Signs of life in Eagle brain waves heading into Saints game…


The Eagles at 4-6 take on the 5-4 New Orleans Saints this Sunday. Believe it or not, the Birds seem to be evolving as the season goes on.

Maybe said more accurately, their coaches are evolving in how they implement game plans.

Sirianni’s offense is finally creating some guesswork for opposing defenses. He’s putting his QB in better positions to make intermediate throws.  Less running around, more focus on hitting second or third reads… He’s calling more tackle-over and QB-counter runs too, not just inside zone. Guards are actually pulling across formations. It’s clear that Sirianni and Hurts are working together to recognize man coverage and beat it.  Hurts still has to learn to better deal with zone coverages and late-moving safeties, but you can feel the brain waves clicking in a good direction.

Jonathan Gannon’s defense is trending smarter too in the disguise factor. There’s a ton more movement pre-snap and he’s combining man/zone and pressures with way more unpredictable looks than we saw over the first half of the season.  Players are responding with quicker reactions to the ball, and producing some confusion for the opponent for a change.

Overall, the mental profile of the team has gone from passive containment to aggressive playmaking.

The Eagles will have to continue their brainy improvement to beat the Saints at the Linc, where Philly is winless so far this year.

The Saints are coming off a tough 23-21 loss. At the Titans last Sunday, New Orleans nearly completely overcame a 23-12 deficit with 10:01 remaining in the contest. New Orleans kicked a field goal with 5:35 remaining in the contest. The Saints then forced a Titans punt quickly, powered by a big stop by linebacker Kwon Alexander of Tennessee running back Adrian Peterson for a five-yard loss.

New Orleans then got the ball back with 3:34 remaining and quarterback Trevor Siemian led the Saints on a seven -play, 71-yard scoring drive. Among the highlights were a 22-yard completion to wide receiver Marquez Callaway, a 17-yard completion on third and five to wide receiver/return specialist Deonte Harris and a 15-yard touchdown pass to Callaway on third and 13 with 1:20 remaining.

New Orleans was then set back on the two-point conversion attempt by a false start penalty, but Siemian and running back Mark Ingram II just missed connection on the conversion. Ingram carried a full load in the contest, tallying a game-high 108 total yards from scrimmage and a 13-yard rushing touchdown as he became the franchise’s all-time rushing leader. Defensively, defensive end Marcus Davenport tied a career-high with two sacks as he moved into a tie for the team lead with four quarterback takedowns.

The Saints do present some very tough matchups for the Eagles.

Linebacker Demario Davis now has 405 tackles as a Saint in his fourth season with the Black and Gold after recording six total tackles (five solo) against Tennessee.

Wide receiver/return specialist Deonte Harris caught three passes for 84 yards Sunday, while also recording 110 kick return yards and just four punt return yards for 198 all-purpose yards. With the four punt return yards, Harris has now moved into sixth in club record books for punt return yards, bringing his total to 658 career punt return yards, surpassing Mel Gray.

Running back Mark Ingram II rushed the ball 14 times for 47 yards and scored his first touchdown for the Saints this season. Ingram also caught four balls for 61 yards. Ingram now has 6,124 career rushing yards as a Saint and is now the team’s all-time leading rusher. Ingram surpassed Deuce McAllister for first place on the club’s all-time rushing yardage list. Ingram also took sole possession of third all-time in Saints history after surpassing Deuce McAllister with 56 touchdowns. Ingram’s 7,829 total yards from scrimmage as a Saint rank fourth in club record books. With 108 yards from scrimmage, Ingram surpassed McAllister to move into third in Saints history all-purpose yards. Ingram played in his 109th career game as a Saint, moving into a tie for 36th place in club records with linebacker Dave Lafary and cornerback Fred Thomas.

Having never missed a game, defensive end Cameron Jordan played in his 169th career contest Sunday, moving into a tie with guard Jahri Evans for 11th place on the club’s all-time games played list. Jordan posted a season-high five solo tackles vs. Tennessee.

Quarterback Trevor Siemian went 19-of-34 passing for 298 yards with two scores and zero interceptions. Siemian posted a 104.8 passer rating.

Strong safety Malcolm Jenkins had four tackles (two solo). Jenkins now has 1,258 career stops.

Wide receiver Marquez Callaway caught his fifth career touchdown pass Sunday, finishing with two catches for 37 yards. Callaway now leads the Saints with five touchdown receptions this season.

Defensive end Marcus Davenport posted three tackles (three solo) and two sacks, which places he and Tanoh Kpassagnon in a tie for team leaders in sacks with four.

Saints head coach Sean Payton seems to think the key to dumbing down the Eagles is to punish Hurts for his own running decisions.

“Obviously, (with a less mobile quarterback) you’re dealing with the advantage that you initially have when the quarterback isn’t a runner,” Payton said. “Once that quarterback is a featured runner, it changes from a defensive standpoint what some of your normal fits (might be) and how you want to play certain plays. It’s different. It’s option football to some degree, and that requires a different discipline.”

“Yeah, any time we know we play a quarterback that’s capable of running the ball, there’s little things we have to adjust,” linebacker Pete Werner said. “Always having a player to key on the quarterback and that aspect (of the gameplan). We haven’t seen much quarterback run aspect other than scrambles in the passing game, so we’ll look into that.

“We know Hurts does a good job when he has the ball in his hands, and know they’re well-respected in the run game. They have one of the top run offenses in the NFL, so we’re happy to match up with this type of opponent. We just have to keep executing and eliminate the quarterback run.”

Werner said that while monitoring Hurts is important, overemphasizing Hurts’ presence also could be detrimental.

“It is all about numbers,” he said. “There are numbers on offense that they try to create matchups with against the defense. Sometimes the offense has better numbers against the defense, so we just have to do well with those matchups.

“If we have heavy emphasis on the quarterback runs, then that might open up spaces for them to create a high emphasis for more runs with the running backs. If we continue to do our job and have our eyes and techniques locked down, I do not think a good running quarterback should be an issue for us.”

Where Payton and Werner need to be careful is not to underestimate the growing intelligence factor in the Eagles’ overall game planning. Hurts in particular seems to be getting smarter. He’s seeing a lot more of the field these days. Intermediate stuff downfield could be wide open against the Saints.

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