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January 04, 2024

Five things the Eagles need to do in their regular season finale vs. the Giants

The Eagles need to stop beating themselves. Here's how they can do that.

Eagles NFL
010423AJBrown Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports

Getting the ball to A.J. Brown would be a good idea.

After dropping four of their last five games, including an extremely damaging home loss to the putrid Arizona Cardinals, the Philadelphia Eagles need to get their act to together before the start of the playoffs. 

Normally we publish our "five matchups to watch" between the Eagles and their upcoming opponent, but we just did that two weeks ago for the Eagles and Giants, and, well, this game is more about the Eagles vs. themselves than their opponents. In lieu of analyzing matchups this week, let's instead look at five things the Eagles must do to start to get back on track.

1) Win in the run game

After the first five games of the 2023 season, the Eagles were averaging over 100 more rushing yards per game than their opponents. They were gashing opposing defenses with the run, and also shutting down the run defensively. Their domination in the trenches waned as the season progressed, and eventually became a weakness.

Rushing yards Eagles Opponent +/- +/-, season 
Week 1, Patriots 97 79 +18 +18 
Week 2, Vikings 259 28 +231 +249 
Week 3, Buccaneers 201 41 +160 +409 
Week 4, Commanders 104 107 -3 +406 
Week 5, Rams 159 54 +105 +511 
Week 6, Jets 80 89 -9 +502 
Week 7, Dolphins 99 45 +54 +556 
Week 8, Commanders 59 84 -25 +531 
Week 9, Cowboys 109 73 +36 +567 
Week 11, Chiefs 114 168 -54 +513 
Week 12, Bills 185 173 +12 +525 
Week 13, 49ers 46 146 -100 +425 
Week 14, Cowboys 106 138 -32 +393 
Week 15, Seahawks 178 100 +78 +471 
Week 16, Giants 170 106 +64 +535 
Week 17, Cardinals 91 221 -130 +405 

I think that what stands out most in the chart above is that in the first nine games of the season, the Eagles allowed an average of 66.7 rushing yards per game. That was tops in the NFL at the time. In the last seven games, they're allowing 150.3 rushing yards per game. For context, the worst run defense in the NFL in terms of rushing yards allowed per game is the Arizona Cardinals, who are allowing 143.5 rushing yards per game.

During that same seven-game stretch of bad run defense, the Eagles' defense has played more snaps than any other team in the NFL. They can't get off the field because they can't stop the run, but also, they also can't stop the run because they can't get off the field.

2) Get A.J. Brown feeling good again

When the Eagles started playing poorly, Brown cut off his usual sessions with the media, and speculation grew on why he was upset. On Wednesday, Brown spoke for 12 minutes to clear the air.

The most interesting revelation during his media session was that he and Jalen Hurts improvised the deep ball down the field in the waning moments of the Seahawks game. After the game, Nick Sirianni took the bullet for Brown and Hurts, saying that the Eagles hoped to draw a pass interference call on the play, an obviously asinine strategy.

Sirianni deserves kudos for taking the bullet, and Brown deserves credit for (eventually) taking accountability for that play. He's a great player and a good teammate.

Over his first eight games of the season, Brown had 60 catches for 939 yards and 5 TDs. I remember Jason Kelce standing in the locker room after the second Washington game and acknowledging that Brown was the Eagles' offense.

Over the last eight games, Brown has 45 catches for 508 yards and 2 TDs. Those are still good numbers, but a far cry from the tear he was on earlier this season.

The Eagles would be wise to try to get the ball to Brown early and often so the talk around him is centered around what he is doing on the field instead of being distracted by things going on off of it.

3) Get healthy

The Cowboys will be motivated to beat the Commanders Week 18, and I imagine they'll take the game seriously, seeing as they lost in Washington Week 18 last year when they were still playing for potential NFC East title. Meanwhile, if the Commanders lose, they have a chance at the No. 2 overall pick in the draft, which would guarantee one their top two choices at quarterback, whoever they may be. They also have an owner who doesn't mind tanking.

If the Cowboys win, they clinch the NFC East and whatever happens in the Eagles-Giants game won't matter at all in terms of playoff seeding.

On the one hand, the Eagles desperately need an impressive win just so that they can remember what wins feel like. The city needs to see a win, just for the sake of its own sanity.

The Eagles could also use a healthy DeVonta Smith, Darius Slay, Zach Cunningham, Jordan Davis, and Avonte Maddox for the playoffs, so they should be careful about balancing the benefits of beating the Giants vs. having as healthy and fresh a team as possible for the playoffs.

4) Wake up, pass rush

In the Eagles' six regular season games in December and January, the Eagles racked up 34 sacks. They then sacked Daniel Jones five times in the divisional round, and knocked out two quarterbacks in the NFC Championship Game.

In their five games in December/January this season, the Eagles have seven sacks. For the amount of draft/financial resources that the Eagles have tied up in their defensive line, seven sacks in five games simply isn't acceptable.

The 2023 Giants have allowed 83 sacks, second most in a single season in NFL history. They have one good player on their offensive line, LT Andrew Thomas, and then a bunch of other guys who shouldn't be starting in the NFL. The others' PFF rankings:

LG Justin Pugh: Ranked 76th out of 79 guards.
C John Michael-Schmitz: Ranked 36th out of 36 center.
RG Ben Bredeson: Ranked 75th out of 79 guards.
RT Matt Peart: Peart has only played 66 snaps this season, but the Giants thought so little of him that when starting RT Evan Neal went down, they poached Tyre Phillips off of the Eagles' practice squad and started him instead.

This Giants offensive line presents an opportunity for the Eagles' pass rush to have some success and carry some confidence over into the playoffs. If the pass rush can't get out of its rut, then the Eagles aren't going anywhere in the playoffs, because the back seven sure as hell isn't good enough to stop the Cowboys, Lions, or 49ers if the pass rush isn't causing havoc.

5) Call a normal game

In the Eagles' loss to the Cardinals, the coaching staff got way too caught up in trying to manage too many different things once they were faced with a 1st on 20 on their penultimate offensive drive of the game, instead of focusing on what mattered most... scoring a touchdown.

At the end of the first half the previous week against the Giants, while trying to drive for a score they purposely wasted time so as not to give Tommy freaking DeVito any time to score on an ensuing possession. In doing so, they ran out of time themselves and had to settle for a field goal.

Stop getting cute and score points.

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