Three weeks into the season without a win, the Eagles found themselves playing in primetime for the division lead against the only team in the NFL that is close to as injured as they are. It wasn’t pretty all the time, but they did emerge with the win and thus the division lead. So let’s dive in and talk about some individual performances from Sunday.
Nate Gerry will continue to be listed in the stock down column every single week until he is no longer a Philadelphia Eagle for one simple reason: He is the only player on the field that is without a single redeeming quality, who makes the team worse simply by showing up. Gerry was atrocious on Sunday. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, So I will just leave this one here.
A week after false starting the Eagles out of FG range, Matt Pryor did little to redeem himself. Both Nate Herbig and Jordan Mialata (making his first-ever NFL start) played much better football than did Pryor. There was a time that Pryor looked like a player you could be comfortable turning to in a pinch. Those days are now solidly in the rearview mirror.
Boston Scott/Corey Clement
Corey Clement was magical during the Super Bowl run. Boston Scott was lightning in a bottle down the stretch last year. Through 4 games they have combined for 90 yards on 29 carries. Their struggles really highlight Howie Roseman’s poor decision to pass on all of the veteran running backs that were on the market in free agency.
Soft Zone Coverage
After Alex Singleton’s pick 6 put the Eagles up 11 points with under 6 minutes to play, Eagles fans were the happiest they had been in quite some time. Enter C.J. Bethard. Kyle Shanahan rage benched Nick Mullins and brought in the 3rd string QB, who promptly ate the Eagles defense alive, throwing for 138 yards and a TD.
The Eagles had played aggressively on defense all night and it forced the QB who beat out Bethard to the bench. So logically the thing to do against a QB who is coming in cold is to sit back and play soft zone coverage, giving him easy completions to move the ball and get his confidence up, right? If that sounds ridiculous to you, then you are better qualified to be the Eagles defensive coordinator than Jim Schwartz. But hey, at least going from cloud 9 to being destroyed by a 3rd string QB before just barely surviving a hail mary attempt is on-brand for this football team.
Doug Pederson the Game Manager
Sometimes I don’t get this man. Never in my life have I seen someone so devoted to grinding away to get in field goal range who is then so obsessed with running plays behind the line of scrimmage (swing passes, screens, reverses, etc.) and getting knocked back out of field goal range. Beyond that, the Eagles management of the game after recovering the onside kick was horrible. With 2:01 on the clock, you have been gifted a low-risk opportunity to pass the ball. If you throw an incompletion it doesn’t really matter; the clock is stopping anyways. Instead, the same man who chose to open the game going for a 2 point conversion decided to play it safe and just run the ball up the middle.
Ok, that’s fine. Run it up the middle. But maybe don’t pick that time to give Corey Clement his 2nd carry of the game (his first went for 2 yards). Then on 2nd down, the Eagles gave Boston Scott his 2nd carry of the game (his first went for 1 yard.) Where is Miles Sanders? Miles Sanders recorded 0 carries in the final 12 minutes of the game. Why?
Doug said in a press conference that it was a personnel decision because Corey Clement is a bigger back. Really? Clement is 1 inch shorter and 9 pounds heavier than Sanders.
Miles Sanders recorded 0 carries in the final 12 minutes of the 49ers game. I don't know if it is related to conditioning or end of game management, but whatever the issue is it better be fixed fast.
— Shane Haff (@HAFFnHAFF_TPL) October 6, 2020
That 9 pounds really convinced Doug to go with the UDFA who hasn’t been good in 2 years over Miles Sanders? I don’t buy it. That feels like covering for a player to me, and we all know that Sanders said he was tired at the end of the Bengals game. If it is a conditioning problem then he needs to get in shape. No more excuses. Regardless, Doug doesn’t get off the hook. Put the ball in the hands of your franchise QB, not a UDFA RB.
I know that Ertz was drawing a tremendous amount of attention. I know that he was lining up in-line much more than usual to chip on defensive ends. I also know that he wants to be paid like George Kittle but while Kittle put up 183 yards on 15 receptions, Ertz put up 9 yards on 4 receptions. The more both of those guys play the more clear it becomes that Kittle is elite and Ertz is just good. There is nothing wrong with that until good wants to be paid like elite.
Never in my life have I had to pull up a roster during a game to know who I was watching on the field. I can’t make that statement anymore. The Eagles official website was the recipient of dozens of clicks from me throughout the night.
Doug Pederson the Motivator
It seemed like Pederson might be in danger of losing the locker room after his cowardly decision to punt for a tie last week. But the team came out ready to play and Pederson emphasized the point by going for 2 on the opening drive, a conversion that ultimately helped decide the game. Had the Eagles not gone for 2, the 49ers would have only needed a field goal on their final drive to send it to overtime.
Pederson schemed up a great game in the first half, rolling Wentz out and giving him the option to actually pull a read option. He handled the offensive line well, recognizing that both offensive guards (Pryor and Herbig) are run blockers and blocking down with them, allowing Jason Kelce to climb to the 2nd level. He coached to the strengths of all of his players in the first half and the offense responded well.
Jordan Mailata took his first-ever snap in an NFL game at left tackle on Sunday night. Aside from a false start on 3rd and 1, did you really notice him? Yes, he had help on a lot of reps. But for a guy who had never played football a few years ago (and has never played in a game in his life) he looked pretty good. In fact, I would go so far as to say that he played markedly better than Jason Peters has played in any game this season. There is no reason that Peters should get the LT job back. I just wonder if he will want more money to go back to RG.
Admit it, when that pass was thrown up the sideline and you saw #13 there wasn’t a doubt in your mind he would drop it. And yet he didn’t drop it. Travis Fulgham, a guy pulled off of the practice squad on Sunday, a guy whose name I had to spell check while writing this article, redeemed #13 for Eagles fans. I love the mentality of taking the disgraced number. I love that he made the game-deciding play while wearing it even more.
The Eagles traded a 4th round pick for Genard Avery last season and never even played him. He was terrible in training camp and probably should have been cut. But on Sunday night the lightbulb came on for Avery who recorded a sack, a tackle for loss, and 5 pressures.
Eagles 4th Round Picks
The last four 4th-round picks for the Eagles have turned into Jack Driscoll, K’Von Wallace, Genard Avery, and Avonte Maddox. Driscoll has looked competent at RT as a rookie, Wallace hasn’t played a lot but seems promising, Avery exploded on Sunday night, and Maddox is a very good slot corner who has the misfortune of playing for Jim Schwartz and thus is criminally misused. You could argue that the Eagles are better at making 4th round picks than they are at making 1st or 2nd round picks. Howie should be on the phone with the Vikings tonight, offering the Eagles 2021 1st round pick for the Vikings 3 4th rounders.
The Defensive Line
The defensive line is paid an enormous amount of money to play at an elite level. They have certainly lived up to the billing the last 2 weeks, compiling 13 sacks and 33 QB hits in that time. Nick Mullins was pressured on 55% of his drop-backs and had no answers for it. Contributions came from very unlikely places as Cr’Von Leblanc, Derek Barnett, Josh Sweat, Hasan Ridgeway, and Genard Avery combined for 4.5 sacks. The other half sack came from Javon Hargrave. Now if the Eagles can just get Fletcher Cox, Malik Jackson, and Brandon Graham to get home…
Miles Sanders’ Pass Protection
An unheralded part of his game coming into the NFL, Sanders has become a big plus in pass protection. He was used early and often to help the inexperienced offensive line, and I don’t recall ever seeing him lose a rep. The offensive line is going to be in for a couple of long weeks with the Steelers and Ravens up next. Sanders continuing to play at such a high level in pass protection will be vital if the Eagles want to get through those games and keep Wentz upright.
Alex Singleton/Travis Fulgham/John Hightower/Adrian Killins/Richard Rodgers
Rodgers, Killins, and Hightower all have more receptions this season than JJ Arcega-Whiteside. Travis Fulgham and Alex Singleton (who plays defense) both have more touchdown catches than JJAW this season. JJAW was a 2nd round pick. That makes all of them worth at least 1st round picks.
In seriousness though, the decision on a key 4th down to use Zach Ertz as a decoy while running John Hightower off of a pick route set by Travis Fulgham is so insane that it turned out to be genius.
Carson Wentz didn’t play great. Let me start with that. He played ok. He still threw for less than 200 yards. He still threw an interception. He still made some maddening plays and was inaccurate at times. But boy was it nice to see him smiling after the game with a victory to his name.
Wentz displayed a lot of positives in this game. He was much more decisive with the ball in his hands and his footwork was much better. I didn’t notice him overstriding on nearly as many throws and coincidentally his accuracy was much better. He made a magnificent play to escape the pocket and get the ball to Boston Scott late in the game. He looked good on the move and was fearless, diving for first downs and even getting into it with a defensive player on a Hurts package play where he was split out as a wide receiver.
That was a fire in Wentz that I haven’t seen since week 17 last year. He wasn’t great. He still has a lot to improve on. But compared to what we saw in the first 3 weeks it was a sizable building block.
It’s also worth noting that Wentz has run for 102 yards, 2 TDs, and 10 first downs over the last 2 weeks. He has accounted for 23% of the teams’ first downs with his legs. One way to mitigate a QBs inaccuracy and lack of WRs is to use his legs as a weapon, and it has been paying off the last 2 games.
As I have said all season, this is an Eagles team that is clearly ready to make a deep run into the playoffs and is likely to win the next 3 consecutive Super Bowls.* It is all sunshine and roses and fans should feel very confident as they head to… gulp … Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers.
*Ok, you got me. That wasn’t what I said all season. But I did reserve the right after last week’s post to say this if the Eagles beat the 49ers. Go ahead, check me. It was in the fine print.