SEASON Reviews are usually done at the end of the season. (Duh, right?) A few are done at the halfway mark, and/or at the end. Starting in 2017, Eaglemaniacal.com began treating the season like a game, and breaking it into four quarters. Since football is a hard sport, we’ll take a hard look, at where our team stands at the moment (in relation to where it started), and where it needs to go.
STATUS: 6 – 6 overall, 3 – 1 division, 4 – 5 conference, 2nd in the NFC East
L: Dallas (7 – 5)
L: New Orleans (10 – 2)
W: New York Giants (4 – 8)
W: Washington Redskins (6 – 6)
Find a run game! Three of our next 4 games are division rivals, and we can’t beat them if we can’t run.
That was the stated mission for this quarter, and we’ve done that over the last couple of weeks. The result was two straight wins for the first time this season. Offensively the Eagles seem to have found a balance, and therefore a rhythm, which has eluded our team for most of the season.
Injuries have been a huge problem for the second year in a row, but the team looks as if it’s coping now. Players (particularly on Defense), asked the coaches to simplify things within the schemes, and it’s been paying off. Especially in the Secondary. It remains to be seen if we can apply these lessons to teams who are above .500. for example, though Washington was 6 – 5 when we encountered them, they were a team in free-fall, that had lost 3 of it’s previous 4 games. We need to beat a team in good standing. Lucky for us, we get 3 in a row starting Sunday.
QB: (C) Aside from an abysmal game at New Orleans, Carson Wentz has been solid this quarter. Not great, but solid. That being said, forcing the ball to a new WR, leaning on the TE, rarely throwing the deep ball, and not using his legs to pick up cheap yardage, has marred this quarter for him. He’s been competent, but if we’re going to get to and win playoff games, then we need to see him be spectacular.
RB: (B) Elevating rookie Josh Adams and ending the Wendell Smallwood experiment, may have saved the season. The Eagles now have a legitimate rushing attack, and are now balanced because of it. Darren Sproles has just made his way off the injured list, and into the end zone, and Corey Clement looks to be fully healed from his quad injury. (Tidbit: We are 5 – 0 in games where Clement has double digit carries.) This unit isn’t as dangerous as it was a year ago, but it’s a damned sight better than it was a month ago.
TE: (A) We have Zach Ertz. Like legs in a brothel, he’s always open. With 93 grabs already, he’s the second leading receiver in the NFL. As if that wasn’t enough, we have rookie Dallas Goedert, who is already better than some starters in this league.
WR: (D) Alshon Jeffrey hasn’t reached 49 yards in any of the last 5 games. The deep ball has disappeared from our arsenal. Attempts to force-feed the ball to Golden Tate have (until this last game) been a dismal failure. Nelson Agholor needs to be switched out for Jordan Matthews in the slot.
OT: (C) Jason Peters is giving everything he has. It seems unfair that he should have to go through this, but I don’t want to be the guy who attempts to drag him off the field. He’ll play until he can’t. Lane Johnson has had better seasons. Still waiting to see him assert his will on that right side. Halapoulivaati Vaitai is better suited to the right.
OG: (D) Not a great year in terms of communication of assignments, and free-runners into the backfield. Running the ball should help at least slow rushers, as they’ll actually have to read the play, depending on down and distance. Given Brandon Brooks history of being quietly solid, the knee-jerk reaction is to blame the less than stalwart, Isaac Seumalo. However, it really does seems to be an issue of communication.
C: (D) Communication on the interior isn’t sharp, and there have been too many false start/simulating the snap type penalties this year on Jason Kelce.
DE: (C) During this quarter, this position is playing extremely sound, team-concept football. They are where they need to be to allow the rest of the front to flow around them. Delivering big plays in key moments however, is a weakness for this unit. Michael Bennett and Brandon Graham have combined for 5.5 sacks in the last four games, but neither man has had back to back games with a sack, nor are they scaring QB’s into throwing interceptions.
DT: (D) If Fletcher Cox was the only player at this position, the grade would be an “A”. Since he isn’t, the grade is much lower. Timmy Jernigan is just two weeks in, working his way back from back surgery, so judgment on him will be held in abeyance. Haloti Ngata and Treyvon Hester on the other hand… neither is an every down player. However, injury has forced them to be. This allows teams to focus more on Cox than they otherwise would be able to.
OLB: (C) One pass deflection. That is the only non-tackle stat that Nigel Bradham or Kamu Grugier-Hill has produced in four weeks. One pass deflection. KGH has all of 29 tackles to this point in the year. We simply don’t attack with them enough.
MLB: (C) Soooo, Jordan Hicks is hurt. Again. Are you surprised? Prior to that, he’d been steady (not spectacular) this quarter. Filling in for him these last two games, is OLB/S tweener Nate Gerry. Gerry has had some issues with his run fits, and needs to play more downhill, to get in an O-lineman’s face before that lineman gets any momentum going. His diving interception against the Redskins was nice though.
S: (B) Malcolm Jenkins played lights out this quarter, making visible, tangible impacts on the outcomes of the Eagles last two victories. Getting back Corey Graham from injury has been big for the communication in the Secondary, and now deep balls down the middle are no longer a gimme. Injured CB/S Avonte Maddox filled in gamely until Graham got back, but being a rook, there were things he just hadn’t seen and could be exposed by.
CB: (F) Rasul Douglas, Sidney Jones, Cre’Von LeBlanc, DeVante Bausby, Chandon Sullivan. All five have started at least one game in the last four weeks and in that ENTIRE group, there isn’t so much as a single pass break-up. Not one. No sacks. No picks. Nothing. Some guys flash traits here or there, but by and large, the Eagles either have to re-evaluate the defensive system, or the way that Cornerback talent is scouted.
LS: (B) Reliable.
P: (B) Cam Johnston was good this quarter, but not quite a weapon. Of his 10 punts, 6 were returned for 39 yards (6.5ypr). He is also still struggling not to out-kick his coverage, as only 5 of his 47 punts this season, have been downed near the goal line. No NFL Punter has fewer.
K: (A) Jake Elliott is 7 for 7 over the last four games, with no extra point misses. Only 3 of his 17 kickoffs in that span have been returned.
PR/KR: (D) The picture here changes too often for it to be anything but a liability.
KC: (B) No scores allowed yet. However, teams have threatened on a few occasions.
SINCE LAST QUARTER:
The mission for this quarter was “Find a run game”, and we did that. That has set the table for less abuse on our QB, and it has given our Defense chances to catch a breather, as they review what the opposing offense is trying to do.
Since finding this formula, we haven’t had to play anybody of consequence, but that has given us a real opportunity to test out what we’ve learned, and lean on it. Aside from an utter shit-canning from the Saints, every game in this quarter was either a win or contested to the very end.
MISSION FOR THIS QUARTER:
Put it all together and finish strong. We’re 6 – 6 today. We don’t see the playoffs with a record of less than 9 – 7. Running the table would be awesome, but (barring a miracle of mathematics) we have to have three of these four. Seeing more mobility from Wentz would go a long way towards getting that done.