SEASON Reviews are usually done at the end of the season. (Duh.) A few are done at the halfway mark, and at the end. This year, Eaglemaniacal.com will treat the season like a game, and break it into four quarters. Since football is a hard sport, we’ll take a hard look, at where our team stands in relation to where it started, and where it needs to go.
3-1 overall, 2-0 division, 2-0 conference, sole leader of the NFC East
W Redskins (2-2)
L Chiefs (4-0)
W Giants (0-4)
W Chargers (0-4)
The quick read here is, even though we’re 3-1, we haven’t exactly beaten the NFL’s toughest teams, due to their combined record of 2 -10. That however, isn’t exactly a fair measurement. Even if we’d beaten the Chiefs and were 4 – 0, the combined record of teams we’d beaten would still be 5 -11.
We can’t control that our opponents have sucked. We can only play whoever is on the schedule. Then again, if we keep piling up wins, in the end it won’t matter how many of our opponents sucked. What will matter is that we didn’t, and so we won the division.
Each of those wins showed a young Eagles team that doesn’t panic when our opponents surge and grab momentum. What our one loss doesn’t show, is that the game was legitimately on the line, until literally the very last second. And we never resorted to a desperate, last ditch, buffoonery of laterals, that resulted in the other team scoring.
If you watch the tape, the Eagles are not a team you want to see on your schedule.
QB: (A) While Carson Wentz isn’t burning up any record books right now, but he’s playing big in big moments, and taking better care of the football than last year. He also helms the NFL’s 11th ranked passing offense, and 7th ranked scoring offense.
RB: (A) We lost Darren Sproles and not only didn’t we miss a beat, we picked up the pace. How many teams could do that? At 143 yards per game, the Eagles are the NFL’s 3rd ranked rushing attack. Just two weeks ago we couldn’t run the ball at all. We swapped out one Offensive Lineman and suddenly the RB position is utterly dominant. LeGarrette Blount went from not logging a single carry in Week 2, to being 13th in the league in rushing yards (249).
TE: (B) Zach Ertz is the leading Tight End in the NFL in receptions, yards, and first downs. The only knock on him is his 1:1 TD/Turnover ratio.
WR: (C ) They block downfield and clear out space for the run game, but more is to be expected of a #1 and #2 receiver, than to be respectively #2 and #4 on the team in receptions. Alshon Jeffrey is on a 1-year prove it contract, and isn’t making much of a case for a big payday, in league flush with WR talent. Torrey Smith is failing to pull in too many deep throws. If he doesn’t actually start snagging some of those, he may find himself replaced in the line-up with someone like Marcus Johnson, or Mack Hollins.
OT: (A) Jason Peters and Lane Johnson have been rock solid on the ends.
OG: (B) This grade is based on the position as it currently stands. For the first two games we couldn’t run the ball and most of the pressure Wentz faced came from up the middle. Once Isaac Seumalo was benched, the Eagles run game exploded to 3rd in the NFL. The roation of Chance Warmack and Stefen Wisniewski has propelled the run game and eliminated free shots on Wentz.
C: (C ) When Suemalo was the LG, Jason Kelce wasn’t playing well. Now that better players are starting at LG, Kelce is respectable again. This is clearly a case of a player being a along for the ride and not being difference maker himself.
DE: (B) Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry are doing a very good job against the run, but the pass rush has fallen off in the last two weeks. Chris Long has been invaluable (on and off the field). Rookie Derek Barnett is playing better than his stat-line would indicate.
DT: (A) We average a sack per game from the interior linemen. Fletcher Cox went down with an injury, so Beau Allen stepped up and handled his business. Timmy Jernigan has already been worth the price of the trade it took to acquire him.
OLB: (B) Nigel Bradham is doing a solid job against the run, setting the boundary so that Graham can focus on rushing upfield. Mychal Kendricks is back to looking like the OLB who played under Andy Reid, and no longer like the ILB who played under Chip Kelly. Painfully thin at this position.
MLB: (C ) Jordan Hicks isn’t making splash plays, but he’s acting as the eraser for any mistakes the interior line allow to slip through. It would be nice to see him make his presence felt however.
S: (D) Instead of making plays this position is literally just a safety net. Starters Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod have no turnovers and just one pass defensed between them. McLeod did miss game with an injury but his fill-in Chris Maragos fared no better. This position has to be more than just a passenger.
CB: (C ) Most people rate the Corners lower, but the off-technique they play, is part of the system. Until the Defensive Coordinator alters that, we’ll keep seeing huge cushions and uncontested releases. Once they engage however, the Corners do make plays on passes and have even managed to snag 3 picks. And this is despite the position being ravaged by injury.
LS: (A) The less you hear about Rick Lovato, the better he’s playing.
P: (A) Donnie Jones! 14 punts, only 6 of which were returned, with a 40.1 yard net from an average 44.0 yard punt. That means even when a return does happen, it’s only for about 3.9 yards. This guy is hanging it up there like a beast.
K: (B) The position is in flux, so I can’t give it an “A”. However, having options, is pretty nice problem to have. Jake Elliott has come on for the injured Caleb Sturgis, and become the reliable long range weapon that Sturgis never was. Elliot clearly has more upside here, but Eagles have to be careful about how they handle Sturgis. They have to be mindful of the message they send to the other players, regarding getting hurt.
PR/KR: (D) Losing Sproles was a blow. His replacement, RB Kenjon Barner, has just 6 career punt returns. Three of which came in last weeks game. RB Wendell Smallwood is the most dangerous return man on the roster right now. However, given his expanded role on Offense now, it remains to be seen how much KR duty he’ll actually still see.
KC: (B ) With Sturgis kicking off 4 of his 6 (66.6%) kicks were returned for an average of 19.3 yards. Under Elliott only 5 of 17 kickoffs (29.4%), have been returned, for an average of 26.0 yards. FYI: None of Elliott’s last 7 kickoffs were returned. TE Trey Burton‘s onside recovery against the Chiefs, is the poster example for Special Teams hustle, focus and intensity.
SINCE LAST QUARTER:
This is the first quarter of the season. Some might use the preseason or prior season as a set-up to talk about these first four games, but that wouldn’t tell an accurate tale.
The prior season doesn’t line up, because the roster has had too much turnover to compare things apples to apples. The preseason doesn’t line up because the starters didn’t play much because there was no intense focus on winning. Again, it’s a poor apples to apples comparison.
MISSION FOR THIS QUARTER:
We beat a team that had had our number. We proved we could win close games. We proved we could win physical games. We fixed a broken Offensive Line, on the fly. Those things all required mental toughness, which is an internal aspect. With this being a young team, this second quarter of the year still requires an internal focus.
The mission for this quarter is Swagger. Less playing it safe, and a few more gambles at making plays which establish our own momentum, and kills an opponent’s. This is where individual Eagles need to show up as difference makers. Especially on Defense. This is the point of the year where we must demonstrate an ability to impose our will on opponents. Not just take what we’re given.