Grayson’s Grades: Eagles at Bucs (Playoffs)
The Philadelphia Eagles ended the 2023 campaign by continuing the same tailspin that defined the final six games of the regular season with a 32-9 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Eagles never held the lead in a game defined by once again poor play-calling on offense and plenty of missed tackles on defense. Now Owner Jeffrey Lurie and General Manager Howie Roseman have a lot of big decisions to make beginning first and foremost with the status of Head Coach Nick Sirianni.
The final report card for this season features plenty of F's. Here is the latest edition of Grayson's Grades:
DeVonta Smith - Smith was amazing in this game. He showed great hands with great routes that allowed Jalen Hurts to find him. He stepped up with AJ Brown out and sadly it was not enough. Smith provided a huge spark when he got behind the defense and caught a 55 yard pass taking the Eagles inside the red zone. Smith caught eight passes for 148 yards. Clearly a great game for him.
Brandon Graham - Graham was one of the few players who appeared to be playing with heart, desire and effort. The urgency and reality of the situation appeared to hit him in the second half and he found another gear. Graham tried his best to provide a spark finishing the game with five tackles including one sack and three tackles for a loss.
Milton Williams - Williams also displayed effort. He took over one series in the second half and almost single-handedly forced a punt. Williams had two tackles including one sack, one tackle for a loss and two quarterback hits.
Fletcher Cox - Like Graham, Cox showed heart and effort with the reality of the situation setting in during the second half. He found another gear and made some plays. Cox had two tackles including half a sack and one quarterback hit. However, there were several times that his pressure created other opportunities for teammates to make some plays.
James Bradberry - Bradberry somehow went from a good corner at the beginning of the season to a disinterested and aged player by the end of the season. His technique in coverage often led to big gains for the opponent. He also missed a lot of tackles in the second half of the season including one on the touchdown reception by Trey Palmer. He finished the game with three tackles.
Nick Sirianni - Sirianni kept saying after the game that the blame all starts with him. It's true. He got a lot of the credit last year, and deserves a lot of the blame this year. He has some big questions to answer before getting the chance to be Head Coach of this team next year. What happened over the last seven games? What is your plan to fix it? If he does not have a great answer to both of those questions, than I believe it is time to move on. Yes, Sirianni has a great record and led this team to the playoffs in each of his three years here. He also led them to a Super Bowl appearance. That said, there was a growing disconnect between the players and coaches and he had no answer as to how to fix it.
Brian Johnson - Johnson clearly has a hatred for the idea of running the ball. He ran it twice in a row with D'Andre Swift and got a first down then ran it just once in the next 13 plays. Seriously? Talk about becoming predictable, especially while facing a team that loves to blitz. Johnson played right into their hands. After one season of Johnson's play-calling I am out on giving him another chance. Jalen Hurts played poorly and in my opinion a large reason why was because Johnson rarely ever put him in a position to succeed. The scheme and philosophy are not good. If you can't convert a third down you are likely going to lose. The Eagles were 0-for-9 on third down and 0-for-2 on fourth down.
Matt Patricia - Patricia got off to a bad start with his defense and missed tackles contributed to their greater issues. His defense allowed 426 total yards and gave up 30 of the 32 points scored by the Bucs. There was a stretch when they made some plays and forced some consecutive punts with their team trailing by a touchdown. Outside of that, this defense continued to look lost with big holes in their zone coverage. They also failed to stop the run once again allowing 119 yards on the ground.
Kevin Byard - Missed tackles defined the defensive performance in this game. Byard was one of the guilty parties. Missing a tackle happens for one of two reasons, either poor technique or lacking the desire to make the tackle. It looked like the latter for Byard on the long touchdown reception by Trey Palmer. In his defense, Byard was given the tough task of trying to quickly assume starting safety responsibilities after getting traded mid-season around the same time that Matt Patricia started calling the plays. He never truly looked comfortable in this defense and that showed in this game. Byard finished with five tackles.
Jalen Hurts - I believe Hurts was never really put in a good position to succeed with this scheme and especially the game plan in this one. He lacked hot routes for his receivers when the Bucs blitzed. The Eagles also abandoned the running game for the most part leaving him to deal with everything else that the Bucs threw at him. The Eagles also never had a good plan as to how to deal with the blitzes that the Bucs used. I do not believe that Hurts regressed this season. I believe he was never put into an offense that had any idea as to how to get into a rhythm and especially one that lacked in-game adjustments. Hurts completed 25 of 35 passes for 250 yards and one touchdown.