2022 NFL Week 9: Dallas Goedert isn’t quite exceptional yet, but he’s getting there. Since Rob Gronkowski’s (second) retirement from football, experts have agreed on the following order for tight ends: Kelce, Travis, No. 1. Mark Andrews, No. 2 Thirdly, the rest of the people. One might argue that Goedert is on par with Kelce-Andrews Line caliber, but still better than the vast majority of his fellow defenders. Despite not being his best statistical game in the NFL, his eight catches for 100 yards and one score on Thursday were important to the Eagles’ unexpectedly close victory. Goedert has been a screen machine for the Eagles all season, and it showed in Week 9 when it seemed like the team repeatedly went to him on screens in crucial moments.
And he never failed to satisfy. While A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith had relatively quiet nights, the Eagles’ offense was propelled by the rushing of Miles Sanders and the screen game to Goedert.
The odds on winner for Offensive Rookie of the Year go to Dameon Pierce. With no quarterbacks setting the league on fire in their rookie campaigns, and with Breece Hall, the preseason favorite for Offensive Rookie of the Year, sidelined for the year with an injury, Pierce should be at or near the top of your list. Though Pierce had a poor day against the Titans on Sunday, he got back on track in a major way by setting personal bests in carries (14) and running yards (139). (27). The Eagles sought to double-team Pierce in their absence of wideouts Brandin Cooks and Nico Collins, but Pierce consistently outran and bounced off his would-be tacklers for gains beyond the initial hit. While he has some room to develop as a receiver, he is not yet the most dynamic running back in the league.
However, Pierce is a true bell-cow and the future seems bright for him and the squad. The Texans got a steal in the fourth round with Pierce, who may have been a higher pick if he had been given more than 100 touches in more than 13 games for Florida last season. (It may have spared Dan Mullen his job.) C.J. Gardner-Johnson was the team’s stealthy free agent acquisition. Because of the unexpected deal that sent Gardner-Johnson to the Eagles from the Saints, many wondered how long it would take for him to acclimate to his new club and the new system. He didn’t join the Eagles until August 31.
The appropriate duration is around six weeks. For the first month of the season, he performed admirably for the Eagles, earning a starting role and participating in virtually every defensive snap. But his worth to this defense has skyrocketed as of late. With Thursday’s diving interception of Davis Mills, Gardner-Johnson moved into first place in the NFL with five interceptions on the season. He had five INTs in his first 47 NFL games, and now he has five in only four games. When you consider that he also recorded a sack in the Eagles’ last game against the Steelers, it’s not unreasonable to call him one of the team’s finest defenders during the last four contests.
Recently, Javon Hargrave has been on a sack binge.
Hargrave had to go far to get Mills on his first sack, but the big third-down stop was worth it because Mills isn’t the fastest player. The second of his two sacks came on third down as the Texans drove into the end zone; he smashed rookie guard Kenyon Green and brought down Mills for a loss. The third was a loss of 9 yards that pushed the Texans out of the red zone and halted their momentum when the outcome of the game was still in question. Although Hargrave was called for roughing the quarterback, the infraction seemed questionable. He has been on a roll as of late, having taken out his anger on the Steelers (who didn’t re-sign him) last week then crushing Kenny Pickett for good measure. Hargrave now has six sacks on the year, five of which have come in the previous two games. He is one of the best interior defenders in the league, and he is now making a good case to be selected to the Pro Bowl.
Jordan Davis was missed by the Eagles. The Eagles’ interior run defense was fairly leaky, and it was arguably the biggest criticism of their performance on Thursday night. Davis, a hulking human being whose effect cannot be defined by statistics like tackles (14), tackles for loss (one), or sacks (zero), was selected with a first-round choice for good cause. On Thursday, they saw just how important Davis is, especially for a player who was only playing 22 snaps per game on average. The Eagles understood they had to run the ball frequently because the Texans were so thin at receiving, but the Texans kept finding success when they tried to run the ball in. The ankle injury Davis sustained sent him on the injured reserve list, with his earliest possible return date set for Week 13’s game against the Titans. The Eagles are up against some quality opposition at quarterback between now and then, so they should use this little respite to brainstorm some new strategies.
The Texans’ Davis Mills and Chris Moore connected for a 13-yard touchdown with Mills’ release speed of 16.04 miles per hour ranking as the third-fastest speed by a quarterback on a TD pass this season. With their victory over the Texans, the Eagles became the first team in NFL history to start the season 8-0. Since the beginning of the season, Jalen Hurts has won each of his 11 regular-season game starts.