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October 06, 2021

Eytan Shander: Which Eagles players' stocks are rising, and which are cratering after first four games?

Opinion Eagles
DeVonta_Smith_6_Eagles_49ers_Frese.jpg Kate Frese/for PhillyVoice

PHILADELPHIA - SEPTEMBER 19: DeVonta Smith #6 of the Philadelphia Eagles looks on during the game against the San Francisco 49ers at Lincoln Financial Field on September 19, 2021 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Kate Frese for PhillyVoice)

We’ve hit the all-important quarter (kinda) mark of the regular season, so break out the red pen and let’s do some grading!

I thought it would be better to just simply look at where guys stand right now, more from a standpoint of whether their stock is trending in a positive or negative direction. My teachers always gave me plenty of time to pull out of any tailspin – whether I used that to my advantage is a different story. Grades are finite, so we want to look at how a player or coach is trending. First up is the offense.


I don’t know what the hell the Eagles are going to do with three possible top-10 picks in the first-round next year, but I like what I see from the guy here now. Things haven’t been perfect but he’s growing in front of our eyes. The accuracy improved from Dallas to KC, and he’s making plays with both his arm and his legs. The confidence returned as well after that loss to Dallas. I can’t speak for Jeff Lurie or Howie Roseman, but Hurts is a starter in this league. This season is about teaching moments and growth, and Hurts appears to be a willing student.


What is going on here? It’s clear the team loves Kenny Gainwell in passing, red zone, scoring situations, but the shock of seeing Sanders relegated is still evident. It’s hard to think any preseason reports or discussion about Sanders struggling to catch the ball are still carrying over to his limited playtime. What’s even more perplexing about it is the productivity we saw with Sanders in the limited opportunity. It’s the NFL and you need more than one running back, but Sanders is a talent with great open-field speed, and big play capability on the ground. He’s not trending in the right direction, but most of that isn’t his fault.


The rookie looks good. He’s on pace to have a 1,000 yard season in the air, but the scoring could improve. We also saw a TD taken off the board because he stepped out of bounds. Smith’s productivity – like everyone else not named Hurts – is still tied to a new system for everyone involved. The skill set is there, and his ability to work open space is as advertised. Smith is no joke in the open field. If anything, he’s been victim to Hurts and this offense spreading the ball around, but it’s clear he’s the most talented pass-catcher on the Eagles. Great job, Howie.


This isn’t like Goedert has fallen off the face of the planet, rather he’s just there. That’s not what is expected from a TE playing for a brand-new contract, especially with a top-10 (at least) TE tag associated with him. Maybe a product of the offense or simply a lack of true trust with the QB, but Goedert hasn’t seen more than five targets in any of the Eagles four games. The Birds seemed to have no problem bumping him up at the expense of Zach Ertz, so it’s a little frustrating to see their top choice disappear at times.


All three of these guys have maximized their opportunities in a back-up type role. Ertz can take full advantage of not being the top target on the field, getting behind some defenses for big opportunities. Gainwell is basically splitting time with Sanders and looking great from a pass-catching standpoint. He’s able to seamlessly step in and the offense doesn’t lose a beat. Finally, Watkins is the definition of “make the most of every opportunity” as he’s been downfield, and functional in the quick screen game. Great to see all three of these guys stepping up.

JASON KELCE:  📈 (Through the roof)

Kelce being the only healthy/available starting OL on Sunday was a great microcosm for how important he’s been to this franchise. I know the speech and crushing beers will always get likes on social, but Kelce has been one of the most important players in the history of the Eagles OL and should always be celebrated for being out there. Even when things were rough, he took ownership and stayed out there.

Now the Defense.


Javon Hargrave is one of the few bright spots on this Eagles defense. Not much here to add to what’s already been said about this young man. He’s dominant and the only thing keeping this Eagles front from being torched even more on the ground. He’s also picking up slack and then some pressuring the QB. If Cox is absent, we know Hargrave will produce. Possibly the lone bright spot on this defense. Cox is simply not producing nor is he acting as any decoy swallowing up three linemen at once. There’s some flash from Josh Sweat but losing Brandon Graham has proven to be significant. Oh, and there’s the whole thing about being gashed on the ground the past two weeks.


This is rough. Rough to watch, rough to write about, just not fun. The Eagles continue to neglect this position and can’t get it right when they pay attention to it. Watching guys struggle to cover and make tackles on alternating plays is insanely frustrating. This unit stinks and doesn’t even deserve to be mentioned.


The team is top-heavy with little to no depth. Having Rodney McCloud back is better than the alternative, but we’ve seen this unit get torched for both yards and points over the past two weeks. Granted, their boss seems to be lost at times, but not having many “big plays” from Darius Slay, or much at all from Stephen Nelson adds to the mountain of frustrations. DJ Moore is no slouch and Robby Anderson can get downfield. This isn’t the time to be trending down for this secondary.


Nobody has a better bang for their buck on this team than the punter. He’s been amazing. Credit Andy Reid for keeping the Eagles best player off the field last week.


The offense is complicated, and he has a bunch of young players, not to mention a severly injured offensive line. But this is the most undisciplined team in the NFL, and they are without much creativity in the offense, especially pre-snap. His explanation for not running the ball basically blamed the QB in an RPO setting. Plenty of time to turn this around, but he’s the head coach, no longer in charge just one position, it would be nice to see him act like it.


OK, this one is worthy of a grade. We’ve all been there, where a teacher just knows nothing is going to change, so they fail you halfway through the semester. Gannon is the only one mentioned here who truly looks hopeless. They get gashed on the ground and torched in the air. His explanations about why are barley coherent. The absurd number of penalties. All of this adds up to a coach who has no control over anything. The players aren’t helping him by any means, but he was brought in to replace a DC who had control over his side of the football.

NFL PICK OF THE WEEK: Titans (-4 ) at Jaguars

This is a combination bet as we marry a narrative and probability to hit this on Sunday. The obvious play here is taking full advantage of the Urban Meyer situation, and how he may not even make it to Sunday’s game. The Jags also aren’t good, so it’s not hard to further push their own misery, especially with them having a coach controversy. The other part of this is that the Titans aren’t “lose to the Jets then the Jags” bad, even without their top two WRs. It looks like they get one of them back this week, and the line is simply reactionary to Tennessee losing last week. They bounce back this week in resounding fashion. Take the Titans with the points (four right now, via

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Follow Eytan on Twitter: @shandershow

You can listen to Eytan on The Middle w/ Brooks, Mayes and Eytan (Mon.-Fri., 11 a.m.-1 p.m.) and on @foxphlgambler (Mon.-Weds., 6-8 p.m.)

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