The Philadelphia Eagles competed in a game of two halves against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday. From three first half turnovers by quarterback Nick Foles (in easily his worst performance since the Dallas debacle of last year) to cornerback Cary Williams getting owned by undrafted free agent wide receiver Allen Hurns, the Eagles had little to hang their helmets on at halftime.
The team eventually rallied back behind two big plays from off-season addition Darren Sproles early in the third quarter to get points on the board after the Jaguars held a 17-0 lead for the entire first half. From there, the Eagles were in total control of the game and shut out Jacksonville while doubling their score.
The 34-17 win was nearly a train wreck, but head coach Chip Kelly stuck with Foles, who managed to somewhat rebound from his early struggles (barely) and help the Eagles win their first game of the 2014 campaign. That said, while the game was sloppy, there were several positives in the team's performance. There were are also some pretty major negatives as well.
Let's take a look at some of the winners and losers from Week 1's matchup against the Jaguars:
Backup Offensive Linemen: David Molk and Andrew Gardner were put in rough spots on Sunday and delivered. When Evan Mathis went down, Gardner took his place at left guard but later moved to right tackle when Allen Barbre went down with an injury as well. Molk played left guard for most of the game and played very well for a player that was billed as a pure center since his days of being a draft prospect. Gardner had played mostly left tackle this off-season so he was forced to play two new positions in one game. Both held their own and Gardner actually looked better than Barbre. Dennis Kelly was inactive for the game, but it's a safe bet that he won't be for the next several weeks. Matt Tobin, the Eagles top backup with Barbre as a starter, is still nursing an injury of his own.
Former Saints: Safety Malcolm Jenkins and running back Darren Sproles made their Eagles regular season debuts on Sunday. Both made plays and Sproles almost single-handedly woke up the team with an electric 49-yard touchdown run (longest of his career) and a fantastic punt return on the next possession. Jenkins was all over the place and made some run stops. He also should probably have a forced fumble to his name, but his hit on Allen Hurns was not ruled a forced fumble. Jenkins also seemed to make Earl Wolff and Nate Allen a bit more effective as well.
The Front 7: The entire unit seemed to work well together, especially against the run. Mychal Kendricks, Connor Barwin, Bennie Logan and Cedric Thornton were active throughout the game and created pressure. Barwin batted two passes (by my count, but NFL.com only gave credit for one) and had a major blow on a run for a loss, Kendricks had a sack and Thornton and Logan had several run spots. Run fits on Sunday would have been good against any running back in the league, let alone Toby Gerhart. Also, you can't forget Fletcher Cox, who played the run well and also had his first career touchdown off of a fumble recovery.
The Odd Fits: Trent Cole, Vinny Curry and Brandon Graham all showed up against the Jaguars. Graham had a terrific tackle for a loss on Gerhart that made a smack that you could have probably heard down Broad Street. Curry also showed a proficiency against the run that he had not shown in the past. Cole helped seal the game with a vintage sack fumble that led to the Cox touchdown.
Special Teams: Chris Maragos is a beast. You may have liked Colt Anderson, but Maragos brings so much more to the table. Maragos is significantly more athletic and provided two big stops on a kick and a punt return. The unit as a whole did well on punt and kick coverage with Brandon Boykin downing a sweet Donnie Jones punt at the one-yard line. Sproles' big return was a catalyst for the comeback. Brandon Bair also proved his worth with a blocked field goal in the second quarter.
Jeremy Maclin: I guess he's healed. The former first round pick got wide open for a touchdown grab of 68 yards. He finished with four receptions for 97 yards and a score, which served as a good indicator that he is ready to play a big role in the offense.
Zach Ertz: It would not shock me in the slightest if Ertz led the team in touchdowns and even yards. He is just so dynamic and runs crisp routes. He really is a safety blanket for Foles and their chemistry (for the most part) seems to be there. He finished with three grabs for 77 yards and an impressive touchdown.
LeSean McCoy: I feel bad for the Jacksonville defense. McCoy had several opportunities to shake the heck out of his opponents and followed through. His numbers won't blow anyone away but were similar to Adrian Peterson's in Week 1 (both carried the ball 21 times, with McCoy stopping at 74 yards and Peterson had 75 yards). That said, McCoy added a lot in the receiving game with six catches for 41 yards.
Cody Parkey: I'll just leave this here...
Nick Foles: Whether you're a Foles fan or hater, his performance against the Jaguars in the first half likely had you concerned. He held on to the ball way too long (as always), didn't protect the ball and threw an easy interception in the end zone. Foles looked like a player who was scared of making mistakes and losing his job. It was honestly frightening how putrid he looked in the first half.
Let's talk about the second half for context. While he was in no way good during the Eagles turnaround, he was passable. While that may not seem good enough (and it's not), it's a credit to him and Chip Kelly in that both were able to put the first half behind them and let it play out. Foles missed a lot of open targets on Sunday and has to improve his decision-making for sure, but it was important to see him show resiliency in a tough situation.
His ability, confidence and leadership were all tested against the Jaguars and while his performance was no higher than a D+, he did barely pass his first exam as the Eagles starter. Foles is prone to a bad performance every now and then, but typically bounces back in a big way over the next several weeks. Hopefully, history will repeat itself and he can right the ship.
Cary Williams: Brandon Gowton has said for two seasons now that Williams only plays up (and down) to his competition. There may not be a more up-and-down talent on the roster. Williams was owned on three receptions against undrafted receiver Allen Hurns with two going for touchdowns. Williams is a guy who is pretty polarizing because he talks so much, but he is really hard to take seriously when he is getting manhandled in coverage.
Starting Offensive Line: With Mathis and Barbre going down on Sunday, the Eagles are without four of their top seven linemen. While Jason Peters and Jason Kelce are fantastic at their spots and Todd Herremans has been solid, missing Lane Johnson AND Mathis for an extended period is scary. The three remaining starters played well for the most part given the circumstances but this was a mess. Mathis is probably out for a little while, so if Barbre is out too, there will be two new starters against the Colts. Molk and Gardner could fill those roles or Kelly could take over at left guard. It will be interesting to see how this all works out.
Riley Cooper: Foles' trusty sidekick was pretty off against Jacksonville. I have to think he was rusty from the training camp injury, but he still practiced all week. He missed the opportunity for a major gain from a huge Foles pass in the third quarter and just didn't seem to get into a rhythm at all. He finished with four catches for 29 yards which is a far cry from last year's production. Hopefully, he will be able to shake the rust off by next Monday.
The Reverse Screen: It worked last year, but defenses seem to know it's coming. Time to go back to the drawing board on that one, Chip.