PHILADELPHIA’S 2017 season began with more on the line than just one win. 2016 saw the hiring of a new Head Coach in Doug Pederson. A new coaching staff followed, and they dismantled the roster in order to re-make it, to re-format it, to re-build it with the winning formula of the Andy Reid era. The 2017 season has the Eagles on the hook to show that the re-build has taken, and that we can now legitimately set our sights on winning the NFC East.
EAGLES 30 – Redskins 17
Right from the door, we got the monkey off our back, and sent a strong message to the division. For the last two years, we’d gone 7-9. For the last two years, we’d been swept by the Redskins. Yesterday afternoon with our defeat of Washington (in their home), we officially showed our division that we as a team, have turned a corner.
It wasn’t a pretty win. As a team we ran for only 58 yards on 24 attempts (2.4 ypc); QB Carson Wentz (26/39 – 66.6% – 307 – 2 – 1) had two turnovers (one was a fumble); and WR Alshon Jeffery (3 – 38 – 12.6 – 0) was reduced to a well paid spectator. On the other hand, our Defensive Line notched all four of our sacks. The Defense also collected three fumble recoveries, and an interception at the goal line by CB Jalen Mills (8 – 0 – 1 – 0). All this despite the early loss of starting CB Ronald Darby (ankle dislocation).
I hear you asking, “What about all the stuff that stats don’t reveal?” Well, that’s the reason for these “Four Things” articles. We introduce an idea of what needs addressing BEFORE the game, so that fans have to honestly answer questions about those things, AFTER the game. This helps to get us, and keep us, all on the same page.
So, of the Four Things we were looking for in this last game, what exactly did we see?
1) Build a fortress: Protecting Wentz was of supreme importance in this game. That’s true every week, but against how Washington plays defense, it’s more key. The only weapon in their arsenal is pass rush. They don’t have a second aspect they can build off of, if their pass rush fails. Wentz was sacked twice and hurried eight times, but mostly he had a ton of time to stand in the pocket. (DONE)
2) Slow the rush: Getting the ball quickly and early to TE Zach Ertz (8 – 93 – 11.6 – 0), seems to have been a key part of the game plan this week and it was great to see. It also dragged Redskins OLB Ryan Kerrigan (2 – 0.5 – 1 – 0) into a shallow zone, where he snagged a pick-six on a tipped ball bound for RB Darren Sproles (5rec – 43 – 8.6 – 0). It’s never good to give up a pick-six, but it was just one play. Kerrigan’s ass had to be in coverage and not rushing the passer to get it, right? Wentz mostly had decent time to complete passes, right? Ertz was involved early and often, right? (DONE)
3) Empty their pocket: Kirk Cousins (23/40 – 57.5 – 240 – 1 – 1) too often, had too much room to survey the field and step into his passes. He was even the ‘skins leading rusher with 30 yards on 4 runs, right up the gut. We got away with that this week, but if we don’t do a better job of forcing QB’s off their marks this year, we’re dead meat. (NOT DONE)
4) Fish in a barrel: The Redskins receivers did run routes in the middle of the field, but that wasn’t due to being re-routed by us. Our CB’s got in no one’s face, and gave up too many easy releases inside, which did nothing to throw off the timing of the ‘skins passing game. (NOT DONE)
That starts the year off with a 2 out of 4 score. Most of the time that won’t yield such a comfortable win margin, but then again the ‘skins suck ass.
On The Whole:
It wasn’t the prettiest win, but given that it was the first game of the season, played by a young team, on the road against a team with a psychological edge, and after not playing much at all during preseason… Overall, it was a damned fine way to open the season. I’m proud of our guys.
Next week, we go west to visit Andy Reid and his merry band of Patriot killers. It should be a tough game, and great test for the core of our re-built roster. Our team needs some adversity at this stage of it’s development, and a tough win or a hard fought loss (and maybe a brawl), would be good for them right now.
While I won’t guarantee a win next week, in the next Four Things, we’ll discuss what we need to do, to leave K.C. with that almighty “W”.