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 next.
STATUS: 4 – 4, 1 – 1 division, 2 – 4 conference, 2nd in the NFC East
W: New York Jets (1 – 6)
L: Minnesota Vikings (6 – 2)
L: Dallas Cowboys (4 – 3)
W: Buffalo Bills (5 – 2)
Combined: 16 – 13
The Mission for this quarter was to suck less against the pass. Despite the prison shower scene that was the Vikings game, the Eagles moved from 32nd in the NFL, allowing 328 passing yards per game; to 20th, allowing 256. Not great, but still a marked improvement.
Injuries continue to be a major factor, as not only are they numerous, but every one of them seems severe. This has led to serious issues with communication and continuity.
GRADES: (These are not seasonal grades. They are grades for just these last FOUR games.)
QB: (A) Carson Wentz.
There is a lot of blame to go around regarding this teams struggles, but NONE of it belongs to Wentz. Over the last 4 games he has improved his completion percentage and yards per pass. This is despite only having one WR to throw to. (This isn’t to undercut the TE position, but WR’s open up a defense, and Wentz is dealing with a stunted field every week.) In only one of the last four games has he reached 200 yards passing, but over the last three he’s run for 70. He hasn’t been remotely flashy, but he’s been more than most could hope for given his lack of tools.
RB: (B) The Eagles coaching staff learned in the first quarter, that rookie Miles Sanders is a better potato than a steak. Thus they began featuring Jordan Howard instead. Smart move. Feeding him early has proven good for our win column. Howard just had the team’s first game with 20 or more carries, since week 10 of last season. Sanders is coming into his own as a receiver, which will now allow for formations that put both backs on the field at the same time, and make audibles nearly terrifying for a defense. Boston Scott was added to the roster Week 6, after Corey Clement went on IR. Scott came in showing some wiggle, but has seemed less and less effective with each passing week. Darren Sproles has missed three of the last four games, but will be back to kick-off our second half of the season, this week. This position has been very productive with the ball, and needs to see it more
TE: (A) This position has improved in yardage, yards per catch, and touchdowns. Zach Ertz’s Bing Crosby, used to be a fine solo act, but Dallas Goedert’s Danny Kaye has proven to be a perfect complement. Though Ertz caught fewer balls in Q2, the position is seeing steady usage, with 28 catches in Q1, and 26 in Q2. Both players have seen their average yards per catch improve from Q1 to Q2. Ertz went from 10.6 to 13.0, and Goedert went from 8.0 to 10.7. This one-two punch has managed to help keep the passing game afloat, despite working in more crowded space than they should be.
WR: (D) If not for Alshon Jeffrey, this grade would be a bloody‘F’ served cold, with a side of spittle flecked profanity. No regular words. Just profanity strung end to end for roughly a paragraph.
Jeffery has in these last four games, caught 22 balls for 230 yards (10.4ypc) and 1 TD. Those numbers seem meager until you realize, he’s done that while teams could key on him as our only outside threat. Put in perspective, during that same span, the other three active players at this position have combined for 11 catches for 93 yards (8.4ypc), and zero scores. Oh yeah, and all of those numbers belong to Nelson Agholor. Mack Hollins and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside have so far been a waste of the coaching staff’s time. Even when given an opportunity, they seem afraid of it. Seriously, is there some reason why Greg Ward isn’t on the active roster?
OT: (B) Lane Johnson finally gave up a “sack” to Cowboys DE DeMarcus Lawrence, when Lawrence knocked a ball out of Wentz’s hand. It took ten games for Lawrence to get that “sack” and he still has yet to actually tackle our QB. Ten games equals five years. THAT is who Lane Johnson is. When Jason Peters is out there, he’s still Jason Peters. There’s a reason that announcers hardly ever breathe his name, without using the words “Hall of Fame” somewhere in the same sentence. The trouble is, he can’t stay healthy anymore. The edge simply askes to much of him now.
Which brings us to the real story of this section, rookie Andre Dillard. Dillard gave up a sack in his first start, but has otherwise looked far better than a rookie half a season into his pro career has any real right to. It’s clear that Dillard has learned as much as the bench can teach him. At this point the only way to improve him is to let him play. That’s no knock on Peters. In fact, a move inside might add a couple of years to his career. That might even let him someday retire, without ever suffering a serious decline in his game.
OG: (C) Gotta take some issue with this position. Isaac Seumalo and Brandon Brooks have been very good at opening holes in the run game, and aces at blocking for the QB Sneak. They have not been anywhere near as good when dealing with pass rushers in the “A” gaps. Wentz is frequently in more trouble from right ahead of him, than from the edges. Would it kill them to re-direct rushers outside, and give Wentz clear passing windows, or let him pick-up cheap rushing yardage? The lack of time n the pocket, is (to my thinking) also part of why our deep passing game has been a problem.
C: (D) Jason Kelce’s game has sort of gone into the tank since he became a new dad. It happens. It’s unavoidable. All his routines change. His sleep is affected. Possibly having arguments that spring from nowhere, when everything was great five minutes ago…
As a result, snaps are getting sprayed around, line adjustments to interior pressure are either being misread, miscalled or not called at all. And then there’s the getting run over. Fact is, he was also talking about retirement last year. His head is just not where it was three years ago. That’s a fact. (Which would explain the Eagles serious push at the position this offseason.)
DE: (C) In Q1 this position produced 30 tackles and 1 sack. In Q2 it produced 45 tackles and 10.5 sacks. Brandon Graham has led that charge with 19 tackles and 5 sacks, with at least 1 sack in three of Q2’s games. Derek Barnett added at least half a sack in three of the four games. Vinny Curry has piled up 10 tackles in Q2 as opposed to the 2 he had in Q1. This position is doing it’s best to pick up slack from a decimated interior line. The knocks on them are speed chasing down QB’s who escape the pocket and playing the edge too flat, instead of playing contain first. In truth, problem two may be causing problem one.
DT: (C) Fletcher Cox has been trying to play the role of two men. 17 tackles and 2.5 sacks in the last four games, while trying to be a teacher and emotional motivator. Hassan Ridgeway stepped up to fill the void left by Malik Jackson and Tim Jernigan, neither of whom played in Q2. Ridgeway added 6 tackles and 2 sacks in three games, before himself having to be put on IR.
OLB: (D) This grade is only this high because I’m listing Nate Gerry as Outside instead of Middle. He had one game as the starter in the middle, the other three games were on the outside. In two of the three games on the outside, Gerry has managed a splash play. (An interception for a TD in one game, and a sack in another.) Nigel Bradham was already having a lesser Q2, but then he missed the last two games with an injury. Kamu Grugier-Hill is a pretty good Special Teamer, but he can’t make an impact as a starter. When Bradham comes back, it should be he and Gerry who get the starting nod.
MLB: (F) We cut the guy who started two of the last four games. Then we had Gerry start vs Dallas, and that went as well as picking a bar fight with Connor McGregor. Last game saw rookie T.J. Edwards record either 5 tackles or 3 tackles, depending on which NFL stat page you visit. Right after the game on Sunday, the box score had it at 1 tackle. In any case, it was an odd number, and he didn’t make any standout moments happen. Here’s hoping his game picks up.
S: (D) We sacrifice the ability to defend the pass, in order to more or less, lock down the run. As a result, this position is rarely even in a position to make a play on the ball, for us. Malcolm Jenkins has essentially become a Nickel LB with where he’s deployed, and his stats in Q2 (23 tackles, 2 passes defensed) back that up. Rod McLeod playing back deep, knocks down far more passes than Jenkins, right? McLeod has all of one pass defensed in Q2. It was his interception vs a Jets rookie who was greener than his helmet. Andrew Sendejo also had an interception in Q2. The talent is here. The biggest issue with this position, is how they are deployed.
CB: (D) Of 5 active roster players at this position, NONE of them has started more than three games in Q2. Injuries have decimated this position for the last two years. A lack of continuity, coupled with a bullshit system, have led to breakdowns in the Secondary that almost border on tragedy.
LS: (A) Nothing to complain (or rave) about.
P: (A) Cameron Johnston may be the best part of our Defense. 15 punts, 5 returns for all of 30 yards, in the last 4 games. These are all improvements over his Q1 numbers (14 punts, 6 returned for 47 yards).
K: (A) Jake Elliott isn’t called on much, but when he is, he hits his kicks. 9/9 kicking Field Goals and 19/20 on extra points, with his miss being in a swirling Buffalo wind that even they had trouble kicking into.
PR/KR: (B) With the injury to Darren Sproles, Boston Scott has filled in and done a decent job with punts. Miles Sanders needs to get better at knowing when to take the easy 25.
KC: (C ) 20 kickoffs, 4 returns for 96 yards (24.0ypr). Not bad numbers, but nothing exciting.
SINCE LAST QUARTER:
Pass defense improved. Sack production has returned to the Defensive Line. We discovered our run game. Those are all actual improvements from Q1 to Q2.
MISSION FOR THIS QUARTER:
Cultivate a second WR. We need to lighten Alshon’s load and create more room inside for the run.