Eagles vs. 49ers: 7 winners, 13 losers, and 2 IDKs

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Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Observations from Sunday’s Week 2 loss.

The Philadelphia Eagles are 1-1 after wasting some key opportunities against the San Francisco 49ers. Time to hand out some winners, losers, and IDKs.

WINNERS

PERSPECTIVE POSSESSORS

The Eagles’ loss was certainly frustrating given that it was a winnable game. But it’s hardly time to press the panic button. It’s not like the Birds were thoroughly outplayed or anything. They hung around with a team that was perceived to be better than them, as indicated by Philly being 3.5-point home underdogs. This isn’t to suggest the Eagles earned a moral victory; we’re not Blogging The Boys raving about the Cowboys barely losing to the Buccaneers. No, this is to say the Eagles look about as many expected heading into this season: a flawed team not without its merits. A group that looks like they’ll be in the 7-10 or 8-9 range. Maybe a little bit better. This loss to the 49ers raised some concerns, sure, but it doesn’t mean it’s time to make definitive judgments on big picture items. There’s a level of patience to be had with a new play-caller and a second-year quarterback in his first season as a full-time starter.

QUEZ WATKINS

Watkins was targeted twice for two receptions and 117 yards. It’s disappointing he wasn’t able to score on his 91-yard reception but that wasn’t as much on him as it was a great effort by the 49ers defender who had a good angle on him. Between this long catch and his preseason touchdown against the Steelers, we’re seeing that Watkins is quite capable of being explosive. But, as we saw in training camp, he’s not only defined by his speed. Watkins ran a crisp route to get open for a 26-yard gain on 3rd-and-7 in the first half. Watkins only played 50% of the Eagles’ snaps in Week 2. He deserves more than that.

There have been 46 plays of 91+ yards in NFL over the last 20 years

Only one other time did a team not get points on that drive until the Eagles today
pic.twitter.com/ekvhtc8uVW

— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) September 19, 2021

JAVON HARGRAVE

Hargrave helped set the tone early. He notched a tackle for a 4-yard loss on the first play from scrimmage. The Grave Digger then had another tackle for loss on the 49ers’ second drive, which was also a three-and-out. Hargrave didn’t log any sacks but he did have one quarterback hit. All signs continue to point to this being a career year for him.

Held, nearly facemasked, no call https://t.co/ci3RFt1KA3 pic.twitter.com/zdjXVH5ydp

— Brian Coulter (@PhilaBCoulter) September 19, 2021

JALEN HURTS THE RUNNER

10 runs for 82 yards and one touchdown (via a QB sneak). Hurts also sold a hit he took along the sideline to draw a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty that set up the Eagles’ sole touchdown. If Hurts was better with his arm, he may not have had to rely on running as much as he did. But it’s always nice to know that’s a tool that he has in his toolbox if/when a play breaks down.

ARRYN SIPOSS

Siposs had a great punt that bounced off the ground and should’ve been downed within the 5-yard line had Zech McPhearson not unwisely knocked it into the end zone for a touchback. Regardless, Siposs has four total punts for a 51.0 average with a long of 68. He’s Pro Football Focus’s third-highest graded punter through two weeks.

THE EAGLES’ 2022 FIRST-ROUND PICK FROM THE DOLPHINS

Tua Tagovailoa, Miami’s starting quarterback, was carted off with a rib injury during the Dolphins’ 35-0 loss to the Bills. While unfortunate for him, the Eagles benefit from Miami’s misfortune.

EAGLES FANS BACK AT THE LINC

It was truly great to see Eagles fans back in full force at Lincoln Financial Field. I legitimately got emotional hearing the crowd roar during the Eagles’ player intros. Didn’t actually break out into tears but it felt closer than I would have expected to be. I’m detached from fandom to some extent in that I try to cover the team with some level of objectivity. But, even when I might have a lot to criticize, there’s always a visceral part of me that really cares about them. The Eagles make me feel. And to feel like that is to be alive. Kudos to all the fans who showed up and brought great energy. Just too bad the Birds couldn’t send you home with a win.

The biggest pops came for DeVonta Smith, Zach Ertz, and … this guy.#Eagles pic.twitter.com/cOnttLlLSl

— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) September 19, 2021

LOSERS

THE EAGLES

This could be a loss that ends up haunting them later this season since it felt like it was within reach. The Birds feasibly could’ve been up 17 to 0 going into halftime. The reality was they were down 7 to 3. Now they’re 1-1 and second in the division instead of sitting pretty atop the NFC East at 2-0. One game could be the difference in this division.

NICK SIRIANNI

Mistakes made by the Eagles’ head coach largely contributed to the Eagles’ Week 2 loss.

Sirianni favored the run too much early on, especially against a 49ers secondary that was hampered by injury. I mean, San Fran was starting a washed up Josh Norman after he only joined the team less than two weeks ago. A run on 3rd-and-6 on Philly’s first drive made no sense. Perhaps Hurts checked into that call but, if so, should he really be allowed the freedom in that situation?

The biggest problem, though, was his role in the Eagles failing to score from 1st-and-goal at the 1-yard line. There was no real need to overthink it when trying a quarterback sneak or two could’ve done the trick. Hurts is a powerful player and all we hear (from Eagles coaches to players to fans) is how good the offensive line is. Instead, Sirianni tried to get too cute. Especially when he took pandering to a new level (?) and ran a modified version of the Philly Special, which clearly didn’t trick the 49ers.

.@Eagles sequence of plays at the 1 yard line with a chance to go up 10-0 is one that leaves you scratching your head. I have no idea what they are trying to do. Does anyone know? #BaldysBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/K1LcFF6qV0

— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) September 20, 2021

The Eagles aren’t good enough where they can get away with leaving seven points on the board like this. To his credit, Sirianni took accountability for the poor play-calling after the game. One can hope it’s a learning experience for him.

Beyond this disappointing sequence, one can question the Eagles’ decision to pivot from a very conservative Week 1 strategy to an uber aggressive Week 2 approach. After finishing dead last in average intended air yards in Atlanta, Hurts led the league in that category against the 49ers. It was acknowledged here that the Eagles weren’t necessarily always going to be able to successfully replicate their Falcons game plan. But there’s some middle ground between the two extremes of the first two games. Perhaps Sirianni could’ve done more to get Hurts in a rhythm.

JALEN HURTS THE THROWER

We all know it wasn’t all bad for Hurts. He hit Watkins on the money for the aforementioned 91-yard completion. He fit a ball in a very tight window to Dallas Goedert on the play right before he executed a QB sneak for Philly’s sole touchdown. He had an absolute dime to Jalen Reagor for a touchdown unfortunately wiped out by the receiver stepping out (more on that to come).

But Hurts finished the day completing just 52.2% of his passes for zero touchdowns and a 80.0 passer rating. Outside the Watkins play, he logged just 4.5 yards per attempt.

Hurts left a number of plays on the field. He was unable to connect with DeVonta Smith on a couple of deep shots. The first of those came on a play where Hurts rolled right and had an entirely clean pocket but ultimately threw short of the receiver, who had had a step on the defense.

Missed opportunities!!! #eagles #FlyEaglesFly pic.twitter.com/jhJEqE7bmn

— Brian Westbrook (@36westbrook) September 20, 2021

Hurts also missed an open Dallas Goedert on more than one occasion, including this play:

Bird’s eye view: pic.twitter.com/DX8HLGdpG3

— Tim McManus (@Tim_McManus) September 20, 2021

Speaking of the Eagles’ tight ends, that’s an area to continue to monitor moving forward. Heading into training camp, we pointed out how Goedert’s and Zach Ertz’s production fell off after Hurts replaced Carson Wentz last season. We questioned if Hurts would be able to successfully work the middle of the field and execute an intermediate passing game. In an admittedly small sample size this season, that hasn’t really been the case. Hurts isn’t throwing over the middle as much as he’s mostly working the right side:

Through two weeks, 64% of the passes Jalen Hurts has thrown beyond the LOS have targeted the right side of the field pic.twitter.com/jAUZmiL3NM

— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) September 20, 2021

Hurts’ Week 2 performance shouldn’t disqualify him as the Eagles’ long-term quarterback. But it didn’t help towards clearing what’s expected to be a very high bar for Philly not to pivot from him.

JALEN REAGOR

I caught flak for including Reagor in the “IDK” section last week. (Not the Losers section, even. The IDK section.) I just didn’t buy anything we saw from Week 1 indicating he’s really turned the corner. I was getting ready to eat some crow after seeing Reagor burn the 49ers for a deep touchdown. But then the play got reviewed and it was clear that Reagor had stepped out before making the catch, thus nullifying his big play. Disappointing.

Also, just not very shocking. As often mentioned throughout camp, it’s been rare to see Reagor have a “clean” outing. A performance where he only makes good plays and doesn’t do anything obviously bad. It’s never been that simple.

Though some may chalk it up to misfortune or a should-be penalty on the 49ers, the reality is that Reagor is to blame for the very costly mistake. BGN alumnus Michael Kist astutely noticed this in the moment and Sirianni confirmed as much as the game.

Nick Sirianni was asked what the teaching point is for Jalen Reagor after the WR stepping out of bounds negated a touchdown.

Sirianni said it’s about saving room on the sideline with how you release. So, even if you get bumped, you don’t go out. #Eagleshttps://t.co/mQHauqxSwA

— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) September 19, 2021

This was a very costly mistake. Instead of going up 10 to 0, the Eagles settled for a field goal that got blocked and kept the game at 3 to 0.

Something I keep thinking about is: how many other touchdowns do you recall getting wiped out in this fashion? Are there any good examples from recent history?

Not totally unlike Nelson Agholor, Reagor can be a pretty frustrating player. He’s talented but he’s hardly reliable. If the Eagles are ever making a decision between playing either him or Watkins, they’re doing themselves a disservice by not going with the latter more often.

PEOPLE NAMED BRANDON

BRANDON LEE GRAHAM — Already ruled out for the season with a torn Achilles. Ugh. Stinks to see this happen to a fellow BLG. Graham is such a positive force of energy both on and off the field. Not to mention how the Eagles’ edge rush rotation takes a hit with his absence. Hopefully this all-time Eagle is able to heal up and get right for 2022.

BRANDON BROOKS — Really stinks to see Brooks dealing with yet another injury. He’s had to deal with a lot of issues since originally tearing his Achilles in January 2019. The Eagles seemingly have a replacement who boasts potential in Landon Dickerson but the obvious preference is to have Brooks playing at a high level at right guard.

BRANDON LEE GOWTON — I made a bet with my co-host Rob “Stats” Guerrera, who is a 49ers fan, on Sunday’s game. If the Eagles lost, I would sing “I Left My Heart In San Francisco” on The SB Nation NFL Show this week (The ODDcast, which drops on Tuesdays). If the 49ers lost, he’d have to sing the Eagles fight song. And due to the Eagles dropping a winnable game, I have to sing. (Of course, I have it way less worse than the two Brandons who get seriously injured.)

DEREK BARNETT

How many dumb penalties is Barnett going to take before he learns his lesson? Enough already.

Derek Barnett has now been flagged for 8 personal fouls in his career (6 unnecessary roughness penalties, 2 roughing the QBs).

His penalty today was difference between 3rd and 15 from SF27 and 1st and 10 from SF42. A costly error that lived up to description: Unnecessary.

— Zach Berman (@ZBerm) September 20, 2021

ANTHONY HARRIS

The Eagles’ top free agent signing (in an offseason with limited spending) dropped a pick and later got called for defensive pass interference on a play that otherwise could’ve held the 49ers to a red zone field goal.

ERIC WILSON

Wilson saw a decrease in playing time from 85% to 69%. He hasn’t really done a ton to impress, which can also be said of Harris. Some pointed to the Eagles signing these former Vikings defenders as to why Howie Roseman had a good offseason. Eh.

LANDON DICKERSON

The rookie second-round pick allowed five pressures on just 20 pass block snaps in his NFL debut. He got pancaked into Hurts on his first play. Dickerson didn’t participate in training camp due to suffering an ACL injury in December 2020 so it’s only fair to cut him some slack. But he sure has a lot of improving to do and he’s going to get tested more soon with Brooks missing time.

THE EAGLES’ 2022 FIRST-ROUND PICK FROM THE COLTS

With Wentz getting hurt, the chances of the Eagles getting a first-round pick from Indy is in jeopardy.

VIBES

The vibes were really good heading into Week 1 and coming out of it. They were feeling good up until Reagor’s touchdown that got wiped out, honestly. Things started to snowball from there in a bad way. No TD, blocked FG, turnover on downs after having 1st-and-goal at the 1-yard line, BLG and Brooks getting hurt … a bad shift in energy.

I DON’T KNOWS

JONATHAN GANNON

On one hand, the defense isn’t why the Eagles lost to the 49ers. You should generally be able to win when your defense only surrenders 17 points.

But JG’s unit did allow a 97-yard touchdown drive before the end of the first half and then a 92-yard drive in the second half to go down 11 points.

Aside from allowing a chunk gain to Deebo Samuel, the Eagles’ defense has been good at limiting big plays (20+ yards). But they’re not making any thus far, either.

The Eagles have yet to log a takeaway. In fairness, Harris did drop a pick after Josh Sweat pressured Jimmy Garoppolo into a bad throw. And a Darius Slay fumble recovery got wiped out by that K’Von Wallace penalty. Still, really need a takeaway that actually counts.

The Eagles could also be afford to be better in the pass rush department. Philly has logged zero sacks outside of three they got when Atlanta was in desperation mode down late in the fourth quarter last week. The Eagles only hit Jimmy G twice on Sunday. It’s not like the 49ers have a bad offensive line but Philly’s defensive line still has to be better. And it’s not like we’ve seen much blitzing from Gannon to help make up for a lack of DL pressure.

I’m relatively optimistic about Gannon and perhaps I’m being a harsh grader in this spot. Would just like to see some more big plays from the defense. Perhaps they’ll come with time.

FLETCHER COX

This observation caused some to get worked up:

Stats don’t always tell the entire story but Fletcher Cox, the Eagles’ highest paid player, has 1 sack and 1 QB hit through his last 6 games.

— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) September 19, 2021

Allow me to expand in this space.

Cox is obviously in by no means a bad player. But the Eagles aren’t paying him top 7 interior DL money to merely be good or only draw extra attention. As the guy who’s carrying the top cap number on the team, the Eagles need Cox to be one of their very best players. A difference-maker. And there are questions if Cox is still that guy.

To contextualize Cox’s numbers, look at the rest of the top 10 interior defensive line contracts in terms of annual value (via Over The Cap) from the same sample size:

Aaron Donald – 3.5 sacks, 9 QB hits

DeForest Buckner – 6 sacks, 11 QB hits

Leonard Williams – 3 sacks, 8 QB hits

Chris Jones – 4 sacks, 10 QB hits

Jonathan Allen – 3 sacks, 11 QB hits

Kenny Clark – 1 sack, 3 QB hits

Fletcher Cox – 1 sack, 1 QB hit

Grady Jarrett – 1 sack, 3 QB hits

Cameron Heyward – 2 sacks, 5 QB hits

JJ Watt – 0 sacks, 7 QB hits

Are we to believe Cox is really the only player on this list that’s getting doubled teamed? Players aren’t paid elite money to only produce in perfect circumstances.

None of this is to say Cox is the main reason the Eagles lost to the 49ers. But going back to the defense lacking big plays, it would be nice if one of their top players created some. The Eagles need more out of Cox — who currently ranks 33rd out of 42 defensive tackles graded by PFF (minimum 50% snaps) — moving forward. Especially with Graham going down.

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