The Eagles beat the Browns, 29-10, to open the season with an impressive win. Here's what I saw from each unit.
Pass Offense: A-
The Eagles couldn’t have asked for a better first week passing the ball.
Carson Wentz’s first drive was a fever dream. It almost didn’t feel real. The rookie had perfect placement on every throw. The touchdown pass to Matthews to cap it all off was gorgeous, dropped right into Matthews’ hands as he neared the corner of the end zone. He had good movement and rollouts on the drive when he threw it, and that trend continued for the entire game. When Wentz rolled out, he was extremely accurate.
He also looked really impressive throwing under pressure. On one third down, he absorbed a big hit and nailed Ertz right in the hands. On another play in the third quarter, Wentz took a hit from his left and delivered a strike to Matthews, right into the wideout’s hands for a big gain and a first down.
The second touchdown pass of the day was another absolute dime. Perfect placement to Nelson Agholor, who burned Joe Haden on a quick one-two move from the line and got the edge, and then didn’t give it back. Wentz threw the ball right on the outside, where only Agholor could catch it.
Agholor, often maligned for questionable hands and inconsistency, had a very good start to his second season. Clean routes, no drops, and a touchdown catch.
Oh, and Jordan Matthews was excellent. After dropping Wentz’s first career pass attempt, Matthews caught seven passes for 114 yards and a touchdown.
Wentz showed a proclivity for the long ball all day. His first three passes of 10 yards or more were each completed, for a total of 69 yards. His two touchdown passes were both perfectly placed.
Wentz showed less accuracy in mid-range and short throws; he just missed Darren Sproles on over the middle on a six-yard third down pass, and threw out of Jordan Matthews’ reach on a throw behind the line of scrimmage. He’ll have to work on throws that aren’t bombs.
Run offense: B
Ryan Mathews is still a very tough runner. He picked up a handful of yards other backs would’ve left on the field. But after a good first drive, Pederson’s run plays became very vanilla, very fast. Lots of hand offs from the shotgun, which was to be expected. The problem is, Wentz never kept it, which minimizes how effective it is. Run offense really stalled.
Kenjon Barner found a few holes in the third quarter and kick-started things. He looked good in camp. Should get more carries going forward to help keep Mathews healthy and fresh.
Doug Pederson set up the power sweep plays I mentioned this week when I talked to Wentz’s college head coach, but he didn’t use it very much. Wentz finished with two runs, at least one of which was just a scramble from the pocket when nothing materialized down field. I was surprised Wentz never saw designed runs from Pederson. Of course, there are worse ideas than protecting your rookie quarterback, especially when he’s throwing the ball as well as he was.
In general, good enough blocking for Mathews and Barner, who both looked solid, if not exceptional. Mathews' touchdown with about 80 seconds left was the icing on the cake.
This is the kind of rushing attack the Eagles need every game: consistent. Mathews finished with 22 carries for 77 yards and a score.
Pass Defense: B-
The pass rush had two very different halves. There was not a ton of pressure on Griffin in the first half. Jim Schwartz’s vaunted Wide 9 seemed to be largely ineffective.
But then, as the Eagles continued to pile on the points and the Browns’ offense switched to a pass-first approach, the rushers found pay dirt. Fletcher Cox finally broke through midway through the third quarter when Vinny Curry paved the way with a huge pancake, taking Robert Griffin down for a big loss.
Later in the second half, Connor Barwin took down Griffin with what looked like one arm, which was very impressive. Barwin is very often quiet for long stretches, and then impressive in bursts. That pattern continued Sunday.
The defensive line showed impressive stamina, and looked faster as the game progressed. A good sign.
The Eagles’ cornerbacks were not great. The Browns only finished with 190 yards through the air, but big chunks were given up, and against a better opponent, more will come.
For instance, rookie wideout Corey Coleman beat veteran corner Leodis McKelvin multiple times, finding space on intermediate routes. On another play, Nolan Carroll over-ran a tackle, whiffing completely, on a third down and allowed a Browns wide receiver to pick up the first down.
And to start the second half, of course, three different defensive backs misplayed an awful throw from Griffin, which picked up 58 yards.
In general, lots of improvement to be had from the secondary.
Run Defense: B+
Not a whole ton to say here, because not much happened.
Before they were down two touchdowns and abandoned the run game, as teams are wont to do, the Browns’ ground attack didn’t have much going for it. 47 of their yards came on three plays; Isaiah Crowell rushed nine times for 22 yards before a pair of sizable garbage time carries.
Griffin didn’t have many runs, but the one he broke was a rollout that led to a one-on-one matchup in open space. That isn’t very common, and shouldn’t be much of a problem going forward.
Certainly worse starts to be had from Jim Schwartz’s rush defense unit.