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Eagles Mailbag: The Last Dance?

All about the family

Dallas Cowboys v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

There were a lot of questions in our latest mailbag. But first, the question I asked you, who is the Eagles mid-season MVP (P standing for person): AJ Brown, Jalen Hurts, or Nick Sirianni?

The results: AJ Brown 65%, Jalen Hurts 31%, Nick Sirianni 4%.

The people have spoken, and the people are correct (not that I doubted you). We’re only halfway through the season and he already has over 1000 yards, and needs just 497 yards to break the Eagles single season yardage record, which was set by himself last year. He’s just 71 yards behind Tyreek Hill for the receiving yards title. The other week I said that unless a QB explodes in the second half to carry his team (which might be Joe Burrow, or maybe Lamar Jackson) this season should have a non-QB win MVP, and that Tyreek Hill was the front runner. Well that was a few weeks ago, now AJ Brown has entered the conversation, and considering Brown has 203 yards and 2 TDs in the two biggest games of the season for his team, AJ Brown is absolutely in the conversation.

How critical is it that we win a championship this year with so many aging veterans set to either retire or significantly decline soon (Kelce, Cox, Graham, Johnson, Slay, Bradberry, Byard)? - Ziggy2020

The Birds have a lot of young talent. At the (approximate) halfway point in the season, do you care to speculate on who among the old hands will be missing from the roster next season, and why? - EagleFodder

Will this offseason be the most devastating in terms of critical Eagles players retiring (Kelce, Graham, Cox, ?) Has there ever been another season with this kind of turnover? Who will we miss the most (for on field play)? - Michael Del Blotto

This season has a bit of a “Last Dance” feel to it in that the window for this core to win another title is right now, tomorrow might be too late. Jason Kelce has openly flirted with retirement for two years. Only three defenders in the league are older than Brandon Graham. There are only four DTs who are older than Fletcher Cox. The only other OL from the 2013 draft still in the league beside Lane Johnson are either currently injured or started the season as a backup or out of the league. The Eagles and those players have done a fantastic job of extending their careers but time waits for no man.

It’s one reason why they signed 34 year old Julio Jones and 31 year old Bradley Roby, and traded for 30 year old Kevin Byard. That’s not what a team trying to keep a window open as long as possible does, it is what a team going all in does. Things change in a hurry in the NFL. The Bills window with their current core might already be shut and all they would have to show for it is a single conference championship appearance in 2020, the weirdest year in sports. The Rams are 8-18 since winning the Super Bowl.

The Eagles know this. They have already drafted Kelce’s hand pick replacement. They have traded up in the 1st round for a defensive tackle, just as they did for Fletcher Cox, in back to back drafts. If I had to put $20 on it now, my guess is they draft a OT in the 1st round this year to be Lane Johnson’s understudy. The Eagles, as a general philosophy, will never stop investing in the lines so after going heavy on DT recently almost certainly draft an edge rusher at some point in this draft.

Jalen Carter looks great, the baton will be passed from Fletcher Cox as cleanly as can be. In the limited playing time we’ve seen Cam Jurgens has not given any reason for alarm with his play, and that the run game has suffered without him says something about him as well. Nearly every team is struggling for quality offensive linemen, the eventual transition from Kelce to Jurgens looks like it will be as good as can be.

The current late stage career player they will miss the most is Lane Johnson. We have seen how the team struggles without him, because they have to change their protections on the fly when he comes out, or leave a vastly inferior player on an island against top edge rushers. And we know that Johnson will play through injury and that he is a leader on the OL. Guys like him are extremely difficult to find.

What is a reasonable expectation for the defense going forward? Is the best we can hope for an average defense that gets lit up by strong passing offenses, or is there a reasonable chance (with health luck) that Roby and Byard can shore up the back end to get us back into a top 10 defense by January? - StoneColeKiller58

Top 10? I don’t see it happening considering the offenses they’re facing out of the bye. The reasonable expectation is the secondary continues to struggle. I don’t have a ton of faith in the veteran additions to solve the problems the secondary has. Bradley Roby hasn’t played a full season since 2017, I have no confidence that he will stay healthy the rest of the season. Byard is a smart player but has always lacked top end speed and that could really bite them.

Like last year, the defense will go as far as the pass rush takes them. Which could actually be pretty far. 70 sacks wasn’t on the cards again this season but since Haason Reddick removed his cast they have 24 sacks in 6 games, which is a 68 sack season pace. The pass rush is back. Since Reddick ditched the cast, he is on a 21 sacks in 17 games pace, and Josh Sweat is on a 14 sack pace. And this boost is not from beating up the dregs of their schedule, they had three sacks against the Dolphins and five against the Cowboys, the two best teams they’ve faced so far.

A General Manager question for you... you have a very productive pass rusher who wants another contract in 2024 in Reddick. you also just spent a first round pick in 2023 on Nolan Smith. Do. you keep both? trade Reddick? if Reddick is on the team I don’t see Smith getting very much playing time in the future. - SkiLow

Next year, the final year of Reddick’s contract, he is scheduled to have a $21M cap hit, the highest on the team. He does not save them anything to cut or to trade ($200k, that’s nothing), so their options are let him play out his contract, or extend him. In camp he spoke about his contract situation but without making a fuss about it. This offseason could be a crossroad.

You can never have enough pass rushers. If it was me, I would give him a contract extension in the offseason. The only thing stopping me from doing it now is that I don’t want to set a precedent of re-doing contracts before the second year is over. Nolan Smith, the leader of your defense was also a 1st round pick and didn’t become a starter until his 6th season and now he’s a team legend. Your time will come, and you’ll get your playing time in 2024 and beyond, with another payday for Reddick he’ll accept being off the field a few more snaps a game.

As for what the Eagles will do… I fear he plays out his contract. They did the same with Javon Hargrave with a 1st round pick waiting in the wings. Business decisions like that are going to have to be made in the future now that they’re no longer on a rookie QB contract. They did bring back Darius Slay after nearly cutting him, but that was in part because they had no internal option to replace him.

1. Andy Reid has a 20+ win winning record after the bye week. With both the Eagles and Chiefs coming off bye weeks for their matchup, how confident do you feel that the Eagles can win?

2. Who poses the greatest threat to the Eagles changes of winning the #1 seed in the NFC?

3. Are the Baltimore Ravens for real? Is the passing game going to be an issue for the Ravens moving forward?

4. Over the next 5 weeks (after the bye), how many games will the Eagles be able to win? - LanceTheRushin

1. I feel more confident now than I did at the beginning of the season. The Chiefs are overall excellent, but their offense has struggled. The Eagles second lowest scoring game they scored 23 points, the Chiefs have failed to score that many in five games. Only the Bears have more turnovers. Patrick Mahomes is having, by his standards, a bad season. It should be a hard game. It’s on the road, the Chiefs are coming off a bye as well, their defense has been really good. But the impending doom of facing Patrick Mahomes is less frightening right now than it’s ever been. Other than coming off their bye, there’s no better time to play them.

2. The 49ers. Week 13 could be an unofficial 1 seed clincher.

3. They’re legit contenders. Lamar Jackson is playing great, and the rest of the AFC has not brought their best yet. Next week they play the Bengals on Thursday night, that could be a great game.

4. 6-2, but feel free to ignore that, my picks this year have been abysmal. I’m tanking for a QB.

1. Who gets the most credit for Jalen Hurts’ development as a passer? Sirianni, Steichen, Brian Johnson, Hurts himself, Hurts’ personal offseason coach, other?

2. Is Sirianni a top 5 coach in the NFL? - GottaBeGreen

1. All the coaching in the world doesn’t matter if the guy can’t play, and all the talent in the world can only get you so far if the coaches can’t get the job done, so it’s a combination of everyone. But the primary credit goes to the player. The mental aspect, especially with QBs, is so much of the difference between top players and journeymen level players. You can’t teach that, and Jalen Hurts clearly has it.

2. I’m not big on numerical ranking, but yes Nick Sirianni is a tier 1, at the very least tier 1B coach.

Of course he has a really talented team, but he’s getting the most out of them unlike some other coaches, looking at you Mike McCarthy. This is the second straight year Sirianni has been 8-1, since this time in 2021 he’s 28-4 in games Jalen Hurts has started. He hasn’t had a bad loss with a full roster since the playoffs in his first year, which was in the playoffs in his first year. He hasn’t lost multiple games by multiple TDs with his supposed MVP caliber QB like the Dolphins have this season. His only three game losing streak were Weeks 2-4 in 2021, and all to double digit win teams; the 49ers are in a three game losing streak right now.

The Eagles play with a clear identity and Sirianni is as much a part of it as anyone. He is extremely aggressive with 4th downs and not just because of and with the Brotherly Shove. The volume of young players who have improved under his watch is impressive, and he’s gotten great years from veterans as well. The team does not come out flat like the Bills did in London against the Jaguars, or the Cowboys did against the Cardinals. And huge credit to him for giving up play calling halfway through his first season because he realized it was hurting the team. This year Mike McCarthy and Sean McDermott took on play calling and it hasn’t helped.

To me he’s right there with or just behind, in no order, Andy Reid, John Harbaugh, Sean McVay, Pete Carroll, and Mike Tomlin (yes, really), so I guess I would have him at least 6th. Among the rest of the Super Bowl contenders or supposed Super Bowl contenders, he’s better than Kyle Shanahan, Mike McDaniel, Sean McDermott, Dan Campbell, and Mike McCarthy. I’ll take him over Doug Pederson, which is no slight on Doug.

To put it in a sentence: Nick Sirianni doesn’t get out-coached. What more can you ask for?

Three questions—1) is there any realistic chance the Eagles move on from Brian Johnson after this year if he continues (in my opinion) to be bad but the Eagles manage a good record anyways (i.e., the status quo this year)? 2) Is it just me or does Devonta Smith have a bit of an attitude problem? He’s so good, but from the limited amount you can tell from TV and interviews he doesn’t seem all that enthusiastic if he doesn’t have a big game or gets a TD. Whereas AJ Brown on Sunday couldn’t have been happier when Smith or Julio Jones scored, I don’t know if I get that sense from Smith. I hope he wants to stay in Philly. 3) Why don’t the Eagles blitz more? I know the D-line is stacked on paper, but it seems like they don’t actually get that much pressure on opposing QB’s. - ticonderoga

1. The Eagles are not going to fire Brian Johnson. They are currently 2nd in scoring, which is up from last year (3rd). He has a strong relationship with Jalen Hurts, so you risk pissing off the face of the franchise, as his position coach in his breakout year, Johnson was integral in Hurt’s ascension, and you’d be giving him three play callers in three years which is a bad plan. And the Eagles chose to go through the growing pains of a young offensive play caller, they have to live with them. There are areas to clean up, but it’s been 9 games.

2. In case you missed it:

Devonta Smith is not a diva. It’s one of the things I love about him.

3. It’s not in Sean Desai’s DNA to blitz. The Bears didn’t blitz much under Vic Fangio when he was there, or under Fangio’s successor, Chuck Pagano, or under Desai when he took over. He worked for Pete Carroll last year, who has not been a heavy blitzer. It’s just not what the systems Desai has grown up in did, and the Eagles roster is not built with blitzing in mind. Zach Cunningham has 6.5 career sacks entering the season, Nicholas Morrow had 4, Nakobe Dean had 7.5 in college.

A little more blitzing though, yes, I’d like to see that if only to make the defense a little less predictable.

It looks like the Birds are going to get the 1 or 2 seed - if we were to fall to the 2 seed, who would you most want to see in round 1 of the playoffs and who do we match up against the worst? - ces1842

With five wins already we can cross the Cowboys, 49ers, and Seahawks off for contention for the 7th seed unless something goes horribly wrong for them like a QB injury in which case sure, bring ‘em on. The contenders are the Vikings, Packers, Saints, Falcons, Bucs, and Commanders… none of these teams should scare anyone. They’ve already beaten the Vikings, Bucs, and Commanders, so for variety sake give me a different team. Don’t care who.

After week 9, the Eagles magic number to win the division stands at 6. Any combination of 6 Eagles wins or Cowboys losses and the division is the Eagles. If we finish 6-2, the Cowboys would have to win all 9 of their remaining games to tie us! If we finish 5-3, the Cowboys have to go 8-1 the rest of the way. If the Eagles finish 4-4, the Cowboys have to go 7-2. The Eagles finish the season against the Giants twice and the Cardinals. 3 wins right there. Even if Dallas beats us at Dallas, we still own the next tie breaker.

Do you believe the divisional race is actually over but nobody wants to admit it? Or do you think the Cowboys can win out? - Soundbones

It’s not over because the Eagles still have to face the Chiefs, Bills, 49ers, and Seahawks. But it’s almost over. First team to 12 wins takes the division.

Are the Eagles just the 2023 Minnesota Vikings? Great record but all the wins are very close.... - AngryKook314

Absolutely not. The 2022 Vikings were a mediocre team with a good record. They were a completely unsustainable 11-0 in games decided by 8 or fewer points in the regular season, and then promptly went 0-1 in the playoffs in such a game. They gave up almost 500 more yards than they gained and had a negative point differential. The Eagles have gained almost 500 more yards than they have allowed, and have a healthy point differential. The Eagles already have more wins by 9+ points this season than the Vikings had in all of last season.

It’s fair to say that the 8-1 Eagles statistical performance is in line with a 6-3 team, but the 13-4 2022 Vikings performance was in line with a 7 win team. They were extraordinarily lucky. The Eagles are a very good team that has caught a few breaks. They are not the same.

Two part question, just asking for an opinion: A) Why might rashaad penny not getting touches, and B) could he be the answer to our redzone struggles? - alwaysaphillyfan

A) Remember when he not only blew a pass block but got penalized for it? That’s why.

B) The Eagles should bounce back in the red zone through natural positive regression, the talent is just too good. It’s already started, they went 3 for 3 against the Cowboys, and the week before went 3 for 4 against the Commanders, the one miss being a fumble.

Does the Eagles coaching staff see Albert Okwuegbunam as a viable option to fill in for Dallas Goedert? - toddheremans79

I wouldn’t use the word “viable” but I would expect he is the top targeted TE while Goedert is out. Just expect his targets to be, at best, half of what Goedert was getting. Last season Goedert was averaging 6 targets a game, in the five games he missed Jack Stoll and Grant Calcaterra combined for 15, 10 of which were in the Titans and Giants blowouts. Maybe we’ll see a little more Julio Jones usage?

Which 4 Eagles would you pick to be a part of a Family Feud team with you? - CVEagles

Great question. There is a family within the family that is the whole team, and it just so happens that there are four players in that family who have started every game, making who to take pretty straightforward: Jason Kelce, Lane Johnson, Jordan Mailata, and Landon Dickerson. I’m taking the offensive line. Sorry Cam Jurgens, but I can only take four and those guys have started every game.

We’ll play to win, but winning isn’t going to stick in your memory. Our ultimate goal is to get a highlight interaction with Steve Harvey. That you remember. I think these guys can do it.

Coin toss, select 1 of 2 questions -

1) which game this year will we finally see Hurts get a rest in the 4th quarter because we are up by 3+ touchdowns?

or

2) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3FbYcu5NhtQ - bird_brains

I’ll answer both.

1. Against the Giants and Coach Of The Year™ Brian Daboll; and against the Cardinals and human snake Jonathan Gannon. I want the Eagles to humiliate Gannon. Gut those guys.

2. I do not know when the Mongols ruled China without looking it up, and I don’t feel bad about it because we only share a similar-ish sounding name. But I have been to a Circle K in San Dimas because of Bill and Ted. A friend wanted to go there just because of the movie and I played along. On that trip I took a picture of him standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona. A woman in a Ford drove by and though she did not slow down to take a look, we considered that close enough.

Howie is at peak performance right now and his stock has never been higher. We’ve seen coaches get traded recently, but can you trade a GM? How many picks could Howie get if he traded himself to another team? - Jeffrp

There have been head coach trades before so we can use those as a baseline. The Jets and Patriots have essentially traded coaches to each other to resolve disputes. In 1997 the Patriots received a 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th after an attempt at contract shenanigans to bring in Bill Parcells, and in 2000 the Jets received a 1st round pick after Bill Belichick quit at his introductory Jets press conference in 2000 to leave for the Patriots. In both cases the league stepped in and made everyone hug it out. In 2002 the Raiders received two 1sts, 2nd seconds and $8M in cash in 2002 for Jon Gruden in a proper trade.

We also have to take into account where Howie Roseman is trading himself. Is it to the Colts or Titans? The Eagles are going to get a steal.

So I’m thinking two 1sts, two 2nds at the least. But then it dawned on me. Howie Roseman usually wins his trades, and if he’s trading himself to another team, then that team will win the trade. Jeffrey Lurie is going to need to veto that trade.

Why aren’t there so many songs about rainbows? - Cravin’ LeBlanc

Ronnie James Dio’s discography would like a word with you.

Seeing Carson Wentz be signed by the rams, How would you describe Wentz to rams fans? - LBCeaglesFan!

Imagine if Josh Allen played like Zach Wilson, with the physical fragility of Jimmy Garappolo, and the mental fragility of a whole bunch of guys who are out of the league. Things are going great in Los Angeles.

The Rams are in this position because they drafted a 25 year old who did not graduate college and skipped the Senior Bowl so he could get drunk and knock on strangers doors at 6 in the morning instead of bringing in a stable veteran to backup their 35 year old QB who has taken a lot of hits over his long career and has been injured twice in the previous four seasons, and that 25 year old rookie who is now 26 may never play in the NFL. Real sliding doors moment there.

What is the most plausible scenario you can come up with in which the Giants beat the Cowboys this Sunday? - mrparabolic

Dak Prescott gets hurt on the opening drive and the Giants defense, who have the second highest blitz rate this season, assault Cooper Rush into four turnovers that gift the Giants extremely short fields.

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