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Philadelphia Eagles News

Nick Sirianni: 'We're playing for each other, and that's our greatest motivation'

Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro
Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro

How are the Eagles handling being 5-0? All of this attention ... all of this love ... all of, well, how are they handling it? Head Coach Nick Sirianni was asked that on Friday afternoon. His answer depicted a team going about its business as it always does.

"I think they're handling it great, because when you – what do I think of when you handle it great is that you're preparing and practicing the same way when you're 5-0 as when you're 0-0 or 2-5 or whatever it is. That's what I see," Sirianni said. "The preparation – I'm not with them at all times, but I know that when they come into these meetings, right, when they go home and come into these meetings, they have the same detail and same preparation and same knowledge of the game plan as they had going into Detroit, going into last year's Detroit, going into last year's Tampa Bay, whatever.

"To me, that's a sign that they're handling it well because we have great captains and we have great leaders and we have great guys on this team."

Stay where your feet are. It's what the players are thinking, too.

"You can only take it one day at a time," linebacker Haason Reddick said. "No sense looking ahead. Do your best that day. Focus on that day. Get better that day. The rest will take care of itself."

Bottom line: The national attention, the local adoration, it's just part of the business to which the players and coaches aren't paying a whole lot of attention.

"You know it's out there," linebacker T.J. Edwards said, "but that's not what we're talking about. We just need to find a way to win on Sunday night."

Said wide receiver DeVonta Smith: "We know what's at stake here. It's a big division game against a good team and it's our job to win the game. Simple as that."

Sirianni was also asked about what Dallas defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence said on Thursday (link to those quotes) and he, honestly, thought nothing of it.

"I'm not really into bulletin-board material, to be quite honest with you, because our greatest motivation is to play for each other. This team loves each other. This is what is making this team a special team, is that they're in it for each other and they're in it to not let each other down, to play for each other," Sirianni said. "That's why we're in it as coaches, to put our guys in positions to help them play great. That's the motivation we need, is just, hey, for each other. I don't want to let (quarterback) Jalen (Hurts) down. I don't want to let (defensive tackle Fletcher) Fletch (Cox) down. That's a contagious thing.

"When all the guys want to play for each other, that's when it's a special thing. And, hey, DeMarcus Lawrence is a great football player and we're going to have to be ready for where he is no matter where he is on the field, so we know how good of a football player he is, and how good of a defense this is for that matter.

"But we're playing for each other, and that's our greatest motivation."

Each week, prior to kickoff, let's take a look at some of the numbers that matter and keep them in mind when the game begins.

1. Dallas Goedert is a good place to start, because he has been outstanding in his first five games. Some of his numbers are worth exploring a bit here ...

a. Goedert has 335 receiving yards, ranking third in the NFL among all tight ends. Good stuff, right? It gets even better.

b. He ranks second in the NFL in yards after the catch (YAC) among all players with 272 yards!! That includes wide receivers (Cooper Kupp leads NFL WR with 267 YAC, behind Goedert) and running backs (Austin Ekeler has 279 and is the only player who has more YAC than Goedert). A YAC-beat, indeed!

c. Goedert has 7 receptions of 20-plus yards, ranking behind only wide receivers Tyreek Hill (Miami) and Justin Jefferson (Minnesota), both of whom have 8 receptions of 20-plus yards.

Clearly, one of the great matchups to watch is that of the Eagles' wide receivers against the Dallas cornerbacks, but it's also very obvious that Dallas has to watch, um, Dallas. Goedert is a huge part of the offensive equation for the Eagles.

2. We all know that right tackle Lane Johnson is at the top of his game. But the analytics are just ridiculously impressive. Consider: he has played in 620 pass-blocking snaps since the start of the 2021 season and during that stretch has allowed not a single sack and all of one quarterback hit. That equates to a league-best 0.2% knockdown percentage. It's no wonder, then, that Johnson is Pro Football Focus' highest-graded pass blocker (87.8) in 2022.

3. There have been a lot of quarterbacks who have played in the NFL since 2000, but only six of them have totaled 1,625 yards and 10 total touchdowns with two or fewer giveaways in the first five games of a season and one of them is Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts. That's how good he has been to start this campaign. The other five names, and it is an impressive list: Patrick Mahomes (2019), Drew Brees (2018), Matt Ryan (2016), Peyton Manning (2013), and Aaron Rodgers (2011). Gives you some perspective, doesn't it?

Adding to that, Hurts, who is second in the league only to Buffalo's Josh Allen in total yards, is one of only three quarterbacks since 2000 to lead his team to a 5-0 record while compiling those numbers, joining Manning and Rodgers.

The Dallas defensive speed and its big-play ability will be a stern challenge for Hurts and the Eagles. Patience is important. Ball security is paramount. Hurts has done it in the air and on the ground this season and he will be asked to do the same in this prime-time game.

4. The special teams are going to play a large role on Sunday night and against a Dallas team that blocked a punt to set up a field goal in last week's win at Los Angeles, everyone must be on point. Punter Arryn Siposs has been terrific dumping kicks inside opponents' 20-yard line in the last four games. So good that he has landed 58.8 percent (10 of 17) inside the 20, ranking second in the NFL in that span to Carolina's Johnny Hekker, who is 12 of 18. Winning the field position battle is key against a good Dallas group and the hidden yardage category is likely to be a very important statistic in this one.

5. Sudden points are so important and the Eagles are doing it better than any team in the NFL. The Eagles have scored a league-best 36 points off their 11 takeaways, and that's huge. Philadelphia ranks fifth in the league, averaging 27 points per game. Quarterback Cooper Rush has yet to turn the football over in four starts this season. Very admirable. Dallas has, then, provided for no margin for error because the Cowboys have made so few errors on offense. If the Eagles are able to force a turnover and then put points on the board ... And that plays into this impressive stat from linebacker Haason Reddick, who has 10 strip-sacks since 2020, best in the NFL. He is off to a great start with 4.5 quarterback sacks, and he's just warming up.

6. The Dallas defense has gotten most of the attention this week, and that's deserved. The Dallas defense has helped save the Cowboys' season after losing Dak Prescott. But how about some love for what the Eagles are doing, especially with this stat? The Eagles rank second in the NFL in opponent 3-and-out percentage (43.4%, 23 3-and-outs), trailing only San Francisco (43.6%). The faster the Eagles can get the Dallas offense off the field and improve field position for Hurts and Co., the better. Dallas wants to eat the clock and run the football and play keep-away from the Eagles. Three-and-out defensive series are worth noting on Sunday night.

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