Eagles observations: DeVonta Smith dominates, D-line explodes, and more

A monumental performance by the defensive line and another terrific game for Jalen Hurts added up to a 24-8 Eagles win over Washington Sunday at FedEx Field.

Nine sacks for the defense, three touchdown passes for Jalen Hurts, 2 ½ sacks for Brandon Graham, 169 yards for DeVonta Smith and a huge road win on a short week over Carson Wentz.

The Eagles still need to figure out how to really finish teams off. But 3-0 is a pretty good place to be. The Eagles are one of four remaining undefeated teams and that number could drop by one or two by Monday night.

What a fun team the 2022 Eagles are.

1. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen the Eagles’ defensive line simply take over a football game like this. This is what Reggie, Clyde and Jerome used to do to teams. Take away their heart. Crush their spirit. Destroy their will. Remove their hope. Carson Wentz’s 17 first-half pass plays Sunday resulted in three short completions, seven incompletions, six sacks, one fumble and minus-16 net yards. Ballgame. Jonathan Gannon’s unit finished with NINE sacks – tied for 4th-most in franchise history – pitched a defensive shutout until the last few minutes and held Washington to 240 yards – most of them in garbage time. This is the first time since the Super Bowl season the Eagles have held consecutive teams to single digits and only the fourth time since 2009. This was old-school Eagles defensive football. The front four generated insane pressure, the back end defended the few times Wentz was able to get the ball out, and Washington had no answer. The biggest question about this defense after two weeks was its ability to generate pressure, and they answered that one in a hurry. Wentz, working behind a mediocre offensive line that’s been hit hard by injuries, had no chance, and the Eagles didn’t hold back on their former teammate. He kept taking those seven-step drops and somebody – Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Josh Sweat, Haason Reddick, Javon Hargrave – was in his face every snap.

READ: Eagles overreactions: Weird trend emerging amid hot start

2. Let’s talk about Jalen Hurts. He is now without question one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks, and it’s incredible to watch. The growth he’s showing is astonishing. Sense accuracy. Sense decision making. The quickness he’s going through his progression. This is back-to-back masterpieces by the 24-year-old Hurts, and he deserves so much credit for putting in the work to get from the player we saw as a rookie to the one we see today. He’s 24 years old, and he’s started 22 games in his life, and he’s absolutely crushing it. Another 330-yard passing performance, three passing TDs, no turnovers. He’s in complete command of the offense, and he’s shutting up a lot of doubters and haters on a weekly basis.

3. Nick Sirianni has such a good feeling for what his team needs as far as practice goes, and he really backed off them this past week. They had a no-pads walkthrough on Wednesday, a dozen starters sat out Thursday’s practice and Friday’s practice was about 70 minutes long. That’s the work week. Tons of film, tons of meetings, tons of studying, but keep the guys off their feet and get them as fresh as possible for a road game on a short week. It sure worked. The Eagles dominated on both sides of the ball from the get-go and hardly looked like a team away from home coming off a Monday night game. There are a lot of reasons guys like playing for Sirianni, and his willingness to make sure they’re OK physically instead of grinding them down is a big one.

4. We talked a lot during training camp about how much AJ Brown’s presence was going to help DeVonta Smith, and we sure saw it Sunday. If teams want to roll their coverage to Brown – and you can’t blame them – Smith is going to either be open or have an advantageous matchup, and the kid is so freaking talented he’s going to make plays if he has the chance. This was a remarkable performance by Smith, who finished with eight catches for 169 yards and a touchdown. Smith has such a flair for soaring high and coming down with circus catches in traffic, and he’s so quick he’s always a threat to pick up big yards after the catch, which we also saw Sunday. The Eagles have had a lot of elite receivers over the years. They have two now and a quarterback who knows how to get them the ball. I don’t know how you stop these guys.

5. Gotta give some props to Avonte Maddox for that play on 4th-and-goal early in the fourth quarter. Wentz completed a short pass to tight end Logan Thomas, but Maddox stuffed him just in front of the goal line for another red-zone stop. Thomas is 6-6, 250. Maddox is 5-9, 185. Maddox is one of the best slot corners in the league, and his ability to play as physically as he does at that size is incredible.

6. How about Fletcher Cox turning the clock back? Cox had half a sack in Detroit, a full sack against the Vikings and 1 ½ sacks in Washington, and the 3.0 sacks through Week 3 match the best start of his career. He had 3.0 three games into the 2016 and 2018 seasons as well. More importantly than the sack numbers is just the way Cox is playing. He’s got juice he hasn’t had in the last couple of years. Heck, he’s already only half a sack off his 2021 season total. He had 13 ½ sacks in 47 games over the last three years, but we’re seeing a Fletcher Cox right now who’s really creating some havoc in the trenches.

7. You gotta love how many deep shots the Eagles are taking. He had five Sunday – 45, 44 and 31 yards to Smith, 40 yards to Grant Calcaterra (on his first NFL target) and 38 yards to Brown. Hurts had 12 completions of 30 yards or more in 15 games last year. Hurts has gotten so much more accurate throwing deep. He’s deadly right now. Four different Eagles receivers have already caught a pass of at least 40 yards, and it’s only Week 3. This offense has so many ways to maintain pressure on a defense, and if they’re hitting chunk plays, they’re even harder to stop .

8. How ’bout BG? What a performance. The dude is 34 years old, in his 13th season, coming off a blown-out Achilles, and he tied the second-best game of his career with 2 ½ sacks. Brandon Graham had 3.0 sacks in a game against the Jets in 2019 and 2 ½ against the Bengals back in 2012, and he was unblockable Sunday. Added FIVE quarterback hurries, a tackle for loss, a pass knockdown and a forced fumble. BG – who is 34 years, 175 days old – is the second-oldest player in franchise history with 2 ½ sacks in a game. William Fuller was 34 years, 289 days, when he had 3.0 sacks against Kent Graham and the Cards in 1996. Are you kidding me? BG still has it.

MORE: WATCH: Brown breaks out great Batman TD celebration

9. Winning coaching takes a lot of different forms, and that showed up late in the first quarter after Jalen Hurts’ 45-yard completion to DeVonta Smith down the right sideline. Replies clearly showed that Smith didn’t quite get his left foot down in-bounds, and the Eagles knew that. But Commanders coach Ron Rivera was a little slow tossing the challenge flag, and Sirianni knew the only chance the Eagles had for the play to count was to call a play ASAP. Didn’t even matter if it worked. Just run a play. So they went no-huddle and scrambled to the line, snapped the ball the instant everyone was set, and got the play off before Rivera could toss the challenge flag. The Eagles gained two yards on the play – a pass to Dallas Goedert – and they wound up getting a field goal on the drive. All because they ran a play before Washington could throw a challenge flag. To be ready for that situation and execute the hurry-up play cleanly without a penalty and get 45 yards out of an incomplete pass was tremendous.

10. One area of ​​concern going into Week 4 is the Eagles’ inability to keep up the offensive intensity late in games. They led the Lions 38-21 after three quarters and hung on after getting outscored 14-0 in the fourth quarter. They led the Vikings 24-7 at halftime before a scoreless second half. And on Sunday they scored 24 points in the first half before the offense kind of skidded to a halt. The Eagles have been outscored 29-14 in the second half this year. They’re winning, and that’s great, but they’ve got to find ways to finish.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.