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Eagles-Cowboys Film Review: Feeling a little bit more optimistic than expected

Philadelphia Eagles v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

This article may surprise you a little bit. The Eagles didn’t score a touchdown against the Cowboys so I can hardly say the offense was great, but I think the film showed some changes that I have been asking for and I feel a little bit more optimistic after watching this game back.

Offense

Firstly, before we get into the film, we need to talk about the obvious. This is very simplistic, but you can’t win when you turn the football over that consistently. I’m not going to break down the fumbles because there’s no point. Everyone knows that they can’t happen. The Eagles can make all the changes in the world on offense, but they won’t succeed if they turn the ball over like that. Incredibly, the Eagles didn’t score an offensive touchdown, yet they averaged 6.2 yards per play (for context, only two teams are averaging more yards per play this season)! This highlights the impact that the turnovers had.

Anyway, let’s get to the film. The Eagles came out early on and started to commit to the running game. The Cowboys’ defense was playing a very light box, and the Eagles finally decided to get the QB run game going. This is what the Eagles’ offense did last year. Run when teams play a lightbox, and throw it deep when they stack the box. It’s so simplistic, but this Eagles’ offense was simplistic last year, and it works when you have elite playmakers.

The Eagles’ running game worked early on, and the Cowboys started to come out with single-high coverage. So guess what the Eagles did? They took some deep shots! Unfortunately, this offense relies on playmakers making plays like this. AJ Brown just isn’t making these explosive plays right now, but I don’t doubt that he will make this type of play in the future. It’s hard to see on film, but it looks to me like he slows up a little bit and would have had a chance at making this if he didn’t.

This is an excellent play on 3rd down. I really like the design and Jalen Hurts reads it perfectly. On 3rd and long, Hurts knows that he will need to buy himself time to wait for the routes to develop. Most teams who run Dagger from a bunch formation would get the receiver on the LOS to run the clearout route. The Eagles have Goedert run a very shallow route and then Quez Watkins flying deep, which creates a really big zone for the Cowboys’ defenders to cover. DeVonta Smith finds that void perfectly on the deep in route and Hurts plays it excellent. This is great.

I will never moan about the Eagles running this split-flow RPO because they normally run it so well. I am a little surprised they run it to Hurts left, but you could argue it makes the call less predictable. I think this is a fantastic throw by Hurts and this is a play that DeVonta Smith should make. Once again, it’s an example of the execution being off rather than an issue with the scheme. I really felt the Eagles were in a nice rhythm on offense early on in this game, and without the obvious mistakes (drops and turnovers) the Eagles would have put up good numbers in this game.

However, I’ve been quite complimentary so far, but I think this play sums up the issues with the Eagles’ offense. It’s hard to blame one player, but I think it occurs because of Hurts, Nick Sirianni’s, and the Eagles’ entire organization’s focus on big plays. On 3rd and medium, this ball has to go to DeVonta Smith. He’s wide open. But, AJ Brown is running one-on-one down the field and we know that Hurts loves to take that shot. The cornerback is so far off AJ Brown so this throw is never really on. Despite my complaints, you could make the argument that it’s a heck of a throw from Hurts and AJ Brown should be able to make this catch. Even if this ball is completed, I still maintain that Hurts should go to DeVonta Smith based on the down, the distance and the leverage of the Cowboys’ cornerbacks, the Eagles and Hurts have to learn to take the shorter throws rather than trying to hit the big play all of the time.

I was really happy with the changes we saw to the Eagles’ run game. It was a lot more varied, Hurts was more involved, and there were more gap scheme runs. More importantly than anything... we FINALLY got to see Dart again! The Eagles run it more than once (including with Hurts as the read runner) and I just don’t know why the Eagles haven’t used it more this year. Why would you not want Jordan Mailata and Lane Johnson on the move? I think it’s interesting that a lot of the gap scheme stuff was run with Kenny Gainwell or Hurts as the lead rusher, which makes me wonder if the simplicity of the Eagles’ running game and focus on zone runs is due to the skillet of DeAndre Swift. I think it’s something to monitor moving forward.

The biggest issue with the Eagles' game plan was the inability to deal with the Cowboys’ pressure looks. I don’t know what more to say. We have been talking about this issue since last year, and it feels like a philosophical issue rather than a specific game-planning issue. The Eagles’ motion here should send alarm bells ringing to Hurts because it’s clear the Cowboys are going to blitz. The Eagles have absolutely no adjustment and just run Crash. This play takes too long to develop and Hurts gets hit hard and can’t get the ball off in time to an open receiver. The Eagles have to be better at dealing with blitzes and work on getting the ball out quickly. We have seen some answers this year (such as the angle screen - where has that gone?!) but no answers have been consistent.

As I said earlier, gap scheme was back in this one. This is another excellent running play. This offensive line is so athletic and I think gap scheme is better when you aren’t using the QB to run as much as last year. I know the numbers don’t show a great running game, but I think the running game was more consistent and varied in this game. Especially early on in the game, the Eagles were moving the ball well and the run game was a huge part of this.

As we are talking run game, here are some numbers on the Eagles’ run game on the 1st 4 possessions.

However, I want to talk a little about D’Andre Swift. I’ve been talking about him for a few weeks, and I’ve taken a lot of abuse constructive criticism from numerous fans. I think Swift is fantastic and has had a great year. I do not see him as a foundation runner. I don’t think he should be someone who dominates the touches. I am not just making this comment based on this one play, it’s based on a lot of different plays over the past month. I just don’t think he has the sustaining quality that you want from a starting running back. This is 2nd and 3. Just get upfield quickly and get a few yards. Sometimes you just need your running back to pick up 4 yards on 1st and 10 and keep the offense on track. The run game is all about commitment and volume, and I think Swift is a little too inconsistent to be a feature rusher. In the past 3 weeks, Swift has 31 carries for 182 yards but only 3 receptions. I do not think that is the best way to use him.

This would have been a fantastic touchdown outside of structure if DeVonta Smith could hang onto it. I’ve watched this play about 50 times (I wish I was kidding) and I’m still not sure if Smith drops it or if the throw is just slightly out of reach. Either way, it’s another extremely close call and this game felt like one of those games where the Eagles were so close on so many occasions on offense. I’m not making excuses, I just don’t think the game plan was anywhere near as bad as I thought it was watching live.

This is the one call I’m not sure about. I saw people online saying it was a cover-0 blitz again, but it wasn’t. The Eagles have the numbers in protection but Jurgens is blown up and the Cowboys' blitz is really well-timed and aggressive. I actually don’t hate Mesh as a call, but the execution is off. Smith is slow off the line and AJ Brown’s route is too far upfield so he can’t create a natural pick. I know throwing behind the LOS always looks bad on 4th down, but I don’t think it’s the worst call in the world. I just think it was bad execution.

As always, let me know your thoughts. I was expecting to be extremely negative about the offense after scoring 0 touchdowns, but I thought the film was OK. I can’t lie! If you came here expecting more criticism then don’t panic. Just wait until you see the article on the defense...

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