Welcome back! It’s our third year of running winners, losers, and I dunnos after every Eagles game, and let me be the first to say — it’s not as fun as it used to be!
Carson Wentz (for the first 25 minutes of the game)
Carson Wentz was near perfect for the Eagles (for the first 25 minutes of the game) in their season-opener, and that’s tremendous news for the team. Many of the cases in defense of Wentz last season claimed that, with better receivers, he could open up the offense, generate explosive plays, and score in bursts. Such was the case. Wentz was hunting the deep ball often against Washington, connecting with rookie WR Jalen Reagor on a 55-yard bomb to convert 3rd and forever, and hit Dallas Goedert on a picture-perfect 34-yard touchdown.
Wentz was also delightful pre-snap on a day when he needed to account for a weaker offensive line. He identified pressure packages and audibled to multiple hot routes, including the Goedert touchdown. Besides a gut-wrenching 4th down sack in the third quarter (which we are not acknowledging, because it did not happen within the first 25 minutes of the game), Wentz regularly identified blitzers and distributed quickly to turn light coverage shells into positive plays.
The big-money trade acquisition delivered on his billing for the opening foray against Eagle-killer Terry McLaurin, who terrorized the Eagles’ cornerbacks during his rookie season with two 60+ yard touchdown catches. McLaurin still had a respectable outing overall — five receptions for 61 yards on seven targets — but he was unable to take the top off the defense, as Slay was sticky with him on downfield routes. Slay’s role in the defense is to negate the primary receiving target, and he did that on Sunday.
The Eagles featured a new and improved receiving corps, much ballyhooed through the offseason and into camp, and the biggest star was one of the guys who kept everything afloat last year: Dallas Goedert. In the wake of Zach Ertz’s vocal contract demands, Goedert was the TE who handled business in the receiving game, regularly rumbling for extra yardage on underneath routes and snagging a deep touchdown when working from the slot.
Goedert’s continued growth is the biggest threat to a Zach Ertz deal — more than any cap limitations of continued big extensions for other tight ends. He’s a better blocker and is getting up there as a receiver — just think about how good his numbers would be if the Eagles didn’t force-feed him that stupid delayed screen once a game.
It might be a relative bias, but Duke Riley actually made plays at linebacker for the Eagles this Sunday. That is true of him...and only him.
Every Linebacker Not Named Duke Riley
Nate Gerry, now sporting a new visor, continued his tendency of awful decision making in critical situations by trying to undercut a 3rd down route that, had he just tackled on completion, would have led to a 4th down and punt. T.J. Edwards got burned on play-action across the middle of the field and couldn’t recover in time. In both instances, the receiver who worked the Eagles’ LBs? Logan Thomas, the ex-QB, now TE. Not great! Even worse? Third-round rookie Davion Taylor didn’t take a snap.
The Eagles no longer have Malcolm Jenkins hiding the fact that their LB room is bad. Speaking of Jenkins...
The Eagles contrived a reason to keep Jalen Mills on the field this year after they finally ran out of ways to justify his continued starting at outside corner, and shockingly, Mills continued to be a poor player and liability. The mental swiftness necessary to react to motion and shifting formation strength just does not sit with Mills, who blew assignments and communications on a long receiving play to slot Steven Sims late in the fourth, and on the first Washington touchdown.
Mills is not an impact player. The Eagles are trying to keep him on the field. Much like Gerry, they justify this with claims of leadership, communication, and organization — but Mills seems like he isn’t even doing that!
And if he is? Let’s hope K’Von Wallace learns how to do it, quick.
The WR room
The entire focus of the Eagles’ offseason was on a faster and stronger WR room, and the early returns indicate they could have deliver on that — but by the end of the season, when it will be too late. First-round rookie Jalen Reagor separated deep but only hauled in one target, and bears some responsibility for Wentz’s first interception; fifth-round rookie John Hightower had no deep production, a drop, and some responsibility for Wentz’s second interception; DeSean Jackson was either injured or not injured — nobody was willing to commit. But he was low impact, seemed to be lacking juice, and regularly watched from the sideline.
J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, the prodigal son without the desired long speed? Not a single target, on a day in which his short-area success as a leveraged route-runner would have been valuable, had the offensive coaching staff gone that way. They...didn’t.
The Press Taylor/Rich Scangarello/Doug Pederson think tank
This was not difficult.
That’s the main thing I can emphasize about this performance from the offensive coaching staff in Philadelphia: this was not hard. You have a quarterback who loves to take sack, a terrible offensive line, and a tremendous defensive line. The entire passing game should have been predicated on getting the ball out of Carson Wentz’s hands before Nate Herbig/Jack Driscoll/Jordan Mailata could have gotten him killed. Sure, that passing offense wasn’t what you wanted, with your explosive passing weapons and deep ball orientation — but you didn’t have to worry about points! You had a 17 point lead! The worst thing you could do was create turnovers, three-and-outs, and short fields with turnovers and sacks.
That’s exactly what happened. The Eagles’ refusal to abandon an under-center, play-action passing game that looked for intermediate and deep passes was the primary reason Wentz was constantly buffeted by quick pressure. Wentz and the OL certainly hold fault as well, but everyone knows that Wentz holds the ball too long trying to make plays; everyone knew the OL was going to be bad. It’s the coaching staff’s job to work around that. They elected to just...not. So starved of deep bombs last year, they just refused to stop hunting them, and that was the beginning of the end for the Eagles’ offense.
Public comments about your contract situation, an argument with Roseman before the game, and then a critical fourth-down drop when the team depended on you for the one thing you’re supposed to be better at than anyone else? Extremely tough look.
Carson Wentz (for the final 35 minutes of the game)
Carson Wentz was god-awful for the Eagles (for the final 35 minutes of the game) in their season-opener, and that’s horrible news for the team. Wentz continues to be the compass for the Eagles offense, as many quarterbacks are — but few quarterbacks are as volatile and risk prone, and accordingly, the Eagles offense is never more than a few plays from total implosion. Such we saw on Sunday.
Wentz took a career-high eight sacks on Sunday, not all of which were his fault, but several of which were. He took three sacks on third/fourth down and fumbled two of his eight, emphasizing again that he cannot just make a bad play — it must be cataclysmically bad. After a start in which he good not miss, he threw a couple picks — both of which weren’t terrible misses — and immediately spiraled as a passer, missing an open Greg Ward on third down and and jamming intermediate throws into windows that didn’t exist. He cannot play decently, or average, or even predictably poorly. He cannot stop pushing the envelope even when he’s vibing, nor can he let plays be easy — he invites pressure and holds the ball, hunting big plays with reckless abandon.
The Eagles could have easily won this game with Wentz playing as he did — I think, just with Lane Johnson on the field, they would have. This Wentz is certainly good enough to hang with most teams. But few quarterbacks in the league did more to hurt their own teams than Wentz did this week, and his company on that list (Sam Darnold, Ryan Fitzpatrick) is cause for concern.
I dunno what Matt Pryor did to lose his starting guard job, but man, I think the Eagles’ offensive line would have been better off in there with him. They couldn’t handle blitzes anyway, running extremely simple protections and even messing those up — so what in pass protection would he have put in jeopardy? In the running game, he’s a people mover, and the Eagles needed any help they could get running the football today. I have never seen a single snap of Nate Herbig that has seemed better than Pryor in a similar circumstance.
I like, and have always liked Boston Scott — wrote about him taking over the Sproles role just last year. But that Sproles role was all about third-down snaps and shallow targets. Sproles was a third-down back, a scatback — he was not meant to back up a bellcow and potentially take a lion’s share of the carries.
That’s exactly what the Eagles did with Scott this offseason, pleased as pie to let him sit behind Miles Sanders, who they must have known was in jeopardy of missing Week 1. And when he did, they ran Scott and were punished for it, as Scott is just an average running back who was unable to do anything besides a struggling offensive line. It’s like the Eagles entirely punted on a running game this week — I don’t get understand it.
WHY IS HE HERE?!