There were a lot of interesting takeaways from the film on Monday morning after Sunday's loss to Arizona. Obviously, the No. 1 topic on a lot of people's minds is the performance of quarterback Jalen Hurts. The rookie made the second start of his career. Overall, I thought he did pretty well. There were certainly some plays he would like to have back, but there were a lot of positives to take away from the film. The top one for me? The anticipation he showed on throws outside the numbers.
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You love to see a young quarterback show that level of trust on a route. I would like to see him show that level of anticipation on route concepts in the middle of the field through traffic (much like on the last play of that sequence that resulted in a sack), but it's still good to see him get the ball out so quickly before the receivers leave their breaks. Going back through my notes on Hurts in college, I didn't always see this anticipation, so give credit to the coaches for continuing to get the most out of the rookie.
Another aspect of Hurts' performance was expected – his ability to extend plays and create with the ball in his hands as both a runner and as a passer.
In some high-leverage situations, Hurts was able to pick up first downs (or touchdowns) with his legs. What stood out to me about this, though, was that he didn't RELY on his legs to make plays. He took what the defense gave him. He kept plays alive. He took care of the ball. These were all good things to see from a rookie in just his second start.
One guy who Hurts appears to have a really good relationship with is Greg Ward. The two Houston natives are close off the field. After hooking up for Hurts' first career touchdown throw a couple of weeks ago, they got together for a pair of touchdowns on Sunday. Hurts showed good anticipation on these throws as well, namely the first one on a play where he rolled left and fired it to Ward in a scramble situation.
It was a good performance from Hurts, but I think my favorite part of watching the film was the creativity I saw in the run game and the complementary plays off of one of the Eagles' staples – the Split Zone run.
This was great play sequencing from the Eagles' coaching staff and from Head Coach Doug Pederson, relying on one of their staples and showing the same action in the backfield over and over with a handful of different outcomes and ballcarriers and play types. This was awesome to watch!
Run game success doesn't happen without good play from the offensive line, and I thought the line did a great job of getting push up front on Sunday. The "vertical displacement" on double teams was evident early and often. Whether it was Matt Pryor and Nate Herbig, or Herbig and Jason Kelce, or Kelce and Isaac Seumalo, the Eagles got movement. They were able to push Arizona around for most of the afternoon in the trenches.
Many coaches and analysts will say that the wide receiver screen game is an easy extension of the run game, and if that's the case, then the Eagles got some explosive runs on Sunday from guys like Quez Watkins and Jalen Reagor. On the same jailbreak screen to the same side of the field, both speedy rookies were able to bust off big gains – one within structure and one outside of the structure of the play.
Defensively, there were two aspects of this game that stood out. First, I thought the defensive line was dominant, particularly the interior with Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave, and Malik Jackson leading the charge. Whether it was the run game or the pass game, it didn't matter. These guys were so disruptive and fun to watch.
It seems like at least one or two of these guys stand out every week, but to have all three come at Arizona consistently snap after snap had to have been exhausting for that front and for quarterback Kyler Murray, who got to know those three early and often.
The second aspect of the defense was the secondary – which was extremely shorthanded coming into the game after Rodney McLeod and Avonte Maddox were put on Injured Reserve and with Darius Slay not making the trip out west. How did the backups do in their stead? I thought they competed at a really high level.
Rookie Michael Jacquet battled from the opening snap to the final whistle, and while he gave up some plays, I really was impressed with the way he fought. He was never out of it. Kevon Seymour performed admirably well in his first start in three years as well, and was just a half-step away from making some great plays in all areas of the field.
Meanwhile, all three safeties – Marcus Epps, Jalen Mills, and K'Von Wallace – were around the football, namely in the pass game. Epps' interception was a huge moment in the game for the defense, and both he and K'Von Wallace were able to intersect throws at the catch point to get the ball on the ground. It's great to see young players with a nose for the football, and when you battle and compete at a high level, it's going to allow you to do just that. I can't wait to see this group take the field again on Sunday.
Fran Duffy is the producer of the Emmy-nominated Eagles Game Plan show which can be seen every gameday during the season on NBC10 in Philadelphia. He is also the host of two Eagles-related podcasts, Eagle Eye in the Sky, which examines the team from an X's and O's angle each and every week as well as the Journey to the Draft podcast, which covers college football and the NFL Draft all year round. Fran also authors the Eagle Eye in the Sky column, which runs four times a week during the football season to serve as a recap for the previous game and to preview the upcoming matchup. Prior to joining the Eagles in 2011, Duffy was the head video coordinator for the Temple University football team under former head coach Al Golden. In that role, he spent thousands of hours shooting, logging, and assisting with the breakdown of the All-22 film from the team's games, practices, and opponents.