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Yeah, Nick Sirianni hears your criticism and he's not ignoring it

Nick Sirianni hears criticism of his offense and he's even listening to some of it.

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Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni hears the criticism of his offense from inside and outside of the NovaCare Complex and he claims he isn’t ignoring it.

In fact, sometimes he’ll try to use it for his benefit.

“When you hear criticism, like — OK, let me take it back to when we're in a team meeting and I'm correcting something in a team meeting,” Sirianni said this week. “Well, that's a correction, criticism, whatever it is, that's a form of that. You grow from that.

“So, I will also listen to criticisms of the outside world. Now, do I sit there and look at all the things? No. (VP of communications) Bob (Lange) has to prepare me for the questions I may get in here. Criticisms never feel good at first, but if you can use them to your advantage, then we should.

“That's how I look at this. There are some criticisms out there. I answered the motion question, but there are some other things I'm like, ‘huh, maybe we can look at that, maybe we can do a little bit more there.’ So, I think that shows that we will find every different way we can to improve what we're doing on offense or defense.”

Overall, the Eagles have had a successful offense during Sirianni’s time as head coach in Philadelphia. While the last two weeks have been bad, the Eagles rank sixth in the NFL in points and eighth in total offense in 2023.

That comes after they ranked third in each category in 2022 on their way to a Super Bowl appearance.

So it’s not like this offense hasn’t been able to work in the past. But on the flip side, the Eagles have to keep trying to get better. Sometimes that means changing things schematically. But there has to be a balance too. You don’t want to stop doing what has worked altogether.

But after back-to-back poor offensive performances in blowout losses, Sirianni understands why fans are upset.

“We didn't play good enough and we didn't coach good enough the last two weeks to win the games,” he said. “It wasn't up to our standard, so we're pissed and we’re looking for ways to fix that. Like I said, we have our ideas of what we do, but then there are some times you look at different avenues of whether it's the criticism from the outside or an analytical thing and you're like, OK — I'm not saying you can do that all the time because there is an art to knowing what criticisms to listen to and what ones are jokes for that matter, right? 

“But that's our job as coaches, to go over everything we possibly can to make sure we're playing our best.”

What are the areas of criticism? Don’t worry. Sirianni was asked about several of them during his press conference earlier in the week.

Lack of motion

The Eagles don’t use much pre-snap motion this season and they haven’t during the Sirianni Era. When asked previously about this lack of motion, Sirianni explained that they aren’t going to “motion just to motion.”

But he has also said “a wise man avoids all extremes” and the Eagles have been dead last in this category in recent years.

Sirianni was asked about motion again on Thursday and said he feels like he’s answered the question a lot before. That’s because he has. But he also understands the criticism.

“There are many different ways you would motion,” Sirianni said. “Sometimes it's to gather information. Sometimes it's to set up an advantage, whatever it could be. There are other ways to gather information besides motion that teams do all the time. That's something that we do. It could be by formation. Just because a guy moves, doesn't necessarily give you the answer. It could be if a guy is removed from the core, it can give you the answer. If a guy is tight to the core, it gives you an answer. This formation can give you an answer.

“We spend an obscene amount of time trying to find answers for the quarterback and for our offense of what the defense is based off different looks. Now, sometimes the answer is to motion, and so there are some games where we motion more than we don't. It's a fair question because we do it less than everybody in the NFL.”

The shorter version: Sirianni believes the Eagles can get the answers they seek without this motion. (Sometimes they’ll go empty and the running back out wide will act as an indicator.) Even though the Eagles actually ran more motion against the Cowboys on Sunday night, this is an element of the offense that seems unlikely to change.

Relying on 1-on-1s

The Eagles have some tremendous receiving options with A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert. But a recent criticism of the offense is that Sirianni and the coaching staff has been over reliant on those guys winning 1-on-1s matchups.

“I don't know exactly where we rank,” Sirianni said. “I think it's 12th in the pass game or something like that. But we know what we're fortunate on is that we have receivers that can get open 1-on-1.

“There have been places where it's really tough in man coverage situations to scheme a guy open at all times. We have the luxury of our guys winning on different types of routes. So, when you have that luxury, you use that luxury. We've been pretty successful with some of those plays we've had to go about doing that.”

Sirianni said that just having elite receivers doesn’t mean they won’t try to scheme receivers open. But he said a benefit of this roster is they have receivers who can win those 1-on-1s.

Hurts this season leads the NFL in completion percentage above expectation at 4.9%, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. But his expected completion percentage is second-to-last at 61.6%. Generally, this seems to mean that the level of difficulty on Hurts’ throws are higher than most quarterbacks in the NFL. There just haven’t been a ton of wide open throws.

Of course, some of that isn’t necessarily bad. Hurts does like to take shots and Sirianni values explosive plays. So if Hurts was hitting a bunch of check downs, those numbers might look better but it wouldn’t necessarily be better for the offense.

Target share discrepancy

Along those lines, a lot has been made that just three receivers were targeted by Jalen Hurts in that last game. Brown was targeted 13 times, Smith 10 times and Goedert 4 times. The only other target for the game was to Olamide Zaccheaus from Braden Mann on a fake punt.

Sirianni has always said the passing game runs through those top three guys so he didn’t have a problem with the target share in this past game, even if it was unusual in the stat sheet.

“The ball went where it should go vs. the defenses we were getting, and that was to those guys,” Sirianni said. “Again, when you try to plan for every different guy, I'm not saying there’s not options for other guys on the game plan, but there is a reason we have DeVonta Smith, A.J. Brown, Dallas Goedert. I wasn't lying to you guys when I said the plan is going go through them.”

There was one admission from Sirianni though. There’s one player the Eagles should probably try to get the ball to in the passing game as a part of the scheme.

“Listen, D'Andre (Swift) needs to touch the ball more out of the backfield as far as a receiver,” Sirianni said. “He's a dynamic player.”

Swift on the season has 36 catches for 208 yards and a touchdown. He’s averaging just 2.7 receptions and 16.0 receiving yards per game. In his first three seasons in the NFL with the Lions, Swift averaged 3.9 receptions and 30.0 receiving yards per game. So he’s proven he can be a legitimate threat out of the backfield before and the Eagles haven’t consistently given him that opportunity.

Answers for blitz

The other question Sirianni was asked about his offense on Thursday pertained to how his offense has handled extra rushers this season. Their offense hasn’t been as effective against extra pressure this season.

“I feel really confident with our guys,” Sirianni said. ‘“Jason Kelce does an unbelievable job getting a hat for a hat. There is nobody in the NFL like him of setting the table of where everyone should go.

“He's seen so much football, and obviously Jalen is back there, too, helping, but Jason has seen so much football and knows how to get a hat for a hat. We spend a lot of time on our blitz answers, and we feel really, really confident in the ones we have.”

Here’s a look at the Eagles’ passing numbers, per PFF:

Not blitzed: 68.2% completion percentage, 2,023 yards (7.3 per attempt), 11 TD, 4 INT, 2.1% turnover worthy play, 79% adjusted completion percentage

Blitzed: 63.4% completion percentage, 1,169 yards (7.6 per attempt), 8 TD, 6 INT, 2.7% turnover worthy play, 72.7% adjusted compilation percentage

“We’re thinking about it constantly,” Sirianni said. “That's always something that's at the beginning — like you do your blitz answers for first and second down pressures Monday; you do your pressure answers against different packages Tuesday; and we do our blitz zero stuff today. I like our process, I like the things that we do with it, and I like how our players set it up.

“I know that will turn because I believe in the players we have and I believe in the coaches that we have and I believe in the process we have.”

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