Eagles Need Next Three Weeks to Get Healthy, Become More Creative on Offense

Ed Kracz

PHILADELPHIA – The Eagles played their second game in five days on Thursday night. After beating the New York Giants 22-21, they will only have to play once in 24 days.

That lone game is against the Dallas Cowboys on Nov. 1, the third straight home game and last game before the bye week, at which time the Eagles (2-4-1, 1-1 NFC East) will emerge and play the New York Giants again, this time at MetLife Stadium on Nov. 15, go to the Cleveland Browns then close November with a Monday night home game against the Seattle Seahawks.

That’s plenty of time for some players to heal their assortment of bumps, bruises, and various injuries and a time for the coaching staff to design some more creative plays, particularly for Jalen Hurts, but generally for an offense that looks too predictable at times and too vanilla at others.

Maybe getting some players back healthy goes hand-in-hand with how much play designing takes place during the course of a week.

Head coach Doug Pederson was asked on Friday how challenging it is with new faces coming in and going out due to injury and how that impacts the ability to call plays and prepare during the week.

“It can be a challenge at times,” he said. “The thing is, with this many new players, new starters or guys in the lineup, you don't get much time on task. You don't get many reps during the week with these guys. So, some continuity and timing in the passing game, particularly, can lack just a little bit.

“…That's why we do the things we do during the week to prepare and sometimes keep game plans a little bit simpler or smaller so these guys don't have to think quite as much, and they can just focus on a handful of plays. But we do our best to put guys in position and utilize their strengths, so they don't have to learn two different positions, for instance. They can just learn one spot for that week.”

The Eagles should get some reinforcements back after the bye. Maybe even before that against Dallas.

Pederson is hopeful that linebacker T.J. Edwards and safety Rudy Ford will be back for the Cowboys game. Maybe offensive lineman Jason Peters, too, though Pederson wouldn’t say where he expects Peters to return to, whether it’s left tackle or right guard.

Rookie receiver Jalen Reagor is reportedly ahead of schedule from thumb surgery, has his cast off, and catching passes.

Tight end Dallas Goedert could be back at some point after the bye and cornerback Avonte Maddox, who dressed for the Giants game but did not play, should be ready to go against Dallas.

Running back Miles Sanders should be back at some point, too sooner rather than later.

As for play calling and designing, well, something more has to be done with rookie quarterback Jalen Hurts.

Hurts played just five snaps against New York after getting seven against the Ravens.

Against the Ravens, his role had a real impact and helped jumpstart a stuck in neutral offense when he entered the game.

Against the Giants, his role felt more like a distraction to an offense trying to find a rhythm, and all Hurts really did was run around looking to make a play. He has still just attempted one pass and he completed it at that.

The Eagles need to figure out better ways to use Hurts, to find some consistency with the way he is used. Let him throw the ball, use him on jet sweeps, whether he gets the ball or is a decoy, hand him the ball in the backfield and let him run, throw it to him the flat and let him create in space, just do something more inventive than what we’ve seen.

There was one play he had against the Giants, where Carson Wentz faked a pitch to him going right and threw left to Boston Scott on a screen that went for 13 yards, with two New York defenders going to Hurts before realizing they had been duped. The fake bought the Eagles an extra second or two with two defenders out of the picture.

Then there’s the two-point plays.

The Eagles had two more tries on two-pointers after attempting four against the Ravens. They are 2-for-6 in successful conversions.

For a coach who likes to go for two more than any other coach in the league, there have to be better ways to be more successful when trying to get two points after a touchdown.

This is what these next three weeks should be about: coaches getting together in a room and figuring out better ways to use personnel now that they have had nearly two months of identifying strengths and weaknesses.

And why they’re at it figure out a way to grow the roles of both rookie linebackers, Davion Taylor and Shaun Bradley.

The two got significant defensive snaps against Baltimore, with Bradley getting 32 snaps (44 percent) with 23 special teams snaps and Taylor seeing his first NFL defensive snaps with 11 and 29 special team snaps.

The duo fell off the face of the playing time map versus New York with Taylor getting one defensive snap and 20 ST snaps while Taylor got no defensive snaps and 19 on special teams.

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