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Eagles vs. Chargers: 4 winners, 9 losers, 2 IDKs

The best and worst from Philadelphia’s Week 9 loss.

Los Angeles Chargers v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The Eagles were defeated by the Chargers. Time to hand out some winners, losers, and IDKs.

WINNERS

DEVONTA SMITH

The Eagles’ rookie wide receiver went over the century mark for the second time in his career; he caught five of his six targets for 116 yards and one touchdown. He would’ve had another score if Jalen Hurts didn’t throw wide of him while he was open in the end zone. Smith took blame for stumbling on his route on that play but he was likely just being a good teammate and trying to make his quarterback not look as bad for a missed throw.

The thing that really stood out about Smith’s production was how wide open he was getting. He’s quite adept at creating separation with his route-running savvy. It was good to see the ball finally heading his way with accuracy and consistency.

The Eagles need more of this moving forward. Keep force feeding the ball to No. 6. Good things will happen. He should be a high-volume, workhorse target.

Call me a Smith apologist if you must but I truly believe he’d be having a much more prolific season with a better passer under center.

NICK SIRIANNI

The Eagles’ head coach called a good game. Sirianni leaned heavily on the run (39 total attempts) once again, which made a lot of sense going up against a poor Chargers rush defense.

After going down 16-10, the Eagles were able to string together a scoring drive to take the lead. After the Chargers went ahead again, Philly answered to tie the game at 24 all.

Sirianni had the Birds in close position to upset the Bolts and advance to 4-5. He was let down by the lack of execution on two big passing plays that left points on the board.

One criticism: Sirianni hasn’t been as aggressive as he should be. The decision to punt from 4th-and-5 at the Chargers’ 45-yard line on Philly’s first drive was too conservative. This team needs to maximize their chances to score.

JORDAN HOWARD

Howard led the Eagles in rushing with 17 carries for 71 yards (4.2 average) and one touchdown. That brings him up to 29 carries for 128 yards (4.4 average) and three scores on the season. JoHo has been helping the Eagles move the chains and control the clock by running hard.

It’s safe to say the Eagles will be looking to sign Howard to a roster spot now that he’s no longer eligible to be elevated from the practice squad this season. He’s RB1 right now with Miles Sanders out.

T.J. EDWARDS

Edwards might not be an ideal three-down linebacker in the long run due to his athletic limitations. But he sure plays hard and he’s the best LB they’ve got right now. Edwards led all players at his position in playing time and led the Eagles’ defense in total tackles with 12. They weren’t just empty stats, either, with Edwards making a couple of big third down stops in there.

Honorable mention: Davion Taylor still has moments where he shows his inexperience but his tackle for loss on a screen was really nice to see. He showcased his speed on that play. He’s LB2 behind Edwards.

LOSERS

THE EAGLES

They’re 3-6 after nine games. The good news for them is that the NFC playoff picture is weak when it comes to the final wild card spot. The friggin Atlanta Falcons, who the Eagles obviously stomped in Week 1, are currently the No. 7 seed at 4-4. Philly has a relatively soft schedule to end the year and might be able to make a run at the postseason.

That being said, it’s possible the damage is already done. Close home losses to San Francisco and Los Angeles might stick out as big missed opportunities at the end of the season.

It’s been too long since the Birds won at the Linc, by the way.

JONATHAN GANNON

More toothless defense from the Eagles’ defensive coordinator. This stat is just INSANE:

The Eagles’ defense can stop bad quarterbacks but it’s basically hopeless against good ones.

Justin Herbert was slumping heading in to Philly, coming off two straight games with his passer rating in the 60s. Naturally, Gannon’s defense was a get-right game for him. It was a good day for LA’s offense as a whole, putting up 445 yards after entering the game averaging 376.3.

Worth noting that the defensive struggles aren’t just a coaching issue, though.

DEREK BARNETT

With Philly holding a one-point lead early in the fourth quarter, the Eagles’ 2017 first-round pick had a neutral zone infraction that turned 3rd-and-6 into 3rd-and-1 at the 23-yard line. Herbert snuck it for a first and the Chargers scored a touchdown (plus a two-point try) two plays later to take the 24 to 17 lead. Huge penalty by a guy who’s been responsible for way too many flags.

Further, Barnett has just two sacks in his last 14 games. Can’t imagine he’ll be back in Philly after this season.

THE EAGLES’ DEFENSIVE LINE

Everyone knows the Eagles have invested a lot of resources in their defensive line. Between big money contracts and high draft picks, it’s a high priority of them.

Well, the return on investment sure wasn’t there this week. Philly’s d-linemen generated zero sacks, zero tackles for loss, and zero quarterback hits in Week 9. This despite the Chargers missing their starting right guard and starting right tackle.

In fairness, Herbert was getting the ball out quickly. In fact, Pro Football Focus had him down for THE quickest time to throw from Week 9 at an average of 2.35 seconds.

That being said, Herbert’s quick releases don’t totally excuse the line’s performance. Colt McCoy and Mac Jones were both just behind Herbert with an average release time of 2.36 seconds. McCoy was sacked twice and hit five times by San Francisco while Jones was sacked twice and hit twice by Carolina.

And it’s not like this no-show performance is just one bad game. The Eagles are employing a number of under-performers up front right now. We already touched on Barnett’s lack of production. Beyond him, Fletcher Cox has just two sacks in his last 13 games. Javon Hargrave has really cooled off after a hot start. Josh Sweat didn’t even log a stat against the Chargers. Milton Williams has zero sacks, zero TFLs, and zero QB hits in games outside of Detroit this year.

It’s hard to say the Eagles’ defensive line should be flat out dominating when Gannon’s soft defense is making life easy on the quarterback. Still, the group has to produce more than they did on Sunday. Real disappointing outing.

JALEN REAGOR

The Eagles’ 2020 first-round pick saw one target. It came on a screen play that he made worse than it needed to be and lost six yards. That result drew some boos from the crowd at the Linc.

Reagor is now at 7.6 yards per reception this season. That ranks 144th out of 159 qualified pass catchers. It ranks dead last out of all qualified wide receivers.

Reagor has gone nine straight games without a catch of at least 25 yards. His single-game career high is 55 yards, which happened when he caught a deep pass in Week 1 of the 2020 season.

Reagor has three touchdowns since the start of 2020. Mack Hollins, now with the Miami Dolphins, has the same amount in that span.

Missing so badly on a first-round pick is hurting the Eagles. And it’s not just Reagor. Look back at the other Day 1 selections:

2016: Carson Wentz, no longer on the team (acquired the Colts’ 2022 first-round pick)

2017: Derek Barnett, disappointing and likely gone after this season

2018: N/A

2019: Andre Dillard, backup left tackle without a clear starting path here moving forward

2020: Jalen Reagor, arguably one of the league’s worst receivers

Not exactly the building blocks for a championship core.

It looks like Howie Roseman got the DeVonta Smith pick right. Hopefully that indicates he’s on the right track moving forward because he has some really big decisions to make in the 2022 NFL Draft.

DARIUS SLAY

Slay’s had a good season on the whole, allowing just a 78.9 passer rating when targeted. Probably helps that he’s playing in a corner-friendly scheme, but, still.

That being said, Sunday was not his best showing. PFF charted him with five receptions allowed for 86 yards and touchdown. He whiffed on being able to bring down Donald Parham. Slay had a defensive holding penalty that took a third down stop off the board and he left the game injured.

MILES SANDERS

With Jordan Howard and Boston Scott running well, what is Sanders’ playing time going to look like when he returns from injury?

THE COWBOYS

They lost to Teddy Bridgewater and the Denver Broncos. At home! This loss might’ve cost them their shot at the No. 1 seed.

All hail the reverse jinx:

This week’s NFC East Mixtape podcast should be fun for the sake of hearing RJ melt down about the Cowboys. More than anyone, he’s been harping about how the Broncos suck on The SB Nation NFL Show!

RJ’s official statement to me after the loss:

“We were all afraid to believe in the Cowboys. They just showed us why.”

THE MORON WHO THREW A BOUQUET AT NICK SIRIANNI

Not cool. Stop being stupid.

I DONT KNOWS

JALEN HURTS

I feel the need to add this disclaimer any time I write or talk about Jalen Hurts: I don’t hate the guy. I really don’t. He’s a rootable dude with great intangibles who can make some fun things happen on the football field. In a perfect world, the Eagles could use their three first-round picks in the 2022 NFL Draft to further build around him as their franchise quarterback.

But the harsh reality is that Hurts is a limited passer. This much is apparent with the Eagles needing to adjust their offense to such a run-heavy approach. It’s undoubtedly what’s best for the Eagles in the short-term but it’s not really the key to sustainable, long-term success. Case in point:

Of course, Hurts made some nice throws in this game. It was great to see him regularly connecting with Smith. And Hurts’ mobility was pretty huge in moving the chains on the Eagles’ two big touchdown drives that came in the second half. He had multiple crucial third down conversions where the Chargers had no answer to stopping him on the ground.

Had the Eagles’ defense gotten a stop instead of allowing the Chargers to kick the game-winning field goal, it’s conceivable that Hurts would’ve led Philly to victory instead.

But that didn’t happen. And, after the game, it was the missed opportunities from the first half that rightfully stuck out in Hurts’ mind. He admitted as much in his postgame press conference.

The first was when Hurts overthrew a wide open Dallas Goedert on Philly’s first drive. Pressure prevented Hurts from being able to properly step into the throw and follow through. Still, that’s a play that needs to be made. The Eagles could’ve had at least three points with a completion there and maybe seven.

The second was when Hurts threw wide of an open Smith in the end zone on third-and-goal from the 6-yard line. Hurts said he “was expecting something else and ended up getting out the pocket and made a throw kind of back peddling.” Unnecessarily throwing off balance led to an incompletion that had the Eagles settle for three points instead of scoring seven.

Between these two plays, that’s at least seven points and as many as 11 left on the board. The margin between winning and losing in the NFL is often razor thin. These missed opportunities tend to loom large. It’s hardly the first time this has happened with Hurts, too. We wrote this back on October 10:

I think Jalen Hurts struggles in a way that isn’t always defined by glaring, awful mistakes (like a really dumb pick) as much as it is with big plays left on the field.

Hurts deserves credit for giving such an honest assessment of his performance. Not all quarterbacks would do that in his position. It’s also endearing to see how much he genuinely hates losing. Again, a very easy player to root for.

There are those who like to chalk up Hurts’ struggles to youth and inexperience. Though there might be some truth to that, those factors can be overstated. It’s hardly like Hurts is akin to the quarterback verison of Davion Taylor out there; he played a lot of very high stakes college football.

Hurts isn’t without his merits. But he’s not erasing all doubt that he should be the franchise cornerstone moving forward. And that’s likely the standard the Eagles are going to hold him to. They’re not an organization that seems keen to settle for “good enough” at the quarterback position.

KENNETH GAINWELL

What is going on with Kenny G’s usage? When Sanders went down, there was thought he might be RB1. Instead, he really only played in garbage time in Detroit. He then only saw two touches against the Chargers. Both carries came on back-to-back goal-to-go plays, the latter of which resulted in a touchdown.

What does Gainwell’s role look like when Sanders is back? Is he relegated to RB4 behind Sanders, Howard, and Scott?