Welcome to Week
Four Jake Elliott.
I’m aware you’ve all got busy schedules and you might be inclined to skim right past this introduction anyway, so let’s get right to it. Another week of Philadelphia Eagles football is on the way, so read on as I answer 10 of my own random Birds questions and update our game-by-game season notebook ...
The Eagles sure look like they can move the ball on the ground when they, you know, stick to the run, don’t they?
Yes. Yes, indeed. LeGarrette Blount with no rhythm and running room looks like a one-and-done rental. LeGarrette Blount with a dozen touches in some space looks like a guy you want toting the rock all year. Oh, and Wendell Smallwood’s gotten grittier.
Did the Eagles’ heavy rushing attack play into Carson Wentz’s so-so, semi-disjointed outing in Week Three?
Maybe. When you throw a record amount of passes in your rookie year and keep heaving early in 2017, perhaps you’re more accustomed to doing everything by yourself on every play. With that said ...
Would it be better to overuse Wentz through the air or stick to the ground at the expense of Wentz finding a better rhythm in the pocket?
Well, are these two mutually exclusive? Wait, did I just answer a question with a question? And another? (Oh my gosh — someone stop me.) Seriously, I don’t think rushing success is a true cause for concern for No. 11. In the long run, we know that if Blount, Smallwood and Co. are doing their job, it only helps the rest of the offense. In a selfish fantasy scenario, I let Carson throw more than I hand it off, only because he’s just so fun to watch.
Is Zach Ertz actually a really good tight end?
Yes. Don’t let the Week Three fumble fool you.
At any point during the Eagles’ win over New York, did you forget that Sidney Jones exists as a member of the team?
Well, if you’re going to put it that way, then yes. And that’s a great thing if you’re Jim Schwartz. All hope could’ve been lost when Ronald Darby went down in the opener, but Jalen Mills has been as, if not more, solid than in his overachieving rookie year and Rasul Douglas is even more steady thus far. Who knows how long it’ll last, but right now, the Eagles have to feel good about their cornerbacks.
Will the Eagles beat the Chargers in an inevitably half-filled StubHub Center?
Not sure why you had to throw the cheap shot at StubHub (they’re dealing with enough problems, you merciless monster), but anyway, if you read Bleeding Green Nation’s Week Four picks, you’ll see I forecast an Eagles win. And yet I’m more hesitant here than I was when Philly went to Kansas City, if only because the team’s going all the way Los Angeles and has a history of some scrappy, close games vs. the Chargers. I want to say this is an uglier game, but then, of course, the Eagles will end up winning 38-13. Who am I kidding? Just take the Birds.
Did Vinny Curry’s dance after the Eagles’ goal-line stand against the Giants make you smile and give you the sense this team loves playing together?
Thank you — thank you — for raising this question. Yes. Yes. A million times yes.
Which Pro Bowl veteran starter can the Eagles least afford to further lose to an aggravated injury: Jason Peters or Fletcher Cox?
Way to keep the mood light. My first thought was Peters simply because Wentz needs to be protected and the Eagles defense isn’t lacking supplemental talent, but I think I’d go with Cox for now. Only because, between Lane Johnson and Halapoulivaati Vaitai, tackle would probably be OK, whereas a long-term Cox absence would spell more attention for Tim Jernigan and put too much pressure on guys like Beau Allen.
Who are some Eagles that have surprised you for the better through three games?
Outside of Douglas, slot corner Patrick Robinson has to be in the mix. Everything I’ve seen from him, at least on the surface, has been solid. Smallwood has hardly played, but in limited snaps, he does look like the real deal. And let’s give Elliott some credit not only for his 61-yard game winner but for the onside kick he pulled off in Week Two on the road, too.
Entering Week Four, what grade would you give the Eagles?
B+. They’re still inconsistent on offense, where they’ve got the talent to do more, the defense has been bent while working with some patchwork lineups and the coaching has been here and there. But at 2-1 with a 2-0 divisional mark, all things considered, this team is as good as any in the NFC East and, soon, perhaps in the NFC.
Week One: Eagles 30, Redskins 17: Year Two of the Carson Wentz and Doug Pederson regime started with the Birds ending a five-game losing streak to the Redskins at FedEx Field, where Jim Schwartz’s front-four rotation led the way. Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox and Tim Jernigan combined for four sacks and two forced fumbles, the second of which was returned 20 yards for a touchdown by Cox, sealing a two-score, fourth-quarter lead. After fellow cornerback Ronald Darby was carted off with an injury, Jalen Mills also aided an Eagles “D” that gave up just 64 rushing yards and three third-down conversions, intercepting Kirk Cousins on a red-zone pass when the ‘Skins trailed by two. With uneven protection and a non-existent running game, Wentz (26-39, 307 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INTs) was the victim of a Ryan Kerrigan pick six but channeled his inner Donovan McNabb on an opening-drive scramble and 58-yard TD heave to Nelson Agholor, then extended plays with tight end Zach Ertz (8 receptions, 93 yards) to set up three Caleb Sturgis field goals and a Gatorade bath for Pederson.
Week Two: Chiefs 27, Eagles 20: Late-game grit and a stout start for Jim Schwartz’s defense weren’t enough for Doug Pederson to best ex-Eagles coach Andy Reid at Arrowhead Stadium, where the Chiefs used a 53-yard touchdown run from rookie Kareem Hunt, back-to-back fourth-quarter scores and six sacks of an overburdened Carson Wentz to decide a close one. Big stands from a banged-up Eagles secondary offset a rare Darren Sproles fumble on a punt return inside Birds territory, holding Kansas City to a 6-3 halftime lead, but heavy pressure on the Eagles QB led to a tipped interception and more red-zone chances for Reid’s unit. Still, Wentz (25-46, 333 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT) started efficiently (7-of-9), spread 19 first-down throws to Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith and Zach Ertz and scrambled his way to a team-high 55 rushing yards on another dismal day for the backfield. Down two scores with :14 left, his 9-yard TD pass to Nelson Agholor preceded a perfect onside kick from fill-in Jake Elliott, who made up for an earlier 30-yard field goal miss and set up a game-ending Hail Mary try.
Week Three: Eagles 27, Giants 24: They were without four injured starters on defense, gave up 366 passing yards to Eli Manning and lost a 14-0 lead after 21 unanswered Giants points, but Doug Pederson found — and stuck with — a rushing attack, not to mention a clutch kicker, as the Eagles sent New York to 0-3. LeGarrette Blount, Wendell Smallwood and Corey Clement battered their way to a combined 160 yards on the ground, the former putting Philadelphia up 7-0 in the first. Clement tied the contest at 21 on a 15-yard fourth-quarter run after back-to-back-to-back TDs from the Giants — two acrobatic grabs by Odell Beckham Jr. and a 77-yarder by Sterling Shepard. But rookie kicker Jake Elliott, in his second game replacing an ailing Caleb Sturgis, was the real Eagles hero, booting a team-record 61-yard game-winning field goal as time expired. Carson Wentz (21-31, 176 yards, 1 TD) again found tight end Zach Ertz for a score, while the Eagles “D” had a goal-line stand and stout play from young cornerbacks Jalen Mills and Rasul Douglas, the latter of whom had a pick along with Patrick Robinson.