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Eagles opposing person to stop, Week 17 edition

Arizona Cardinals v Chicago Bears Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images

The Eagles are double-digit favorites for the second-straight week, and for at least the 11th time this season face an opponent that they should roll over. The problem has been the Eagles have not rolled over anyone. They sit at 11-4 hosting a dreadful 3-12 Arizona Cardinals team at 1 p.m. on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field yet have only outscored their opponents by 26 points.

A familiar face will visit the Linc this Sunday, former Eagles’ defensive coordinator Jonathon Gannon. Needless to say, Gannon has a great knowledge of Eagles’ coach Nick Sirianni and the Eagles’ offense, though may not recognize the way this offense is functioning under first-year offensive coordinator Brian Johnson.

Gannon’s familiarity with the Eagles was certainly a talking point for Sirianni this week.

“Remember, he knows us, too, right? I would say they’re doing a good job as far as their schemes and different things like that,” Sirianni said about the Gannon-led Cardinals. “I’m very early in my studies there. Obviously, you come here, and you work on the kinks that you have to work out from last game, and now we’re early in our studies of Arizona.

“They’re doing some good things scheme-wise. They’ve got some good guys in place there. Budda Baker is a really, really good player. So, there is a, ‘Hey, we know this in this scenario.’ Jonathan knows some of the things we know, and we know some of the things he knows about us. There is going to be a little bit about that. You can’t think too much into that. You’ve got to account for it, but not let it completely dictate what you’re doing offensively.

“But there is familiarity on both sides, and I think it’s almost like — the familiarity of the players is different, but it’s almost like a division game in the sense of there is a lot of familiarity on both sides of what’s happening.”

The Eagles snapped their three-game losing skid with a 33-25 victory over the New York Giants last Sunday, though you could not tell by the way the Eagles’ locker room and fanbase reacted. This team has been hot-and-cold all season. What’s more is that the players know it and expect more. The expected result came with drama in Sirianni’s sideline antics and an underlying mix of tension.

This is a team built towards winning the Super Bowl, nothing less. It’s a team that has underachieved and the players and coaches know it. There is a culture standard that the 2023 Eagles have yet to reach—and they know it. Last Sunday’s reaction to a victory over a NFC East rival proved it.

Sirianni liked the attitude after the game.

“When we get back in here, we’ll put the game to bed and then it’s back to business as usual,” he said. “And then also, wanting to play and to play to a standard we know we’re capable of playing. Because of the guys we have on this team, nobody is going to be satisfied when you don’t play to that standard.

“That is quite frankly, what I think makes these guys special. Why is DeVonta [Smith] continuing to get better and better and better? Because he has this inner drive amongst himself that is never satisfied. I said something to him yesterday. I’m like, ‘hey, congrats on 1000 yards. I know I took you out early in that Dallas game in 2021. Looking back at it, I wish I hadn’t.’ He just wants more, and he wants more, and he wants more. That’s just one guy as an example, I’m just using him as one example.

“There is that balance, because you do have to enjoy — the wins in the NFL are hard to come by, and you have to enjoy it and have to have that balance: joy and determination to get better. You can have both. I think that definitely starts with me quite frankly. There were moments in that game yesterday where I felt like I was too tense on the sideline, and I need to be better about that. I have to do a better job. If I’m going to ask the players to do a better job themselves, then I have to do a better job myself, and I definitely felt that yesterday out of myself.”

On facing Gannon the first time, “I have a great deal of respect for Jonathan and the coach that he is and the person that he is. I’m looking forward to going against him this weekend,” Sirianni said. “I know the players — you’ll have to ask them — but I know the players that I’ve talked to feel the same way. Obviously, we didn’t finish the job last year, which all of us have the taste in our mouth of like, ‘dang, wish we had finished the job,’ but there were still some special moments, a lot of special moments. I think we can all agree there were a lot of special moments last year, and also in 2021, and Jonathan Gannon was a big part of that.

“Any time he thanks me for the opportunity for being here, I always in return thank him because his service to this team and the special things we did while he was the defensive coordinator here was enough payback for me tenfold. I value that relationship that I have with him. I’m always rooting for Coach Gannon, very similar to how I root for Coach [Shane] Steichen. But, this will be the week that I will not be rooting for him, obviously.”

The Cardinals are 3-12 this season. They are also a different team when Kyler Murray is at quarterback. Murray missed practice earlier this week with an illness but will probably play against the Eagles on Sunday. Two of Arizona’s paltry three wins have come under Murray. And with Gannon’s understanding of the Eagles’ offense, this may not be as easy as it looks on paper.

Then again, nothing has been comfortable for the 2023 Eagles on paper or on the field.

Joseph Santoliquito is a hall of fame, award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area who has written feature stories for,,,, Deadspin and The Philadelphia Daily News. In 2006, he was nominated for an Emmy Award for a special project piece for called “Love at First Beep.” He is most noted for his award-winning feature on high school wrestler A.J. Detwiler in February 2006, which appeared on SportsCenter. In 2015, he was elected president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

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