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Weapon X Mailbag: Have your expectations for the Eagles changed after two weeks?

Plus: Why so much 12 personnel?

NFL: SEP 19 49ers at Eagles Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

What a deflating game for the Eagles’ first true home game in 623 days. I’ll tackle some post-loss questions today. I will also be doing a Dallas Week-centric mailbag later in the week. If you want to submit a question, you can either tweet at me or email bleedinggreeninfo@gmail.com.

@KevinB118: Expectations were “supposed” to be low this year, Carson Wentz cap hell, 2nd year QB, etc. but based on the two games is the team better then you expected, exactly what you expected, or worse?

It’s all relative. If you told me before the season that the Eagles would split the first two games of the season and go into the Dallas Monday Night Football game with both teams 1-1-1, I’d definitely take it. Losing a game the team should have won, even as underdogs against a more talented team, however, still feels crushing.

The team has exceeded my expectations so far though. I certainly didn’t foresee the Eagles dominating Atlanta on the road in Week 1 with a 26-point win. I wouldn’t have imagined that first-time defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon would hold Kyle Shanahan’s San Francisco offense to just 17 points.

I stand by my prediction that the team will win the division, but maybe not all of their wins are agonizingly close games. The offense displayed that they can execute at a high level in Week 1. Jalen Hurts illustrated that he can use both his arm and his legs to make plays, though that play was inconsistent against the 49ers. DeVonta Smith has the juice.

Perhaps my expectations should change with the Brandon Graham and Brandon Brooks injuries, but the Eagles have built up rock solid depth along both the offensive and defensive lines. It needs to turn into a big 2021 for Josh Sweat, Derek Barnett and Landon Dickerson.

@alex252: Why are so many people OK with this loss? The 49ers secondary were depleted, they were away from home for a second week in a row. With a schedule that may not have another win til Halloween, it feels like a lost opportunity.

I’m very much not a “moral victory” guy. As I said above, I would’ve pegged them to lose this game before the season started with the Eagles standing 1-1, but that goes out the window once the actual game starts. Given the way it did unfold with the Eagles having ample opportunities to swing the game in their favor, you can’t be “okay” with it. The team needs to be held accountable for their lack of success.

The circumstances around the game make it even worse. Like I wrote, it was the first real home game since a playoff game against the Seahawks in January 2020. It was a beautiful day. The Eagles were riding high after totally demolishing the Falcons in Week 1. San Francisco was banged up. They came out and squandered multiple scoring chances while the defense toughed it out. It sucked.

It reminds me of a certain Week 2 game though...

@aidan45237: I might be wrong but this game felt eerily similar to 2017 Week 2, your thoughts?

I thought the same thing.

A team that had finished in last place the previous season came out and had a surprising Week 1 performance on the road. They then played a game against a team with true championship aspirations against a great offensive-minded head coach. They had chances to put the “superior” team away time and time again, but didn’t, as iffy play-calling derailed drives. Nevertheless, they were into it until the game’s end.

Sound familiar?

This isn’t to say the 2021 Eagles are on their way to replicating the 2017 Eagles’ path to the Super Bowl. Duh. The Eagles were 1-1 going into a huge Week 3 divisional matchup though that season. A miracle field goal from Jake Elliott gave the Birds a 2-1 record and changed the course of the season. Another Eagles player needs to step up and be that hero on Monday in Dallas.

@aidan45237: When will the Eagles wake up and stop with the 2TE nonsense? 3 WR sets are the way to go for a more open and balanced offense.

The Eagles have played more 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end, three wide receivers) so far in this short season than they did during the last couple years of the Doug Pederson era, but it’s still not enough. They remain among the league leaders in 12 personnel (one running back, two tight ends, two wide receivers) though.

Some of it comes down to personnel: Dallas Goedert and Zach Ertz are, in theory, two of the team’s top three pass-catchers alongside Smith. This Eagles team needs to be predicated on speed though. Hurts. Kenny Gainwell. Miles Sanders. Smith. Quez Watkins. Jalen Reagor. This needs to be run ‘n gun territory. Hell, I wouldn’t mind some four-receiver sets with Greg Ward and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside outside just to shake things up (neither has caught a pass this season).

The Eagles hedging on the futures of Goedert and Ertz puts them in a weird place. They want both players to be key cogs in this offense and feel like huge pieces of this roster, but it’s just really hard to do that with two tight ends. They tied their own hands here and feel scared to commit to a more progressive offensive look.

This may just be what Sirianni wants too. Pederson ran a lot of 12 personnel. Frank Reich left and went to Indianapolis and did the same. Now Sirianni has brought similar vibes back to Philly from the Colts. Sirianni needs to knock it off though, creating more space in this offense and attacking vertically.

@Patty_Naj: Will the Eagles stick to the 2 RB rotation, or do you think they hopefully promote or scoop up a big back?

The “big back” thing is kind of overrated to me. I understand this line of thinking though. The Eagles were in a goal-to-go situation on Sunday following a 91-yard completion to Watkins. They couldn’t punch it in from the three.

I can’t see the corpse of Jordan Howard helping there. Know who has actually been a good short-yardage back? Boston Scott! It may seem counterintuitive for a guy who’s listed as 5’6”, but his low center of gravity allows him to scoot between the big bodies at the line of scrimmage and get where he needs to go. Scott is miscast as an RB2, but he’s a very good RB3. I love Kenny Gainwell, but I wouldn’t hate seeing Scott getting a few snaps in these sorts of situations.

Honestly, if the team has a player like Hurts, his skill set should work for him to plow through the line into the end zone. A QB draw from the five going in? He should be money there.

@PatrickO_Leary: What are your thoughts on JJAW being one of the best blockers in the NFL right now? Absolute breakout season for him if you ask me

HINES WARD 2.0!