Darius Slayton – © USA TODAY Sports
-Tommy DeVito: 9/16 – 55 yards / 0 TD – 0 INT / 63.3. RAT
Is the ride already over? DeVito was pulled at halftime after the team was in serious need of a new spark. There is an intimidation factor the Eagles defense plays with and for a young, inexperienced quarterback like DeVito, it works in a big way. His footwork and timing were off, he did not look like he knew where to go with the ball, and the offense looked broken. There was less swagger than what we were used to seeing and it looked like the reality of this particular quarterback situation came crashing back down to earth. Should we see him again? More on that below.
-Tyrod Taylor: 7/16 – 133 yards / 1 TD – 1 INT / 68.0 RAT
Trusty Tyrod has been a forgotten man since the undrafted local hero took over under center. How quickly this offense changed the second he was back on the field was a stark reminder what Taylor has been his entire career. A more-than capable backup who can rightfully make one wonder “what if” had he gotten an opportunity like Geno Smith did in Seattle. He made multiple tight throws including a beautifully arched deep ball to Darius Slayton for a 69-yard touchdown. The most notable differences with Taylor in the game were yards per play (6.8 vs. 3.0) and third down conversion rate (50% vs 12.5%). Those numbers are obvious, but it was the fluidity and smoothness against a defense that was constantly dropping 7+ defenders into coverage. The debate will be rampant this week, who should start in weeks 17-18?
-Saquon Barkley: 23 att – 80 yards – 1 TD / 3 rec – 4 yards
Full load for Barkley, as he played 89% of the team’s offensive snaps. A different running back (Matt Breida) was on the field for just 5 plays. We saw some gutsy power-running by the sixth-year pro who is just 19 touches shy of 1,500. Yes, 1,500 touches and we are still seeing some of the vision problems that have plagued him since 2019. Call it a lack of natural feel or a back who has been tarnished by such poor offensive line play (likely a combination of both), but Barkley left some yards on the field in this one. Watching him and a player like Christian McCaffrey in the following game strengthened the notion that it is the star back’s biggest and most defining weaknesses in his game. On the positive side, the successful 2-point conversion was solely on him and his leg drive that pushed the pile into the end zone. It was very…Jalen Hurts-like. As he enters the back nine of his career, I feel this needs to be a bigger part of his game. Use that massive lower body to push crowds, fall forward, and create success in short yardage situations.
-Darius Slayton and Wan’Dale Robinson were the only two from the group who caught passes. Slayton brought in all three targets for 90 yards, including a 69-yard touchdown where we saw that vertical speed and big-play threat that has shown up occasionally over his career. I see plays like that one and he reminds me of Marquez Valdes-Scantling (KC, formerly GB). The kind of receiver everyone wants because of flash plays and upside, but never quite gets to the level that the fantasies created. The glimpses that sporadically show up, like this one, continue to kick the can down the road rather than shutting the door and moving on. Slayton has the talent, we know. Can it be a week-in, week-out reliable source of offensive production? NYG will run it back again in 2024 but it better not prevent them from making a serious move at receiver.
-Robinson added just 16 yards on 3 catches, continuing his role of underneath, running back-receiver mixture when it comes to play calls and impact. He was thrown to 7 times including multiple times in big moments. The diminutive radius shows up in these high-traffic situations where the passer must be near-perfect with ball placement in order for Robinson to have a realistic shot at bringing it in. The few times they did throw downfield in his direction presented very little hope.
-Isaiah Hodgins and Jalin Hyatt were on the field for a combined 62 snaps but did not receive a single target.
-Darren Waller and Daniel Bellinger both played 40 snaps. Waller had 32 yards on 2 catches with a drop and Bellinger led the team with 4 catches, totaling 43 yards. Taylor underthrew Waller on a play that could have easily resulted in a touchdown, and it was solely on the shoulders of the quarterback (one of two big misses by him). That said, I have seen enough instances to label this a shortcoming on Waller when looking at the future. There are certain movement patterns where he truly shows his age. That ability to re-direct, especially coming back to the ball, is slow and tight. It has shown up multiple times where that fast-twitch athletic ability that is needed for unplanned movement will limit his ability in the future passing game. It is the biggest difference between the All-Pro version of him and what NYG has/will have. What to do with him in regard to the future is a rather easy decision in my opinion, but it won’t be the popular one.
-Bellinger continues to struggle across the board as a blocker. His lack of fast twitch was an issue against the PHI speedy linebackers and he is the one being stood up and displaced when matched up against power. The construction of this tight end group needs to change, it does not make sense for the kind of offense they’re running.
-Guard Ben Bredeson is in a freefall over the final third of the season. He allowed 5 pressures, one of which resulted in a QB hit. While he did throw key blocks on a couple of NYG’s big plays (including the Barkley touchdown run), this was a matchup nightmare with what PHI marches out there along the interior. His pressures early on clearly played a part in DeVito’s mental block in the pocket in the first half. Justin Pugh also allowed 3 pressures, one of which resulting in a hit. I’ve already noted that it appears he’s run out of steam and the advanced scouting reports in the league have caught up. I will give him credit for getting downfield to look for work. He does hustle and he has situational awareness.
-Andrew Thomas allowed a QB hit, and Tyre Phillips played clean in pass protection (with some help). The majority of the issues the line had with this matchup came from the inside, but after watching the tape again, it appeared the outside defenders gave the two tackles headaches in the running game. Quick and subtle change of direction, built low to the ground, and physical. Those are the forms of defenders who Thomas can be defeated by, and he has not yet figured out the way to combat them. Trent Williams used to be in the same boat, but he’s made big strides there. Hopefully, Thomas can do the same.
-Rookie center John Michael Schmitz was coming off arguably his worst game and I zeroed in on his performance against what most consider to be a top-five defensive line. I did not count the garbage penalty against him called toward the end of the game. Even with that, he finished with the second lowest grade on the line. He allowed a TFL and 2 pressures with too many losses as a run blocker. I do like how he competes, and I’ve been told by someone I fully trust in regard to NYG personnel that he has been a key part to the communication improvements the line has seen since the front half of the season. That is encouraging because of the position but I still reserve some worry long-term about his ability to play against speed.
-For my money, the PHI offensive tackles are the best pair in the NFL at the position. I did not expect much from Kayvon Thibodeaux or Azeez Ojulari, but I will say I still came away slightly disappointed with the lack of one-on-one wins. Thibodeaux did add a QB hit and 2 hurries to his season total and Ojulari had two hurries as well. The blitz-heavy packages aided them on those plays. Both were very ineffective against the run as well, losing control of their gaps and getting too far displaced.
-Jihad Ward split the lone sack of the day and added 2 tackles, while Tomon Fox got on the field for the first time this season. Fox rushed the passer 13 times while Thibodeaux was being moved around a bit, but did not walk away with any wins. He did set the edge against the run a couple times, something he’s always been good at.
-Dexter Lawrence played just 38 snaps, about half of the defensive snaps. For such a quiet workload compared to what are used to seeing, he had a loud game. He had 4 tackles, 2 of which went for a loss, along with a pressure. A’Shawn Robinson added 3 tackles and a pass break-up but was shutout as a pass rusher.
-Good to see Jordon Riley on the field for a season-high 35 snaps. His previous high was about half of that. He had a tackle near the line of scrimmage where he looked like a the rookie version of Lawrence. I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves with this evaluation, but the way he abused All-Pro Center Jason Kelce on the play is something we see happen to Kelce maybe a handful of times in an entire season. Heavy hands, fast bench press, excellent pad level, dense presence, and a strong finish. These flashes are very encouraging for the future of the defensive line.
-D.J. Davidson added two tackles in relief and newcomer Timmy Horne (from ATL) got his feet wet with 7 snaps. I wouldn’t mind seeing some more of him, the initial look was promising.
-Bobby Okereke led the team with 10 tackles and added both a pressure and a pass break-up. I did not count the awful delay-of-game penalty called against him at the end of the first half. That alone put three points on the board for PHI and it changed the flow of the game for the rest of the contest. Besides that, I thought he played yet another solid game and continues to be incredibly durable and reliable.
-Micah McFadden had 5 tackles and 3 misses. The last couple of weeks have not been good for him when looking at the season as a whole. I feel good about his future next to Okereke if, and only if, he can clean up the misses. Of the 52 linebackers who have played over 600 snaps this season, he leads the NFL in missed-tackle percentage. I have applauded his progress (across multiple facets) but the whiffs are hurting the defense in key moments. There are positives weekly, don’t get me wrong. He beat Kelce underneath and he accrued 2 pressures. There is growth in his game, we just need to see it be more mistake-free.
-Isaiah Simmons was active in coverage, breaking up a pass playing fast in man schemes. He made a major mental gaffe on the 3rd-and-20 conversion where he was in zone and completely lost the needed awareness of what was going on around him on a broken, long-winded play. That lack of football sense shows up the more he plays and it further explains what he has turned into after being a top ten pick.
-Deonte Banks was shadowing A.J. Brown for the first half and the All-Pro receiver caught just 1 of 3 targets for 7 yards. Banks injured a shoulder and played just over half the team’s defensive snaps. Once he was out, Brown 5 catches for 73 yards. The obvious gap between Banks and the next best corner on this team was known coming into this game, but really highlighted the second he left this matchup.
-Adoree’ Jackson came up with the defensive play of the game (and the best we’ve seen all year) with a pick six. It was the first of his career and the first interception since 2021. He made a great play on the ball with help from PHI tight end Dallas Goedert tripping over his own feet out of his break.
-We saw some extra Cor’Dale Flott and Nick McCloud following the injury to Banks and both were roasted. The gap between them and the PHI receivers is huge. Crossing routes, double routes, and simple execution within these one-on-one matchups (notably in man coverage) is a big enough gap to keep this defense from being able to compete against an offense like PHI (which even has taken a step back in 2023 compared to 2022). Flott has abruptly hit a wall this final third of the season.
-Xavier McKinney played every snap (again) and ended with 9 tackles, zero misses and a half-sack. Jason Pinnock played all but one snap and ended with 6 tackles, 3 misses. He ranks 10th among NFL safeties in missed tackles but the number is a tad overrated because of how many snaps he’s played this season. The future of these two is one of the most interesting low-key debates over the next few months. Economics are a part of this, but when looking at what they do (and what they can do in a better situation), there is a level of uniqueness and dependability most teams do not have league-wide and it changes how the defense plays.
-Dane Belton saw the field for 27 snaps, the second most of the season. When Banks went down, we saw some more of him in nickel/dime packages. He added 2 tackles and missed one. His deep coverage traits looked good on a couple of occasions where PHI went vertical with their route combos.
-K Mason Crosby: 1/1 (Made 52)
-P Jamie Gillan: 4 punts / 39.5 avg – 23.0 net
-WR Darius Slayton, S Xavier McKinney, CB Deonte Banks
-CB Cor’Dale Flott, OG Ben Bredeson, OG Justin Pugh
3 THOUGHTS ON PHI
(1) This is not the Philadelphia of 2022. They are still head and shoulders above NYG and that is not a part of this discussion. Over the summer, I picked them to go 14-3. I overlooked (even after acknowledging) just how easy their schedule of opposing defenses was in 2022, in addition to losing an offensive coordinator who was a HUGE part of the Jalen Hurts ascent. Things are not as fluid as they were, but guess what? They’re top ten in yards per play, top ten in point, first in first downs, first in fourth-down conversion rate, second in third-down conversion rate. Not bad for an off year. I still would not want tp face them in the postseason, period.
(2) What is the kryptonite of this team? Simply put, their defense. More specifically, their corners. Not an area you want to be weak at when San Francisco and Dallas are standing in your way (at their home stadiums). NYG fans know first hand what a pass rush can do to hide slight deficiencies in the secondary. But you still need to be at a minimum on the outside and they’re not.
(3) Is it the city of Philadelphia or does it seem like an implosion is coming? Head Coach Nick Siriani does not annoy me the way he does some people, but he does seem like the kind of guy a town will turn on in a hurry and he seems like the kind of guy who flips the bird walking off the field to a flock of boo-birds. Time will tell but I don’t like what I see when adversity hits that team.
3 CLOSING THOUGHTS
(1) This is not the first time we have talked about the DeVito vs. Taylor debate. With two games remaining, this QB controversy is as interesting as it gets for a team that has twice as many losses as they do wins. Yet, here we are. Taylor is the better and more established player, there is no denying it. DeVito makes more economic sense when looking at the future spending of this team and the resources already being pumped into the position. I’ll call out a BS on those who are just now saying this “DeVito thing was never real” after a poor half against the Eagles in Philadelphia with their backs pressed up against the wall. I’m surprised some are even trying that line right now. It is bizarre and embarrassing. I understand Taylor probably gives this team the best option to win games right now in a business of winning games, but this is about 2024 and beyond now. At least get DeVito the starts, at least give him a half of football in both games. Life will be easier paying a minimum backup salary if he can get himself to a trusted, consistent level and there is only one way to find out if he can do it. He needs to play.
(2) Now that they are mathematically eliminated from contention, we need to keep severe limits on the snaps of their key pieces who are banged up. Lawrence and Thomas are the foundations of where I want this team to build this offseason. The offensive and defensive lines need to be upgraded but if these two get dinged up over these next two weeks, the can is simply being kicked even further down the road. Not having Thomas out there is a riskier strategy because their backup OL has been so poor and it breaks the offense when he isn’t out there. But keeping Lawrence on the sideline for over half the snaps is a move worth considering.
(3) Had this been a situation where NYG was vying for a playoff spot, everyone revolving around NYG would have every right to be furious about the refs and their ineptitude. I am very slow to turn on refs and put a loss on their shoulders (and I am not putting this loss on them), but there is a difference between messing up a holding penalty or a pass interference and seeing what we saw with the Schmitz false start and/or the Okereke delay of game. Human error is part of the game and in an oddly changing world that is becoming more and more reliant on robots and AI, I believe there is value in humans making mistakes. I do not have the popular opinion on this and I am aware of that, but the last thing I want are more game stoppages and review processes. Maybe an extra set of eyes on the field or different training protocols. I agree a change is needed.