The Philadelphia Eagles had a chance to relax on Sunday since they were on their bye. But even though the Birds didn’t play, they were still impacted by happenings elsewhere in the league. Here’s an Eagles-slant to some NFL Week 14 takeaways.
1 - Washington is looking less fearsome.
The four-game win streak offered hope to Washington fans that the Football Team was figuring things out. That they were headed in the right direction.
A bad loss to the Dallas Cowboys raises serious questions if that was truly the case. Washington was outclassed at FedEx Field on Sunday, falling behind by a score of 24 to 0.
The Football Team came back to make it a one-score game and even had a chance to go on a game-tying drive with 2:34 left in the game before Kyle Allen was sacked and fumbled. But the potential comeback said more about the Cowboys not putting away the game (see: Dak Prescott inexplicably throwing a pick-six RIGHT at Cole Holcomb) than it did Washington willing their way back in.
Make no mistake: The Football Team deserves some credit for their win streak. Their defense, which was a MAJOR and unexpected issue earlier in the season, allowed just 17.5 points per game in that stretch. And, really, they only allowed 20 to the Cowboys since Dallas scored on a fumble recovery.
But it’s not hard to poke some holes in that winning streak. Beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was obviously impressive. Wins over the Carolina Panthers, Seattle Seahawks, and Las Vegas Raiders, though? Not as much. And they were all one-score affairs, which tend to be coin flips in the NFL.
Taylor Heinicke was playing well in that span with a 110.0 passer rating. But his stats weren’t showing some of the turnover-worthy plays that he was getting away with. The Cowboys capitalized on some of those before Heinicke left the game with a knee injury.
It sounds like Heinicke will be healthy enough to start against the Eagles. It’d be pretty concerning if a hobbled Heinicke finds a way to thrive against Jonathan Gannon’s defense. Especially considering Washington could be without their top wide receiver, their starting left tackle, and their starting center in this Week 15 matchup. Montez Sweat might also not be able to play if he’s not cleared to return from the reserve/COVID-19 list.
The Eagles’ Week 12 loss to the New York Giants was a reminder that division games can be expected. No one is saying the Eagles need to blow out Washington by 40 points. But the pressure is on the Birds to deliver in a very winnable game at Lincoln Financial Field.
2 - Did the Eagles make a mistake by passing on Micah Parsons?
In case you somehow missed it, there was a lot of “The Eagles should of (sic) taken Micah Parsons instead of DeVonta Smith!!!” discourse going on as the Cowboys were beating Washington on Sunday.
So, let’s talk about that.
There’s no denying Parsons has been sensational for the Cowboys. The rookie defender has 12 sacks, 27 quarterback hits, and three forced fumbles in 13 games this season. He’s entered the Defensive Player of the Year conversation; not just Defensive Rookie of the Year. The 22-year-old figures to be a problem that the Eagles and other teams will have to deal with for a long time.
Smith, meanwhile, has been pretty good. The rookie wideout has 50 receptions for 701 yards and four touchdowns. And this in a run-heavy offense with a quarterback who can’t exactly be described as one of the league’s best throwers. There’s reason to believe Smith’s numbers could be significantly bigger in a more pass-friendly offense.
Even so, it’s not hard to argue that an elite pass rusher provides more value than a pretty good receiver. With the benefit of hindsight, it’s easy to say the Eagles should’ve taken Parsons.
That being said, Parsons’ success wasn’t as easily predictable as some might suggest.
If you think writing that makes me an Eagles apologist, well, you must be new to BGN. I’m not exactly shy to rip the Eagles for poor personnel decisions! Still don’t believe me? Well, don’t even take my word for it. Instead, look at how a Cowboys fan over at Blogging The Boys recently used the phrase “sometimes it’s better to be lucky that good” to describe what’s happening with Parsons. From an article titled: “How the Cowboys lucked into one of the best edge rushers in the game with Micah Parsons”
Eight months ago, people scoffed (raises hand) at using such a high draft resource on a linebacker, but here we are now where the team may have landed one of the best young edge rushers in the game. It’s early still, but early indications are the Cowboys have themselves a superstar in Micah Parsons who plays one of the most important positions in the game at a high level.
I also can’t help but think back to how RJ Ochoa, a Cowboys fan and my co-host on The NFC East Mixtape podcast, said prior to the 2021 NFL Draft that Dallas drafting Parsons was his worst-case scenario.
I definitely do recall some saying Parsons could contribute (read: non-primary role) as an edge rusher in the NFL. But I don’t recall those forecasting him as a dominant force in that regard. He was widely viewed as a traditional linebacker. The Cowboys really only moved him to the edge by choice; they were unusually depleted at defensive end due to the combination of injuries and COVID-19 issues.
So, the Cowboys taking Parsons was hardly some intentional stroke of genius. It’s clearly worked out for them, which is unfortunate for the Eagles. But this isn’t the Jalen Reagor over Justin Jefferson situation all over again. That decision was a mistake at the time of the selection due to the poor process of valuing “fit” over talent. The Eagles valuing an incredibly talented receiver — the friggin’ Heisman Trophy winner, at that — over what many thought to be a pure linebacker wasn’t a terrible process.
And so I’m not really interested in a Smith vs. Parsons debate. Although I will say that picking someone other than Smith would’ve been more possible if they didn’t miss so badly on Reagor. Though I doubt they still would’ve gone after a linebacker even if they did take Jefferson.
Getting back to the original point: sometimes it is truly better to be lucky than good.
Just ask the team that tried to draft Carson Wentz, Paxton Lynch, and Connor Cook before settling for Dak Prescott.
Did the Eagles make a mistake by drafting DeVonta Smith over Micah Parsons?
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Which player would you rather have?
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3 - The 49ers loss could really come back to haunt the Eagles.
The Eagles still have a decent shot to make the postseason despite losing to San Francisco in Week 2. But if the Birds narrowly miss a playoff berth, well, it’ll be hard not to look back at their loss to the Niners as a big blown opportunity. (The same could be said for the Giants loss, though San Fran’s head-to-head tiebreaker working against Philly in the NFC playoff picture is especially damaging.)
The Eagles lost to the 49ers by six points in a game where they failed to score any points at 1st-and-goal from the 1-yard line. And had another touchdown wiped off the board when Jalen Reagor stepped out of bounds en route to the end zone.
Very damaging loss.
It’s unfortunate for the Eagles that they couldn’t get help from the Cincinnati Bengals beating SF in Week 14.
4 - Is “Jalen Hurts could be the next Lamar Jackson!” as good as it sounds?
First of all, the Hurts/Lamar comparisons are very generous in the former’s favor. I’m aware the two have posted some similar stats early in their careers. But Hurts has not come close to matching Jackson’s heights as a passer. Hurts and Jackson are also clearly on different levels when it comes to the eye test.
Even if we allow the comp, there should be some questions about Jackson as a slam dunk franchise quarterback. Perhaps he’ll eventually thrive in the playoffs as he has in the regular season. Until then, though, this is a quarterback with a 68.3 passer rating through four postseason games. Jackson also has five fumbles to just one rushing touchdown in the playoffs.
And, while not injury prone, he has been unavailable in some key spots. Take last season’s playoff loss, for example. He also had to leave this week’s key game against the Cleveland Browns early, though the Ravens almost managed to come back and win without him.
I’ve long said on The SB Nation NFL Show that, if I were the Ravens, I’d have some concerns giving out such a big contract to a quarterback who has struggled in the playoffs and hasn’t even taken his squad to a championship game appearance.
As it relates to the Eagles, I have some concerns about the long-term viability of a run-heavy offense built around Hurts. The Ravens shouldn’t be viewed as a template of unmitigated success.
5 - The Colts are likely making the playoffs.
With the Buffalo Bills and Bengals both losing on Sunday, the Indianapolis Colts moved up to the No. 6 seed. Their remaining schedule:
vs. New England Patriots (9-4)
at Arizona Cardinals (10-2)
vs. Las Vegas Raiders (6-7)
at Jacksonville Jaguars (2-11)
Even if Indy loses their next two games, they have a decent chance to win their last two. Such a scenario would probably be good enough to make the postseason.
That’s a bummer for Eagles when it comes to getting Indy’s 2022 first-round pick from the Carson Wentz trade. With the Colts in the playoffs, the pick could be as unfavorable as No. 32. Can you imagine Indy winning the Super Bowl? Me neither, but if they did ... yikes! The pick can be No. 19 in the very best case scenario. The most realistic outcome is probably somewhere around No. 22, give or take a couple spots.
If the season ended today (it doesn’t), the Colts would face the Titans in the first round. They’ve already lost to Tennessee twice this season.
6 - Doug Pederson should get another opportunity.
I really hope Doug gets a second chance to be a head coach. I imagine a year off has done good for him. I’ve read he’s gearing up for his next chance and he already has the makings of a staff in place.
Pederson could certainly provide some stability in Jacksonville ... though I don’t love the idea of pairing him with Trent Baalke. Need a new general manager.
I prefer to see Pederson end up in Las Vegas. The Raiders are also in need of stability after a tumultuous season. I would imagine Philly guy Mike Mayock, assuming he’s retained, would have some interest in working with Doug.
I’ll be rooting for Dougie P wherever he goes.
7 - The “should of kept!” thing with Rasul Douglas is a bit much for me.
Let me be clear: I’m happy for SUUUUUUL. I’m glad to see he’s having some success with the Packers. Pick sixes in back-to-back weeks is pretty cool! So was coming up with the game-sealing interception (though assisted by A.J. Green being clueless) in a big win over the Cardinals.
The idea that Douglas was a great player drafted by Howie Roseman all along and the coaching staff was solely to blame is silly to me, though.
Did the Eagles need to cut Douglas when they did prior to the 2020 season? No. There wasn’t a rush to do that. Of course, it’s worth noting they would’ve had an extra roster spot to keep him if they didn’t foolishly and unnecessarily keep Alshon Jeffery on their roster instead of the PUP list.
But the Eagles were hardly the only team not to really value Douglas. He ended up with the Carolina Panthers after leaving Philly and he didn’t play nearly as well as people seemed to think he did. He didn’t have a single interception last year and he allowed a 108.5 passer rating when targeted (only slightly better than the 114.2 passer rating he allowed with Philly in 2019).
The Panthers clearly didn’t rush to retain him, instead allowing him to walk in free agency. Douglas remained available on the open market until the Las Vegas Raiders signed him to a minimum(ish) deal a month after free agency began. The Raiders cut Douglas in late August. He was then picked up by the Houston Texans, who cut him six days later. A few days after that, the Cardinals signed him to their practice squad ... where he remained until the Packers were desperate for corner help in October.
If I had to bet, I would imagine there are struggles on the horizon for Douglas. He’s undoubtedly able to make big plays on the ball ... but he’s also been fairly susceptible to getting beat deep, in no small part to his lacking speed (18 percentile 40-yard dash time of 4.59 seconds).
For Douglas’s sake, I hope that’s not the case and he’s turned the corner (no pun intended).
8 - Giants headed for another coaching change?
Big Blue View’s Ed Valentine had this to say about Joe Judge when I recently asked about the Giants head coach’s job security:
Joe Judge? I think the Giants desperately want to avoid firing him. Ben McAdoo lasted less than two years. Pat Shurmur lasted two years. They need to get off this carousel. Problem is, Judge is directly responsible for a lot of what has gone wrong this season. He needs to show more aggression, better in-game management and win some games to give ownership reason to keep him.
Ed has been pretty patient with Judge but recent results have seen a shift in tone. Questions are being raised about Judge’s viability, and understandably so. The Giants have looked listless in recent weeks. There’s a good chance they won’t win any of their final four games.
Do the Giants really bring Judge back if that’s the case? The Eagles should surely hope so.