The Philadelphia Eagles are now 1-0 in the 2017 NFL regular season after defeating the Washington Redskins by a final score of 30 to 17 (recap here). It wasn’t pretty, but the Eagles ultimately got the job done. Here’s a look at 12 things we learned.
1 - THE STREAK IS OVER! You like that?
What a relief it must be for the Eagles to win this game. I know I said it a lot leading up to the game, but the fact that they hadn’t beaten Washington since 2014 had to be frustrating. Now the monkey is off their back. The Eagles showed up big on the road, which is something they really failed to do last season. They also were able to hold Kirk Cousins to a bad outing, which is another thing they haven’t done in a long time.
Speaking of Kirk ...
Wentz: 66%, 307 yards, 7.9 avg, 2 TD, 1 INT (tipped pass), 96.8 rtg— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) September 10, 2017
Cousins: 57.5%, 240, 6.0, 1 TD, 1 INT, 72.9https://t.co/X0Q5luDecO
2 - Carson Wentz wasn’t perfect, but he was good
Wentz finished with the following stat line: 26 for 39 (66.7%), 307 yards, 7.9 yards per attempt, 2 TD, 1 INT, and a 96.8 passer rating.
Wentz did some really good things. His ability to avoid pressure is still unreal. I have no idea how he’s able to navigate the pocket like he does and still manage to keep his eyes down the field so he can make a big play with his arm.
Wentz also did not some so good things. Inaccuracy proved to be a problem yet again. A number of his deep passes were underthrown and could have been picked off. Another deep ball thrown to Torrey Smith was overthrown. That play could have been a touchdown if he hits his receiver in stride.
The good news for the Eagles is that Wentz is able to make up for his mistakes by coming back with big plays. Shortly after overthrowing Smith, Wentz eluded a few Washington pass rushers and floated a pass to Zach Ertz for a big first down conversion.
This is the Wentz I’m sure we’ll see a lot more moving forward. He’ll be frustrating to watch sometimes but then he’ll take our breath away at other moments. The kid is special.
3 - Not the best day for Doug Pederson
The Eagles’ head coach didn’t call his greatest game on Sunday afternoon. Philly kept going back to those wide receiver screen passes too often when it was clear they weren’t really working out. The backwards pass Wentz threw to Nelson Agholor was a bad throw from the quarterback, but the coach didn’t need to put him in that situation.
I’m of the opinion Pederson’s play-calling wasn’t as bad as some people made it out to be last year. But today wasn’t a great day for him. He basically even admitted as much after the game. The offense still has a number of things to work out.
One positive thing about Pederson is how the players showed support for him after the game. A Week 1 Gatorade bath is an unusual sight, but I think players wanted to respond to the outside criticism Pederson had been facing last week. It’s a good sign that the players buy in to what Doug is selling.
4 - The Ronald Darby injury is a big concern
We’ll find out more information on Darby’s injury soon. For now, there’s some hope it might not be season-ending. The Eagles had better hope that’s the case because the cornerback position is far from being loaded with depth.
With Darby out, the Eagles will likely have to start Jalen Mills and Patrick Robinson on the outside. To their credit, Mills and Robinson played well against Washington. Mills’ first career interception was a real big play for this team.
There are concerns about how long that will hold up, however. Robinson really struggled playing the outside in camp this summer. Mills got beat on some deep passes but got fortunate Cousins wasn’t throwing accurate passes and Washington’s wide receivers weren’t playing well.
The corner position was such a big weakness prior to the Darby trade. If he’s going to be out for a long time, the Eagles are back to square one.
5 - The Eagles’ defensive line is for real
Remember when I said the Eagles’ defensive line is gonna EAT? Well, guess what? They were absolutely feasting on Sunday.
Brandon Graham was a beast. He finished with four tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, two quarterback hits, and one forced fumble that ended up clinching the win for Philly. Fletcher Cox was the man who returned Graham’s strip-sack for the touchdown. Cox forced a fumble of his own earlier in the game while rushing from a defensive end position. Tim Jernigan showed up with a big sack on Cousins along with 1.5 tackles for loss.
This Eagles defensive line is going to make life miserable for opposing quarterbacks if they can keep generating this kind of pressure. Washington’s offensive line was one of the best pass protecting units last year so this is a real encouraging performance from Philadelphia’s front four.
6 - No one should be mistaking the Eagles’ offensive line as the best in the NFL
PFF definitely didn’t have it right when they ranked the Eagles’ offensive line as the best in the NFL. The Eagles allowed too much pressure on Wentz.
According to @profootballfocus.com #Eagles O line gave up 17 QB pressures (2 sacks, 3 QB hits, 12 hurries), tying Arizona for 2nd most.— Ed Kracz (@kracze) September 11, 2017
Wentz’s escapability is able to mitigate some of that pressure, but still, not great. The running game was also a problem, which is my next talking point.
7 - The run game is definitely a concern
Huh, go figure!
Eagles running backs finished the game with 20 rushes for 56 yards, which is a 2.6 average.
It’s not like the Eagles faced some elite run defense, either. Only three teams allowed a higher yards per rush attempt than Washington in 2016.
The Eagles simply don’t have ample talent at the running back position. I thought Blount had an OK day and ran hard. It’s good to see that effort, though it feels like there are some holes that faster running backs would turn into much bigger gains.
Smallwood didn’t have a very good showing. He’s just not reliable enough in pass protection to earn a lot more snaps.
As I wrote on Friday, it’s frustrating that the Eagles didn’t do more to address the running back position this offseason. And for those saying Philly can fix it next year, keep in mind they might not own a single pick in the second or third rounds.
The Eagles will undoubtedly turn in some better rushing performances this season than they did today. But there will also be more games similar to this one.
8 - Nelson Agholor looks like an NFL player!
And then some!
Really encouraging performance from Nelly. The much-maligned receiver finished with six receptions for 86 yards (14.3 average) and one touchdown. Agholor’s previous career high for receiving in a single game with 68. He looked surprisingly reliable working out of the slot. There was still a drop here and there (though Wentz’s inaccuracy didn’t help him) but the Eagles can live with those if he’s going to give them some legitimate production.
9 - Alshon Jeffery is not off to a fast start
Jeffery finished with three receptions for 38 yards. He also caught a two-point conversion late in the game. Jeffery dropped a few passes, which isn’t very characteristic for him. One of the drops was a really tough play to make, but then again that’s why the Eagles signed him to a $14 million contract. Jeffery needs to be better moving forward. I don’t doubt that he will.
10 - Maybe it really is Zach Ertz’s year
SEE? For real this time!
Really good performance by Ertz. The tight end led the Eagles in receptions (8) and receiving yards (93) on Sunday. His ability to get open in the middle of the field provides a nice security blanket for Wentz.
Good to see Ertz off to a fast starting considering how he’s been criticized for not showing up early in the season in previous years.
11 - Jordan Hicks has an uncanny knack for the ball
I firmly believe this is the year Jordan Hicks gets his due and people start to realize how awesome he is. Against Washington, Hicks had seven tackles (five solo), half a tackle for loss, and one fumble recovery. Check out this stat:
Jordan Hicks career games played: 25— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) September 10, 2017
Jordan Hicks career takeaways: 12
What a beast.#Eagles
Hicks is just a ball magnet. He’s a total stud.
12 - Only two Eagles draft picks were active
The good news is that Derek Barnett finished with two tackles (both solo), one tackle for loss, and one quarterback hit. (He also got mugged by Jordan Reed on what should have been a holding penalty but it went uncalled.) Mack Hollins had a special teams tackle.
Outside of that, the Eagles got nothing from the rest of their 2017 NFL Draft class on Sunday. The coaches clearly don’t trust third-round pick Rasul Douglas a ton since he was inactive. Douglas has potential, but he really struggled at times this summer. It wasn’t a great sign when he was getting torched by 2016 practice squad player David Watford.
Then there’s Donnel Pumphrey. It wasn’t surprising to see him inactive, but it’s just so depressing that he is when the Eagles could really use some running back help.
Shelton Gibson and Elijah Qualls were the other two healthy scratches on Sunday. Both players are caught up in a numbers crunch at their position. Sidney Jones is on the NFI list while Nate Gerry is on the practice squad.
On one hand, it’s good that the Eagles aren’t relying on a ton of rookies. Teams without ample starters/depth are forced to throw their young guys into action. On another hand, it’d be nice if the Eagles drafted some good players who were actually ready to contribute ... especially the ones they drafted at positions of need.
13 - Eagles special teams = still great
There was some concern in the preseason that the Eagles’ special teams unit might not be so great anymore. Not the case. Corey Clement had a really good tackle on the opening kickoff to start the game. Donnie Jones booted an excellent 50-yard punt to pin Washington back at their 1-yard line in the second half. He also had great hang-time on the punt that Jamison Crowder muffed and Trey Burton recovered. Shame on anyone for doubting the legendary Dave Fipp.