Grayson’s Grades: Eagles vs. Cowboys
PHILADELPHIA - The Philadelphia Eagles rested their starters while the Dallas Cowboys played theirs into the fourth quarter. The result is exactly what you would expect under those circumstances as the Cowboys hammered the Eagles 51-26.
The Eagles put up a good fight with the game tied at 17 late into the first half. However, the Cowboys outscored the Eagles 34-9 after that.
The Eagles already had a playoff spot locked up and chose to rest their starters instead of playing for the win and the possibility of moving up to the six seed instead of the seven seed. I agreed with that decision.
Plenty of backups saw nearly all of the snaps. On top of that it appeared the Eagles ran some basic offensive and defensive plays to avoid putting anything meaningful on film for their first round opponent.
Here is the final 2021-2022 regular season edition of Grayson's Grades:
Kenneth Gainwell - Gainwell took advantage of the opportunity and cashed in those extra touches for a solid showing. He used his burst of speed to break through some holes and showed some good hands in the passing game too. Gainwell averaged 6.5 yards per carry. He rushed 12 times for 78 yards and a touchdown. He also added four catches for nine yards.
Jason Huntley - Huntley looked good. He seemed like more of the Jordan Howard mold who rarely ever went down with first contact. He fought through a lot of contact to move the pile forward or break off a would-be tackler and gain even more yardage. Huntley also piled up some solid kickoff return yardage and may have earned a more regular opportunity in that role moving forward. Huntley carried the ball 13 times for 51 yards. He also had three kickoff returns for 84 yards which was an average of 28 yards per return.
Nick Sirianni - Sirianni made the right choice to ensure that his starters are healthy and rested going into his first career playoff game as a head coach. The risk versus reward of playing them in this game was not worth it. There is very little difference in earning the six seed over the seven seed. Had the Eagles won this game there would have been no guarantee they would get the six seed instead of the seven. So I agreed with the decision to rest the starters. On top of that, he was aware that several players were within reach of milestones or records and allowed those guys to take advantage of that. Sirianni started Jason Kelce to keep his consecutive games played streak alive. He also started DeVonta Smith and left him in the game until he could break the Eagles Franchise Rookie Records for receptions and receiving yards previously held by DeSean Jackson. Allowing players to achieve those things goes a long way behind the scenes for team chemistry. Who cares the Eagles lost this game? What matters is what Sirianni does next week.
Quez Watkins - Watkins had an opportunity for more targets and took advantage of those in this game. He showed off his speed on a touchdown reception and managed to help the Eagles move the ball in the first half. Watkins caught five passes for 84 yards and a touchdown.
Gardner Minshew - Minshew was playing behind an inexperienced offensive line and it showed. However, knowing that he should have avoided holding the ball when he dropped back to pass. Minshew was sacked three times and nearly sacked more than that. He was forced to scramble and barely got past the line of scrimmage to avoid those plays counting as sacks. He held the ball too long, looked to run when he gave up downfield and lacked the acceleration to get to the second level of the defense very often when he did. Sure, Minshew was also playing with backup receivers. JJ Arcega-Whiteside should have absolutely caught a touchdown pass that hit him right in the hands. That would have helped Minshew's stat totals. But Minshew was inaccurate in this game. Many of his throws sailed high. Minshew completed 19 of 33 passes for 186 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. He also carried the ball five times for ten yards.
Offensive Line - This offensive line did a horrible job in pass protection. There were plenty of times that Gardner Minshew hit the end of his drop and had a defender bearing down on him. It is hard to throw accurately with that kind of pressure. Sure, he could have done a better job of getting rid of it faster and not holding onto the ball, but fear of a solid pass rush can force bad decisions. The line did a decent job of run blocking. The Eagles rushed for 149 yards as a team. The biggest name on the line was former first round pick Andre Dillard. He looked good at times sealing off his man and showing solid technique. Dillard was inconsistent and missed some blocks that blew up some plays.
Jalen Reagor - Reagor got to play plenty of snaps and run plenty of routes in this one. He failed to take advantage of that. Reagor consistently has shown this season his inability to run the jet sweep. He keeps trying to get the edge and always runs out of real estate with those plays typically going for negative yards. Reagor refuses to look for a hole and cut it upfield for positive yards. He carried the ball three times for 10 yards. Reagor only managed three targets from Minshew and caught two passes for 19 yards. Perhaps Reagor can still turn into the kind of player they imagined he would be when the Eagles selected him in the first round. Clearly that is not happening this season.
JJ Arcega-Whiteside - JJAW showed once again why he should not have been taken in the second round two years ago. He had a touchdown pass hit him in the hands and flat out dropped it. He followed that up by committing an offensive pass interference penalty on the same drive that led to the Eagles settling for a Field Goal. JJAW has shown his highest value is on special teams. So far that pick has not panned out. JJAW has to work on his route-running and especially completing the catch when given the opportunity. He was targeted three times in this game and finished with zero catches.
Aaryn Siposs - Siposs shanked two punts in the second half and both gave the Cowboys great field position as a result. He has been a phenomenal punter all season which creates some concern in his health heading into the postseason. Siposs punted three times. His first traveled 42 yards, but his next two punts averaged just 22.5 yards.