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November 03, 2023

Mailbag: Predicting the Eagles' record during their upcoming difficult six-game stretch

In a new mailbag, Jimmy Kempski answers Eagles fans' questions about the remaining schedule, the right guard situation and more.

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110323JalenHurtsPatrickMahomes Cheryl Evans/USA TODAY NETWORK

Jalen Hurts and Patrick Mahomes will square off in a Super Bowl rematch after the bye.

A few days ago, we solicited questions for an Eagles mailbag via Twitter or whatever it's called now. Thank you as always for doing half the work for me. This is Part I of a two-part mailbag. Let's just get right to it.

Question from @Footba11Joe: What's your record prediction on this upcoming 6-game stretch against the Cowboys, Chiefs, Bills, 49ers, Cowboys, Seahawks?

I was curious what I predicted back in May when the schedule came out, and oh hey (!), I had them at 7-1 at this point in the season, with "one wonky loss to an inferior team." I pegged that wonky loss to come against the Commanders, but whatever, the sentiment was right. I read through what I wrote then, and I'm sticking with it. I'll save you the click and re-post what we said in May:

• Week 9: Cowboys at Eagles: The 49ers are not the Eagles' biggest threat in the NFC this season, in my opinion. It's the Cowboys, who actually have a legitimate starting quarterback with a very good supporting roster. In each of the last three matchups, we have not gotten to see Dak Prescott vs. Jalen Hurts. Hopefully both quarterbacks are healthy for this one. On a side note, Dak turns 30 in July. 👴

Win. 8-1.

• Week 10: BYE

• Week 11: Eagles at Chiefs: As you can see, the Eagles will be coming off their bye for their rematch of the Super Bowl. Unfortunately for the Birds, so will Andy Reid and the Chiefs. Remember when Reid used to always win games coming off his bye week in Philly? Yeah, well, that hasn't stopped in Kansas City. According to this article published just before the Chiefs' divisional round win over the Jaguars in the playoffs last year, Reid was 27-4 in games after a bye week, including the playoffs. He is now 29-4 if you include their win over the Jags and their Super Bowl win over the Eagles.

Loss. 8-2.

• Week 12: Bills at Eagles: As the Eagles were navigating their way through the NFC playoffs last year, we would occasionally take a peek over at the AFC and wonder who might be the most ideal opponent in the Super Bowl, should the Birds get that far. In my opinion, the Bills would have been a more favorable opponent than the Bengals or Chiefs, since Joe Burrow and Patrick Mahomes are quarterbacks who will patiently pick apart opposing defenses, depending on what looks they are facing, while Josh Allen is more of a wildcard gunslinger. 

I felt that with the Eagles' elite pass rush, they could force Allen into turnovers and believe they can do that in this matchup.

Win. 9-2.

• Week 13: 49ers at Eagles: It's pretty unbelievable that these losers are STILL delusional about what happened in the NFC Championship Game.

Lol, it's May!

It's pretty easy to see why 49ers players like Deebo Samuel, Christian McCaffrey, Jimmie Ward (before he left in free agency), and others have acted like "Uncle Rico" losers about what could have been if only 30 things went differently in that game. It's because their head coach has set that loser tone and his players have followed his lead.

The 49ers couldn't block the Eagles' defensive front that day, and their offensive line has actually taken a step back this offseason.

Win. 10-2.

• Week 14: Eagles at Cowboys: The Eagles haven't won in Dallas since the 2017 season.

Loss. 10-3.

• Week 15: Eagles at Seahawks: The Seahawks have beaten the Eagles in each of their last seven matchups, and this is a really tough two-game road stretch coming off a five-game stretch during which the Eagles will have played games against teams that all won at least 12 games in 2022.

I do think it's worth noting that Jalen Hurts has gotten injured right around this part of the season in each of the last two years. With his new contract, the Eagles are going to want Hurts to tone down his aggressiveness as a runner to some degree as he tries to navigate a full 17-game season. 

Loss. 10-4.

I had forgotten about Shanahan's weird comment that his team would be healthier Week 13 than they would be earlier in the season.

Anyway, I had the Eagles at 13-4 on the season, with them closing out with three straight wins against the Giants, Cardinals, and Giants, and I'm sticking with that, too.

Question from @sumpnclehvuh: Steen had a handful of snaps and looked really solid in a small sample size. If Jurgens isn’t ready to go, should he be in there?

Here are Steen's snaps, by the way:

Small sample size — and he got help — but he did a good job.

Sua Opeta was fine in his first two starts against the Rams and Jets, but I thought he really struggled against the Dolphins and Commanders. So, yes, I do think a switch is warranted. Frankly I was surprised Steen wasn't the first guy off the bench in the first place.

Question from @YoshkeZoidberg: Eli Ricks has been getting an increased amount of playing time as of late. Also, players like Josh Jobe, Josiah Scott, Bradley Roby, and Mario Goodrich have gotten CB snaps as well. How concerned should we be about Kelee Ringo?

Ricks, Scott, Roby, and Goodrich have all played in the slot. Ringo is an outside corner only, in my opinion. I would have been surprised if they played him inside.

It's worth noting that on the day the Eagles drafted Ringo, Howie Roseman was pretty clear that they were going to develop him over time.

"We felt like this was a 20-year-old kid who was a good kid, tremendous physical tools, and we really had an opportunity to develop him," he said. "He doesn't have to come in here and be a superhero. He can learn. We think we have tremendous veterans at that position who can show the way, and he can come in in a role where he's learning, and there's not a lot of pressure on him, and he can develop. We believe in the player and in the person."

I do think that's a fair concern that Jobe is ahead of him on the depth chart, since Jobe hasn't been super effective when he has played. I also think it's worth noting that, in my opinion, Ringo didn't often stand out in training camp. 

He has appealing traits. He's 6'2, 207, and he runs a 4.36, but there's obviously something holding the Eagles back from trusting him in games, for now.

Question from @brockstar91: Should we expect a downward trend of Kenny Gainwell’s snap counts as the season goes on while seeing an increase in D'Andre Swift’s? Gainwell did not see much of the ball (thankfully) in the 2nd half against Washington.

Nick Sirianni has fielded a lot of questions about Gainwell's usage this season, and he keeps coming back to the idea that they don't demote their star players when they make mistakes, so why should they demote Gainwell? Sirianni was asked on Wednesday why Gainwell is still the No. 2 instead of guys like Boston Scott or Rashaad Penny.

"He's our number two because we believe it right now," Sirianni said. "He's the second best running back on our team. That's based off games. That's based off past games. That's based off practice. That's based off the whole body of work, not just — and obviously I understand where that question is coming from, but I didn't get this question last week when he ran over two guys in the Miami game and got into the end zone because we were all singing his praises. And also, the same thing in the playoffs last year when he gave us some very valuable carries.

"But I understand that's your guys' job. But if I were to just say, ‘Okay, Kenny fumbled the ball in the red zone, that's it, he's going to number three,’ then that wouldn't be consistent of what we do with anything. And if Jalen throws an interception, he doesn't come out. And if Brian [Johnson] or myself call a call that results in a turnover, I don't turn the play-call duties over to Kevin [Patullo].

"This happens over and over. There are mistakes that happen. If A.J. drops the ball, we don't say to him — I don't know if he's dropped one in a couple weeks — but we don't say to him, ‘We ain't throwing it to him anymore.’ That's the same philosophy here. Kenny is our number two back because of his body of work."

This time of year we (as in, the media) can't see what happens in practices, so for all we know maybe Gainwell is just a beast from Wednesday to Friday every week. Otherwise, his "body of work" is not impressive. He's averaging 3.0 yards per carry behind an elite run blocking offensive line, and he only has 8 rushing first downs on 51 carries. His career long run is 18 yards, and his career long reception is 20, so he's not providing chunk plays, and he has two fumbles this season on 65 touches.

I can certainly understand Sirianni having his players' backs in press conference settings. He's not going to criticize his players to the media. But the reality is that Gainwell has already been demoted once, and Sirianni can see that he is hurting the offense. If you'll recall, Gainwell opened the season as the RB1 Week 1 in New England, insane as that was. When it was clear that D'Andre Swift is the better player, Gainwell became the No. 2. It's also worth noting that after Gainwell fumbled against Washington last Sunday, he did not get any carries thereafter. (He did get a few checkdowns in the passing game.)

I think we'll start to see Boston Scott mixed in on occasion, and he'll take some of Gainwell's snaps. 

Question from @TheSmartyJones: Is the only thing keeping Britain Covey from being viewed as a top returner the lack of a TD?

Do people not think he's a top returner? He's third in the NFL in punt return average despite calling for significantly fewer fair catches than the other top returners.

Question from @bula412: Jimmy why is it that every time we think the Eagles' D-line has a good matchup they can't catch a whiff of the QB but sometimes they rack up multiple sacks against good teams?

I think that some of that is the opposition's recognition in some of these games that they'll be overmatched so they gameplan accordingly, by getting the ball out quickly, leaving extra guys in to block, etc.

Question from @dirtydickcheney: Did the Eagles effectively just cut Kentavius Street if he doesn't play in 6 games for the Falcons?

Yep. With Julio Jones being added to the 53-man roster, and Cam Jurgens soon returning from IR, the Eagles needed roster spots, and they were able to turn a player they deemed expendable into a small return, even if conditional. 

Question from @phillyphan036: If the Eagles could combine with any team to create a super team who would you pick?

I started by thinking about teams who have good players where the Eagles don't, and I landed on the 49ers. Here's what that 53-man roster would look like:

QB (3): Jalen Hurts, Brock Purdy, Sam Darnold

RB (4): Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, D'Andre Swift, Kyle Juszczyk

WR (6): A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, Brandon Aiyuk, Jauan Jennings, Julio Jones, Britain Covey

TE (3): George Kittle, Dallas Goedert, Jack Stoll

OL (9): Trent Williams, Landon Dickerson, Jason Kelce, Cam Jurgens, Lane Johnson, Jordan Mailata, Jake Brendel, Aaron Banks, Colton McKivitz

Edge (5): Haason Reddick, Nick Bosa, Josh Sweat, Chase Young, Brandon Graham

iDL (6): Jalen Carter, Javon Hargrave, Arik Armstead, Jordan Davis, Fletcher Cox, Milton Williams

LB (4): Fred Warner, Dre Greenlaw, Oren Burks, Nakobe Dean

CB (5): Charvarius Ward, Darius Slay, James Bradberry, Isaiah Oliver, Deommodore Lenoir

S (5): Talanoa Hufanga, Reed Blankenship, Tashaun Gipson, Kevin Byard, Sydney Brown

STs (3): Jake Elliott, Mitch Wishnowski, Rick Lovato

Question from @TCDinthe303: Given your experience at away games over the years, have Eagles fans traveled anywhere close to the numbers we’ve seen over the  past 2 years? Post-Covid boom or is this a trend?

I think the 2017 season was the most impressive I've seen from traveling Eagles fans. They completely overtook the Chargers' soccer stadium early in the season:

And then they took over L.A. again against the Rams later that season.

And then near the end of the regular season, there were so many Eagles fans at MetLife Stadium that they helped win a game.

Facing 4th and Goal from the six-yard line, and only 48 seconds left in the game, the Giants needed a touchdown to take the lead. When suddenly, right tackle Bobby Hart jumped early and was penalized for a false start. That made it 4th and Goal from the 11, a major difference.

On 4th and Goal from the 11, an Eli Manning pass fell harmlessly incomplete in the back of the end zone. Manning credited Eagles fans with making a lot of noise in that situation, messing up their cadence. 

"There's not a whole lot of great 4th and Goal from the 10 plays," Manning said. "You have more options from the 5. We had a different play called, where you get four guys in the end zone, five guys with the back, possibly. From the 10, it's just hard to get everyone in the end zone with routes. It's unfortunate. We had the false start. It's a tough situation. I don't blame Bobby. 

"At home, it was just loud. The center, Brett Jones, couldn't hear me call the cadence. You don't think that would happen at home, but I guess when you only win two games you got a lot of Eagles fans and we couldn't hear the cadence. That's why we jumped offsides."

I do think Eagles fans have had really good turnouts on the road so far this season, but it hasn't risen to 2017 levels just yet.

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