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Weapon X Mailbag: How aggressive should Nick Sirianni’s play-calling be?

Plus: Will Colts fans turn on Carson Wentz?

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Philadelphia Eagles v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

A POST-VICTORY MAILBAG! I didn’t get to do too many of them in 2020. If you want to ask a future question, you can tweet at me or send an email to [bleedinggreeninfo @ gmail dot com]. I’m going to up the mailbag articles to twice per week during the season. The content never stops!

Let’s get this bad boy going...

@TuchelBrigade: How did you like Nick Siranni in game? I liked how aggressive he was even if the calls themselves weren’t great.

@Patty_Naj: What did you think about the various different packages? And the usage of JJ?

Let’s tackle these two questions together.

I was a sap for Nick Sirianni’s vibes all summer. Perhaps it’s Ted Lasso lingering in my brain too much, but it felt refreshing after how things burned out at the end of the Doug Pederson-Carson Wentz era.

The criticism of his opening press conference was over the top. Hearing him talking about Xs and Os, it’s clear that this guy knows ball as much as he loves ball.

It’s one single game, sure. Eagles fans are well aware how good Chip Kelly’s Birds looked in Week 1 in 2013 before that regime went up in flames. Still, there’s just one real game to evaluate Sirianni on, so this has to be the focus. Fans should be nothing short of ecstatic at what they saw from the Eagles’ latest head coach.

They had all offseason to script the first drive of the season and what a beauty it was, resulting in a DeVonta Smith touchdown on his first career catch:

The Eagles didn’t score 30 or more points a single time during the entire 2020 season. In his first ever game as a head coach at any level, Sirianni cleared the mark.

A great litmus test as to how good a head coach can truly be is how aggressive they are. Are they a coward? Are they aggressive while leaning on both analytics and instinct? The execution wasn’t always the best, but I loved Sirianni having no restraints and trusting his guys to make plays.

The Birds were 0-2 on fourth downs. Going for it on fourth-and-four early in the second quarter, Jalen Hurts faced a bit of pressure before bailing on the pocket and throwing the ball away to avoid a sack. Good process, bad result.

On fourth-and-two at the Atlanta 20 in the third quarter, the Eagles handed it off to Kenny Gainwell, who was stopped one yard short of the first. I got a lot of angry texts from oldheads about it. The Eagles were up two scores at 15-6. Kicking a field goal would’ve still made it a two-score game. It wouldn’t have moved the needle that much! I would’ve rather have handed it off to Miles Sanders with the way he ran the ball on Sunday (though Gainwell was perfectly utilized in the two-minute drill and had a great touchdown later), but that’s how it played out.

When the Eagles had the option to accept a penalty following a made extra point and take a chance on converting a two-point attempt from the Atlanta one, Sirianni took it. Sanders easily walked into the end zone.

This came after Hurts threw an INCREDIBLE pass for a touchdown with seconds remaining in the half. Sirianni chose to have confidence in his players to get those two points and keep the momentum rolling into the second half. The Falcons never scored again and the Eagles put up two more TDs. I was levitating in my apartment.

As for the way J.J. Arcega-Whiteside was a part of the game plan, it speaks to an overarching philosophy that’s clear from Sirianni. He’s going to ask players to do what they do well and maximize their play rather than putting them in positions to fail.

JJAW obviously will never live up to his second-round pick status, but he’s a willing, aggressive and excellent blocker. That’s a bottom-tier trait someone would choose when building a receiver from scratch, but JJAW had a huge impact on those short throws to Quez Watkins that got Hurts into a rhythm on the Birds’ first offensive drive.

@PAturnpikefan: Are we (not concerned, but like cautious about) lack of deep balls today? Or was it more just how game played out

Concerned isn’t the right word. It was noticeable during the game though. I tweeted about it:

It could’ve been the way Sirianni’s play-calling with scripted, but, more than anything as a passer, Hurts showcased a great deep ball during the 2020 season and this past summer. It did look like he had guys open deep a few different times, but exited the pocket a bit too early to get the ball there or was locked in on other targets.

Just like how Hurts won’t complete over 77 percent of his passes and throw three touchdowns every single game this season, I don’t expect that deep ball trend to continue. He averaged 13.8 yards per completion as a rookie. He was looking to strike deep. He can SLING IT! I’m confident that Eagles fans will start seeing explosive plays down the field sooner rather than later.

If Hurts can continue being accurate in the short game and in the middle of the field while starting to air it out like we know he can, he’s going to be a complete passer way quicker than Eagles fans would’ve imagined. I’m freaking AMPED for him this season! I’m rocking my Hurts Alabama shirsey as I type this.

Can Hurts recreate this pass in Week 3 down in Dallas on Monday Night Football? PLEASE?

@GoodhartJustin: What do you feel when you see the tweets of Colts beat reporters and fans defending Carson the same way a lot of us (myself guilty) did?

@aidan45237: How long until Colts fans turn on Carson?

Again, we’ll handle this pair of questions together.

I pity them. I saw Colts writers and fans complaining about the offensive line, Frank Reich’s play-calling and his aggressiveness. PFF ranked the Colts’ offensive line as the second-best group in the NFL entering this season. Reich has had success with Nick Foles and a 39-year-old Philip Rivers in the past. Wentz’s drop in play in Philadelphia after 2017 was blamed on Reich’s absence. It’s just one game, but the excuses are piling up already.

The replies on this tweet are a mix of Colts fans arguing why the loss wasn’t Wentz’s fault and Eagles fans breathing a sigh of relief because he’s no longer on their favorite team:

I was a huge Wentz guy! How couldn’t you have been in 2016 and 2017? Things just got worse and worse and I started making outrageous arguments for why his play dipped off. I remember texting with a friend during the 2018 season after Foles had retaken over and had the offense humming.

“The team must play harder knowing they need to step it up with Foles because he’s not as good as Wentz and the coaches simplify the offense.”

You mean the team tries harder when they have a different quarterback out there and the offense looks easier with that other guy? Maybe it’s the original starting QB’s problem then!!!

Indianapolis isn’t in the same universe in terms of rabid pro sports fandom as Philly. I’d say they’ll ride out this year at the bare minimum. If the Colts top out as a middling team in 2021, lose their 2022 first-round pick to the Birds and still can’t get it together next year, it’s going to be harder and harder to defend the guy.

@BenJ_Iv3rson: Do we have the greatest punting scouting department in the league?

Arryn Siposs: future All-Pro punter. BOOK IT!

@jasonlipshutz: If you could guarantee one of these, which would you pick:

A) Daniel Jones starts at QB for the Giants for the next five years

B) Mike McCarthy is the Cowboys head coach for the next five years

My first inclination is to say A, but my answer is B. Dak Prescott is awesome. I’m taking a big ol’ L on the Wentz-Dak debates that were waged from 2016-2019. It is what it is! What could prevent Prescott and a blossoming star like CeeDee Lamb from consistently being an elite offense though? A poor head coach.

Kellen Moore seems to be a very good play-caller, but Mike McCarthy still leads the Cowboys. If McCarty overrules at times, looking to run the ball more and being conservative, it can stop Prescott and the Dallas offense from reaching their ceiling.

Keeping Daniel Jones would obviously be great, relegating the Giants to obscurity for the next half-decade. Even if New York moves away from Jones in the next year or two, however, it doesn’t guarantee that their next quarterback will be a true franchise guy or someone similar to Prescott in terms of talent.

The Eagles have absolutely dominated the Giants this century. I wrote this in my newsletter last week:

In a 12-year span from 2008-2019, Eli Manning played the Eagles 24 times (including one playoff game). In that same time frame, Donovan McNabb made five starts (including one playoff game) against the Giants as an Eagle. Eli won five of those games. McNabb won four, including a NFC Divisional Round playoff game on the road at the Meadowlands against Eli’s Giants.

What’s the point of me saying this other than shitting on Eli (who retired after the 2019 season) and propping up McNabb (who left Philadelphia after the 2009 season)?

The Giants have never been a threat to the Eagles and me.

Hell, after knocking off the Eagles in the postseason on their way to a Super Bowl berth (and loss) in 2000, the Giants basically fell off a cliff when they were playing the Birds. They folded during the height of the Andy Reid era. It continued under Chip Kelly and Doug Pederson and I have no reason to believe it will stop with Nick Sirianni. Yes, Super Bowls matter more than anything and they’ve won two this century, but when I see that the Eagles are playing the Giants on the schedule, it’s an automatic W in my mind.

With Dave Gettleman still running the show for the Giants and being the type of executive to hire Joe Judge as a head coach, I expect the Eagles to keep crushing New York.

@IrishIggles: Is Javon Hargrave basically a bigger Aaron Donald?

He’s basically the Incredible Hulk and Hercules blended together with the quick hands of Bruce Lee and the footwork of Hakeem Olajuwon. EASY comp.

@EaglesLiker: Which ITYSL character best describes Carson Wentz?

Tim Robinson in the “Caleb Went” sketch (the name, of course, sounds similar in my mind). In trying to impress Caleb Went, Tim’s character ignores that he’s choking to death, pretends he doesn’t need help and keeps up false pretenses while trying in vain to connect with his friends and Caleb.

That’s Wentz trying too hard, not realizing his own limits, not accepting help from the coaching staff, forcing everything and isolating part of the Eagles’ locker room.

@Dogbarley: 1+6=7

Hell yeah.