Maurice Setter once said, “Too many people miss the silver lining because they’re expecting gold.”
The Eagles dropped a meaningless 6-0 game to the Cowboys to end the regular season Sunday afternoon. This left a lot of Eagles fans, especially on Twitter, in panic mode heading into the playoffs.
Without getting too far ahead of myself, there is no reason to panic right now. There is reason to worry, but no reason to jump off the ship yet. Now, on to what little there was to take away from the game.
1. Nick Foles looked rough… again.
This is the reason for concern I was alluding to. Foles only played one quarter of football and completed four passes on eleven attempts for 39 yards and one interception. His interception was a garbage forced throw to a double covered Alshon Jeffery.
Captain Obvious analyst inbound, Nick Foles needs to get it together in the next two weeks or the Birds will be at risk for going one and done in the playoffs. He doesn’t need to go out and win games, but he needs to be efficient. I trust that the coaches can put him in a position to do so, it’s all a matter of how he shows up on January 13 against an NFC South opponent.
2. Kenjon Barner needs to get it together.
Kenjon Barner muffed a punt inside his own 10-yard line on Sunday afternoon. He was lucky enough to fall back on it inside the five-yard line, though.
This is a reason for concern as well. Judging by the drastic drop off in offensive production, the Eagles will need to play damn-near perfect football on the other two sides of the ball. The Birds can’t give away the ball like that. Barner needs to do a better job moving forward.
3. Breaking down the resting players.
Doug Pederson decided to rest some key players on Sunday afternoon, including: Jay Ajayi, Brandon Graham, Jalen Mills, Nigel Bradham, Tim Jernigan, Derek Barnett, and Rodney McLeod.
I understand that Graham and Mills likely needed this week to get healthy as they were both nursing injuries this week. I was confused at Jernigan and McLeod not playing this week. I figured those guys could use the reps going into the playoffs, especially since their better counterparts (Malcolm Jenkins and Fletcher Cox) were going to get some time.
I understand not playing Bradham as well, you need him to be healthy and well-rested come January 13. He is one of the key players on the defense.
4. Oh, No Baby Torrey Smith, what is you doin’?
Smith continued his lackluster season on Sunday with a bad drop on a third down and seven which could have lead to a touchdown.
To me, it is clear that Torrey Smith will not be back next season. The Eagles have some young talent at the wide receiver position in Mack Hollins and Shelton Gibson. Hollins has been getting more looks while Gibson is looking like more of a project. I would rather roll with either of those two next season than watch a has-been deep threat drop passes that hit him in the numbers.
I like Torrey Smith the person, I’m just frustrated by Torrey Smith the wide receiver.
5. Nate Sudfeld looked pretty good, but not great.
Part of me sat back and hoped for a 4 touchdown performance out of Nate Sudfeld for no other reason than to create a quarterback controversy. Unfortunately that didn’t happen, he finished 19/23 for 134 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions. He added one scramble for 22 yards.
That’s nothing to scoff at for an NFL debut. I thought he ran the offense effectively, despite putting up zero points in three quarters. He did just enough to prove he can be a competent back-up quarterback but just little enough to keep Nick Foles’ job safe.
His best throw of the day ended up getting called back, due to a hold, but he rolled to his left and hit Marcus Johnson on a deep comeback route to move the sticks on a third-and-long. His worst throw of the day was a fourth and short that he threw to Shelton Gibson in double coverage (that ball never had a chance.)
Merrill Reese on Sudfeld's run… calls it the play of the game because they don't have many other candidates… ha pic.twitter.com/UpYqKHDxeK
— Nick Piccone (@nickpiccone) December 31, 2017
I like what “Nasty” Nate Sudfeld brings to the table. If we’re being honest, I think he pushes for the backup spot next season. He is kind of “Wentz-lite” in that he rolls better than Foles and isn’t afraid to scramble if need be. The only thing Foles has over Sudfeld is experience.
6. Rookie Watch 2017.
A lot of the Eagles rookies got some time in the regular season finale, here’s how I thought they did.
Sidney Jones- The Eagles second round pick got some much earned play time in the last game of the year. He played pretty well in coverage with the exception of one play: a sluggo route that Dak Prescott over threw. Aside from the one play I was pretty impressed by Jones IV. He finished the game with two tackles.
Rasul Douglas- Douglas had a typical rookie outing, one play he looked pretty good, the next play he looked out of place. He finished with four tackles and looked competent in coverage. He got picked on a lot Sunday and let up the games lone touchdown, a slant to Brice Butler while Douglas was in off-coverage. I maintain that ‘Sul will be a play maker for this secondary for years to come.
Mack Hollins- Hollins led the Birds in catches, three for 25 yards. He looks like he is closing in on taking Torrey Smith’s job next season. I wonder how that will bode considering he is a key special teams player. I like this kid, his future is bright in Philadelphia.
Nate Gerry- I loved this pick in the draft. I knew Gerry was going to be a project, but I like what he brings to the table. In his first real play time of his young NFL career he had a pass defended (which could have been intercepted), a tackle, and a key assisted tackle on an outside run to his side where he took on a Cowboys guard, won the battle, and got to the running back first. It was a great play all around. I didn’t really take much notice to how he played otherwise, but I am interested to see how he progresses this offseason.
Shelton Gibson- Gibson recorded his first and second NFL catches in Sunday’s game for a total of 11 yards. This is a far-cry from the deep threat he looked like coming out of West Virginia, but he has to start somewhere, right? Call me a homer, but I like what he brings to the table. He’s been suiting up over Marcus Johnson for the past few weeks, so it shows that the Eagles like what they see in him.
Elijah Qualls- The Birds last pick in the 2017 draft got some play time with Tim Jernigan sitting out. He finished the game with 3 tackles and looked like a good run stuffer against the Dallas starters.
Corey Clement- Clement did nothing in this game. My theory is that he’s too important to the first offensive unit to use and potentially get hurt. I think he will get some time in the playoff game on the 13th.
Jake Elliott- Elliott appeared one time; to kick the ball off to Dallas to start the second half. That was it.
The kids are alright.
7. If the defense keeps playing at this level, the Birds will be fine.
The Eagles defense has been playing at an incredibly high level for the past two weeks. They held the Raiders to 270 some yards of total offense on Christmas then the Eagles second and third unit held the Cowboys first unit to 301 yards of offense and 6 (!!!) points. I know the Cowboys offense has been struggling lately, but the Eagles barely played their defensive starters and still held the best a divisional opponent to 6 points. That’s something to be proud of. The Eagles backups held a top five running back (with a top tier offensive line, mind you) to 103 yards on 27 carries. That’s 3.8 yards per carry, which is barely anything.
This defense is getting hot at the right time, and it’s just what the doctor ordered coming into the playoffs. Philadelphia you should be excited right now! Our Birds have a first round bye and ateam from the NFC South (likely a dome team) is coming to Philly in two weeks to play in the cold. If our defense balls out in the divisional round our offense will do enough to get us to the NFC title game.
Like a good English major, I’m going to recall the the quote I used to kick off this article. Stop trying to see gold and notice the silver lining, the Eagles are a good football team. Our defense has been playing exceptionally well the past few weeks. Be optimistic, no one thought the Eagles were going to be this good this season. They went 13-3 for a reason. I think they can make it, you should too.