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Weapon X Mailbag: How much credit does Nick Sirianni get for the Eagles’ turnaround?

Which Eagles players need to step up?

NFL: New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The second mailbag of the week!

There’s truly nothing better than the days leading up to an Eagles playoff game. Nothing.

If you want to ask a question for a future mailbag, you can tweet at me or send an email to bleedinggreeninfo(at)gmail(dot)com.

Ian Jones (via email): Does Nick Sirianni truly deserve all the credit for the mid season turnaround seeing as it was blatantly obvious he was not running the ball enough and forcing his young quarterback to do too much? I’m glad he finally had the epiphany but it still seemed a little slow on the uptake and now he’s receiving all these accolades for changing course to the obvious. But I’m a Philly fan, so the correct and obvious course is always right there in my living room for all to know.

How often do NFL coaches remain stubborn, stuck in their own ways and refuse to budge given their own ego? The Eagles’ organizational mandate is predicated on being one of the most pass-heavy offenses in the NFL. Less than 10 games into his first ever head coaching gig, he Nick Sirianni able to swallow his pride, realize what he was doing wasn’t working and completely shift the offense from a system that was philosophically driven to one that’s personnel driven. Sirianni had to throw out the grand plans he likely had for what the 2021 Eagles offense would look like and go use JSTOR to find excerpts from Knute Rockne’s 1929 Notre Dame playbook.

Even if you want to lessen the credit given to Sirianni for a switch that was obvious to Eagles fans, how can you not give him his flowers (pun intended) for creating a juggernaut rushing attack? The Eagles led the league in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns. They were second in rushing attempts and fourth in yards per attempt. They’re third in Rush DVOA. They barely ran the ball the first seven games of the season and they ended up smashing franchise rushing records! They had the seventh-most rushing yards (2,715) for a team in a single season this century! Do you think Sirianni was spending all offseason scheming up runs? He made this facet of the Eagles’ offense prolific!

It’s a must to praise offensive line coach and run game coordinator Jeff Stoutland for maximizing the play of this beastly o-line and to help Sirianni put his new offensive vision into practice, but Sirianni deserves the praise he’s getting. He was a joke in this city! Fans were crushing him. I was crushing him. That criticism was deserved. It’s only fair to give him props now for this unparalleled turnaround and offensive change.

@LargePetroleum: 5 Eagles players (besides JalenHurts) who need to play well in order for them to win on Sunday?

Great question from Big Oil, who was a guest on BGN Radio this week.

The quarterback is an obvious pick as you said, so let’s look at some dudes I’m hoping ball out:

Fletcher Cox: Cox is no longer the player he once was when he was an All-Pro selection 2018. That’s fine. He can still be very good and has played his best football of the season down the stretch. The discussion all week is how to stop Tom Brady. I’ve written about it. The simplest answer is that it’s damn near impossible to do so, but there are a few little things that can slightly throw Brady off his game. An interior pass rush that can destroy the pocket is one of those ways. Brady isn’t the type of quarterback who’s making throws on the run. It’s an obvious statement. Any team can say, “Let’s disrupt Tom Brady.” It’ll be a necessity to help out the Eagles’ back seven though.

Miles Sanders: I’m working under the assumption that Sanders will play, recovering from a broken bone in his hand that has sidelined him the last two games. I’ve been critical of Sanders in the past due to his inconsistency. He’s had some monster performances as part of the Eagles’ overpowering rushing attack over the last two months though. Sanders rushed for 94 yards against the Saints, 120 against the Jets and 131 at home against Washington. It looks like it will be a wet and windy game in Tampa. The Eagles were going to have to beat the Buccaneers on the ground regardless, but this is a matchup and environment where the Eagles’ tendency to pound the rock works in their favor. If Sanders is out there, he’s going to get the majority of the running back touches. There’s never been a better time for Sanders to get his first touchdown since Week 16 of last season than this weekend.

Darius Slay: He’s going to be following Bucs receiver Mike Evans across the field all afternoon. It’s time to live up to that nickname in the postseason, Big Play Slay.

Dallas Goedert: All Eagles fans are enamored with the pinpoint route-running and brilliance of DeVonta Smith, but Goedert has become Jalen Hurts’ top option in the passing game. Yes, the Birds don’t throw the ball much and the weather could be a factor there, but he’s come on strong since the Zach Ertz trade. Goedert finished fifth in receiving yards among tight ends (830 yards), despite missing two games and not being a major offensive factor to begin this season. If the Eagles fall in a hole early and are forced to pass more than they’d like, Hurts teaming up with Goedert for some chunk plays would be a godsend.

Milton Williams: Milly isn’t a starter, but I keep coming back to him being an X factor on Sunday. Over the last four games, Williams has had four tackles for loss, three quarterback hits and a sack while averaging about 32 snaps per game. If Williams spells Cox at any point, especially coming in fresh and spry in the second half, perhaps he can be that desperately need disruptor in the middle.