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Mailbag: Do the Eagles have too much of a good thing?

A dominating dynamic duo

Minnesota Vikings v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

It is Cowboys week! It is wild that this game is between two playoff teams in December and you can write it off. The Eagles only need to beat the Saints or Giants and they lock up the #1 seed, so a loss here doesn’t matter.

But what does matter are your questions.

Yonikgimmedat: DeVonta Smith and A.J. Brown accounted for like 97% of the passing yards on the team. Should the over-reliance on two guys be concerning?

(By the way, we need a nickname for the AJ Brown and Devonta Smith duo.)

No, for a few reasons. First let’s look at the numbers.

AJ Brown (1201) and Devonta Smith (901) have 60.0% of Eagles receiving yards (3506). That’s a big percentage, but not astronomically so. Of NFC playoff contenders, four teams have their top two WRs accounting for over half of receiving yards, though only one is in the Eagles ballpark of 60%.

Vikings - Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen 59.0%

Dallas - CeeDee Lamb and Noah Brown 51.4%

Seahawks - Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf 51.4%

Commanders- Terry McLaurin and Curtis Samuel 50.8%

Bucs - Mike Evans and Chris Godwin 42.9%

49ers - Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel 41.3%

Lions - Amon-Ra St. Brown and Kalif Raymond 39.6%

Giants - Darius Slayton and Richie James 37.6%

For what it’s worth, last season the Rams won the Super Bowl with Cooper Kupp and Van Jefferson getting 56.2% of receiving yards.

Some of this is just common sense. If you had Justin Jefferson and Adam Theilen, or Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf, you’d throw them the ball a lot too. If you had Darius Slayton and Richie James, not so much. Some of it is that Brown and Smith haven’t missed a game, unlike the Bucs and 49ers duo. And some is that Dallas Goedert has missed five games.

Let’s take a quick look at the Vikings because they compare to the Eagles. Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen were pretty much the only options for the first half of the season. In the first seven games they had 63.6% of Vikings receiving yardage. This was a reason why the Vikings traded for TJ Hockenson. With Hockenson, they’ve averaged 57.9% of receiving yardage. Interestingly though, it doesn’t appear to have raised the floor for them. In seven games without Hockenson they averaged 24.7 points per game which would be 8th in scoring over 14 games, while in 7 games with him they averaged 25.4, which would be tied for 7th. It does seem to have raised their ceiling however, without Hockenson they scored 30+ only once, with him they’ve done it three times.

The Eagles are in a similar position. AJ Brown, Devonta Smith, and Dallas Goedert account for 75% of receiving yards. Goedert missing five games dramatically increased the load that Brown and Smith carried. With Goedert in the lineup, Brown and Smith had 53.8% of receiving yards, a normal rate. With Goedert out, they had 70.8%.

But they were just fine with Brown and Smith doing all the work. The Eagles put up their two highest scoring and passing yardage games of the year without Goedert. They’re certainly not better off without him, but they have more than just gotten by.

Another reason why it shouldn’t be too concerning is that this team has shown all season long that when the passing game isn’t going great, they can destroy teams on the ground. Which eventually opens up opportunities for Brown and Smith. In the two games with 250+ rushing yards, Smith has a TD and Brown scored in both games, the same goes for the two games with fewer 150 passing yards. The Colts game is the only game of the season so far where one of Brown or Smith did not have at least 80 yards or a touchdown, and in that game Smith had 78 yards. It’s one of the reasons they are a Super Bowl favorite, they can beat a defense in so many ways.

And finally, what team has a secondary that matches up with the Eagles?

Statistically speaking the best defenses in the NFC playoff hunt in yards per WR attempt are the Bucs (5th), Seahawks (6th), and Giants (7th), everyone else is below average. If the playoffs started this weekend it’s unrealistic that they face any of these teams. Bucs are probably losing to the Cowboys (16th) and not meeting the Eagles. The Seahawks wouldn’t even be in it, and the Giants just got wrecked by the Eagles.

Forget the stats, I’ll take AJ Brown and Devonta Smith vs any secondary the Eagles will face. The Eagles have two #1 WRs, that’s a game wrecker.

Matt G: Who is the most hated Cowboys player of all time?

It has got to be Michael Irvin.

He was loud, brash, annoying, and because he was a star player he was always a focus of attention. He wasn’t the first or last “WR diva” but he was the one who most bothered us.

What cements him for me is that as a broadcaster he is… a loud, brash, and annoying Cowboys cheerleader. And every once in a while he makes a good point, and every once in a while he can be entertaining. Which makes him even more annoying, it is a killer when someone you hate is right.

David G: If god made you a deal that the Eagles win the Super Bowl this year, but only if the Cowboys win it the next two years, do you take the deal?

If you asked me this five years ago this week, when the Nick Foles 2.0 era began after Carson Wentz tore his ACL, I would have thought about it. If I said yes–and I’m not saying I would say yes–after the Super Bowl I would live my life with absolutely no fear of death, knowing that dying from whatever stupid activity I was doing would mean I would never have to see the Cowboys win the Super Bowl and would go to my grave with the Eagles as defending champs.

But Faust never offered me that bargain, and the Eagles won the Super Bowl while the Cowboys are still waiting. Maybe they’ll win it this year, maybe next year, who knows. But I don’t need to sell my soul, I’ve already seen the Eagles win the Super Bowl.

So my answer is hell no. I’ll take my chances.

Tyler M: Would the Cowboys defense be able to stop Jalen Hurts if they had actual cowboys on horses? Assume the horses are in the NFLPA and there are little (if any) salary cap implications.

This is a ridiculous question. Even though it doesn’t seem like Hurts will play–he shouldn’t–I’m still going to answer it because I love these kind of questions. What really makes it for me is that the horses are in the NFLPA and the Cowboys aren’t going over the cap with them. The second part is important, the Cowboys only have enough cap space to sign six horses to a rookie minimum contract. (You give me a ridiculous question and I’m going to run with it.)

He’d be fine. In fact, this is probably the worst thing Dallas could do.

How are you going to tackle Hurts if you’re riding a horse? The horses can’t stomp or trample him, that would be a tripping penalty. The only option is for the cowboys to launch themselves off their horses onto Hurts. This presents multiple problems. Obviously it is very easy to miss launching yourself onto a moving target, even for an experienced rider. And even if they were to hit their mark, they would have to perform a wrestling splash-like move, making sure to land with the torso, and arms wrapping up Hurts. (Feels like there is a high probability of a horse collar happening here, no pun intended.) Because if they do a diving move, that’s a penalty for lowering the head.

Nor could they form a loose wall across the field lined up perpendicular to the line of scrimmage (and within five yards from the line of scrimmage so they can’t get called for defensive holding). I really like Hurts’ chances here, because the average horse is 8 feet long and 11 horses lined up head to rear only cover half the field, 88 feet is 29 yards, the field is 53.3 yards wide, so there’s going to be some openings no matter what they do.

And while this would absolutely be wild and distracting—hopefully Kevin Harlan is on play by play—Jalen Hurts has some experience with weird horse related things on a football field.

Oklahoma’s mascot is Sooner Schooner, a wagon pulled by two ponies. During football games they run around the field after touchdowns. The golf and rowing teams are probably missing out on some fun here.

In the 2019, when Hurts was Oklahoma’s QB, it crashed.

Solid job by Gus Johnson on the replay, and I love that the ponies did not give a crap and kept going. Good boys.

You will not be surprised to discover that this did not distract Jalen Hurts one bit. That day he completed 16 of his 17 attempts for 316 yards and three touchdowns, and added 75 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns.

The guy is unflappable.

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