NFL Week 5: What to watch for as Eagles try to stabilize vs. Panthers

Eagles Jalen Hurts Nick Sirianni
Nick Sirianni and Jalen Hurts look to end the Eagles' three-game skid.
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

On a three-game losing streak and with dysfunction prevailing, the Philadelphia Eagles head down to Charlotte to face a 3-1 Carolina Panthers team that has impressed and surprised over the first four weeks of the 2021 season.

Understandably so, the Eagles are 3.5-point underdogs for Sunday’s matchup, which kicks off at 1 p.m. ET.

Here are a few things to watch out for as Nick Sirianni’s men try to get back on track:

When Will The Madness End?

The Eagles are beating themselves just as much as their opponents are with a litany of mental mistakes making their chances of winning all that more obsolete.

Through four games, the Eagles have committed 44 penalties — 10 more than the team with the second-most, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — for an astounding average of 11 infractions per game to start the season.

Nine of them came during Sunday’s Week 4 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs which saw three penalties wipe touchdowns off the scoreboard in a game that Eagles ultimately lost by 12.

“I’m not sure there are many teams spending as much time on this as we are,” Sirianni said ahead of Week 5. “But here’s the thing, we know when you have penalties called on you and when you’re committing penalties — because we’re committing them — it’s not like they’re happening and we’re doing them.

“When that’s happening, it kind of can snowball into a sense that the referees next time or the coaching staff next time is going to come out and tell you, ‘Hey, these guys have an issue with this. They’re off-sides here, they do these things a lot.’ Now they’re looking for that thing.”

Jalen’s Offense

Jalen Hurts
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Despite the lack of composure and the never-ending Deshaun Watson trade rumors, Jalen Hurts continues to improve as the Eagles’ next potential franchise quarterback of the future.

He has already taken a noticeable step forward in his first four games this season compared to the four games he stepped in for Carson Wentz last year:

Hurts’ 2020 stats Stat Hurts’ 2021 stats
4 Games 4
77-148 (52.0%) Completion-Attempts (%) 96-145 (66.2%)
1,061 Yards 1,167
6 Touchdowns 7
4 Interceptions 2
77.6 QB Rating 101.1

Against the Chiefs, Hurts posted 387 yards and rushed for 47 more with a pair of touchdowns as the Eagles’ attack is developing into one of the better units in the league.

“That’s one of the better quarterback performances I’ve seen, and I’ve been around a lot of good quarterbacks,” Sirianni said of Hurts’ performance against Kansas City. “He battled. He made good decisions with the football. He got out of trouble when there was trouble. He made good checks. He made good reads.

“That’s the best I’ve seen him in practice. That’s the best I’ve seen him in a game since I’ve been here, so hats off to Jalen, he battled.”

Philadelphia ranks eighth in yards gained, fifth in average yards per play, 12th in fewest sacks allowed, and 11th in third-down conversions.

Darnold’s Resurgence

Sam Darnold
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

It’s amazing what a little bit of competence can do for a young quarterback with a high ceiling.

After three miserable seasons with the Jets, Sam Darnold is showing that he can be a franchise quarterback with Carolina.

Even if it’s just four weeks into the season, the third overall pick of the 2018 draft is on pace to shatter his personal career records as he’s completed 67.8% of his passes for 1,189 yards, five passing touchdowns, and — most remarkably — five rushing touchdowns.

Those ground scores lead the NFL, including all running backs; a remarkable stat considering he had five rushing touchdowns in his first three years as a pro. He also became the first quarterback in NFL history to score five rushing touchdowns in the first four games of a season.

He provides another dual-threat option for an Eagles defense that was torched by Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs last week, allowing 42 points while going 0-for-5 in potential red-zone stops.

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