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December 09, 2022

Mailbag: When is the soonest the Eagles can possibly lock up the 1 seed?

Jimmy answers this and more with his latest Eagles mailbag...

Eagles NFL
120922NickSirianni Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni.

In our Eagles chat on Thursday, there were a lot of questions that we could not get to in time or other questions we did answer but could use more color. And so, let's do a mailbag post to answer some of the overflow, as well as some commonly asked questions on Twitter and via email. This will be Part I of a two-part mailbag.

Question from Austin_Jon: When is the soonest the Eagles can possibly lock up the 1 seed?

Messing around on ESPN’s playoff machine, there’s a scenario in which they could clinch Week 15. They would need all of the following to occur:

  1. Eagles beat the Giants and Bears.
  2. Cowboys lose to the Texans and Jaguars.
  3. Vikings lose to the Lions and Colts.
  4. 49ers lose to or tie either the Buccaneers or Seahawks.

So that's not super likely. If you are really into the tiebreaker/clinching genre of NFL coverage, I have two follow recommendations:

  1. Advanced level: Joe Ferraira
  2. Sicko level: Deniz Selman

What's "sicko level," You might ask? This:

Question from I believe: Who made the bigger mistake: The Giants for releasing James Bradberry, or the Titans for trading A.J. Brown?

The Titans made the bigger mistake for trading Brown, and I don't really think it's close, but I also don't think the Giants have gotten enough heat for getting rid of their best cornerback. The logic behind releasing him was that he counted for a lot of money on the salary cap, which they needed to sign their rookie draft class. But they didn't necessarily need to release him. They could have very easily converted his base salary into a big signing bonus and dumped his cap charges into future years. It's a tool the Eagles and many other good front offices around the league have used for years, but it also requires an owner willing to write big checks.

Despite owning a team in the NFL's biggest market, the Maras have shown that they are not so willing to write those big checks:

And so, Bradberry was released, and the Eagles capitalized by happily picking him up. 

At 53-man cutdowns, the Giants had the injury-prone Adoree Jackson, and then otherwise a group of cornerbacks with a combined 11 career NFL starts, none of whom individually had more than nine career starts. They surprisingly started 7-2, but have since gone 0-2-1, partly because of their depleted secondary. There is zero question that they would be a better team with Bradberry, who they could still employ if they had simply wrote him a check.

Question from That Guy: Are you nervous about the longevity of Hurt's game? He's already at 132 rushing attempts and is on pace to get close to the record set by Lamar. I know he's a bigger guy but still, it just takes one defender to alligator roll him.

Hurts took a cheap shot near the sideline in a preseason game against the Jets, and the officials let the Lions hit him late on slides all day way back in Week 1, but off the top of my head it's hard to think of too many times when he has taken a big shot. Nick Sirianni was actually asked about the teaching points in terms of Hurts protecting himself recently. Here's what he said:

"That's something to me that's very instinctual. Don't take hits, obviously, and don't go to the sideline and play what we say, play pound on the sideline. Keep the ball on your outside arm so you can lower your shoulder and play pound. I'm not looking for him to do that. Slide when you need to. Understand that the slide has to start before the guys get up on you, so you don't — like we saw in Green Bay. There was one that the fans wanted a call on, but he started to slide late and 20, Ford, got a hit on him because he was already in motion. So, start the slide early.

"But things you can't teach is how he moves his body so the guy doesn't get a clean shot on him. Or the stick the foot in the ground and make the guy miss, but also having this feel for where guys are around you. Okay, if this guy squared me up, am I going to stick and miss? How do I teach him where all these guys are around him? That's instinctual. He's got great instincts there.

"But there are things like I just mentioned that we will tell him how we don't want him to take a hit on those. Obviously we have those coaching points, but there is so much instinct on Jalen's part that he's making our job easy as coaches, because we don't have to tell him too much on that."

I think that's about right. What makes Hurts and the Eagles' offense so dangerous is that they can win in so many different ways, and that starts with Hurts' ability both as a runner and a passer. So I think there are teaching points the staff can instill in him in helping him avoid taking big shots, but I don't think the solution at any point for the rest of this season will be, "stop running so much."

Question from Squidward Tentacles: If Minshew moves on after the season, do you address QB2 via free agency or the draft? Any potential names that interest you? Thank you, as always Lord Jimmy.

There is a long-ass list of quarterbacks scheduled to be free agents next offseason. I'll list them in order of current average per year pay:

  1. Tom Brady, Buccaneers
  2. Baker Mayfield, Rams
  3. Sam Darnold, Panthers
  4. Jimmy Garolppolo, 49ers
  5. Teddy Bridgewater, Dolphins
  6. Daniel Jones, Giants
  7. Mason Rudolph, Steelers
  8. Jacoby Brissett, Browns
  9. Case Keenum, Bills
  10. Joe Flacco, Jets
  11. Geno Smith, Seahawks
  12. Andy Dalton, Saints
  13. Mike White, Jets
  14. C.J. Beathard, Jaguars
  15. Kyle Allen, Texans
  16. Taylor Heinicke, Commanders
  17. Lamar Jackson, Ravens
  18. Blaine Gabbert, Buccaneers
  19. Chase Daniel, Chargers
  20. Chad Henne, Chiefs
  21. Nick Mullens, Vikings
  22. Drew Lock, Seahawks
  23. Brandon Allen, Bengals
  24. Nate Sudfeld, Lions
  25. Cooper Rush, Cowboys
  26. Gardner Minshew, Eagles

In summary, there will be no shortage of options. I think the Eagles would probably like to keep Minshew. To be determined what kind of starting opportunities he'll find on the open market. Personally, I'm skeptical that he'll find a landing spot in which he's deemed the obvious starter, so we'll see what happens there.

If Minshew does move on, I think that one player that Sirianni has never been bashful about expressing his love for is Jacoby Brissett, who played well for the Browns this season, and who I think could gel with Hurts in the quarterback room.

Question from Zirk: When Chauncey Gardner-Johnson comes back, what happens to Reed Blankenship?

He'll resume his role as a backup safety and core special teamer.

Question from Willie Mays Hayes: Hi Jimmy. I wanted to know if you noticed whose special teams snaps Christian Elliss took last week. And was his added juice solely responsible for the improvement of the units?

Week 12 vs. Packers: 


In case you can't see that, it's: 21 42 81 48 58 4 35 54 17 27 22

Week 12 Vs. Titans: 


That would be: 22 21 17 53 42 4 58 54 48 21 33

So it looks like they merely took the two offensive players — Grant Calcaterra (81) and Boston Scott (35) — off the field, and inserted in Christian Elliss (53) and Josiah Scott (33).

And yeah, Elliss had an inpact on their special teams units against the Titans, so I think we can say the changes worked.

Question from Bird Gang: Will there be a Janarius Robinson sighting on the field this week, or is he inactive?

For those of you unaware of who that even is, the Eagles poached him off of the Vikings' practice squad earlier this season. He went on IR for a bit, and was activated from IR on Tuesday. 

Let me go ahead and project the Eagles' inactives on Sunday. To begin, I think it'll be the usual five:

  1. QB Ian Book
  2. RB Trey Sermon
  3. OG Sua Opeta
  4. OL Josh Sills
  5. CB Josh Jobe

And then I think they'll call up Christian Elliss from the practice squad, which will necessitate an extra inactive. That could be LB Shaun Bradley, who as of this writing (Friday morning) has not yet practiced this week. So yes, Robinson could be up.

(This answer was amended from a previous version.)

Comment from Jake (via email): Waffles and ice cream is not a holiday dessert.

During the chat on Thursday I was asked, "What is your favorite holiday dessert and why is it sugar cookies?"

I responded, "I love a good sugar cookie. One family tradition that I'm trying to develop is waffles and ice cream for breakfast on Christmas morning. I don't know if that's necessarily a typical holiday dessert, but it is in my world, so I'll go with that."

Jake apparently disagreed that waffles and ice cream is a holiday dessert. OK, that's fine. Don't have waffles and ice cream, Jake. For the rest of you, I'll just recommend trying waffles and ice cream on the morning of whatever holiday you celebrate, and after you're done, try to tell me that it didn't make your holiday better. You're welcome in advance.

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