Eagles overreact: Why might AJ Brown… be so good?

The Eagles were punched in the mouth, recovered, and struck again in the first week in a 38-35 win over the Lions. The first seven minutes were worrisome, after which things basically went according to plan … with a hiccup or two.

But the Eagles attack sounded really good! It was nice!

(Defense…we’ll get to that).

It’s hard to be too happy about beating a team like the Lions, but some of the things we saw on Sunday afternoon were very exciting – and in some cases disturbing – so let’s overreact to a small sample the size of one (1) game and draw some conclusions that It may or may not be correct:

1. I’m worried about DeVonta Smith

AJ Brown is good. Like, really good. Pro Bowl is good. It might be… very well?

If you’re a DeVonta Smith, you’ll probably feel this way.

Smith’s rookie year was a mixed but fruitful one at the end, and Eagles fans came out of his first 18 matches feeling like a pro the team had finally made a good draft pick at the wide receiver after multiple whiffs.

But all of the training camp chatter about Hurts’ friendship with Brown, and his affinity for throwing the ball in Brown’s way, appeared on Sunday in Detroit. Of Hurts’ 32 pass attempts, 13 targeted Brown… while only four targeted Smith.

Smith dropped his first goal of the game, an easy game that was supposed to be a left-sided trap in the first quarter. The mischief only took him once over the next two quarters, and there were long periods of time when I simply forgot Smith was on the field. This is not cool!

Between Brown as the obvious WR1, Dallas Goedert as the elite narrow-border pick, and Jalen Hurts’ ability to create with his feet… Exactly how much space is left for Smith? You usually see a big jump from year one to year two for pass catchers, whether it’s the tight end or the wide receiver, but it looks like Smith’s growth could lag if Nick Ciriani continues to call his offense like this and Hurts keeps looking through Brown. every drop.

To be clear, it’s not a problem for the team. Brown is a superstar with great playability and a relentless drive, and he’s raised the Eagles’ ceiling dramatically. I just don’t like Smith’s situation.

Obviously, this is just one match. We’ll see what week two brings. But it is something to watch.

(Seriously, AJ Brown is pretty good too.)

2. Why can’t eagles tackle or defend?

I know it’s only the first week and the majority of the Eagles haven’t gotten their start of the season, but I didn’t like what I saw from Jonathan Gannon’s defense and tackles. The performance was sloppy on many fronts, but the inability to finish relatively routine dealings was disappointing.

James Bradbury roared on his interference on the first drive of the game to fire D’Andre Swift for a whopping 48 yards, the first ugly moment of the new eagle. (He made up for that more later.) Jared Goff took the ankles of Avonte Maddox out of all the people in the third quarter in a red zone. Swift made a number of Eagles waste in 25 yards of catching and running to start the fourth quarter:

It was a little ugly outside!

The Eagles have had this problem for a while now, and it looked a little better on Sunday – Keizer White made a nice open field intervention, Marcus Epps was handling a superb submarine for the loss – but the lack of consistency in the fairly basic plays can not consistently occur. Against black, it won’t burn you. Against a good team, it will be.

Pair ill-fitting handling with a still-too-poor defensive style from Jonathan Gannon (the Lions were moving the ball too easy on several drives on Sunday) and you have the perfect equation to allow teams to return to games that would undoubtedly win. Just like Sunday.

Birds have talent, but talent is only half the equation. I need Ganon to be better, both in training and in strategy, or else we’ll have some problems in the future.

3. Still waiting for Jalen Hurts to jump

That might just be Galen Hurts.

He does incredible value games with his legs. He can throw a solid deep ball. It takes a little time to make decisions. Sometimes he misses straight players who are open on the field.

He’s a good enough midfielder. Could it be great? I am still waiting.

Hurts had a solid game on Sunday — 18 of 32, 243 yards, 90 dash and touchdown touchdowns — but he wasn’t amazing, and I felt like I was watching his replays from last season in both good and bad.

We’ve heard a lot over the holiday period about how he will benefit from being in the same offensive system for the second year, and how he will be able to step up his game with an improved support team. But I can’t say I saw any of that on Sunday. He still looks like the 15th quarterback in the NFL, and that might be good enough to win 11 games this year, but I’m still not convinced he’s good enough to win many playoffs.

Again, as I said earlier, it’s a small sample size. We’ll see what the next few weeks bring. The team is still swinging. Perhaps in the fifth week he will make faster decisions. Who do you know? All I know is what I saw on Sunday, and it was perfectly fine.