SEASON Reviews are usually done at the end of the season. A few are also done at the halfway mark. 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 currently stands, in relation to where it started. Then we can discuss where it needs to go next.
STATUS: 3 – 4 – 1 / 1st place in the NFC East/ 23.3 points scored per game vs. 25.6 points allowed.
(L) Pittsburgh 7 – 0
(L) Baltimore 5 – 2
(W ) New York giants 1 – 6
(W ) Dallas 2 – 5
Injuries to key positions continued to rob this team of any ability to build any stability. Especially along the Offensive Line. The team has shown remarkable resiliency, battling back from double digit deficits in three straight games (PIT, BAL, NYG), respectively threatening a, almost completing a, and then pulling off a, comeback victory. This Eagles team is making the point that they will never surrender, and never retreat.
QB: (C) Carson Wentz ended the first quarter with a mark of 4TD – 7INT. This quarter he’s flipped it to 8TD – 5INT. Not sexy, but clear progress. Beyond that, he’s infected his team with an “I didn’t hear no bell!” mentality. This is in spite of all the protection and weapons that he’s been missing. Jalen Hurts has played 17 snaps this quarter, but all as a gadget guy. So far there’s been no way to get him more than that without starting a media frenzy.
RB: (C) Miles Sanders recorded back to back weeks with a 74 yard run. While 1 was a TD, the other ended up as a fumble (recovered by a teammate). In a 2 week span, he put up 198 rushing yards on 20 carries (9.9ypc). When he plays, he’s a threat. Boston Scott filled in for Sanders, catching the game winning TD in Week 7, and picking up 70 rushing yards Week 8. Both were wins. While the Eagles want him to be the next Darren Sproles, Scott isn’t nearly as elusive, and lacks a second gear to the edge. He picks up what the line provides, but is merely functional. Corey Clement chipped in 31 yards on 7 rushes (4.4). He’s also seen a sharp up-tick in snaps these last two weeks.
TE: (D) Zach Ertz played the first two games of this quarter, before being put on IR. In those two games, he caught just 5 o f 16 balls for 39 yards. During this same quarter, Richard Rodgers has come alive. Posting 10 catches and 107 yards on just 12 targets, Rodgers even led the team in receptions (8) and yards (85) in the Eagles victory over the giants. The blocking has suffered somewhat. Dallas Goedert just got back from being on IR. Jason Croom paid us too short a visit from the Practice Squad and caught a touchdown in the process.
WR: (C) Travis Fulgham is the story of this quarter, with 27 catches on 41 targets for 378 yards (14.0ypc) and 3TD. Greg Ward has 2 scores on 14 grabs for 97 yards (7.9ypc). He either has to get better at running past the sticks, or picking up yards after the catch. So far John Hightower has 4 catches on 15 targets this quarter. While he has the speed to be a deep threat, his ball tracking skills have to improve if he’s going to have an NFL career. Fulgham is stepping up. It will be interesting to see if another player at this position will or can, step up to help spread coverages.
C: (A) Jason Kelce Has been the glue holding the interior of the line together. The result of his mentoring has the run game looking better. (When we use it.)
G: (D) Nate Herbig isn’t going to win a Mr. Universe contest, but he’s been consistent, and he teams well on combo blocks. He’s looked good enough recently, to bring up the question of Isaac Seumalo’s spot on the 2021 depth chart. Especially if Herbig keeps improving. The other spot has been manned over these last 4 games by a combination of Matt Pryor, Iosua Opeta, and Jamon Brown (back on PS). The result is, the Eagles look better running the ball than throwing it. (Except on 3rd and more than 2, or when trying to close out games.)
T: (C) Lane Johnson has tried to battle through an ankle injury, but it’s got him in and out of games, and looking like a shell of himself when he’s on the field. Jason Peters played in just one game this quarter, but it was our Week 8 win over Dallas. His issues facing speed, at times have him looking average. Not that average is a liability, but moving Peters inside would help the entire Offensive Line. Now that Jordan Mailata has shown he can man the Left spot, we can afford to move Peters the instant that Johnson is good to go. Jack Driscoll is a rookie who largely looks like one. That’s not a knock. That’s flat reality.
DE: (B) Brandon Graham is on pace to finish with double digit sacks for the first time in his career. More than that, he’s ramped up his play from last quarter to this. He’s always been solid vs the run, but recently he’s become an absolute liability to offensive game-plans. Derek Barnett and Josh Sweat have both cooled considerably during this quarter. Seems that Barnett plays better off the bench, and Sweat plays better when he starts. Genard Avery saw his effectiveness decrease as his snaps declined, and now is on IR. Vinny Curry played a big part in both of our last two wins, getting his hands on two killer fumble recoveries (one not recovered by him)
DT: (C) Fletcher Cox hasn’t put up many sacks numbers, but he’s still anchoring vs the run, despite seeing constant double teams. Malik Jackson had a strong first two games before being hurt Week 7, and trying to play through Week 8. More was expected from free agent addition Javon Hargrave. The idea was that he’d disrupt blocking scheme and occupy blockers. Put nicely, he could be doing more. Hassan Ridgeway was seeing decreasing downs before he was placed on IR.
OLB: (D) In a Week 7 win over the giants, Nate Gerry made his first splash play of the year. Later in that game he would be injured. Aaand subsequently placed on IR. Duke Riley is simply incapable of imposing his will on an offense. The Eagles defense has been decidedly more feisty since Alex Singleton was named a starter in Week 6. His play has gotten increasingly more decisive, and he’s been willing to gamble on making the big play. Rookie Davion Taylor has played just 11 snaps this quarter. The knock on him is that he was still raw coming out of college. Not giving him more playing time, will ensure that he stays that way. If not for Singleton, this grade would be an F.
MLB: (B) T.J. Edwards played in just one game, but his sack/fumble sealed a prime-time victory over the Cowboys. For the other three games the Eagles have been going with a 2 LB alignment, so this position didn’t have a real representative for three games. Rookie Shaun Bradley has seen some defensive snaps in three of the four games this quarter, but hasn’t shown much playmaking ability. He has a willingness to hit, but his eyes have to get better in terms of diagnosing, so that he gets to the point of attack before it can be well established by the offense.
S: (D) Over this quarter, Jalen Mills has started wherever he’s been needed in the Secondary. As he is more of a tweener, his best position seems to be NB. Unfortunately, he didn’t see much action there and his play reflects it. Rodney McLeod has all at once, been asked to do too much and not enough. Too much Single-high Coverage, isn’t allowing our corners to gamble on creating turnovers. We have to be more proactive about creating turnovers and less reliant on just hoping they happen. Will Parks came off of IR and stepped into 2 starts in three games. He’s been solid at making tackles, but so far unremarkable. Marcus Epps so far just looks like a guy. For the second year in a row.
CB: (C) Darius Slay has allowed a 76% completion rate over the last 4 games, as opposed to 66% over the first 4. In both quarters he’s averaged just 45 yards surrendered per game. So effectively, opponents lose half the field when he’s out there. That counts a great deal! Sadly, he doesn’t get a lot of surrounding support. Nickell Robey-Coleman makes the Defense stronger when he watches from the sideline. He’s a liability vs the run, and doesn’t make plays on the ball. Like Mills, Cre’von LeBlanc seems to be a better NB than edge player. His hustle and eyes are undeniable, but too often he seems a tick slow. Avonte Maddox has been a mixed bag since coming back from injury. In one game he’s targeted once, in another he’s targeted 10 times. In neither does he get a paw on the ball.
LS: (A) Rick Lovato hasn’t messed up a long snap, and has 4 tackles this quarter, vs just 1 in the last quarter. HE’S PLAYING LIKE A MAN POSSESSED!
P: (B) Cam Johnston is averaging 48.8 yards per boot, 10 of which have been returned for 78 yards. All of those numbers are down from last quarter, but all of those are still kick-ass numbers! It just puts in perspective how much ass Cam was stomping when the year began. Or it should. It should.
K: (D) Jake Elliott was 5 for 5 on extra points, but 1 of 4 on FG, during this quarter. Right now the team is playing better in spite of him. In spite of.
SINCE LAST QUARTER:
We hit the realistic mark of 2 – 2. We separated ourselves from the bottom of the division. Unfortunately, continuous injury issues kept the Offensive Line and the Secondary from gelling.
MISSION FOR THIS QUARTER:
Try to win four games. The giants, Browns, Seahawks and Packers are on the menu this quarter, and most people don’t give us a chance against three of those teams. It’s too early to break out the dog masks, and to start using phrases like “Must Win” and “Playoff Mentality”. It is time for this team to challenge itself and each other, to take their individual games to the next level.
The reality is, we haven’t been very good this year, but there is no law that states that we cannot or will not improve. We have a few players coming back from injury after the Bye. We also have the motivation that this, is the last run as Eagles for some of these players. Next season, some of these guys will be back-ups on new teams, with little impact in the outcome of games. This is the last chance some of them will ever have, to make their expectations, their hopes, into reality.
So damn the pundits. Bow down to no one, and try to win ALL FOUR of these games.