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The Eagles Have Taken a Step Back

The Eagles have not been nearly as good as their record shows. After starting the season 10-1, Philadelphia has gotten embarrassed in back-to-back weeks by two championship contenders in San Francisco and Dallas.

Their fans have been pointing out the flaws with the team all season long, but a nearly perfect record masked all those weaknesses.

A big problem with the Super Bowl runner-up is newly promoted Offensive Coordinator Brian Johnson. After Shane Steichen took a head coaching job with the Indianapolis Colts, Johnson seemed like the obvious replacement.

He has known Eagles QB Jalen Hurts and his family since he was a baby. Due to this longstanding relationship, many thought the QB-Coordinator tandem would thrive. Unfortunately, this has been far from the case.

To say Johnson has struggled would be an understatement. His play calling has been under fire by the Eagles fan base since Week 1.

Johnson loves to call designed QB runs, but they have not been effective this year. He calls them a lot in obvious passing situations where they come painfully short.

Johnson also has the tendency to completely abandon the run game. Over a four week stretch early in the season, running back D’Andre Swift was averaging over 100 yards per game.

Now, he has almost entirely been phased out of the offense. His carries haven’t dipped dramatically, but just watching the games, Swift feels invisible at times. The offense just lacks balance and consistency in play calling which is evident by quarter-long and sometimes half-long lulls they endure.

While Johnson has been a large part of the Eagles struggles, he hasn’t been the only problem. It’s too early to say he’s regressed, but Hurts has taken a giant step back this season.

He doesn’t have the same impact that he’s had in the past in the run game and is tied for fourth in the league in turnovers. Playing in an offense predicated on a relentless running game and time of possession, the high rate of turnovers is forcing Philadelphia away from its identity.

While the offense isn’t perfect, they are far from the biggest problem with the team. They still rank in the top ten in both points and yards per game, which means the amount of talent they have has allowed them to overcome play calling inconsistencies and brutal turnovers. The more glaring issue is that the opposite side of the ball has been flat out awful.

Former Defensive Coordinator Johnathan Gannon, who is now the Head Coach of the Cardinals, was much maligned in Philadelphia. The fans believed the defense underachieved for as much talent as they had.

The Philly faithful may be backtracking after seeing how the defense has performed this year without him.

After Gannon’s departure, the Eagles hired Sean Desai as his replacement. Unfortunately, this was a huge mistake. Philly sports many of the same members on defense as last year and even improved in some position groups.

They lost star Safety CJ Gardner Johnson, but replaced him with the midseason acquisition of Kevin Byard. They also signed former All-Pro linebacker Shaq Leonard and drafted Jalen Carter and Nolan Smith.

Despite these acquisitions the Eagles have their worst defense since 2018. They had a top ten defense in back-to-back seasons, however now they sit at a dreadful 22nd place, allowing over 350 yards per game. The rush defense is still outstanding, ranking close to the top five in the league, but the pass defense has fallen off a cliff.

Philadelphia has been a bottom five pass defense this year for a mix of reasons. First, Former All-Pro Cornerback Darius Slay and his teammate James Bradberry are having very bad years. Every week they get beat badly, miss tackles, and have correctable communication errors.

Secondly, the Eagles pass rush just has not been what it was last year. Last year they nearly broke the NFL’s 39-year-old single-season sack record. This year, with arguably a more talented defensive line, they are just barely in the top half of the league.

 Desai simply wasn’t putting his players in a position to succeed. His group has performed so badly this season that he has been essentially stripped of the Defensive Coordinator role.

It was reported early Sunday morning by NFL Insider Ian Rapaport that Desai will move off the sidelines into the coaches’ booth, while Matt Patricia will take over play-calling duties. While Desai still has the title of Defensive Coordinator, he will have significantly less input over the unit.

Philadelphia is hoping that Patricia’s experience and past success can help the defense get back on track. New England had a top ten defense every year that Patricia was the coordinator, so the Eagles brass is hoping he can reclaim some of that old magic.

Although they have shown many flaws, Philadelphia’s saving grace is that they jumped out to such a fast start record-wise, so they still have time to clean up their play. Game after game, Hurts expresses that his Eagles are still not playing up to the standard he has for them, and the entire team echoes that notion.

They exhibit unwavering faith in their ability to play up to their standard. However, with the playoffs less than a month away, they are running out of time to prove themselves right.


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