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October 22, 2021

Eagles mailbag: Is Tyree Jackson the next Darren Waller?

In our Eagles chat on Wednesday, there were a lot of questions that we could not get to in time or other questions we did answer but could use more color. And so, let's do a mailbag post to answer some of the overflow, as well as some commonly asked questions on Twitter and via email.

Also, programming note: Because there were a lot of good questions unanswered in the chat, we'll break this up into two mailbags, with the next one coming on Sunday morning.

Question from Dan: If Tyree Jackson comes in and plays as well or better than Dallas Goedert for a 2-3 game stretch, do you trade Goedert? Or is that too small a sample size?

The trade deadline is November 2, which falls after the Lions game next Sunday. I don't think Jackson will play this Sunday against the Raiders, and if he does, it'll be in a very small role. So really, he probably only has one game to look like Darren Waller for the Eagles to say, "OK, Goedert, clean out your locker, there's a new tight end in town." And even if he did unexpectedly dominate against the Lions, yes, I would say that it would be far too small a sample size to throw all my eggs into the Tyree Jackson basket.

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Jackson was the surprise standout from this year's training camp. From the first week of camp until he got hurt in joint practices with the Patriots, Jackson consistently made highlight reel plays. He's a 6'7, 250-pound beast of an athlete who has the chance to develop into a legitimate NFL tight end, after converting from quarterback in college. 

It was interesting to hear Howie Roseman twice bring up Jackson, unprompted, when discussing reasons he felt comfortable trading Zach Ertz. Clearly, the Eagles really like him, which is understandable, given the exciting camp that he had.

But we should probably also keep in mind that Jackson has literally never appeared in an NFL regular season game. The Eagles will face a tight end this Sunday with similar athletic traits as Jackson in the aforementioned Waller. It should be noted that Waller was drafted in 2015, and through his first four years in the NFL, he had 18 catches for 178 yards before he finally broke out in Year 5.

It'll take time for Jackson to grow as a positional player, especially at tight end, where a lot of very talented players find that success comes slowly. I wouldn't expect amazing results immediately, and I think it was probably a little premature on Roseman's part to hype him up before he's ever even played a snap as a pro.

Question from Play calling for Play making: You aptly pointed out in your 10 awards that no matter how good a run defense the Bucs have, you are making them a perfect one if you capitulate that part of the game before it has even begun.

The trickle effect goes: No run game > no play action > no jeopardy for defenders > defense attacks every play > no easy throws against a set defense that knows what’s coming > Hurts looks bad trying to do what he’s not great at most of the game, instead of building his confidence.

Any other examples you can think of players clearly being used incorrectly?

Off the top of my head:

  1. Alex Singleton being asked to cover whole middle of field 85 percent of game
  2. Darius Slay and Steven Nelson being wasted in the flats
  3. Josh Sweat lining up at 5 tech
  4. DeVonta Smith being exposed to easy double teams with no motion and no bunches when they see a bracket happening.

That's quite a question. I agree with with almost all of it, but would point out that Jonathan Gannon has recently made efforts to better use Slay's and Nelson's man coverage skills. Things I would add, like you, off the top of my head: 

  1. The absence of pre-snap motion.
  2. For as many times as Jalen Hurts has taken off running, the Eagles have rarely called designed QB runs.
  3. Finesse run plays when you have athletic brawlers like Jason Kelce, Jordan Mailata, and Lane Johnson, plus a guy who is better equipped to maul defenders than outflank them in Landon Dickerson. Run it at them and make them make tough tackles.
  4. Too many manufactured touches for Jalen Reagor, who hasn't done enough with them.
  5. The absurd number of screens, in general.
  6. Like Sweat, Ryan Kerrigan playing five-tech, though I guess he's been ineffective wherever he has played.
  7. Lack of blitzing.

Question from Pragmatic: I get that in coaching you want to try and confuse the other team, but the Eagles offense seems to think that they outthink the other team with calling pass plays on run and pass downs, as opposed to just doing what you do and do it well which then helps you do the plays that catch the other team off guard?

I think that what you're referring to is an identity, and I agree that the Eagles' offense doesn't have one.

Question from Shady'sTip50Cents: Now that we are passed the hard stretch of games that most realistic fans knew the Eagles couldn't win, do we wipe the slate clean and judge Hurts and Sirianni on their performance going forward?

No. You judge them on what they do going forward, but you don't wipe the slate clean. Their performances against the good teams are more valuable than the ones against weaker opponents, in my opinion.

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Question from Buck: What are the odds Sirianni has been told not to run Miles Sanders more than 5-10 times per game? It would seemingly keep tread on the tires, especially if they were considering a second contract.

I don't believe they should pay Sanders big money on a second contract. But I think that if they do, one of the things they will point to is his mileage, or lack thereof. Through two full seasons and his first six games of 2021, Sanders has 496 career touches. Derrick Henry, by comparison, is on pace for 504 touches, this season.

And then even going back to Sanders' time at Penn State, because he played behind Saquon Barkley for two years, he only had 308 touches in three seasons. I don't think there are any directives to specifically limit Sanders, but his low mileage is something the Eagles will consider when the time comes for them to do a new deal with him, or not.

Question from Newbie: Have you considered looking more deeply at Cox's snaps? I know he's been ineffective in the stat sheet, but I remember watching the replay of the Hargrave strip sack of Dak Prescott that Cox caught for a TD and thinking it looked like he was almost not trying to rush and was maybe more in a contain role for Dak's rushing ability. I'm just wondering if maybe Gannon isn't using him all the time to actually rush the passer (which would be dumb), so there's additional reason he hasn't been as good as expected other than decline (which is likely also a cause).

I was going to show Cox's ineffectiveness after the Chiefs game, but Jeff McLane of the Inquirer beat me too the topic, ha, so I showed Derek Barnett's struggles instead. But yes, I specifically watched Cox a few weeks ago, and my biggest takeaway was that he doesn't get double-teamed with anywhere near the level of frequency that many claim. He hasn't taken advantage of his one-on-one opportunities, and when doubled, there was little effort to just make a play anyway, like he used to.

Have there been times when he's been asked to two-gap, as opposed to always being able to pin his ears back and try to penetrate into the backfield, like he had the luxury of doing in Jim Schwartz's defense? Sure, but that shouldn't excuse his ineffectiveness when he had gotten his opportunities to be disruptive.

Since that Chiefs game, Cox has been better, but still not the same guy he once was by any stretch. And to be clear, "what he once was" was an elite player, the second best interior defensive lineman in the NFL behind only Aaron Donald, a standard that is difficult to maintain. But so far in 2021, even with better play the last few weeks, while still a good player, the dropoff has been sharp.

Question from RKotite: Assuming the Birds run out the schedule and are, say, a 5 win team, Sirianni is probably back, but are all the assistant coaches? Who'd be most vulnerable at this point?

Here's the rest of the Eagles' schedule:

Week Opponent Record 
Raiders 4-2 
Lions 1-5 
Chargers 4-2 
10 Broncos 3-4 
11 Saints 3-2 
12 Giants 1-5 
13 Jets 1-4 
15 WFT 2-4 
16 Giants 1-5 
17 WFT 2-4 
18 Cowboys 5-1 
TOTAL 11 games 27-38 

If they lose at least four of the seven matchups against the Lions, Broncos, Giants x2, Jets, and WFT x2, those games are very likely to look very ugly. Forget the assistants. I can't imagine Sirianni keeps his job with a 5-12 record. 

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