I’m planning on doing two mailbags this week. Someone sent me a nice in-depth question I’m going to tackle by itself in a couple of days. If you would like to submit a question for a future mailbag, you can tweet at me or shoot me an email at email@example.com.
As for this week’s questions...
@JustinF_89: Who or what is to blame for the Eagles defensive woes the past couple of weeks? Gannon? A lack of talent? Injury to Brandon Graham? Something else?
When I received this question from Justin earlier in the week, my first thought went directly to Brandon Graham.
Graham will forever be a Philadelphia legend for his Super Bowl heroics and will go down as one of the most beloved Eagles ever. Graham will foremost be remembered as a pass-rusher because of that iconic strip sack against Tom Brady, but Eagles fans, myself included, may have taken his run-stopping abilities for granted.
Due to how sparingly he was used early in his career, Graham is the rare defensive lineman who got better as he entered his early 30s. Even as he became known for rushing the passer, his backside pursuit in the run game has been incredible since the Eagles flipped to a 4-3 front in 2016. When he made the Pro Bowl for the first time at 32 in 2020, he was getting it done with eight sacks and continued to be excellent against the run.
Once Malcolm Jenkins left last offseason, Graham truly became the heart and soul of this Eagles defense. Not only are the Eagles missing their best defensive player, they’re missing a leader, an infectious personality who has worked harder than any Eagle in recent memory to get to where he’s gotten. It’s crushing.
When Graham left the field with an injury against San Francisco, it was deflating. It sucked. It hit Eagles fans in the gut and I’m sure the same was true of many others on the team and in the organization.
I will say, however, that this tweet made me a tad nervous about defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon though:
Jonathan Gannon: “We’re not a dime team,” when asked why the #Eagles don’t go with 6 DBs vs. 11 on 3d and longs.— Jeff McLane (@Jeff_McLane) October 5, 2021
“We go with four down and 2 LBs.”
I was sipping the Gannon Kool-Aid this offseason. Maybe it’s a personnel thing and that goes back to the front office, but that’s a line where fans think, “Uhhh, I really hope this guy knows what he’s doing.” Trying to put a linebacker on Tyreek Hill feels bad, right?
Gannon’s defense did look very good in the first two games of the season though. Perhaps not coincidentally, those are the two games that Graham played in before his season ended with a torn Achilles tendon.
Mike Hyde (via email): Should the Eagles think about trading Miles Sanders to the Pats or Ravens?
There are much fewer player trades in the middle of the NFL season compared to other sports, so I doubt this would happen to begin with. I also don’t think the team should if the opportunity presented itself right now.
I haven’t always been the biggest Miles Sanders fan, but he’s better than his usage the last two weeks would have people believe. Besides the fact that I can’t imagine you’d get a ton for a running back in the second-to-last year of his rookie contract, it’s not as if he’s stuffing the stat sheet and upping his trade value at the moment.
The Eagles traded a fourth-round pick to the Dolphins for Jay Ajayi in 2017. Ajayi was in his age-24 season, as Sanders is now. Ajayi was coming off a season where he rushed for 1,272 yards though. He had more value than Sanders does currently.
Sanders is still a productive player. That’s ultimately the point. Teams shouldn’t be in the business of trading productive players for minimal return.
While I get blasted for saying that I could envision Nick Sirianni being a one-and-done head coach, the criticism I received for saying that it’s early in the season should apply to hypothetical trades too. Given what we’ve seen from both the Cowboys and Eagles, the Birds, as much as it pains my soul to write, aren't in the same class as Dallas in terms of 2021 contention at present. Still, I don’t want to give up on this year entirely. I worry that the Eagles are in a lame duck, stop-gap-type season and dealing Sanders would only hammer that home.
The NFL trade deadline is Tuesday, November 2. It comes two days after the Eagles’ Week 8 game against the Lions in Detroit. Do Eagles fans want the team to sell if they’re 2-6 and it comes down to that? They might! If the Eagles could get a third-round selection for Sanders, go for it, but I can’t see that happening.
@killakow: What would you do if I said I wanted to be a man-cheetah?
@SixersRy: Which is worse… this season or Iron Man 2?
Iron Man 3.