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Week 8 Film Room: Carson Wentz's downfield woes

Dagnabbit, wideouts.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Quick notice from me first guys, I'm going back to the old style with the GIFs purely because some people couldn't view the new videos at work. Obviously I want everyone to be able to read these posts. I'm going to combine some clips though still, so I can show you more clips in the future. In the off-season I might try some longer posts using longer videos from Twitter, it won't matter if you can't view these at work because it will be the sort of post you can read days or weeks later. Hope that's all okay.

I'm just starting to get over this loss. Although it sounds weird, studying the All-22 can make me feel a little better sometimes. It made me realize that despite everyone being very angry right now, it's worth realizing that some players had really good games and overall the Eagles should have won. They were the better team on the road against a good Cowboys team. Let's get to the film anyway.

Offense

Right, before showing anything I have something to get off my chest! Doug Pederson called a really good game. Doug has got so much criticism, and rightly so, for a couple of awful calls. That shouldn't change the fact that overall, he had a really good game plan and if Wendall Smallwood could hold onto a football, the Eagles would have won that game. He is still a rookie head coach and he will learn from this defeat but some of the criticism of him is over the top.

Passing Game

Another thing that bothers me is that everyone seems to think Doug doesn't try and go downfield. He does. Wentz didn't throw any deep balls because no one was open and he doesn't trust Big V or his receivers to win a contested catch. Doug didn't trade away Bradford and draft a quarterback with a strong arm with the #2 pick to check down all game. The Eagles tried this play below multiple times to beat the Cowboys zone coverage.

However, it never worked for a number of reasons.Josh Huff doesn't get up the field quick enough on the far left and the press throws off the timing of the route. He needs to be speeding past that press coverage and getting downfield in a hurry. In this particular example, it's Josh Huff here and not Nelson Agholor. But the Eagles ran this exact same play another 3/4 times from different formations and the same problem occurred on each play, even when Agholor was the outside receiver which was every example except this I think. As you can you see, when Ertz makes his cut inside, he's basically running directly into Huff who needs to be 10 yards further down the field. Also, Wentz isn't holding the ball for long because I don't think he entirely trusts Big V at right tackle yet.

Overall, Wentz played a pretty good game. His ball placement was solid for the most part and he made really smart decisions. The deep ball was never open. A couple of times he could have been more aggressive but I think he's  This loss is certainly not on him in anyway. He is speeding up when going through his progression too which is great to see.

Here's one example of Wentz looking at his first read, recognising cover 2 and quickly resetting his body before making a quick throw to Jordan Matthews. You could see Wentz going through his reads this game and he also used his eyes to move defenders too.

The Eagles offense missed some opportunities though. The drops are absurd at this point but they will continue because the wide receivers aren't very good. I can't even be bothered to show you all the drops, it's boring by now. These two plays stick out to me though.

In the first play, Wentz throws it too low and Sproles can't get it. There's only one defender in front of Sproles and this could have been a huge play. It's the same misdirection screen play that they ran against the Steelers and had a huge gain with. On the second play, it's a perfect throw by Wentz and an awful drop by Jordan Matthews. This isn't the first drop on a corner route by Jordan Matthews, it makes me wonder if he's thinking too much about his feet or something.

The Eagles offensive line was excellent in pass protection again. However, there is something that needs to be noted. Since Lane Johnson's suspension, most of the Eagles passing plays involve 3 step drops or very quick throws. So while Big V is playing well, he is being protected by the play calling. Because of that, I'm not going to say he's the tackle of the future right now. I still think the offense is slightly limited at the moment because of Lane's suspension. If the coaches don't trust Big V enough to hold up on deeper drops it does limit the Eagles downfield potential. I don't think Big V can hold up in longer developing passing plays either, based on what I've seen. He's still a work in progress in regards to pass blocking.

Some other quick notes: Wentz ball placement on slant routes was excellent... The Eagles really need some wide receivers who can get yards after the catch, at the moment only DGB and Josh Huff can do that... DGB is certainly getting a bigger role in the offense, I thought it was interesting at the end of the first half Wentz repeatedly threw it to DGB on the sideline and he made two big catches.

Running Game

I thought the Eagles ran the ball pretty well against the Cowboys. Darren Sproles was absolutely incredible. I haven't seem him run that well in years. He was so elusive and nearly impossible to bring down. It made me realise how little our running backs have actually made someone miss in the open field this year.

The offensive line also deserves huge credit. I thought Brandon Brooks played his best game of the season. The last few weeks Brooks has really, really impressed me. He's playing at a high level right now. Big V is also a decent run blocker and Wiz filled in at left guard and played really well too. Brent Celek was also excellent as he usually is at run blocking. Here's a few runs that show the offensive line and Sproles dominating.

I love the first play here, it's awesome. Big V, Brooks and Wiz almost move as one unit in sync. They keep pushing the Cowboys further and further back. On the second run, just look at how Brooks moves. I mentioned it last week, but he glides across the field. He's a big, big dude and he is so light on his feet. It's awesome.

Here's another Sproles run. Check out Brooks and Wiz again. They were getting to the second level all game and making key blocks.

There was a couple of good blocks to show on these Ryan Mathews runs too. On the first one, there are a number of excellent blocks. Brooks and Big V shove their defender out the way. Wiz pulls and makes a great block in hole and Matt Tobin lined up at tight end also makes a great block. On the second play, Wiz makes another good block but I put this play in solely because of Trey Burton. He helps to block two defenders and gives Mathews the edge.

Also, there's something else I need to get off my chest! You cannot, in any way, criticise Doug for Smallwood's fumble. I don't care if he hadn't been in the game yet. It doesn't matter. You can't give Sproles every carry because he'll wear down. You can't run Mathews at the end because he's fumbled in recent weeks. Smallwood must know that he's only going in on that play because Mathews has fumbled in previous weeks. It's incredible to me that you can fumble - when you know you are in the game because the starter keeps fumbling!

If you are saying that Smallwood fumbled because it was his first carry, that makes no sense. Everyone has a first carry in the game at some point. He's a professional football player and he should be ready to go whenever he is called. If anything he should be even more alert on his first carry. Backup quarterbacks can be on the sideline for 15 weeks and suddenly they have to go in the game at a moments notice. They don't throw a pick on their first pass. The fumble was solely on Smallwood and blaming Doug is bizarre.

Defense

Run Defense

Against the leagues best rushing attack, the Eagles run defense came to play. Ever since that Redskins game, the Eagles defense has been very solid against the run. I think we can call that game an anomaly at this point. Except for a few big plays early on, the Eagles run defense was really impressive. Just like last week, they showed better gap awareness and for the most part set the edge well (except Leodis McKelvin).

The Eagles best defensive player, was once again Brandon Graham.

Graham was lights out again, Doug Free couldn't handle him at all. In the first clip he comes crashing down and hits Zeke hard. In the second clip, he does a great job with his hands to power through the lineman and manages to redirect himself so he can grab hold of Alfred Morris and not let go.

Jordan Hicks also had a really good game. Zeke is a seriously good running back, so it was a tough match up for Hicks but I think he proved how good he is.

Both Hicks and Nigel Bradham made a great play here. Bradham also had a good game I thought. Both of them manage to get off a block and get to Zeke at the same time. The second play is made because Destiny Vaeao managed to hold up the second blocker for a second which allowed Hicks to shoot the gap and make a great play on Zeke.

Speaking of run defense, Fletcher Cox deserves a huge mention. Cox did not have a good game rushing the passer at all but he was really good against the run. Even when he didn't get the tackle, he was causing havoc and needed to be double teamed frequently.

This was my favorite play of his all game. This is Cox at his very best. He gets double teamed and knocked backwards but he still manages to keep his balance and then makes a really good tackle.

I wanted to show a couple of clips of Malcolm Jenkins making excellent plays inside the box too but for some reason Gamepass decided to stop showing those plays so I couldn't record them. But yeah, Jenkins had another excellent game. McLeod also had a really good game when he came downhill.

Passing Defense

Marcus. Smith. Lives!

Seriously though, Smith has made a few plays in recent weeks. He had another fairly good game, although except for this sack he had no success against Tyron Smith which is hardly a surprise. This is a nice spin move though, he rushes Smith head on and then fakes like he's going outside and then spins back inside. The second clip just shows him crashing down on Zeke which is always good to see.

Coverage wise, I thought the Eagles secondary had a good game. Both Nolan Carroll and McKelvin got beat by Dez Byrant at times but he's a really good receiver and covering him one on one is not easy. That Dez Byrant touchdown catch makes you realise how badly the Eagles miss a star at receiver. I thought Jalen Mills played pretty well, he had to cover Beasley who is a tricky guy to cover but he played well for the most part. Malcolm Jenkins was really good in man coverage of Jason Witten too on multiple occasions.

The Eagles really confused Dak early on and he was feeling pressure even when it wasn't there. Dak really played badly so the narrative that he led the Cowboys to a victory is false, the Eagles gave the game away in reality.

The Eagles biggest problem on defense was that they couldn't rush the passer with 4 men. Brandon Graham was the only one who was winning his one on one match up consistently. Beau Allen can't get pressure and Cox couldn't beat Zach Martin. Vinny Curry is still disappointing, he does get some pressure but its inconsistent.

Here Graham gets pressure on Dak and makes him throw it early which leads to the throw being incomplete. There were a lot of examples of this too. The Eagles could get pressure but only when they blitzed. Jordan Hicks was excellent in coverage too and he made a huge play here.

The interception came because Dak didn't really read the defense and stared down one target. Because Hicks covers Witten when he comes into his zone, Dak thinks that the Eagles are playing man coverage and doubling Jason Witten. Mills is covering Brice Butler (Cowboys #19) and he has pretty tight coverage but Dak decides to throw it anyway. However, Hicks wasn't doubling Jason Witten he was sitting in a short zone in the middle of the field. Hicks reads Daks eyes all the way and comes off Witten to pick the ball off and make a huge play.

Something else to note about the Eagles pass defense, they really didn't double Dez Byrant, Jason Witten or Cole Beasley or any plays. They treated them as just normal receivers. Dez wasn't moving at 100% but he's still an excellent receiver. I think that shows the confidence Schwartz has in his secondary. In addition to this, the Eagles actually ran some cover 0 blitzes. In recent weeks they have run safer blitzes with zone coverage. In this game they brought the house and trusted their cornerbacks.

Let's end on this play because it involves probably our two best players on the night.

Firstly, Brandon Graham reads the play fake well and doesn't let Dak get outside him. But look at the speed of Hicks, he is flying here. Hicks does a great job of seeing Witten coming across the formation before it's too late and then he uses his speed to keep up with Witten. I think Dak would throw this ball usually but he's scared of Hicks closing speed.

That felt like a long post! As always, feel free to ask me questions and I hope those at work can view this like normal now!