The Philadelphia Eagles lost to the Dallas Cowboys in a meaningless Week 18 finale. No one even cares about the fallout from this game since the Birds are preparing to take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the playoffs. But, what the heck, it’s always fun to go through W-L-IDK.
The following players didn’t play a snap on Saturday evening:
QB Jalen Hurts
RB Miles Sanders
RB Jordan Howard
RB Boston Scott
TE Dallas Goedert
TE Jack Stoll
OT Lane Johnson
OT Jordan Mailata
OG Landon Dickerson
OG Nate Herbig
DE Josh Sweat
DE Derek Barnett
DT Fletcher Cox
DT Javon Hargrave
LB T.J. Edwards
LB Alex Singleton
LB Genard Avery
CB Darius Slay
CB Steve Nelson
CB Avonte Maddox
S Rodney McLeod
S Anthony Harris
S Marcus Epps
So, almost every starter and some other significant contributors.
Great opportunity for the Eagles to get these guys some rest ahead of the team’s wild card game. Next closest thing to a first-round bye.
The Bucs, meanwhile, played starters for most of their game against the Carolina Panthers.
Really cool video of Kelce highlights from Saturday night:
Jokes aside, good on the Eagles for getting their franchise legend in and out of there.
Kelce’s consecutive regular-season game streak is now at 122. It’s the longest among active NFL centers.
Kelce is 40 games shy of the Eagles’ franchise record, which is co-owned by Harold Carmichael and Jon Dorenbos at 162. Can’t say it’s likely he gets there considering he could be as gone as soon as next season.
Is it impossible? Maybe not?
Question posted by BGN article from June 1, 2021: “Can DeVonta Smith have the greatest Eagles rookie receiving season of all time?”
The Slim Reaper finished his rookie season with 916 yards. That’s four more than DeSean Jackson had in 2008.
Naturally, someone is going to point out that Jackson did it 16 games while Smith did it in 17. While that’s true, 1) don’t be that person, 2) it’s still a good and meaningful accomplishment, and 3) DeVonta did it with 16 fewer targets, in part because he plays in the NFL’s most run-heavy offense.
Hard not to love that Smith wanted to keep playing despite breaking the record and the Eagles had to take his helmet away to prevent him from returning. Dude loves ball.
On another note ... hey, Nick Sirianni, I know you said you can’t necessarily force-feed the ball to a target. But that’s exactly what you did with DeVonta early in this game! And it worked! His four targets resulted in three receptions for 41 yards (13.7 average) before he left. How about doing more of that?!
Not sure how much resting the starters was his call as much it was an organizational decision but, nevertheless, he was on board. I also enjoyed seeing Sirianni get really fired up about some bad calls even though the Eagles were playing in a meaningless game. Competitive guy.
From a big picture standpoint, Sirianni deserves an inclusion for getting his team to a spot where they could rest their starters. The only head coach from last year’s hiring cycle to make the postseason and just one of two with a winning record this year.
Crazy how the Eagles’ offensive line holds up despite no matter who’s in there.
The Eagles went with the following configuration after Jason Kelce left following his single snap to start the game:
Left tackle — Andre Dillard
Left guard — Sua Opeta
Center — Brett Toth
Right guard — Jack Anderson
Right tackle — Le’Raven Clark
Dillard is obviously a high-profile player but the rest of these guys are far from household names. Toth was making his first NFL start at center, a position he hasn’t even majorly repped in training camp or preseason games. Anderson played his first NFL snaps.
And the offensive line got banged up during the game with UDFA Kayode Awosika coming when Anderson kicked inside to replace an injured Toth. Casey Tucker also played in relief of an injured Dillard.
Despite trotting relative nobodies out there, the Eagles put forth a respectable offensive effort against most of the Dallas Cowboys’ starting defense (no Micah Parsons and no Trevon Diggs admittedly helps). The Birds’ blockers allowed three sacks and seven quarterback hits in total. There are starting offensive lines that regularly give up more pressure than that. The Eagles also gained 149 yards (4.5 average) and one touchdown on the ground.
Stoutland should really be the Assistant Coach of the Year. (Yes, it’s a real award.) It’s not like he’s simply benefited from having a lot of talented dudes up front. He’s consistently gotten the most out of his players. The Eagles’ run game coordinator deserves recognition considering how Philly’s rushing attack really turned their season around.
Always build the plane out of Jeff Stoutland.
The numbers weren’t incredible: 19/33 (57.6%), 186 yards (5.6), 2 TD, 1 INT, 81.1 passer rating ... and five runs for 10 yards.
That being said, Minshew deserves some credit for a solid outing. It was a competitive game in the first half despite the fact he didn’t have much talent to work with. The backup quarterback can’t reasonably be expected to regularly elevate the team around him. It’s easy to project Minshew looking better (as he did against the New York Jets) with a more favorable support system.
This performance solidified the confidence the Eagles can have in him as a backup for 2022.
Of course, it’s always possible the team could trade him. But there’s really no need to rush to get whatever they can for him as much as they should be willing to part with the ‘stache if there’s an offer that blows them away. (I hear the Indianapolis Colts could use a quarterback?)
Kenny G was basically in the doghouse for the Eagles’ three games leading up to Week 18. He played just 16 total offensive snaps in that stretch and logged only two touches.
Gainwell will hope that his outing against the Cowboys reminds the coaching staff not to totally get away from him. The rookie running back led the Birds in rushing with 12 carries for 78 yards (6.5 average) and one score.
Even if the coaches still don’t trust him this year, good to see Gainwell showing potential.
The Eagles’ leading receiver from Saturday night. Quez was targeted seven times and had five catches for 84 yards (16.8 average) and one catch-and-run touchdown. The second-year wideout did a nice job of picking up yards after the catch to move the chains in some key spots.
After only posting 106 yards as a rookie, Watkins took a step forward with 647 yards in Year 2. I don’t know that he’ll ever be a reliable volume option but he can be a nice complementary option in the starting lineup. Ideally he could be WR3 alongside DeVonta Smith and a better WR2.
Ever since I saw him shine in training camp, I’ve been beating the drum for the Eagles to utilize Huntley. And especially as the team’s kick returner since he has a strong track record in that area.
The Eagles finally obliged and proved me to be a total genius*! Huntley wasn’t overly impressive as a runner, logging just 3.9 yards per carry. But he did break an 18-yard run that was close to being even bigger. And his 35-yard kick return was the second-longest of the regular season. Here’s a look at every Eagles player with more than one kick return this season:
Huntley: 3 for 85 yards (28.0 average), long of 35
Reagor: 12 for 255 yards (21.3 average), long of 44
Watkins: 8 for 138 yards (17.3 average), long of 24
Gainwell: 8 for 137 yards (17.1 average), long of 31
With the Eagles already having four running backs on the active roster, it’s not the easiest thing to find room for him. But the Eagles would do well to make sure he’s not poached and gets the opportunity to contribute to the team in the future.
*I’m constantly wrong about the Eagles. We all are! My wrongness is naturally more pronounced considering I’m publicly on the record with opinions about them 365 days a year. Anyway, thanks for reading.
Miltshake was basically the only Eagles defender who stood out in a good way on Saturday. The rookie defensive lineman was active with two tackles for loss, one quarterback hit, and one pass deflection at the line of scrimmage (which helped to force the Cowboys’ only punt!).
Williams has played his best football down the stretch. Promising sign for the Eagles in both the short-term and long-term.
MAC MCCAIN III
I’ll be honest, I didn’t notice him much out there. But Sirianni praised McCain’s special teams effort while not even being prompted to do so. Stock up.
SCORIGAMI SATURDAY! pic.twitter.com/8kse4Se8CB— SB Nation (@SBNation) January 9, 2022
I know they ultimately won in a blowout but this had the feeling of a moral loss for the Cowboys.
Their starters were in a competitive battle with the Eagles’ practice squad for at least half of a game. If Arryn Siposs doesn’t absolutely shank a punt very late in the second quarter, it’s probably a six-point game at halftime.
As BGN readers and/or BGN Radio listeners may know, I’m all about vibes. How something feels. And this game did not feel like a major success for the Cowboys. That their starters were celebrating in overly exuberant fashion was ... odd. Do I really trust this team to go on a championship run?
I previously picked the Cowboys to win the Super Bowl. I might need to clarify that prediction from winning THE Super Bowl to THEIR Super Bowl, which was apparently this game.
Dallas is pretty lucky they didn’t suffer more serious injuries in a game that wasn’t incredibly meaningful for them.
We’ve previously credited JJAW for making something out of his NFL career in terms of becoming a hustle guy. Someone who does the dirty work as a blocker and special teams contributor.
But, c’mon, man. Dropping that touchdown was really bad. So was committing an offensive pass interference penalty not too long after. And so was having a (high?) pass go through his hands for an interception.
JJAW can’t be on the team next season. His time is up.
Reagor played his highest snap count of the season in this game. Here’s what he had to show for it:
3 targets, 2 catches, 19 yards.
3 carries, 10 yards.
Less than ideal that he’s getting top three WR playing time on this team.
Siposs’ year has been mostly unobjectionable.
Perhaps even good? He’s Pro Football Focus’s eighth-highest graded punter. He ranks 12th in average hang time.
Then again, Siposs is 30th out of 35 punters in average net yards per punt attempt.
He had two really bad shanks in this game. The first one only went 21 yards and honestly be the worst Eagles punt I’ve ever seen with my own eyes. The mistake allowed the Cowboys to take a 13-point lead (instead of a six-point lead) at the half. Siposs had another punt that went just 24 yards.
So, like ... is this going to be an issue in the playoffs?
One could theorize that Siposs’s sudden struggles are weather-related. He was logging a 45.9 average through November. Since December started? He’s down to 37 yards per punt.
THE RESERVE DEFENSE
The Eagles’ reserve offense was much more respectable than their reserve defense.
Philly logged just one defensive stop in this game. They only picked up one sack and two quarterback hits. Life was pretty easy for Dak Prescott, who completed 77.8% of his attempts for 295 yards (10.9 avg), 5 TD, 0 INT, and a near-perfect 151.8 passer rating.
A little disappointing to see that none of the young defenders outside of Milton Williams really flashed much. Especially in the case of all those defensive backs the Eagles have been storing (Tay Gowan, Kary Vincent Jr., Josiah Scott, etc.)
I mean, he’s been a total ghost out there. He had a chance to sack Prescott and just ... didn’t take it? Missed?
Ryan Kerrigan officially ends the season with the fewest tackles (3) of any defender in the NFL (min 20% of defensive snaps)— Jack Connell (@JackPConnell) January 9, 2022
It is the fewest by any Eagle in PFF’s database going back to 2006. pic.twitter.com/wTfvOOVicm
Not sure where Vinny Curry is at health-wise but the Jets just cut him in time for him to be eligible to join a playoff team.— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) January 9, 2022
Eagles might get more use out of their old friend than Ryan Kerrigan at this point.
Default inclusion since Milton Williams played well.
I DONT KNOWS
On the bright side, Jackson logged his first career reception: a touchdown. Must have been meaningful for him to see his hard work transitioning from quarterback to tight end pay off in some respect.
On the not so bright side, Jackson is done for the season with an ACL injury. He be in jeopardy of starting the 2022 season on the reserve/PUP list. Jackson previously missed a big chunk of time with a back injury. Is he going to be able to stay healthy at the NFL level? Just bad luck?
Bradley left the game early with a shoulder injury. He looked a little frustrated as he walked off the field. He’s seemingly been dealing with that issue for most of the season. The Eagles aren’t exactly flush with traditional off-ball linebacker depth behind starters T.J. Edwards and Alex Singleton. Missing Bradley would also be a hit to Philly’s special teams unit.
Dillard has struggled to stay healthy thus far in his career. Not great that he got banged up and was limping around on Saturday. The Eagles could be without their top backup at left tackle.