Eagles overreactions: Minshew cost the Birds this game originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
The Jalen Hurts-less Eagles experience isn't exactly a rollicking success.
The Birds suffered their third loss of the season at the hands of the New Orleans Saints, damaging their first-round draft pick in the process. It was an ugly afternoon for the team still sitting in first place in the NFC, and a painful way to start 2023.
Folks are certainly going to have some takes after a second straight loss, so let's overreact:
1. We overrated Gardner Minshew
Since Howie Roseman traded for Gardner Minshew heading into last season, many have viewed the Eagles' backup QB situation as the best in the league and posited that Minshew could start for a handful of teams around the league. Sports fans and analysts are often fans of the unknown and the upside, and nothing screams "What if?" quite like a backup quarterback.
Now we have an answer, and it's underwhelming.
Minshew was able to put up big numbers against the Cowboys on Christmas Eve, but if you actually watched the game it felt like every positive play came much harder than it should've. He was backpedaling like a mad man away from the pocket, and his accuracy was iffy at best.
On Sunday against the Saints it was more of the same bad, without as much of the good. Minshew missed high, and he missed often. He finished 18-for-32 for 274 yards with a touchdown and a pick.
The 26-year-old completed 63% of his passes in 20 starts with the Jaguars, not a bad figure by any means. In two starts this season, Minshew has left a lot to be desired when it comes to making the easy plays look easy and making the harder plays look possible. He's completed 58% of his passes. He holds on to the ball for far too long and was sacked six times Sunday.
It's not a particularly fun watch.
For a backup quarterback, he's still perfectly fine. But these two games have been an abrupt reminder of the steep drop-off from someone who's starting to someone who isn't.
Oh, and Jalen Hurts is very clearly the MVP.
2. Miles Sanders needs way more touches
The Eagles entered Sunday's game with a backup quarterback and missing their starting right tackle. The Saints entered Sunday's game sporting one of the NFL's lesser rushing defenses.
Inexplicably, Nick Sirianni and Shane Steichen decided to run the ball just twice in the first half and only gave Miles Sanders 12 carries the entire afternoon.
I'm far from a huge Miles Sanders supporter - I think he is a good enough running back who is probably extremely replaceable after this season - but he's playing the best football of his career and the Eagles' play callers seem to not care.
The Eagles received the ball with 13 minutes left in the fourth quarter, down by three points, and proceeded to throw the ball five straight times. At the time Miles Sanders had nine carries for 55 yards. That's inexcusably bad.
It's possible Sanders had some sort of a snap count going, but if he's healthy enough to be out there then he's healthy enough to be out there. Either use him or don't.
The run game is not the same without Jalen Hurts, but that doesn't mean you have to completely gut one of your strengths. When the run game is working, lean on it. There's a reason the Saints dominated the first half: they had the ball for nearly 22 minutes. I know it's not sexy, but running the ball wears an opposing defense down and gives your own defense an extra breather. And when Minshew looks as bad as he did Sunday, it also keeps the ball from hitting the ground and makes it easier to avoid a 45-second three-and-out.
Why the Birds are so reticent to run in clear running situations is beyond me. In theory it won't be a problem when Hurts returns because of the way he impacts the offense and the run game, but you never know.
3. No, it's not time to panic
Two losses in a row feels particularly strange after the Eagles lost just once in the first 14 games, but the Eagles are not entering the territory of those hot-start Cardinals and Steelers seasons in recent years.
Things are pretty simple: the Eagles are missing the most valuable player in football, and these last two weeks have highlighted just key Jalen Hurts is to the things this offense was doing all season long. It looked so easy and was so productive directly because of Hurts, not because of some mythical system.
Hurts isn't out for the year, and he'll be available in Week 18. The defense played well enough to win on Sunday. The skill position players made plays when Minshew put the ball in winnable positions. But the quarterback is the only one who touches the ball every play, and on Sunday the quarterback was pretty bad.
This team is perfectly fine, and when Hurts comes back they should be back to elite status. Take a breather, get ready for next week, and earn the bye.