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February 08, 2022

Eytan Shander: What the Eagles can learn from Super Bowl-bound Bengals and Rams

Opinion Eagles
Joe-Burrow_020822_usat Jay Biggerstaff/USA TODAY Sports

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow.

Why can’t you be more like, Andrew?

In this case it’s not "Andrew," but rather "Bengals" or "Rams." Still, the point remains. At some point in our lives we heard that question as means to drive home a point – we messed up and the good kid in a way the class/neighborhood would never. If you never heard this comparison, congrats, you were the one my mom was using in the comparison.

The Eagles can learn a lot from both teams in the Super Bowl as they each got here in a different way, but both justifying the result. The Rams took major risks, as did the Bengals, but those risks just looked different. It’s human fan nature to look at our team and think they were a play or two away. “Man, if they only won this game, or made that play, then they too would be in the Super Bowl.”

The gap between the Eagles and either of the teams playing on Sunday is much wider than a tinker or two. There are organizational philosophies that allowed franchise-changing decisions to be made. There was confidence behind these moves and – most importantly – time allotted to truly gauge if the decision was correct.

The Eagles like to fire people when things don’t go well. Even if they were going well but didn’t go well for a year, they cave and fire. Sometimes it’s a scapegoat, sometimes it’s needed, but change comes quickly at the NovaCare Center – outside of the obvious.

Let’s be perfectly clear: the Eagles are on the right track with certain people inside the building and there is plenty to build on from last season. But – there’s always a “but” when you aren’t playing in the Super Bowl – they have work to do. We should all look at the risk/reward moves the Rams made and the faith placed on the QB by the Bengals as good things. They are the good kids on the block.

The Rams started the process back in 2019 by acquiring Jalen Ramsey and have since emptied their draft cupboard each year to make big deals. It culminated with a move this year to land Von Miller, immediately making them the most feared defensive front in football. But it was more than that, way more, as the Rams identified their issue – the QB – and addressed it by trading their first-round pick for Matthew Stafford. Their second and third rounders already went to Miller, but LA wasn’t done.

So much focus on the Rams dealings is on what they got back, but getting out of bad deals or bad fits is also a huge element, and one that the Eagles should be focusing on here in Philadelphia. L.A. dealt that fourth-round pick to Houston along with Brandin Cooks in 2020, then proceeded to take Van Jefferson in that draft. Jefferson is clearly fitting in as a deep threat on a stacked squad of receivers. They even sent their sixth-round pick this year to the Patriots to sure up their backfield by acquiring Sony Michel. A necessary back-up after the Rams saw Cam Akers go down.

The point is they never stopped being aggressive and knew when it was time to move on from any old guard. Be it their QB in Jared Goff or a sign of the losing – no true fault of his own – in Cooks, the Rams recognized how vital it is for a near-contender to use draft currency to acquire star players.

The Eagles can do that. They have plenty of draft capital and can build around this team while bringing in a couple of veteran studs. They have to take a risk — a calculated risk that has room to withstand a year or two of not winning the Super Bowl. The idea being you build a year or so this way and still can make a deal like the Miller trade in-season, kind of like what the Eagles did with Jay Ajayi back in 2017.

Does it feel like that now? Not to me. The Eagles drafting and staying young means they aren’t truly invested in Jalen Hurts past this upcoming season, unless they do the unthinkable – follow the Bengals breadcrumbs.

Joe Burrow came into the NFL with much higher pedigree and expectations than that of Hurts. Burrow has also played longer as a starter and had the benefit of a certain organizational commitment behind him. Hurts doesn’t have that right now, but that could change in the draft.

Cincinnati’s lesson in all of this is once you identify your franchise, you get him all of the weapons. Philadelphia can’t stop with just drafting Devonta Smith and keeping Quez Watkins. The Bengals went all-in on receivers and backs around Burrow. They went young, but heavy on one position. The only way the Eagles can truly follow that path would be taking another WR in the first round or going the Rams' route and trading 2 picks for a monster talent.

The Eagles still need help on defense – more their coach than players – and may need to address the offensive line. Burrow isn’t as mobile as Hurts, and we’ve seen the Bengals signal caller on his back far too often. It’s hard to ignore that the conviction of sticking behind a QB like the Bengals are doing with Burrow is far more than just drafting him, it’s continuing to put top talent around him.

It's embarrassing to Hurts if the Eagles bring back the same group of receivers. They have a workhorse – when healthy – in Miles Sanders at running back. They also boast one of the better pass-catching tight ends in the NFL. It’s certainly a start, but it's not enough.

The crossroads for the Eagles comes at the draft, but the direction is defined by both teams playing this weekend. Howie Roseman and the team can slowly build on defense — using all of those picks to either select players or trade back and pile more picks, OR they can commit to Hurts like the Rams did Stafford or the Bengals did Burrow.

The only way to move in the proper direction would be to use at least one first-round pick on another WR and/or use the others to make a trade for a veteran at any position. Turn off the radio, Jeff. Take down Twitter, Howie. Pay attention to what “Andrew” is doing on Sunday.

NFL PICK OF THE WEEK

DraftKings Same Game Parlay: +225 (Rams Race to 30 AND 2+ Rams Sacks)

Our last NFL pick of the season is a nice way to combine two trends while getting a fantastic return. The Rams are first to 20 points in nine straight games, making it hard to either come back or keep a lead against them. I like a higher scoring game as we see the clock run a little slower in these games, so the Rams stand a way better chance to score 30 first, even if they are behind early, we’ve seen them get to 20 before their opponent.

Joe Burrow gets sacked a bunch. Don’t focus too much on the weaker fronts of the Chiefs and Raiders, but more so the Titans and Rams. Burrow was sacked 9 times by Tennessee and should go down more than one time on Sunday. He was sacked at least three times in each of the final five regular season games.


Follow Eytan on Twitter: @shandershow

You can listen to Eytan on @foxphlgambler (Mon.-Weds., 6-8 p.m.)

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