Helping Jalen Hurts, Nick Sirianni’s future, running the ball and more in Eagles mailbag

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Eagles mailbag: Helping Hurts, Sirianni’s future, running the ball and more originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

The Eagles are coming off their mini by week with a 2-4 record as they prepare to head to Las Vegas to take on the Raiders.

After winning the opener, the Eagles have lost our of their last five, but the schedule starts to get a little easier now. There are some winnable games coming up.

With all that in mind, let’s get to your questions:

The answer is probably a little of all those things, which might be unsatisfying. Nick Sirianni has clearly tried to build this offense around Jalen Hurts, going with a heavy RPO scheme but that hasn’t really worked out very well at times. It’s safe to say that Sirianni doesn’t have as much experience with this style of offense and that has led to a disconnect between play caller and quarterback. I’m very curious to see how much change there will be when the Eagles take the field on Sunday in Las Vegas.

It’s pretty clear to me that Sirianni hasn’t been helping Hurts very much with his play calls. I get the emphasis on the RPO game but Sirianni needs to find a better run-pass balance. There are just no plays off for Hurts in this offense. Either he’s trying to make a play happen with his arm or his legs or he’s forced to make a read on every play. Nothing wrong with a designed run to the backs mixed in every once in a while. If nothing else, it’ll take some stress off Hurts.

But I don’t want to absolve Hurts here either. I agree that Sirianni can do a better job but Hurts can play better too. He has had very good moments this season but has been way too inconsistent. The thing that is most worrisome is that he continues to miss some routine throws that need to be made. And there are also times when he escapes the pocket too early instead of looking downfield and going through his reads. Those two things are notable because those issues have followed Hurts.

I still think Hurts gets this year. I’ve started to hear some fans wonder about a quarterback change and that’s unfair. We all knew the Eagles weren’t going to be true contenders this season and we all understood that Hurts would get 17 games to prove he can be the guy going forward. That hasn’t changed. I’m very curious to see how Hurts responds. I think we’ll learn a lot about him and Sirianni over the next month or so.

I got a few questions about Tyree Jackson, which isn’t surprising after Howie Roseman raved about the QB-turned-TE in his Friday press conference. First off, Jackson should be nearing a return. He suffered a back fracture in training camp and is now reached his 8-10 week window, which was the initial timeline.

As much as Roseman talked about Jackson on Friday, he also mentioned that Dallas Goedert will get a chance to be the true No. 1. So I don’t think Jackson won’t start stealing snaps from Goedert and it shouldn’t affect Goedert’s eventual contract.

But the Eagles will still used 12 personnel (two tight ends) from time to time, which is where Jackson will get some opportunities. The Eagles will still use Jack Stoll on occasion, especially in blocking situations, but Jackson will get snaps once he returns. And when the Eagles do run 12 personnel based on matchups, look for Jackson to get out there. I’m intrigued to see how he performs.

Yeah, the Eagles need to get Miles Sanders more involved. Even if you don’t think Sanders is a top NFL running back, he’s one of the best weapons this team has and averaging 12.5 total offensive touches per game isn’t good enough.

I’m not a big establish the run guy — you don’t need to do that to win — but some balance would help. And Sirianni needs to get Sanders more involved, especially early in games. It would help Hurts and it would get Sanders into a rhythm earlier.

Aside from getting players for Jonathan Gannon, the Eagles simply need to get some better defensive players in general.

The Eagles last seven draft picks in the first and second rounds have been offensive players. They haven’t used a first- or second-round pick on a defensive player since they drafted Derek Barnett and Sidney Jones in 2017. That was five years ago.

With likely three first-round picks in this next draft, it would really help the Eagles to find at least one young defensive player early.

I get what you’re saying here. But, no, getting Lane Johnson back is a good thing for the Eagles. When healthy, Johnson is still one of their best players.

During his absence, the Eagles were starting Andre Dillard at left tackle and Jordan Mailata on the right side. And I too was beginning to wonder if that could be the look of the line going forward if Johnson wasn’t able to return. Heck, maybe it still could be. But Johnson is still under contract through 2025. And as long as he’s able to play, he’ll be the Eagles’ right tackle.

Johnson’s return will put Mailata back on the left side where he’s better. This will allow him to continue to grow as their franchise left tackle.

The only person it hurts is Dillard. But maybe this will give him some time to continue to learn the right tackle spot and eventually grow into a backup swing tackle role for as long as he’s here.

Never say never but it’s very unlikely. If, say, the Eagles lose out and Sirianni clearly loses the locker room, could it happen? Sure. But anything short of that and I think he’ll be back next season.

While the Eagles want to win this year, they haven’t been shy about this being a transition period. They’re using this year to figure out what they have in Hurts and the rest of the roster. It’s not that Sirianni gets a pass, but the Eagles strive to have stability and you can’t have that if you’re firing coaches after one year.

It would take something pretty drastic for Sirianni to be a one-and-done coach and I don’t see that happening.

Through six games, the Eagles have blitzed on just 13.9% of all dropbacks, which is the fourth-lowest percentage in the NFL behind just the Bears, Texans and Raiders.

I get why this is unpopular but the Eagles’ strength on defense is still their defensive line and Jonathan Gannon clearly wants to let that front four attack and give extra help on the back end. Despite the lack of blitzes, the Eagles are still getting pressure on 22.4% of dropbacks, which puts them around the middle of the pack.

The Eagles might not be actively looking to trade players before the Nov. 2 deadline but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t be willing to trade a veteran if they got back a package they deem adequate.

You brought up Fletcher Cox and Brandon Brooks. The problem with the Brooks thought is that he’s hurt right now and they won’t trade him while he’s injured.

The other name I wonder about is Andre Dillard. With Johnson coming back and with Mailata established as the left tackle, the Eagles still have Jack Driscoll and Le’Raven Clark as backups. Maybe Dillard has performed well enough in the last three weeks to bring back something decent.

Make a run at what? The Super Bowl? No way. The division? Probably not, if Dallas keeps winning.

But could the Eagles make a run at a wild card spot and a push for a winning record? Sure.

The Eagles have some pretty winnable games coming up after getting through the toughest part of their schedule. The Eagles’ remaining strength of schedule is .400 (26-39) after their total strength of schedule this season was .469. The Eagles have 11 games remaining this season and just four of them are against teams with winning records.

The Eagles have seven games before their bye week with three of them against teams that are really struggling: Lions (0-6), Giants (1-5), Jets (1-5).

Here’s a look at the remaining schedule:

Week 7: at Raiders (4-2)

Week 8 at Lions (0-6)

Week 9 vs. Chargers (4-2)

Week 10 at Broncos (3-3)

Week 11 vs. Saints (3-2)

Week 12 at Giants (1-5)

Week 13 at Jets (1-5)

BYE WEEK

Week 15 vs. Washington (2-4)

Week 16 vs. Giants (1-5) 

Week 17 at Washington (2-4) 

Week 18 vs. Cowboys (5-1)

Plenty of opportunity in those matchups to still get to 8 or 9 wins and potentially push for a wild card spot.

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