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November 11, 2023

What they're saying: The Eagles are elite, but not perfect

The Eagles are strong, but the secondary might be their Achilles heel.

Eagles NFL
Eagles-Darius-Slay_102423_USAT Eric Hartline/USA Today Sports

The Eagles are good, but the secondary overall hasn't consistently been.

The Eagles are on their bye week and after a down-to-the-wire win over Dallas, everyone probably needed some kind of breather. 

Still, Philadelphia's never been great at sitting still during football season. So, assuming you're not going frantic searching for a Princess Diana jacket, here's what they're saying about the Birds during the (relative) bye week quiet...

At the halfway mark

The Ringer

Now that the NFL season is halfway through, the staff over at The Ringer took everything we've learned from it so far to readjust their predictions for midseason, and at a league-best 8-1, many of its writers have the Eagles going far. 

Six out of the panel of eight have the Eagles winning the NFC title (San Francisco was the pick for the remaining two) and two have the Eagles fully completing the journey back and winning the Super Bowl. 

Wrote Danny Kelly of the Eagles in particular:

The Eagles are the league’s most deep and talented team from top to bottom and just have too many advantages over their opponents, in both personnel and scheme. With a strong offensive line and a uniquely talented quarterback in Jalen Hurts, the tush push essentially changes the math for Philly, giving the team an extra down with which to work—both in short-yardage situations and near the goal line. It also helps to have A.J. Brown as a near-automatic ball winner downfield, and DeVonta Smith is one of the best no. 2 receivers in the league. Plus, they’ve still got a great rotation of pass rushers that can help them close out games. Put it all together, and this squad is built to win it all. [The Ringer]

Right on the money

Reuben Frank | NBC Sports Philadelphia

Their case is definitely helped by having Jalen Hurts under center, who in year 4, is not only in the running for MVP again (he's second in the odds behind Patrick Mahomes) but has seen his accuracy as a passer improve once again too, jumping from a 66.5 completion percentage last season up to 68.9 for this current one. 

Hurts' throwing accuracy has improved substantially year over year since his rookie season in 2020, to an absurd degree even as Reuben Frank writes:

Only six quarterbacks in NFL history have completed 52 percent or fewer of their passes as a rookie and had one season later at any point in their career at 65 percent. But it took Jim Plunkett 15 years to get there, Eli Manning 14 years, Steve Bartkowski 10 years, Sammy Baugh nine years, Alex Smith eight years and Cody Carlson five years.

Hurts did it in his third year and he’ll do it again in his fourth year. So Hurts will own the two-earliest seasons ever at 65 percent or better in NFL history by a QB who was at 52 percent or worse as a rookie.

Unprecedented improvement. 

Hurts has been over 73 percent four times this year, already the most in Eagles history with eight games to go. [NBCSP]


The Achilles heel?


But for as good as the Eagles have been – from the trenches to quarterback to receiver and so on – there's a glaring weakness: That secondary is struggling. 

The middle of the field is highly exploitable in the passing game. That's been evident for weeks. But if the win over Dallas last week exposed anything else, it's that man coverage also causes the Eagles problems, especially if there's a high-end receiver like CeeDee Lamb out on the field. 

Mismatches happened a lot, and it nearly cost the Eagles, even though they found a way in the end, as this breakdown from Dan Orlovsky shows:

The good news about that, however, is there are an extra few days to try and figure something out there. 

The bye probably couldn't have arrived at a better time. 

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