost certainly been demoted in favor of Matt Patricia. Sirianni said after the Seattle game he didn’t remember when he made the change, but he did say it was “right when game planning was going on” and “sometime in the middle of the week.” And coming off the loss to the Cowboys on a Sunday, certainly the Eagles were game-planning for the Seahawks by 11:30 a.m. Wednesday. Sirianni also said he didn’t want to announce the change because he felt “it was competitive disadvantage if I did tell you guys.” So either he sent Desai up there to hold a press conference after his demotion because he didn’t want the Seahawks to know the Eagles had a made a change on the coaching staff or Sirianni didn’t make the change until after the presser, which would have been Wednesday afternoon at the earliest – three days after the Cowboys game ended. I’m not sure which is worse. To Desai’s credit, he’s handled this with class, and by all accounts he’s been willing to help out Patricia in any capacity. But if the Eagles really made the guy stand up there in the auditorium and on a live stream answering defensive coordinator questions when he had already been stripped of those duties, that’s really bad form on the part of Sirianni. You just don’t treat a guy like that.
5. Reed Blankenship is the only player in his 20s who has an interception for the Eagles this year. The Eagles had six players in their 20s pick off at least one pass last year (Blankenship, James Bradberry, Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, Avonte Maddox, Josiah Scott, Josh Sweat). The Eagles have never gone through an entire season with fewer than three players in their 20s intercepting a pass. They had three in 1961 (Maxie Baughan, Jimmy Carr, Irv Cross), 1977 (Herm Edwards, Randy Logan, John Sanders) and 2011 (Nate Allen, Jamar Chaney, Kurt Coleman). Only six teams in NFL history have gone through a full season with just one player in his 20s recording an interception.
6. Wide receivers the Eagles drafted from 2017 through 2020: Mack Hollins, Shelton Gibson, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Jalen Reagor, John Hightower and Quez Watkins.
7. JALEN HURTS STAT OF THE WEEK: Even though he hasn’t been at his best the last few weeks, we’ve gotta have a Jalen Hurts Stat of the Week. And with 14 rushing touchdowns this year – tied for the most in history by a quarterback – Hurts is only three rushing TDs off the Eagles franchise single-season record of 17, set by LeSean McCoy in 2011. The only other Eagle with more is Steve Van Buren, who had 15 in 1945. Hurts now has the 4th-most rushing TDs in team history with 40, four behind McCoy and five behind Wilbert Montgomery. Van Buren had 69. Only 17 players in NFL history ran for more TDs in their first four seasons – and remember, Hurts didn’t play until the end of his rookie year. Among those 17 are Hall of Famers Jim Brown, Terrell Davis, Eric Dickerson, Walter Payton, Earl Campbell, Barry Sanders, Marcus Allen and Emmitt Smith.
8. Only seven undrafted rookie cornerbacks have played at least 25 defensive snaps this year throughout the NFL. Three of the seven are Eagles: Mekhi Garner, Mario Goodrich and Eli Ricks.
9. Josh Sweat has played 412 snaps over the last seven games and has one sack. The last Eagles edge rusher who played 400 snaps over a seven-game span and had one or fewer sack was Trent Cole in 2013. He played 402 snaps from Week 4 through Week 10 of the 2013 season and had just one sack. Cole then had seven sacks in the next five games.
10. It’s remarkable how many playoff contenders have a head coach, coordinator or prominent position coach with Eagles ties:
Ravens: Head coach John Harbaugh was here from 1998 through 2006.
Chiefs: Head coach Andy Reid of course was here for 14 years but offensive coordinator Matt Nagy was in training camp here in 2009 and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo coached here under Reid from 1999 through 2006.
Jaguars: Head coach Doug Pederson was Reid’s opening-day quarterback in 1999, coached under Reid from 2009 through 2012 and led the Eagles to their only Super Bowl championship in 2017. His coordinators are Press Taylor, who Chip Kelly brought in as a quality control coach in 2013 and remained for Pederson’s five seasons, and Mike Caldwell, who played here from 1998 through 2001 and coached here under Reid from 2008 through 2012.
Browns: Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz was Pederson’s DC all five years he was here. Bill Musgrave, Scott Peters and Bill Callahan, who are also on Kevin Stefanski’s staff, all either played or coached here.
Bills: Head coach Sean McDermott was on Reid’s staff from 1999 through 2010.
Colts: Head coach Shane Steichen was offensive coordinator here in 2021 and 2022 and his offensive coordinator, Jim Bob Cooter, was a consultant on Sirianni’s staff in 2021.
Texans: Head coach DeMeco Ryans played here from 2012 through 2015 and his staff is loaded with former Eagles coaches (Matt Burke, Cory Undlin, Bill Lazor, Dino Vasso).
Steelers: Special teams coordinator Danny Smith served here in the same role under Rhodes from 1995 through 1998.
Bengals: No direct connections, but head coach Zac Taylor is the brother of Press Taylor and offensive coordinator Brian Callahan is the son of former Eagles offensive line coach Bill Callahan.
Broncos: Head coach Sean Payton was Rhodes’ quarterbacks coach in 1997 and 1998.
49ers: Former Eagle Darryl Tapp, who played here from 2010 through 2012, is assistant defensive line coach, and Kelly and Pederson assistant Matthew Harper is assistant special teams coach.
Cowboys: Secondary coach Al Harris played here from 1998 through 2002.
Lions: Dan Campbell’s special teams coordinator is Dave Fipp, who coached here for eight years under Kelly and Rhodes, and his offensive line coach is Hank Fraley, who played here from 2000 through 2005.
Buccaneers: Quarterbacks coach Thad Lewis was here in 2015.