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January 16, 2022

Handing out 10 awards from the Eagles-Buccaneers wild card round game

Eagles NFL

After a surprising, overachieving regular season, the Philadelphia Eagles made the playoffs! And then... (fart noise). The Birds were outplayed and outcoached by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a 31-15 rout that wasn't as close as the score would indicate. As always, win, lose, or tie, we hand out 10 awards.

1) The 'Last Impression' Award 😬: Jalen Hurts

Entering the season, the two biggest concerns about Hurts' overall game were his accuracy, as well as his decision-making and mental processing from the pocket. The latter improved at times over the course of the season, as was expected of a young, intelligent kid, but Hurts' inaccuracy lingered. In the playoffs, Hurts threw wildly all over the field, missing receivers long, short, left, right, and everything in between. He also missed some receivers who were open for potential big plays.

Hurts did a lot to make a case that he should be the Eagles' starting quarterback at least in 2022, but he was so bad against the Bucs in the playoffs that his last impression is going to be difficult to shake.

He finished 23 of 43 for 258 yards, 1 TD, and 2 INTs, which looks bad enough on paper, but the eye test showed that the passing game often didn't even look functional.

If the Eagles can upgrade the quarterback position this offseason, they should. It's the most important position in sports, and they shouldn't settle if there are opportunities to get better there. However, if the right opportunity doesn't come around, Hurts at least showed enough that staying with him for another season is a perfectly reasonable option as well.

2) The 'False Positive' Award 🚫: The Eagles awful schedule

The Eagles are significantly better than the worst teams in the NFL. They also have quite a ways to go before they're as good as the other teams that made the playoffs in 2021. The reality is that the teams that the Eagles beat this season had a combined record of 53-99-1. 

When the Eagles were mowing down teams like the Jets, Giants, and the depleted Washington Football Team late in the season, they may have provided something of a false positive, with the playoff blowout loss to the reigning champs serving as a reminder that they still have a long way to go before they can compete with the best of the best.

MORE: Eagles still had a successful season, despite getting creamed by the Bucs

3) The 'Slow Start' Award 🐌: The Eagles' first quarter woes

During the aforementioned late season run, the Eagles consistently got out to slow starts, but were able to overcome them. The "slow start" trend continued against Tampa, as the Eagles came out and played like crap in all three phases of the game, surrendering an early 14-0 lead.

1st quarter scoring Eagles Opponent 
Week 12: At Giants 
Week 13: At Jets 12 
Week 15: Washington 10 
Week 16: Giants 
Week 17: At Washington 10 
Wild card round: At Buccaneers 14 

Against a good team, and with a roster not constructed to be able to throw all day, the Eagles were pretty much cooked early. 

4) The 'Reagormortis' Award ☠: Jalen Reagor

After an absolutely dreadful regular season during which he had a paltry 299 receiving yards and had three games in which he actually had negative yards from scrimmage, Reagor punctuated his 2021 campaign with a team-deflating muffed punt.

He miffed another punt later, but was at least able to recover that one.

I know that a common sentiment will be that Reagor absolutely cannot come back to this team under any circumstances in 2022. While I certainly agree, we all know he'll be back, right? Beyond the salary cap hindrances (it'll cost more to cut him than keep him) he's a first round pick, the Eagles have zero depth at wide receiver, and the general manager has control over the 53-man roster. So you may as well mentally prepare yourselves to see him again in 2022. Maybe not as a starter, but he'll be back. Sorry. 🤷‍♂️

(h/t to Joe Weachter of WIP for "Reagormortis.")

5) The 'Soft' Award 🍦: The Eagles' defensive coverages

There was a notable line of demarcation in the quarterbacks that the Eagles faced in 2021. A visual:

Opposing QB QB rating vs. Eagles 
Dak Prescott, Cowboys (Week 3) 143.3 
Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs 131.1 
Justin Herbert, Chargers 123.2 
 Tom Brady, Buccaneers (Playoffs)115.2 
Derek Carr, Raiders 113.6 
Tom Brady, Buccaneers (Week 6) 102.1 
Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers 100.6 
Daniel Jones, Giants 94.0 
Jared Goff, Lions 90.6 
Zach Wilson, Jets 83.9 
Garrett Gilbert, WFT 81.9 
Taylor Heinicke, WFT 81.6 
Teddy Bridgewater, Broncos 79.2 
Trevor Siemian, Saints 74.4 
Matt Ryan, Falcons 71.6 
Jake Fromm / Mike Glennon, Giants 46.8 
Sam Darnold, Panthers 44.5 
*Week 18 practice squad game omitted.

As you would expect, the good quarterbacks performed better against the Eagles than the bad ones. However, the good quarterbacks tended to pick apart the Eagles' defense with ease, as Tom Brady did today. Why? Well, when you play a lot of soft coverage against accurate quarterbacks who get the ball out quickly, they tend to just take what they're given until the ball is in the end zone.

The Eagles had some pockets of success against the Bucs, notably by the pass rush, but the soft coverages on the back end simply made life too easy on the best quarterback to ever play the game.

MORE: Final observations: Bucs 31, Eagles 15 | NFL wild card picks

6) The 'For the Love of God, Feed Him!' Award 🍴: DeVonta Smith

The stat sheet will show that DeVonta Smith was targeted 11 times against the Bucs, but most of that was in garbage time. The Eagles failed to get the ball in the hands of the best weapon in their passing game until it was too late, as Smith only had two targets in the first half, the same as Jalen Reagor, Kenny Gainwell, Miles Sanders, and Quez Watkins. 

For much of the day, Bucs corners were giving Smith healthy cushions, and the Eagles didn't do enough to exploit that.

7) The 'Missed Opportunity' Award 🧱: Dallas Goedert

Goedert had a very good season and he led the team on Sunday with 6 catches for 92 yards, but a crucial drop in the first half helped stall a drive that might have otherwise ended with a touchdown. Against a team like the Bucs, you simply can't squander those opportunities.

8) The 'Shankopotamus' Award 🦛: Arryn Siposs

The Eagles have to find a new punter in 2022. Siposs started the season competently enough, but he fell apart down the stretch. He had two shanked punts in a meaningless game against the Cowboys, and those struggles carried over in the playoffs.

9) The 'Last Dance?' Award 🕺: Jason Kelce

Was this Kelce's last game in the NFL? He earned first-team All-Pro honors earlier this week for the fourth time in his career, and has made a strong case for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He has also won a Super Bowl, and is a Philly legend for life. If he wants to play, he'll play, but he has accomplished everything a center could hope to accomplish in the NFL, and more.

Each year is a new decision on whether Kelce wants to continue forward, and if he does, there's little doubt that he'll continue to play at a high level. We'll see.

10) The 'Optimism' Award 📈: The Eagles' offseason ahead

What will become of Kelce and Brandon Brooks?

Is Jalen Hurts definitively the answer in 2022, or will the Eagles pursue quarterback upgrades?

How will the Eagles’ 3 first-round picks be used?

Will the Eagles make a splash free agency signing with a little more flexibility after an offseason in cap hell in 2021?

All of those questions (and plenty more) will be addressed this offseason, but one that will not is whether Nick Sirianni will be the Eagles' head coach in 2022. After a rocky start, Sirianni was the only first-year head coach to make the playoffs, and he solidified his standing with the team.

From a roster-building perspective, there's hope for the Eagles, when there was very little this time a year ago. As always, the offseason will be its own interesting ride.

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