The Eagles are 3-0 after beating the Washington Commanders! Time to hand out some winners, losers, and IDKs.
Undefeated. Watch out, 1972 Dolphins.
THE EAGLES’ PASS RUSH
NINE sacks on Carson Wentz. Nine!
That’s 31% of the Eagles’ 2021 sack total in just one game.
In addition to the nine sacks, the Eagles got to Wentz another eight times for 17 total QB hits. They made his life a living hell.
And they pass rush accomplished this despite Wentz ultimately having the sixth-quickest average time-to-throw in Week 3 at 2.6 seconds, per NFL Next Gen Stats.
Multiple players are worth highlighting here. By the numbers:
Brandon Graham: 2.5 sacks, 2 TFL, 1 PD, 5 QB hits, 1 FF
Haason Reddick: 1.5 sacks, 2 QB hits, 1 FF
Fletcher Cox: 1.5 sacks, 1 TFL, 2 QB hits
Josh Sweat: 1.5 sacks, 1 TFL, 3 QB hits
Javon Hargrave: 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QB hit
T.J. Edwards: 1 sack, 1 TFL, 2 QB hits
Graham’s production was especially impressive considering he only played 27 snaps (35%). He may be 34 years old but he clearly has gas left in the tank.
Cox really set the tone for the game by picking up his 1.5 sacks early on. He’s already up to three sacks this season, which is half a sack shy of his 2021 total. Nice to see he might not be kinda cooked after all.
Reddick getting on the board was important to see after a relatively quiet first two weeks. We’ve often mentioned his knack for forcing fumbles and he did that against Wentz to force a third down stop.
Sweat only had 3.5 sacks in early December 2021 before taking advantage of an easy stretch late last season. Sweat is already up to 2.5 sacks this year after just three games. He’s looking rather disruptive.
The Eagles’ rush obviously isn’t going to be this dominant every week. They were aided by Washington’s injured offensive line (see: no Chase Roullier) and Wentz’s awful pocket presence. Still, this performance shows the Eagles’ pass rush has it in them to be very disruptive. The ceiling for greatness exists.
Credit to JG for following up a disappointing Week 1 outing with two good defensive showings. The Eagles only allowed seven points in Week 2 and six points in Week 3 since Washington scored two on a safety.
Here’s how the Eagles currently rank in some key defensive categories:
- 7th in EPA per play
- 3rd in opponent yards per play
- 8th in opponent offensive points per game
- t-7th in takeaways (only six teams have more)
- t-1st in sacks (Cowboys have same amount prior to playing on MNF)
Truth be told, I’m still curious to see how Gannon’s defense holds up against a top-notch quarterback. In the meantime, there’s more reason than ever to be encouraged about his outlook. He’s getting results.
By the numbers: 22/35 (62.9%), 340 yards (9.7 yards per attempt), 3 TD, 0 INT, 123.5 passer rating. Plus nine carries for 20 yards as a rusher.
Hurts wasn’t quite as impressive as he was against the Minnesota Vikings ... but that was a high bar to clear. He was still pretty dang good.
With the exception of a few throws behind intended targets, Hurts mostly did a nice job of hitting his receivers in stride to allow for YAC.
Hurts also did well to give his pass catchers opportunities to go up and make plays on 50-50 balls. While to some that might seem like a case of the receiver bailing out the passer, not every quarterback has the trust to let his targets make a big play. There’s something to be said for the trust and chemistry that Hurts has with his targets. By contrast, that kind of connection wasn’t always so apparent when Wentz was the Eagles’ quarterback.
Another impressive aspect from Hurts’ performance was his poise. The third-year quarterback was hardly rattled when the Eagles faced 4th-and-goal from the 2-yard line with the clock running and no timeouts to call after he had been tackled for a loss. Hurts ended up calling a play that wasn’t even in the game plan this week and lofted a ball to DeVonta Smith to allow him to make a great play on it for the touchdown.
Nick Sirianni was asked about this sequence on SportsRadio 94WIP’s Morning Show with Angelo Cataldi on Monday. Here’s what he had to say:
“Calm. Calmness. Right? Unbelievable right there.
So, we threw the ball the first two downs. In that scenario, we felt good with that because of how much time was on the clock. And so then we were left with, we feel like we have two plays [we can get off], even if we run it. Even if we run the ball right there. So we wanted to just pound it in there, kudos to them, they did a good job of stopping it.
But then Jalen gets to a play exactly that wasn’t in our plan. And not only did he do that, he got one of our tight ends lined up late. If you see the play again, we’re in a three by one set. The play he called was a two by two set. Jalen very calmly moved him over and snapped the ball with two seconds.
But there was no doubt in my mind we were going for it there in that scenario. And Jalen was just— in a time of major anxiety and trial right there, he was completely calm, completely in control. Got the guys lined up, got the ball to DeVonta, and Devonta obviously made a huge, huge catch.
And then the Linc went crazy! Oh, that wasn’t the Linc?! (laughs)
Hard to be more impressed with Hurts through three games. Early on, he’s arguably the NFL MVP.
Only one QB has *0* turnover-worthy plays this season (PFF, min. 50 dropbacks)— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) September 26, 2022
Jalen Hurts is the first Eagles QB to throw for 275+ yards (279) and 3+ TDs in the first half of a game since Donovan McNabb in 2008 vs. the St. Louis Rams.— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) September 25, 2022
Prior to Eagles training camp, I wrote an article titled “Don’t sleep on DeVonta Smith.”
I felt like he was being underrated in the wake of the A.J. Brown addition.
After watching Hurts target Brown a ton in training camp, I have to admit I was a little worried about Smith’s statistical outlook. To be clear, I’ve never been worried about Smith’s talent. But I worried about his usage with Brown figuring to monopolize targets, just like he did in Week 1 when Smith didn’t even end up logging a single catch.
Such concerns have been put to bed. Smith is absolutely a major factor in this offense. He’s quite capable of absolutely going off.
Jalen Hurts on DeVonta Smith:— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) September 25, 2022
“He’s a guy where when his number is called, I know he’ll answer the phone.”#Eagles
Smith made three tremendous catches in this game:
1) The first one probably shouldn’t have counted. It didn’t look like he got two feet in along the right sideline and the Eagles were fortunate that Ron Rivera didn’t throw his challenge flag in time. Still, credit DeVonta for even making it close with a crazy over-the-shoulder catch for a chunk gain.
2) The leaping catch to Moss two defenders and set the Eagles up at 1st-and-goal late in the second quarter. He’s really proving that his size doesn’t matter. He’s able to go up and get it with the best of them.
3) His touchdown catch. He Moss’d Kendall Fuller, who is a pretty good cornerback.
The Eagles have two WR1s. DeVonta and A.J. Brown are quite the formidable duo.
Speaking of ...
Swole Batman scored his first touchdown as a member of the Eagles. DeVonta was the star of this game but Brown made important contributions. He had a catch in a tight window over the middle on a 3rd-and-6 to help set up the Eagles’ first scoring drive for a field goal. Brown’s touchdown came on 3rd-and-8 from the 9-yard line and put the Eagles up three possessions. Brown’s final catch allowed the Eagles to run the clock out to end the game instead of having to put the defense back on the field. High leverage contributions.
The box score shows one target for zero catches. But Watkins drew a pass interference penalty for 23 yards on the Eagles’ first drive. He drew another pass interference penalty for 17 yards on the Eagles’ second touchdown drive. While Skinny Batman and Swole Batman put up flashy numbers, Fast Batman still contributed as well.
Not the sexiest stat line ever with three catches for 26 yards but he did get in the end zone for the first time this season. As if dealing with the three Batmans wasn’t enough, defenses have to account for Goedert as well. And unlike a number of other tight ends, he’s effective on screens.
THE EAGLES’ PASS PROTECTION
Hurts was officially sacked three times and hit six times. Two of those sacks came on plays where Hurts was running and went down in the backfield, though. More often than not, Hurts had ample time to throw with clean pockets to work with.
Maddox is 5’9”, 184 pounds. Logan Thomas is 6’6”, 250 pounds. And yet it was Maddox who stopped Thomas short of the goal line to force a turnover on downs to prevent the Commanders from scoring a touchdown with over 14 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. If Washington scores a touchdown there and successfully gets the two-point conversion, it’s a two-score game with plenty of time left to play. Big stop by Maddox.
NICK SIRIANNI/SHANE STEICHEN
Here’s how the Eagles rank in some key offensive categories after three games:
- 4th in EPA per play
- 2nd in yards per play
- 1st in yards per game
- 7th in offensive points per game
The Eagles have only turned the ball over once and that came on a screen pass that bounced off Kenneth Gainwell’s hands.
Credit to Sirianni and Steichen for overseeing an effective offense. And especially an effective passing offense.
That being said, there are some nits to pick from this game.
I didn’t dislike the decision to go for it on 4th-and-1 from Washington’s 8-yard line. The Eagles were up 10 to 0 at that point. Extending that drive would’ve given them a chance at going up three possessions, which is worth it. I did dislike the play call to hand off to Zach Pascal. Feels a little too cute. There are too many talented players on offense for him to be getting the ball in that spot like that.
I also didn’t understand the decision to go with a Boston Scott carry backed up against their own goal line. The Eagles hadn’t been running the ball very effectively at that point. By contrast, Hurts was having success through the air. And instead they put the ball backwards in the hands of one of the smallest players on their roster to get stopped for a safety.
Should also mention here that the end of the first half sequence could’ve looked a lot worse had Hurts not completed that throw to DeVonta for the score. Would’ve been pretty disappointing to get zero points from that and it wasn’t far off from happening.
Much more good than bad, ultimately, but there’s certainly room for improvement. Which kind of sums up the Eagles as a whole right now.
Calcaterra did a nice job of getting open on a crossing route and taking off for 40 yards on a catch-and-run. Nice NFL debut for the rookie tight end. Could be a nice occasional contributor behind all the other talented options in this offense.
We can talk about Howie deserving praise for loading the roster with talent. That’s all well and good. But doing that doesn’t really matter if he can’t get the quarterback position right.
To Howie’s credit, his QB handling is coming up aces so far. There’s certainly no regret when it comes to trading Carson Wentz. Getting a first-round pick from the Indianapolis Colts was a steal.
Given Hurts’ development, Howie is also looking wise to not trade for Deshaun Watson or Russell Wilson. Now, it’s not like he wasn’t interested in those guys. The word is that neither of them wanted to come to Philly. In any case, the Eagles are in a good spot where they didn’t have to pay a big price for a problematic veteran. Watson is an impossible player to root for and is unavailable for most of this season. Wilson looks like he might be straight up cooked.
EAGLES SOCIAL MEDIA TEAM
The Commanders are now 2-9 in their last 11 games against the Eagles.
The Birds are slowly but surely positioning themselves to take the lead in this all-time series for the first time ever. The Eagles are currently 83-87-6 against Washington.
This might not be very meaningful to you (or anyone?) but I think it’s kinda interesting. The Eagles overtook the lead for the first time ever in their all-time series against the New York Giants a few years ago. It speaks to how the Eagles have thoroughly dominated two of their NFC East rivals in this modern era.
Of course, they still have a lot of work to do when it comes to the Dallas Cowboys. They’re 53-69 against that team.
Oof. Life comes at you fast!
Giants suck, Eagles almost got outscored by the Lions, and Cowboys gonna get son’d on National TV tonight by Tom Brady. Washington with a dub on the back of quattro TD throws from their QB everyone doubted.— COMMANDERS FOOTBALL (@HogsHaven) September 11, 2022
Life is good .
It’s nice to be on the other end of a very frustrating and bad Wentz performance.
In fairness to him, he didn’t get a ton of help from his teammates. He had to deal with some poor protection and high leverage drops.
But he too often invited pressure with poor pocket presence. And it’s never going to get better.
Wentz is now up to 69 fumbles in 88 career games played. Not sure how you feel like you’re ever going to seriously contend with that guy at QB. You’re too often going to be fighting an uphill battle.
Wentz is exactly who we thought he was by the end of his Philly tenure. At least he’s the Commanders’ problem now.
Look, I’ve never been an anti-Wentz guy. Counted myself among his biggest believers going into 2020. I’d still really like to see him get back on the right track.— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) January 16, 2021
But I have almost no confidence in that happening based on everything I’ve seen and heard.
The Commanders' OL and QB share blame for the sacks today (Sam Cosmi didn't have his best game) ... but here are all 9 of them if you want to relive that experience: pic.twitter.com/8N2rOt3U35— Nicki Jhabvala (@NickiJhabvala) September 26, 2022
EAGLES SPECIAL TEAMS
This whole unit needs to be better.
Britain Covey hasn’t been a very inspiring punt returner. He had five returns for 34 yards (6.8 average) in this game. He also muffed a punt that he tried to field away from his body. Not good! I felt bad for how he kept getting blasted by Washington’s punt coverage team. Of course, it’s not like the Eagles have any realistic alternatives ... unless they use DeVonta back there. Which they won’t. But it would be an upgrade.
Arryn Siposs had two especially frustrating moments. One punt from the Commanders’ 49-yard line and another from their 44-yard line both went in the end zone for touchbacks. Come on. Siposs did have some better punts that came from the Eagles’ territory. On the whole, though, it feels like they could be doing better at this spot. And, on that note, it’s annoying the Eagles didn’t bring in competition for Siposs this summer. Or more seriously invest in quality kick/punt return options. A rare misstep by Roseman this offseason.
Jordan Davis had a penalty that ended up being a galaxy brain move. It wiped a Washington field goal off the board to allow the Eagles to force a turnover on downs from the 1-yard line. But from a process over results standpoint, that was obviously a bad mistake by him to illegally contact the Commanders’ long snapper.
The Eagles seemed to avoid any major injuries but a number of key players got banged up and missed snaps in Washington. It’ll be interesting to see what the injury report looks like this week.
If not for the Atlanta Falcons being elite chokers and blowing a 16-point fourth quarter lead at home in Week 1, the New Orleans Saints would be 0-3 right now. They would be keeping the Las Vegas Raiders company as the only winless teams. The Saints are lucky to be 1-2. They are not so lucky to be dealing with missing their first-round pick that they gave to the Eagles. After a bad loss to the Carolina Panthers, that pick is currently projected to be made at No. 7 overall in the 2023 NFL Draft. Yikes!
I DONT KNOWS
SECOND HALF SHOWINGS
Week 1: Eagles outscored in the second half, 14 to 21
Week 2: Eagles tied in the second half, 0 to 0
Week 3: Eagles outscored in the second half, 0 to 8
On one hand, I think people need to relax a little about the Eagles not being perfect in second halves this year. Many teams are playing much worse football. They would be happy to be in a spot where their biggest issue is that they weren’t totally dominating the game from start to finish.
On the other hand, there is legitimate room for the Eagles to improve. Sirianni and Hurts (the latter unprompted) admitted as much after the Commanders win.
Jalen Hurts: “We’ve yet to play our best ball. I think we’re close.”— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) September 25, 2022
“We’ve got three wins in our column but I could care less about it because we haven’t played to our standard yet.”#Eagles
Some of the Eagles’ lack of second half production has to be attributed to how they haven’t desperately needed to produce. It’s not like they’ve been going all out in those second halves and haven’t been able to do anything.
No one should be punishing a panic button by any means. But their second half production is worth monitoring moving forward.
I’m not really concerned about the Eagles’ running game moving forward. There’s ample evidence to suggest they should be fine in this regard. That’s why I’m not putting this aspect in the losers section.
But the Eagles’ rushing attack was pretty bad in this game. The Birds were unable to capitalize on a Washington defense that was 1) surrendering the most opponent yards per carry (7.5!) entering this game and 2) missing four of their top five defensive ends, including Chase Young.
The Eagles only gained 72 yards on 30 rushing attempts for a 2.4 average and zero touchdowns. They should’ve been able to do better than that.