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October 31, 2021

Mailbag: Are there any 'sure' wins left for Eagles? Are their skill players the worst?

Eagles NFL

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.

Question from Philly Rob: Does an Eagles loss to the Lions this Sunday seal the fate of this coaching staff? I know there is still half a season left, but that would seem like a rock bottom event that there could be no coming back from.

First, assess what "rock bottom" was for each of the last few coaching staffs.

Andy Reid: There was a home game Week 15 against the Bengals during the 2012 season that was just super ugly in all three phases. The lowlight of that game was on a punt, in which a player (Clay Harbor?) was late getting out onto the field to line up. The fans were already mad about how they were playing and that they were punting again, so they took the opportunity to boo loudly when they couldn't even line up right on the punt. Then the punt got blocked, lol. That was it. Andy was cooked.

Chip Kelly: The Eagles had lost a couple of home games to the Dolphins and Buccaneers. In the Bucs game, Jameis Winston threw five TD passes, and they lost 45-17. The next week they played in Detroit in front of a national audience on Thanksgiving, and again, they got wrecked, 45-14. Thereafter, apparently thinking that the team needed a spark that Chip wasn't giving them, Jeffrey Lurie started handing out t-shirts that said, "53 angry men." That marked the moment that I thought Chip was done.

Doug Pederson: While tanking the final game of the 2020 season was the right thing to do organizationally, it was also Pederson's low point, and will forever be among the things he's remembered for, at least nationally. That was his rock bottom.

As for a potential loss against an 0-7 team, and a very banged-up one at that, I think we need to see what it actually looks like, but certainly, it wouldn't be a positive on the resume. After this game, the Eagles won't even be halfway through their season. It can always get worse.

Question from Bird Gang: What I don't understand about Jonathan "I play the defense that best suits the talents of my players" Gannon is why he isn't letting Slay and Nelson play more man coverage.

My guess is that they'll play more man against this vertically-challenged Lions offense. As we noted in our five matchups to watch, Goff and the Lions do not have big play weapons in their offense. Goff is averaging 6.5 yards per pass attempt, and 9.8 yards per completion. Their top two receivers are RB DeAndre Swift and TE T.J. Hockenson, both of whom average under 10 yards per receptions. The receiver with the highest yards per catch average with at least 15 catches is Quintez Cephus, at just 13.6 yards per reception. That guy ran a 4.73 at the 2020 NFL Combine, and he won't even be playing this Sunday.

Goff does have a 66.1 percent completion percentage, which is in the same neighborhood as Carr (67.7%), Mahomes (67.5%), and Brady (67.0%). He loves working the short areas of the field, frankly because he kind of has to. 

If the Eagles play the same soft foofy defense against the Lions that they have played again the majority of their other opponents this season and give Goff easy passes underneath all day, just fire everybody.

But to your point, it's not just Slay and Nelson who are being misused. Josh Sweat is not a three technique. These linebackers should not have to cover as much ground as they're asked to do. Derek Barnett should not be leading the D-line in snaps played, as he has in some games. The usage of these players has often been baffling.

Question from Crane Holmes: In your opinion, how many sure wins (if any) do the Eagles have on their schedule?

I mean, I picked the Lions this week, so in my opinion, none. They’ll win more games this season, but nobody can look at any game on this schedule and say, “That’s a win.”

While we’re at it, I would like to recalculate my final record projection, which has fluctuated over the last four months. Pre-camp, I thought they’d be 6-11. Post-camp, I thought 7-10. After the Falcons win, I thought 8-9. After the Cowboys loss, I was back to 7-10. Now I’m right back where I started, at 6-11, maybe even 5-12.

Question from Zach: Does any team in the NFL have worse skill position players than the Eagles this week? Dallas Goedert, DeVonta Smith, Quez Watkins, Jalen Reagor and Kenny Gainwell?

Well, yeah, their opponent this week. I think most fantasy football owners could identify their running back (D'Andre Swift) and tight end (T.J. Hockenson). Can you even name their receivers?

(Jeopardy music playing)…

Kalif Raymond and Amon-Ra St. Brown.

But your point is well taken. There aren't many, which is particularly embarrassing for the Eagles' front office, seeing as they've selected five offensive skill position players in the the first two rounds of the last four drafts.

Question from Hinkie: I've taken the liberty of putting together a tweet length analysis of every year the Eagles have had since Roseman was made GM (I believe in 2011, please correct me if I am wrong).

2011: 8-8, missed playoffs. "Dream Team" year. They were actually worse then their 8-8 record (think they won 4 straight at the end) and this was a miserable year.

2012: 4-12. Absolute disaster that led to Andy's firing.

2013: 10-6, lost in the WC. This was a fun year but defenses had better plans for the scheme at the end of the season.

2014: 10-6, missed playoffs. Fake good team. Chip was exposed and they never beat anyone good.

2015: 7-9, missed playoffs. The wheels fell off on Chip.

2016: 7-9, missed playoffs. Some encouraging stuff, but this was not a very fun year.

2017: 13-3, SUPERBOWL CHAMPS.

2018: 9-7, won WC. This year was kind of a slog, and they seemed down and out until a late run.

2019: 9-7, lost WC. Another slog of a year where they went on a run and beat bad teams, but really, this team was not very good.

2020: 4-12. Absolute disaster.

2021: 2-5. Expected them to be bad, but my god have they exceeded those expectations.

My point here is that we now have over decade of what is honestly, a very boring and bad team that has not been run well, to say the least. The Super Bowl is an extreme outlier and is sandwiched by total dysfunction at the end of the Andy/Chip/Doug eras. 2017 and the beginning of 2013 were the only times this team has been "fun" in over a decade. Everything else, even when they were winning, was an absolute slog on the field - bad, boring football and off-field calamity. Poor drafting and poor FA strategies.

How does Howie still have any decision making power?

Well that was a long question, ha. It was 2010, by the way, and to be fair, that was a fun season, but I don't think Roseman had much to do with it. To answer your question... ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

Question from Fireman Danny: Has Andre Dillard's performance this season made him less of a bust than I was?

The Danny Watkins pick was awful from the moment they made it. They thought they had a Super Bowl roster and they needed a guard, so they took a 26-year-old tackle who hadn't played guard and expected that he could start immediately. The combination of Watkins' age, his positional value, the team's inability to diagnose that he didn't give a crap about football, and reaching for need instead of just taking the best player available was sort of the quadfecta of horrendous drafting.

At least with Dillard, the premise made sense. He's an athletic kid at a premium position who maybe needed a little time to grow, which he would be able to do behind Jason Peters for a season.

If the team is able to trade Dillard and actually get something salvageable in return for him, he will be nowhere near as big a bust as Watkins, who in my opinion was the worst Eagles pick in the last 25 years.

Question from greenwithenvy: How amped is Duce Staley for this week's game?

The Duce (and Dave Fipp) revenge games! But sure, I imagine Duce will be a little extra juiced for this one.

Question from Boyd Schidt: Jimmy, the Eagles are 10th this season in team rushing yards. The Lions are 22nd. How do you reconcile this performance in context of fans crediting Duce as being this great RB guru.

To begin, I don't know how many fans I've heard refer to Duce as a "great RB guru." I do think he's a good RB coach.

The Eagles are 10th in rushing because Jalen Hurts scrambles a lot on passing plays. He's their leading rusher, with 361 yards. A small percentage of that is on actual designed runs. Miles Sanders is 30th in the NFL in rushing. Kenny Gainwell is 70th. Any sort of notion that the Eagles became some sort of great rushing team because Duce is gone is silly.

Also, the Lions haven't run it much this season because they're 0-7 and have mostly been behind in every game. A small handful of teams have run it less than them. Also, they're missing their starting LT (Taylor Decker) and their All-Pro center (Frank Ragnow).

If they're 22nd in rushing as you say, that's really not too bad. What's your problem with Duce?

Question from Jimmy Kempski: Why did you answer that weird Duce Staley question, Jimmy?

I don't know, Jimmy.

Question from Whoo: Besides Green Bay, what is the worst travel situation for an away game?

Green Bay is probably the worst. You have to fly to Milwaukee, and then drive a little more than two hours to Green Bay. You can also fly to Green Bay or Appleton, but you're not getting a direct flight. I know you said "besides Green Bay," but I can't help myself.

The Senior Bowl in Mobile, AL is similar. You're not flying direct to Mobile, and even if you do, it's still like a half hour drive from the airport to where you need to be in Mobile. And it's expensive, somehow. Usually you're either flying to Gulfport, Mississippi, or Pensacola, Florida, and then driving to Mobile, and you're usually connecting through Atlanta or Charlotte to get there.

The Landover, MD trip sucks every year, but part of that has to do with the Football Team's awful facilities.

But the worst, transportation-wise, is Pittsburgh. Last year, I drove there the morning of the game, and drove home after it. That was probably ill-advised. It was pouring on the way home with low visibility on the PA Turnpike, a road I hate with with the intensity of a thousand burning suns. For the most part, it's two narrow, endlessly winding lanes, and if it's raining, you're getting the regular rain on your windshield, plus splash-back drenchings from 18-wheelers. And you really have no choice but to pass them, or it'll take you 14 hours to get home. That was some of the most awful white-knuckle driving I've ever done.

Compare the PA Turnpike in the southern end of PA with Route 80 a little further north, and Route 80 is like a wide lane pleasure cruise. I would almost rather drive to Cleveland on Route 80 then to Pittsburgh on that hell road.


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