The Eagles beat the Bears on Monday. We learned about the Eagles from the game. Here's a list!
1. Doug Pederson’s aggressiveness wasn’t just a Week 1 flaunt. He went for it again on fourth-and-short in opposing territory, this time on the first drive of the game. 4th & 2 from the Bears’ 28-yard line. Personally, I’m a big fan of the call. It just makes sense. By the end of the game, he’d tried two more fourth downs, and converted those, too. He’s 4-for-4 so far this season on fourth downs. For reference, Chip Kelly tried 41 fourth downs in 48 regular season games in Philadelphia. He converted 22. Doug’s already on pace for 32 attempts this year. He probably won’t reach that mark, but he’s clearly not afraid to let his team take shots and win their yards.
2. Speaking of Dougie P, let’s talk about his approach to handling Carson. The Eagles’ first six plays of the game were passes. The last time that happened? 2005. Doug isn’t shy, and he’s not holding Wentz back at all. Wentz has thrown 71 passes in his first two starts in the league; for comparison’s sake, Andrew Luck threw 76 passes in his first two starts. This is a quarterback Pederson (and John DeFilippo, and Frank Reich) are very comfortable in, not as a rookie quarterback but as a straight up, starting-caliber quarterback.
3. A little more on that guy throwing the ball: boy, Carson Wentz can do pretty much everything, huh? It’s kind of exceptional. Even when his receivers let him down, like that great deep throw to Matthews late in the first half which Matthews dropped, it’s delightful. Most of his deep passes have been perfect. His toss to Agholor in the third quarter was close but no cigar, and that play stands out so much because it wasn’t perfect. He’s played two games, and we already expect most of his throws to be right on the money.
4. Remember when the Browns said Carson Wentz wasn’t going to be a Top 20 quarterback? Through two games, he’s 43 for 71 (60.5%) for 468 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
5. Let’s talk about one of Wentz’s favorite targets on Monday: Trey Burton is the real deal at tight end. He finished the game with five catches for 49 yards and a touchdown. I mean, sheesh. Brent Celek turns 32 in January. I know he’s signed through 2018, but if they cut him with one year left on his deal, the dead cap figure is only $1 million. I’m certainly not saying they need to, by any means. But the option is now there. Celek is expendable because Burton showed Monday night that he is a very, very capable tight end in this league.
6. Someone else catching passes and playing well: Nelson Agholor. Sure, he didn’t hang on to that deep ball on the right side, but it was under-thrown by Wentz. And yes, there was a fade in the end zone (why are you throwing a fade to Agholor?) in the fourth quarter that was close. But the Bears’ defensive backs played well on both of those near-catches, and credit goes to them. Elsewhere, Agholor looked like a very capable wideout for the second week in a row. He nabbed four catches for 42 yards, and now he has eight catches for 99 yards this season. Last year, it took him four games to reach that yardage and five games to reach that catch total. Definite improvement.
7. One down note: after two games, it feels safe to say the Eagles’ cornerbacks need work. Just like in last week’s game, relief came in the second half as the defensive line started to wear down the opposing offensive line. But against a more talented team, like, say, the Steelers, this is going to be a problem. Jalen Mills was torched by Alshon Jeffery, Nolan Carroll was called for defensive pass interference in the end zone after he couldn’t stay with his man. Ron Brooks was serviceable, but that’s about his limit. There’s a dearth of talent at the corner position, and the Eagles had better hope Leodis McKelvin will be healthy for their Week 3 matchup with the Steelers. Four corners are better than three, even if not one can stop the Steelers’ wideouts.
8. Seriously, what is it about Jordan Hicks and turnovers? Last year he had five (one interception, one forced fumble, three fumble recoveries.) In Week 1, he tipped a Robert Griffin III pass which was intercepted by Rodney McLeod. This week, he recovered a fumble forced by Destiny Vaeao. So, if you’re counting at home, that’s seven turnovers either forced or recovered in 10 games as a professional football player. The kid is a ball magnet.
9. The Eagles eventually reached 100 yards on the ground, but it was basically thanks to a grind-it-out end of the game, just like last week, in which the game was in hand with plenty of time to eat clock and protect the ball. 100 yards on 32 carries, for a 3.1 yards per carry average, is nothing if not a little disconcerting. With a struggling offensive line (hello, regressing Jason Kelce!), the run game needs work. Ryan Mathews has two touchdowns, though, so that’s fun I guess!
10. Brandon Graham has played two very impressive games of football this season. In Week 1, he picked up a few tackles, one sack, and a forced fumble which came in the fourth quarter. On Monday night, he picked up four more tackles, another sack, and two tackles for a loss. He was a disruptive force against the run game, gave the Bears’ offensive line fits all night, and was generally a monster off the line. It’s only two games, sure, but Graham is looking like more of the same animal he was last year. Jim Schwartz’s scheme seems to fit BG just fine.
11. Just because we can, and just because it’s his number, let’s do it one more time: Carson Wentz is very good.