Philadelphia will enter the postseason with a quarterback that’s started 19 total games, a head coach and defensive coordinator finishing their first season in leadership positions, and a matchup with defending Super Bowl champion Buccaneers.
All teams make adjustments entering the postseason and no team in the tournament will need to make more than the Eagles.
Here are six postseason adjustments the Birds need to make.
1. Flip the Switch permanently
Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
The playoffs are full of teams that will unleash high-powered passing attacks and as much as Jeffrey Lurie would love to make the list, Philadelphia’s not built that way.
The Eagles ended the regular season with the NFL’s best running game, averaging 160 yards per game. Per Reuben Frank, that number has increased over the last 10 weeks of the season to 190 yards per game.
The turning point for the flipping of the switch occurred after the Week 6 loss to the Bucs in which Philadelphia only rushed the ball nine times with running backs, and the Birds totaled 100-yards rushing as a whole.
The playoffs are about running the ball and Nick Sirianni has to enter Sunday’s matchup feeding all five available running backs if that’s what the game plan and weather conditions dictate.
2. Target the top dawgs
(AP Photo/Danny Karnik)
Goedert missed the first game on the COVID list, but even before that, the star tight end only averaged 43 yards per game. There were several games this season where Philadelphia’s play calls prioritized Jalen Reagor and Quez Watkins over DeVonta Smith and that can’t happen. If Aaron Rodgers will feed DeVanta Adams even while double-teamed, then Jalen Hurts has to feed Goedert and Smith. From Week 7 through Week 17 Goedert averaged 61 yards per game, and the Eagles can ill afford to not constantly feed their two top dawgs.
3. Turn Jalen Reagor into Cordarrelle Patterson
(Shaban Athuman/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP)
Patterson had 618 yards rushing this season and 548 receiving yards and Reagor might be best served to get the ball while on the move and in space.
Whether it be bubble screen, quick passes, hand-offs to Reagor while in motion, or other innovative scenarios, the Eagles need Reagor to perform, and his strengths may not be best served to get touches as a route runner.
4. Confuse, wear down opposing defenses
(AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson)
They need to get past Tampa Bay first, but one major adjustment involves Philadelphia doing more to confuse opposing defenses, while also using the motion, 3 wide receivers sets, and a powerful running game to wear opponents down.
Whether it be jet motion, fly across motion, glide motion, in motion, over motion or several others, it’s imperative that Sirianni gets his athletes on the move.
Hurts is close to 100% and finished the regular season as the Eagles’ leading rusher, racking up 784 yards and 10 touchdowns. For Philadelphia’s success comes inefficient usage o their RPO’s and four-headed monster at running back. When Hurts can keep it, he needs to punish defenses. When the edge rushers come up the field, Hurts needs to feed Miles Sanders, Kenneth Gainwell, Boston Scott, Jordan Howard, and or, Jason Huntley.
Gainwell, Boston Scott, and Huntley should get ample opportunities to see just how healthy linebacker LaVonte David is in the passing game while tiring out Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul.
5. Nick Sirianni stay the course and avoid the trends
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
In the first matchup against the Bucs, and several other times this season, The Eagles had moments where underutilized Miles Sanders to the tune of one or two carries in the first half, and went almost seven weeks without playing Jordan Howard. The run-pass ratio is important in the NFL and Sirianni’s intelligence rating among league experts has risen significantly after Philadelphia became the NFL’s most run-heavy team. According to The Athletic’s Bo Wulf, the Eagles had an early-down pass rate of 59.3% through Week Seven, which was the eighth highest in the league. Since Sirianni flipped the switch, that rate is 40.8%, the third-lowest in the NFL.
Even Philadelphia has any chance of winning, they’ll need to run Tampa out of their own building and they’ll need to completely buy into running the football to set up the play-action pass, and RPO game that makes Jalen Hurts even more difficult to defend.
6. Play Kenneth Gainwell in the slot
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Greg Ward is going to see his share of snaps as the slot wide receiver in the red zone or third down areas.
Kenneth Gainwell is a dynamic rookie and if Nick Sirianni can turn Jalen Reagor into a running back, then why not turn the former Memphis running back into a slot weapon on key downs and in open space. The RPO game can be lethal and just imagine Jalen Hurts pulling opposing linebackers in with play fake, before hitting Gainwell streaking across the middle, down the sidelines, or simply dictating a one on one matchup with a less athletic linebacker.