Eagles observations: Sloppy defense, AJ Brown balls out, and more – NBC Sports

Eagles observations: Sloppy defense, AJ Brown balls out, and more - NBC Sports

Two indisputable facts:

No. 1: The Eagles have a lot to work on.

No. 2: The Eagles are 1-0.

The Eagles built a 17-point third-quarter lead, then hung on for dear life for a 38-35 win over the Lions in the season opener at Ford Field in Detroit Sunday.

The Eagles didn’t secure this one until Jalen Hurts — barely — gained a yard on a 4th-and-1 at the Lions’ 40-yard line with 66 seconds left.

Yes.

Here are our 10 Instant Observations from a spooky afternoon in Michigan.

1. Nick Sirianni has been talking all summer about how adversity is inevitable, what matters is how you deal with it. Little did he know the Eagles would address it 33 seconds into the season. That’s when D’Andre Swift ran 51 yards on the second play of the game to set up a Lions touchdown. That was the longest run from scrimmage against the Eagles on opening day since Tiki Barber had a 72-yarder for the Giants in 2004. The Lions led 7-0 just 4 ½ minutes into the game, and then the Eagles gave the Lions a good field . position when they couldn’t convert on 4th-and-5. Do you want unhappiness? That’s it. And you have to love how the Eagles responded. Over the next 19 minutes the Eagles outscored the Lions 223-22 and outscored them 21-7 to get back into a game that couldn’t have started any worse. Not everything went right for the Eagles after that, but they showed a lot of character and resilience in rebounding from what was a truly disastrous start and holding on in the fourth quarter when things were on the verge of getting away from them.

2. I’ve been blown away all summer by AJ Brown, but seeing him make those same plays in his first game in an Eagles uniform just drives home how insanely talented this kid is. And how crazy is it that the Eagles got him for a mid-1st round pick and a 3rd round pick. That 18-yarder that he caught about an inch off the ground, that was a work of art. And the 54-yarder before halftime as Will Harris grabbed his jersey? That was a masterpiece. Brown was 6-for-128 before halftime and finished 10-for-155, breaking Donte’ Stallworth’s club record of 141 for most yards by a receiver in his Eagles debut. I don’t want to get too carried away after one game, but it’s scary how good he is. And he just turned 25. And he’s here until at least 2025. And this was just the beginning.

3. We talked about a lot of things that could go wrong for the Eagles this year, but no one ever thought that run defense was one of them. The Eagles were 9th in the NFL against the run last year and that was without Jordan Davis, Brandon Graham, Kyzir White and all the other rookies. For the Lions to ram it down the throats of the Eagles on the ground is a huge concern. And it wasn’t just Swift’s 51-yarder. The Lions — 19th in the NFL running the ball last year — ran for 181 yards Sunday, and even the slow-footed Goff converted a key third down with a 10-yard scramble on 3rd and 7 to set up the Lions. third TD, and that just can’t happen. The Eagles’ revamped secondary did a terrific job in coverage — Goff was a scoreless 21-for-37 for 215 yards — but the run defense was embarrassing. Too many guys out of position, too many guys blowing tackles, too many guys not wrapping. That needs to be fixed immediately.

4. My biggest concern with the defense was whether it had the manpower to generate a consistent pass rush even after adding Haason Reddick, and while I thought they got good pressure at times in the first half – there was nothing in the second half when the Lions started. to fight back Jonathan Gannon certainly blitzed more than we saw last year — and that created some early pressure — but the defensive front didn’t have a sack and had just two hurries against a quarterback they sacked six times last year. And against a battered Detroit o-line. With the addition of Reddick, Brandon Graham back and Josh Sweat coming off a big second half, you’d hope this wouldn’t be an issue anymore. But at least in the opening it certainly was.

5. I was curious to see how much Chauncey Gardner-Johnson could contribute just 12 days after the Eagles acquired him, and, wow, he looked like a guy who’s been here all summer. CJGJ made an impact on consecutive Lions 3rd downs in the second quarter, first with a blitz and then in coverage on Amon-Ra St. Brown on third down. Anthony Harris is a class act, but CJGJ made more plays on Sunday than Harris did all of last year. He is just around the ball, fast, athletic and active. Was called for a fake DPI in the fourth quarter. But what a huge addition less than two weeks before the opener.

6. This wasn’t a statistical masterpiece from Jalen Hurts, but he put up 31 points, won his second straight road opener, didn’t make any glaring mistakes, was sharp on third down, made a lot of plays with his legs and made a nice one. work recovering from that 0-for-5 start. Finished 18-for-32 for 243 passing yards with 90 rushing yards, so he was 18-for-27 after the 0-for-5 start. Fourteen carries is way too many, but I thought the o-line was shaky early, forcing him to escape the pocket and run more than he wanted to. But the offense finally picked up, he threw accurately and ran less as the game went on. Hurts didn’t throw any TD passes, but I don’t care. In a loud stadium, on the road, in the 20th start of his career, he was fine.

7. I loved the way Shane Steichen used his backs, mixing Miles Sanders and Kenny Gainwell and getting good production from both of them and then going to Boston Scott in the third quarter down at the goal line. Gainwell got the first series of the third quarter, and we didn’t see Sanders for a minute, then on his first snap back on the field since the second quarter – rested, fresh legs – he bursts for 24 yards. Three games later, Gainwell wins. Sanders looked quick, strong and explosive — 13-for-96 and his first touchdown since Week 16 of 2020. And that 24-yarder for a huge first down late in the fourth quarter was massive. And Gainwell added 20 yards on five carries. Including their receptions, the backs combined for 147 scrimmage yards and three TDs on 26 touches. Including Hurts’ TD, it was the first time in 61 years that four different Eagles had a rushing touchdown in the same game. On October 22, 1961, in a 43-7 win over the Cowboys in the Cotton Bowl, Clarence Peaks had two and Billy Ray Barnes, Ted Dean and Theron Sapp each had one. Terrible performance and output.

8. That James Bradberry pick-6 was such a big play for a few reasons. It came with the Eagles still struggling a bit after a slow start and gave the Eagles a 14-point lead. And it was also the product of two guys playing in their first games as Eagles, two major pieces of Howie Roseman’s roster overhaul. It was Kyzir White who deflected it to Bradberry – and then added a key block for good measure. But it was the kind of play this team has been missing for a while. They’ve been among the worst in the NFL in forcing turnovers the last four years, and to not only get a takeaway at a pivotal point in the game but turn it into seven points, that was encouraging.

9. A lot of really sloppy play by the Eagles – two false starts, one offensive hold and one defensive hold, neutral zone violation, two 12 men on the field, two delay of plays, pass interference. They were lucky to overcome those things, but Sirianni and Gannon have to clean that up now because you’re not going to win a lot of games taking 10 penalties.

10. A final word on Sanders: What a huge second effort on that 24-yard run on 3rd-and-2 with 2:21 left that basically put the game away. Lions linebacker Derrick Barnes had his arms around Sanders and was about to tackle him for a loss, but Sanders showed toughness and grit breaking away from Barnes and snaking down the field for one of the biggest plays of the day. Sanders, who missed almost all of training camp, finished 13-for-96 with a couple of catches for nine yards and a 105-yard scrimmage. And most importantly…he wasn’t hurt. If Sanders plays like this, that new contract will come.

11. OK, side note: Bradberry became the first Eagle with a pick-6 in his first game as an Eagle since Don Looney had a 31-yarder from Packers QB Cecil Isbell on opening day 1940 at old City Stadium in Green Bay. And he became the first Eagle cornerback with a pick-6 on the road since Dimitri Patterson picked off Donovan McNabb at FedEx Field in that 59-28 game in 2010.

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