Victory Monday has never felt so good.
The Eagles kicked off their season with an encouraging 32-6 victory over the Atlanta Falcons. It was a great effort from all areas of the team, and from both veterans and rookies alike. Let’s highlight who had the best performances.
The Jalen Hurts hype train has left the station.
The second-year quarterback looked calm and collected as he went on to throw three touchdowns and 264 yards (27/34). Hurts also added 62 rushing yards, giving him 326 total yards. He finished the day with a rating of 126.4, which is currently good for sixth in the NFL.
There’s a ton to like about Hurts. His mobility gives the Eagles a factor that has been sorely missing from the offense in the past couple seasons. He didn’t hang on to the ball for long, and was sacked only once. His throws were precise, specifically his TD pass to Dallas Goedert:
Two seconds before half… Hurts to Goedert! #FlyEaglesFly
— NFL (@NFL) September 12, 2021
Hurts still has some ways to go. His ability to throw the deep ball is clearly a work in progress, as evident by the team not taking shots down the field.
Regardless, to the pleasure of Hurts’ supporters and chagrin of his haters, he showed he can truly be the franchise QB this team needs.
For the first time in seasons, the Eagles have a true #1 receiver. DeVonta Smith kicked off his NFL career in style, catching six receptions for 71 yards and a touchdown. Smith was tied for or led the team in targets, receptions, and receiving yards.
While Smith didn’t get to demonstrate his big play abilities (his longest reception was just 19 yards), he still provided Hurts with a reliable target. Smith also showed off some of his polished skills, such as keeping his feet in bounds on a nice catch.
However, Smith wasn’t the only rookie who balled out. Running back Kenny Gainwell had 37 rushing yards on nine attempts, while grabbing a touchdown of his own. Smith and Gainwell ended up making history thanks to their scoring:
In the last 20 years, only two Eagles scored a TD in their first career game [Tony Hunt in 2007 and Terrell Watson in 2017].
DeVonta Smith and Kenny Gainwell have both done it today.
— Reuben Frank (@RoobNBCS) September 12, 2021
For a team that has severely struggled to add young talent year after year (while watching players they didn’t draft flourish), it’s a great feeling to see rookies already having an impact from the get-go.
The Players With A Ton To Prove
Both Dallas Goedert and Jalen Reagor have important seasons ahead. Reagor has to overcome a dud of a rookie season that was filled with injuries and average play. Meanwhile, Goedert’s play could determine how big of a contract will come his way after the season.
The two got off on the right foot.
Reagor had six receptions- tied with Smith for the most on the team- for 49 yards and a touchdown. Meanwhile, Goedert had four receptions for 42 yards and a touchdown.
Despite Quez Watkins’ recent emergence, Reagor clearly has the WR2 spot firmly grasped. Having Smith to take some pressure off of him can only help as the season goes on. He might not be as consistent when it comes to yardage like Smith will, but Reagor should still turn into a valuable weapon for Philly.
While Goedert and Ertz were supposedly 1A and 1B on the depth chart, it was Goedert who got the more looks. Goedert was targeted five times, while Ertz was targeted just twice. Even though those shares can change on a weekly basis, it’s good to see Goedert making the most of his opportunities.
The Defensive Line
The defensive line closed the game better than any Phillies reliever could ever dream of doing.
Matt Ryan was sacked three times in the final 5:45 minutes of the game, and two of those sacks came on fourth down. Hassan Ridgeway had one of them, while Javon Hargrave was responsible for two.
The pair had a great day, combining for six QB hits and three tackles for loss. It couldn’t be a better start to the season for Hargrave, who graded out as the best Eagles’ defender in the game:
Highest Graded Eagles on defense in yesterday’s win against the Falcons
— PFF PHI Eagles (@PFF_Eagles) September 13, 2021
Additionally, that onslaught of pressure in the closing minutes also forced Ryan to make a costly intentional grounding. All in all, it was a terrific showing by the defense that prevented any possible last-minute comebacks.
While technically not a player, it’s important to give credit where it’s due.
Nick Sirianni is an emotionally-charged coach, who seems to use that to get the most out of his players. The team looked ready to play Sunday, and didn’t let up throughout the entire game- something Philadelphia has had trouble with in the past.
Sirianni also demonstrated his willingness to take risks, going for it twice on fourth-down. Unfortunately, the team didn’t convert either attempt. On the one hand, it’s nice to have a coach who won’t play conservatively. On the other hand, if you’re going to play big balls style, you need to execute. Otherwise, those missed points will come back to bite.
Overall, Sirianni had an encouraging coaching debut that gave us a taste of what he’ll be like as the HC. If he’s able to keep the team going with his energy and game-planning, then he could catch many by surprise in the coming months.