Welcome back to our preseason film review here at Bleeding Green Nation. This week I’ll be condensing offense and defense, as Jonny’s laptop broke. This one won’t be as in depth, as it’s becoming easier to see what performances matter and what we should be looking for.
I’m still concerned by plays like this. BLG pointed this out in his postgame notes, but that’s a discouraging overthrow. Last week Wentz missed high on a goal line throw to Agholor — still a catchable ball — but when you miss high on those over the middle it often leads to turnovers.
Here, I love the continued progression of Wentz’s pocket presence and movements. At times, later in the season last year, Wentz would make sudden movements instead of subtle movements to maneuver in the pocket. This side-step is one of the subtle movements you hope to see. Albeit the pressure wasn't damning, it’s still nice to see those mannerisms manifest early on as they project to do so subconciously when you're under pressure.
It’s refreshing to see Agholor get this opportunity in the slot and hang on to the ball. I liked Jordan Matthews a lot as a person. Former BGN writer Adam Hermann mentioned that he could always depend on Matthews for an interview or a few minutes at his locker, which speaks to his character. Unfortunately, Matthews’ skill set limited what he was able to do, specifically in the slot. Watching Agholor catch the ball and make these quick-twitch movements provides a level of comfort going forward. Jordan Matthews was athletically limited to what he could do as a receiver. He could only play in the slot, and even there he wasn't the right receiver for this offense. I’m looking forward to seeing what Agholor does in this position with Wentz going forward. Hopefully we’ll get a look at that this week.
Corey Clement has been a bit of a bright spot early on, as he’s had a few nice plays. The hands and pass protection are still shaky, but he’s improving. Above he goes to the ground and recovers, giving Matt McGloin enough time to find an open receiver. It’d be nice for him to stay on his feet, as I’ve noticed he tends to go low on the legs when pass protecting. I wouldn't be surprised to see defenders hurdling him soon if that continues.
Above is a reference to Clement’s ability to catch the ball, something that has to improve. This pass is wide, but still easily catchable. Dropping that pass resulted in the Eagles attempting a 48-yard field goal, which they connected on, but it would've been an easier attempt if Clement makes that catch. It’s a tough road for Clement to make the roster, and if he does it’s unlikely he’s active on game day. With Blount and Sproles ahead of him, it appears Clement’s only way on the roster is if he beats out Smallwood. There would be more of an opportunity for Clement if not for the 4th round pick the team sank into Donnel Pumphrey, guaranteeing Pumphrey a roster spot.
Above is something I didn't notice much of last year, an RPO (Run-pass option), and it’s a really well designed one. The best way to diagnose an RPO is to watch the offensive line and see if they’re run-blocking or pass-blocking. They typically always come out as a run, but the quarterback has the option to throw the ball if he sees something he likes. Normally in RPOs you’ll see a bubble screen or a quick out of some sort as the primary target. Going back to last year’s playoff game when Green Bay beat Dallas, Dak Prescott’s interception was on an RPO where he made the wrong decision to pass. Here what I liked about the play design is how the play fake draws the linebackers up, from there the slot receiver fakes the bubble which frees up a throwing lane for Wentz who finds Alshon Jeffery on the slant for a first down. The Eagles tried to run another RPO later in the drive, but the pass was deflected at the line of scrimmage.
Brandon Graham will get a lot of credit for blowing this play up, but he was aided by Fletcher Cox who bullied the guard into the center that was pulling across the formation, not allowing the center to get to edge in time to make an attempt on Graham.
Here’s another beautiful Cox play. He puts the guard in Tyrod Taylor’s lap, forcing the ball out sooner than Taylor would like en route to an incompletion. You’ll notice the Jernigan ultimately draws the double team here. I was curious to see how teams would approach Jernigan and Cox, with both being more than capable interior pass rushers, but it’s truly manifesting into a pick your poison situation. Based on what I’ve seen so far, there’s no doubt in my mind Fletcher Cox is still the best player on this team.
My disappointment on this play comes from Vinny Curry. The right side of the offensive line gets crushed by the Eagles’ defensive line, but it’s not the same way on the left side where Curry gets a one-on-one against the left tackle. I’ve been a Curry fan for awhile, but I’m getting close to abandoning that ship, especially with emergence of Derek Barnett.
I wanted to throw out one more Cox play just to show how dominant he was, and can be if the players around him can carry their weight, and make teams pay for double teaming him or Graham. Here Cox, again, pushes an offensive lineman into Taylor’s lap. This gives Taylor nowhere to step into, and the result is a pass that’s too wide for the receiver to haul in.
The pressure you saw in the clips above is magnified when you have players in the second and third levels that can cover down the field. The Eagles’ linebackers and safeties have proven to be amongst the best units the league, but the cornerbacks have been well below average. With the addition of Ronald Darby, the Eagles have shown in a small sample size that they now have a player that can capitalize on that pressure. In the play above, the pressure comes from the blitz, something we haven't seen a lot of from Jim Schwartz. To avoid the sack, Taylor must get rid of it quickly and he does. Darby is playing off-man coverage on the receiver and closes on the ball faster than corner in recent Philadelphia memory (Asante or DRC?). That’s what the Eagles have lacked in their cornerback group in recent years, a player that displays the ability to click-and-close on passes as quickly as Darby can.
Above is another blitz that Darby is able to capitalize on, intercepting the ball. Not only does Darby have click-and-close quickness, he has straight-line speed that allows him to run with receivers and recover if he’s beat. This again goes back to the Eagles having a player that has shown, in a small sample size, the ability to help the team capitalize when it brings pressure. I can’t say whether or not the addition of Darby will dictate Jim Schwartz blitzing more, but it’s nice to have that option as a defensive coordinator. Throughout his career Schwartz has shown reluctance to blitz, so only time will tell if that changes.
This is the last play I’ll take a look at, and it really shows what the Eagles see and envision with Rasul Douglas. Douglas uses his length and ball skills to drive on this pass and nearly breaks it up. There were a few other plays where Douglas didn't look so spectacular, getting beat inside, but he is still a rookie that may have been granted a longer grace period with the acquisition of Ronald Darby.
These are the only significant thoughts I had on this preseason game. For more you can follow me on Twitter here @TjackRH. Jonny and myself host a podcast dedicated to breaking down All-22 film, and you can find our latest podcast, which breaks down the Eagles first two preseason games, right here. We give our thoughts on what we’ve seen from different players, including Derek Barnett and Chris Long. If you have any suggestions, feel free to tweet them at me as I typically don’t get a chance to view all of the comments.