Game Review – PHI 24, WAS 8

Posted: September 28th, 2022 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

Carson Wentz helped the Eagles win a Super Bowl in 2017. He’s still friendly with Fletcher Cox, Jason Kelce and Brandon Graham. There are probably others as well. But on Sunday, Wentz was the enemy. The Eagles wanted to kick his butt, literally and figuratively. It makes me think of this scene from The Hunt For Red October.

Sometimes you’ve got a job to do.

And the Eagles did that job very well, sacking Wentz 9 times and hitting him 17 times. He took a pounding. The DL was relentless in getting upfield and going after Wentz until the whistle blew. Watching the game live on Sunday, you had to be impressed with the performance of the DL.

After watching the All-22, I came away equally as impressed by the back seven. They were masterful in coverage. It was beautiful. Wentz had to hold the ball because DBs and LBs were plastered on his receivers. The week before Kirk Cousins was under heavy pressure and threw the ball up for grabs. The Eagles had 3 INTs and could have had a few more. Wentz decided to hold the ball and take sacks. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. That’s good defense.

The Eagles offense started slow, but then scored 24 points in the second quarter. That proved to be enough for the team to win comfortably. It never felt like Washington was going to get going. They had to fight for every yard, let alone points.

Washington really battled on defense, but the Eagles just had too many weapons and too many answers. They had five plays of 30 or more yards. We know Nick Sirianni loves explosive plays. He must have been in heaven watching his offense moving the ball like that. Chunk plays all over the place.

Five years ago it was Wentz leading the explosive Eagles offense. That must seem like a lifetime ago to him. It had to be incredibly frustrating to be so helpless on offense while the guy drafted to be your backup marched his team up and down the field. The Eagles were a dysfunctional mess when Wentz left. Now they might be the best team in the NFL.

Was it fun to watch Wentz struggle? I’d be lying if I said no. He created some of the drama in Philly and then forced his way out. That worked out well for the Eagles. Not so much for him. Maybe things will work out for Wentz in D.C. Or maybe he’ll have better luck as a Carolina Panther next year.

COACHING

Sirianni didn’t have a lot of critical decisions in the game. He went for it on 4th/1 from the WAS 8. They handed the ball to Zach Pascal on a jet sweep and it didn’t work. Smart to go for it. I didn’t like the play on Sunday. I felt different watching the All-22. The play was designed to go wide. He had Brown and Goedert blocking out there. Pascal cut up the field early and got stuffed. I still don’t love the play, but it wasn’t clearly wrong.

I was shocked that Sirianni ran the ball on 3rd down with 20 seconds left in the half and no timeouts. I thought for sure he would throw and if it didn’t work, would then kick the FG. Sirianni said he was going for the TD no matter what. It worked, but it is easy to wonder if that was the right call. Were the four extra points worth the risk?

The running game struggled a bit so the coaches leaned on the passing game. That’s logical, but how often do we see coaches do things that aren’t logical? Give them credit when they do the smart thing, even if it was obvious.

They used empty sets very effectively. There was pistol, shotgun and under-center. They stayed creative with the plays. We saw the shovel pass for the first time in a long time. Really good job by Sirianni, Shane Steichen and the offensive staff.

Jonathan Gannon had another good gameplan. He didn’t blitz as much, but he didn’t have to. The Eagles had to adjust from shutting down one WR to dealing with a talented trio. I thought that might give them issues, but the back seven was great in coverage.

Gannon’s defense was erratic in the opener, but they’ve been lights out since. Let’s hope they can keep that up.

OFFENSE

400 yards
5.9 yards per play
3rd down – 5 of 15
4th down – 2 for 3
red zone – 2 for 4
9 plays of 20 or more yards

For the second week in a row, the Eagles didn’t score in the second half. They were plenty aggressive, but not successful. I’m sure this is driving Sirianni crazy.

QB

Jalen Hurts is playing at a very high level right now. He played the best game of his career against Minnesota and then followed that up with another outstanding performance. Hurts was 22-35-340. He threw 3 TDs and didn’t turn the ball over. He ran for just 20 yards. Give Washington credit for shutting down that part of his game. Fortunately, they couldn’t contain him as a passer.

Hurts went deep a lot in this game. He hit DeVonta for gains of 44 and 45 yards. Brown hauled in a 38-yard pass down the left sideline. Hurts threw a pair of deep balls to Quez Watkins. Both were incomplete, but drew PI calls of 23 and 17 yards. It was great to see the long completions, but Hurts needs to be more accurate. Smith went up to make a highlight catch on the gain of 44. He underthrew Brown on the deep ball, but AJ fought through contact and made the catch. That might have been a TD with a better throw. Hurts was off target on throws to DeVonta and Brown in the 2nd half. Both should have been TDs.

The highlight play came on 4th down just before the half. The clock was running. Hurts had to call the play on his own, get everyone lined up correctly and get the ball snapped. That’s a lot of pressure in a critical situation. Hurts called a good play and then made an excellent throw. He put the ball up where DeVonta could go get it, which he did.

Hurts also did a really good job on an earlier TD to Brown. Hurts made an adjustment before the snap after seeing the defense. Steichen said as soon as he saw the adjustment, he knew the play was going to be a TD. Brown ran a slant and Hurts put the ball a bit behind him, but did so to keep it away from the DB. Brown caught it and got in for the TD.

Hurts generally made good decisions and accurate throws. He led the Eagles down the field for points just before the half for the third week in a row. I think they said on MNF that the Giants haven’t scored in the final two minutes of a half in 20 straight games. Those can be critical points. Hurts is calm and smart when he leads those drives.

We did find one thing that Hurts can’t do. His shovel pass was ugly. Yikes. It looked less like a pass and more like a person trying to get rid of something radioactive that got into their hands. If we’re going to keep that in the playbook, we need to work on that throw.

RB

Miles Sanders has been good this year. He’s been more decisive with his runs. That wasn’t always the case on Sunday. He picked the wrong game to go back to his old ways. The Washington DTs are too good for that. Sanders finished the game 15-46. His best run went for 13 yards. That was up the middle and Sanders hit the hole hard on that.

Boston Scott and Kenny Gainwell combined for 5 carries for 6 yards. Quiet day for all the RBs.

WR

DeVonta had the best game of his career by going 8-169-1. He beat his previous high for yards in a game by almost 50. Smith made plays about every way possible. He hauled in a 45-yd catch down the right sideline and showed great body control in making the catch and trying to get his feet in. He might not have gotten his left foot down, but WAS didn’t throw the challenge flag in time so this goes down as a great catch.

He caught a 44-yd bomb before the half. That involved him going up and fighting for the ball. And doing that after having run 40 plus yards. Smith came down hard on his back, but held onto the ball. Great catch. He caught a short pass on a 3rd down play and turned that into a gain of 31. His TD grab was the final play of the first half. Hurts threw him a jump ball in the back of the end zone. DeVonta went up and got it.

Smith might be Skinny Batman, but he plays big. He plays strong. He will fight for the ball and win his share of battles. Great day for him.

AJ Brown did his part, going 5-85. He caught a 38-yd deep ball. He also had a key catch for a TD and a key 3rd down grab. Every week we see what a stud receiver he is. I mean, he’s no Dorial Green-Beckham, but he’s pretty good.

Watkins didn’t catch any passes but did draw the two PI calls. The coaches will count them as explosive plays.

Pascal had a good day, going 3-18. I’ve been incredibly impressed with him. Pascal does a great job at being a role player. He makes some key plays. He is a good blocker. I think he screwed up on the 4th down jet sweep, but I understand what his thinking was. He only needed a yard. Going wide was risky. Why not turn upfield right away to secure the first? Unfortunately WAS played it well.

TE

Good day for the TEs. Dallas Goedert led the way, going 3-26-1. His highlight was a 23-yd TD play. Hurts hit him on a quick screen. Goedert got a couple of good blocks and then bounced off a tackler. He then flew upfield for the TD. His blocking was mostly good. Goedert did get blown up on the safety play. He was asked to reach block a DT and that didn’t go well.

Jack Stoll caught his first pass of the year. It was a shot play that gained 4 yards. Stoll was okay as a blocker. The shovel pass at the goal line was thrown to him. Bad pass so Stoll had no chance to catch it.

Grant Calcaterra made his NFL debut. He caught his first pass of the year and it went for 40 yards. He showed good hands and great RAC ability on the play. You can see why the Eagles like him so much. He needs a lot of work as a blocker and STer.

OL

Good game from the guys up front. Lane Johnson was outstanding, as usual. Jason Kelce and Isaac Seumalo each had key blocks on Goedert’s TD play. Kelce had some really good blocks on inside runs.

Jordan Mailata played well, but did give up a sack. He was beaten by a good inside move. He did have one highlight moment.

Ouch.

Landon Dickerson is the weak spot on the OL. He’s got four outstanding teammates so the standard his high. Dickerson whiffed on at least 3 blocks vs WAS. He’s still a young guy learning to play. And he does have some great moments. He just needs to clean some things up.

DEFENSE 

240 yards
3.2 yards per play
3rd down – 6 of 17
4th down – 0 for 2
red zone – 1 for 3

DL

Brandon Graham was the star of the game and he didn’t even start. How’s that for a deep DL? Graham had 5 QB hits, 2.5 sacks, 2 TFLs, 1 PD, 1 FF. Nice day, old timer. Graham played all over. He terrorized the RT, LT and TEs. He was relentless in fighting through blocks and then chasing after Wentz. Graham got big hits even when he didn’t get a sack. He was good vs the run. For his efforts, Graham won NFC Defensive Player of the Week. Awesome performance.

Josh Sweat had 1.5 sacks and also played at a high level. He was disruptive all game long. He only had one outright bad play. Curtis Samuel got the ball on a jet sweep and ran right by Sweat. I don’t think Sweat realized he had the ball. I’m really impressed with Sweat’s ability to win with burst, strength and length. He’s developed into a complete player.

Javon Hargrave was the star DT. The stat sheet shows a sack and a fumble recovery. But Hargrave gave the OL fits. He pushed the pocket over and over. He got penetration on a regular basis. The team doesn’t rack up 9 sacks without Hargrave disrupting the middle of the line on a regular basis.

Fletcher Cox had a really strong game. He had 1.5 sacks and a couple of QB hits. When he got single-blocking, Cox won his battles and made them pay. He showed great hustle in chasing Wentz late in the game on a scramble. Cox dove and got a shot on Wentz as he went out of bounds. The game 24-0, but Cox wasn’t about to let Wentz score on that play. Love that kind of effort.

Jordan Davis had the best game of his young career. He pushed the pocket on some plays and flat out shed blockers on others. He was disruptive in his 24 snaps. Davis had multiple shots for a sack, but couldn’t finish. I guarantee you Cox and BG let him hear about those plays in the film room. BG would trash talk his own mom so you know he’s giving the star rookie an earful. Davis got in on a couple of tackles. He also deflected a pass on a play where he got into the backfield.

Tuipulotu played 34 snaps. He was credited with a pair of tackles. Good effort. He really battles.

Milton Williams got hurt early in the game and wasn’t very disruptive after that. He played (38 snaps) more than I realized.

LB

Haason Reddick had his breakthrough game. He had 1.5 sacks, 1 FF and a couple of QB hits. Reddick seemed to have most of his success rushing from a 2-point stance as the LDE. He flew into the backfield several times and just missed getting in on other sacks.

Patrick Johnson got to play 28 snaps and had some good flashes. He got a couple of hits off Wentz. And he had this awesome play. Amazing effort.

https://twitter.com/Eaglesfans9/status/1574127205369585664

TJ Edwards had another great game. He led the team with 10 tackles. He also had 2 TFLs, 1 sack and a couple of QB hits. He was a force over the middle of the field, tackling runners and receivers who came into his area. Edwards flies to the ball and he’s a sure tackler. He’s also smart so he’s almost never out of position. Edwards had a big hit on Wentz on a play where the QB took off running. Edwards made him pay on that.

Kyzir White wasn’t as much of a playmaker, but had 9 tackles and was good in coverage. He helped Edwards to shut down the middle of the field. 43 shows up all over the place when you go back to watch the tape.

SAF

There weren’t any big plays by the safeties. Wentz took his 9 sacks. When he did throw, he tended to go short and guys got tackled pretty quickly. Marcus Epps had 4 tackles and was strong in coverage.

Chauncey Gardner-Johnson was in on 5 tackles and got a gift TFL. Half the team was in the backfield and the RB went to the ground in front of CGJ. Nice when you get a freebie like that. CGJ was mostly good in coverage. He was slow to get out wide on a deep ball to McLaurin. That ended being a big gain. WAS had tried the same play earlier and CGJ had that one covered well.

CB

Slay, Bradberry and Maddox all covered really well. Bradberry had a PBU and was in on 5 tackles. The PBU came on a 3rd down play and ended a drive. Maddox was outstanding. He was in on 5 tackles. Maddox was aggressive vs the run. He filled quickly and tackled well. His highlight moment came on 4th/goal when WAS tried a shovel pass. Maddox stuffed the TE for no gain. The TE had a major size advantage, but Maddox hit him hard and square. Maddox also had a PBU.

Zech McPhearson came into the game a few times in place of Slay. WAS went after him a few times, but McPhearson held up pretty well. He didn’t give up any big plays.

ST

Britain Covey had an up and down game. He had a pair of 12-yard PRs. That was good to see. He also muffed a punt and then had it go backwards, inside the 10. He did recover that but it was a scary moment.

DeVonta was put in at PR early in the game when Sirianni wanted a spark. He went for 12 yards and put the offense in good position. The coaches said they’ll mix him in from time to time.

One of the things that helped on returns was putting Zach Pascal back deep to act as a lead blocker. The guys on the outside aren’t doing a great job of blocking gunners so Pascal helped the returner stay clean for the first few yards.

Arryn Siposs had 4 of his 6 punts downed inside the 20. The other two were touchbacks. Four is good, but six would have been better.

The coverage units were good. Josh Jobe stood out on one play. He got by two blockers and flew downfield on a punt.

Jake Elliott hit his only FG.

The blocking for place-kicks needs to improve. Both Stoll and Calcaterra gave up pressure off the edges. I know it is hard to get a strong hand on the rushers (usually fast CBs), but they’ve got to work on that.

_


The Day After – The Sackfest

Posted: September 26th, 2022 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 3 Comments »

Carson Wentz started 13 games in the Super Bowl season of 2017. He was sacked 28 times in those games. On Sunday, Wentz faced the Eagles defense for the first time in his career and he was sacked nine times. How is that for perspective?

The Eagles defensive line accounted for 8 of the sacks and only two of the sacks came on plays where the Eagles blitzed. The DL won battles over and over. Josh Sweat and Haason Reddick brought regular pressure off the edge. Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave pushed the pocket all game long. Wentz had nowhere to go. He was being circled by Eagles DL all game long. Brandon Graham came off the bench and ended up with 5 QB hits and 2.5 sacks. How is that for a comeback? Backup SAM Patrick Johnson didn’t notch a sack, but got 2 QB hits. Wentz was fair game for anyone and everyone.

https://twitter.com/ThePhillyPod/status/1574372873342418944

The constant pressure led to other issues for Wentz. He started to get the ball out quicker, even when he wasn’t under pressure. There were multiple third down plays where he threw short of the sticks. The pressure led to accuracy problems. Wentz was off target on more than a few throws. He completed more than 65 percent of his throws in each of the first two games. Wentz finished at 58 percent against the Eagles and that was aided by some completions in garbage time.

It is fair to point out that the DL beat up on a bad OL and that Wentz held the ball too long. The Eagles got inconsistent pressure in the first two games. Getting 9 sacks isn’t normal. This won’t be happening every week. At the same time, getting those sacks can wake the DL up. We’ve all heard the axiom that sacks come in bunches. This game could get the DL going.

*****

One of the things I love about this team is that they do the little things well. You see the RBs picking up blitzers. DL will eat up blocks to free up other rushers or LBs so they can make plays. And then you have this play.

https://twitter.com/danorlovsky7/status/1574188336830300160

That’s what we call a rub route. Zach Pascal is supposed to get in the way of the CB running with DeVonta Smith. The key is to do that without making contact. Pascal does a brilliant job of that. The play works because of something you won’t see on the stat sheet. That was a third down and the play went for 31 yards.

The other thing I love on the play is Dallas Goedert’s block downfield. He gets in the way of his defender to let Smith keep going. If Goedert tries to light the guy up, he could draw a penalty. Instead, he just positions himself correctly and lets Smitty fly down the sideline. Smart football.

*****

We don’t want all the brutality to go out of the game.

Boom.

Big is good. Big and mean is better.

*****

Maddox was up and down in the opener, but he’s been excellent the last two weeks. His pick of Cousins last week was a key play in the game. He broke up passes each of the last two games. On Sunday he stuffed TE Logan Thomas at the goal line. That was an impressive tackle.

Maddox plays in the slot so he’s going up against RBs, TEs and WRs. He has to be ready for a variety of sizes and skill sets. The nickel spot really has become critical in today’s NFL. The Eagles are lucky to have Maddox playing the position so well.

*****

Rookie TE Grant Calcaterra made his NFL debut yesterday. He only had one catch.

40 yards. How’s that for a first catch?

You can see why the Eagles like him. Calcaterra has good hands and good RAC ability. He sat out the first couple of weeks while working on his blocking and STs assignments. He played 17 snaps on offense and four on STs. I am interested in seeing how he did in those roles.

Jack Stoll is an effective backup, but he’s got a limited ceiling. Calcaterra is a better receiver and athlete. If anything happened to Goedert you would want a player like Calcaterra to be able to contribute. This offense needs a TE who can make plays.

*****

No praise for Hurts?

I need to write a full piece on him. He’s playing at a high level right now and boy is it fun to watch.

https://twitter.com/JClarkNBCS/status/1574389798432825345

Not too shabby.

I watched the SNF debacle last night. That was some bad offense. Russell Wilson has struggled so far this year. To be fair, his coach is a complete mess and that is a dysfunctional team right now. Still, it makes you think that the Eagles might have gotten lucky that Wilson didn’t want to come to Philly. Hurts is playing much better than Wilson right now. That could change by the end of the year or in the future of course, but right now Hurts is the MVP candidate and Wilson is the erratic QB. And the Eagles didn’t have to pay a steep price to acquire a declining QB. Those resources can be used to improve the roster in the future.

Thanks Broncos.

*****

If you want to enjoy a bit of schadenfreude, read this excellent piece from Les Bowen.

A couple of very good lines in there. This Bowen kid might prove to be a decent writer.

_


Eagles Pound Wentz, Washington

Posted: September 25th, 2022 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 11 Comments »

The Eagles and Commanders had two of the most productive offenses in the league so most people expected a shootout. Didn’t happen. The Eagles flirted with a shutout, holding Washington off the scoreboard until the fourth quarter. The Eagles defense sacked Carson Wentz nine times and made life miserable for him in his first game against his former team.

Fun day.

Wentz dropped back to pass 55 times. The NFL gamebook credits the Eagles with 17 QB hits. To put that in perspective, the Eagles only had 13 QB hits in the first two games combined. The Eagles needed their DL to come up big in this game and that’s exactly what happened.

Brandon Graham 2.5 sacks
Haason Reddick 1.5 sacks
Fletcher Cox 1.5 sacks
Josh Sweat 1.5 sacks
TJ Edwards 1 sack
Javon Hargrave 1 sack

Graham and Reddick both forced fumbles with their sacks. All those sacks and hits took their toll on Wentz and the Washington offense.

Washington finished the game with 240 yards and 8 points. That makes back-to-back games where Jonathan Gannon’s defense looked great. They had one takeaway, a couple of third down PBUs and two fourth down stops. Washington was only 6 of 17 on third downs. They were 1 for 3 in the red zone.

This is a game Wentz will want to forget.

DeVonta Smith, on the other hand, had a game to remember. He was 8-169-1 and made a couple of really impressive catches. Guys his size aren’t supposed to be able to go up and get the ball the way he does. That’s what makes Smith special.

https://twitter.com/BleacherReport/status/1574105499439611904

Jalen Hurts got off to a slow start, but then came alive and shredded Washington. He finished 22-35-340 with 3 TDs. Smith was the star receiver, but AJ Brown and Dallas Goedert also contributed in a big way. Hurts has great weapons and he’s doing a terrific job of taking advantage of them.

It’s a good thing the passing game worked so well because the Commanders defense shut down the Eagles rushing attack. The team finished with 30 carries for 72 yards. That’s surprising since Washington had struggled vs the run in the first two weeks.

There is plenty to be happy about when your defense is dominant and your QB puts up big numbers in a 24-8 win, but there are some issues to address as well. For the second straight week, the Eagles didn’t score after halftime. Nick Sirianni stayed aggressive, but the offense got sloppy and couldn’t score. Hurts threw deep a couple of times and was off-target. That’s something he needs to keep working on. There were open receivers, Hurts just didn’t hit them.

The Eagles only went 2 for 4 in the red zone. And one of those conversions was lucky. The Eagles really struggled in the red zone. They didn’t look close on a lot of those plays. Give credit to Washington for battling and making some plays.

There are some injury situations to watch. Darius Slay left the game for a while. He had a minor injury on Monday as well so hopefully a normal week will give him the rest he needs. Goedert had a shin injury and missed part of the game. Landon Dickerson left the game and was replaced by Sua Opeta, who struggled. Nothing appeared to be major so hopefully everything will be okay.

Sirianni and Shane Steichen have done a masterful job with the offense this year, but there were a couple of questionable calls today. The Eagles handed the ball to Zach Pascal on a jet sweep on 4th/1. He got stuffed for no gain. Love Pascal, but he’s not the guy I’m handing the ball to on 4th down. Felt like they outsmarted themselves there.

With the ball at their own 1, the Eagles tried a run up the middle. They were hoping just to get a yard or two. That’s standard football. But Washington had a 5-man DL and a loaded box. They stuffed Boston Scott for a safety. Don’t blame this on Scott. No RB was getting out of that. With all those bodies on the line, the Eagles needed to try something else. Worst of all, those were Washington’s first points. They ended the shutout, cutting the lead to 24-2. Ugh.

The Eagles are now 3-0 and arguably the best team in the NFC. After Buffalo’s loss, some might call the Eagles the best team in the NFL. That’s fun for fans to argue about, but overall meaningless.

I’m encouraged because the Eagles are 3-0 and have shown dominant flashes, but still have plenty of room to get better. They haven’t come close to peaking.

Last year’s 2-5 start feels a million miles away.

This is a good team. A very good team.

_


Gameday – PHI at WAS

Posted: September 25th, 2022 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

The revenge game that really isn’t a revenge game. Carson Wentz faces his former team, but the coach is different, the staff is different and a lot of the players are different. And remember that Wentz asked to be traded, which the Eagles did. If anything, he should thank them. They drafted him #2 overall. He got to be part of a Super Bowl team. He got paid a lot of money. When things went south, they traded him to the coach he most wanted to play for. We should all be lucky to suffer like that.

Wentz won’t see things that way, of course. And this game will mean a lot. I just don’t know if that will be a good or bad thing. When Wentz presses, bad things tend to happen for his team.

This game is more about the Eagles than Wentz. They are 2-0 and playing really well. If they limit mistakes and play up to their talent, this will be a win. You do worry about the game after a Monday Night game, especially when you’re on the road. Luckily the Eagles know Washington well schematically and it is a short trip. That should help them out.

This is the final game where Covey can be elevated. The Eagles either add him to the roster or go find someone else to be the punt returner. Covey has done a good job of catching punts, but hasn’t shown much as a returner. A good return today would help his cause.

No surprises among the inactives. We’ll see the debut of Grant Calcaterra as the #3 TE. He should have a good handle on the offense by now. Can he block effectively? Is he ready to help on STs?

Here are a couple of final thoughts.

TEMPO

Washington has a banged up DL. They are short on depth. It would make a lot of sense for the Eagles to use tempo to try to wear them down.

MAKE WENTZ DO SOME “WENTZING”

While incredibly talented, Wentz is also mistake prone. There will be plays to be made by the Eagles defense. They must make those plays. This is a huge opportunity for the Eagles DL to have a breakthrough gme.

NO SLAY DAY

The C0mmanders will spread the ball around. That means the whole Eagles secondary must be sharp. They played well last week as a group, but Slay was clearly the star. Washington feeds the ball to Curtis Samuel, but he works underneath a lot so Slay isn’t likely to be on him. Slay and James Bradberry need to handle the speed of the outside receivers. Wentz will take his shots downfield.

LESS BLITZING

Since Washington can get the ball deep to multiple guys, expect the Eagles to keep two safeties back on a regular basis. That likely means less blitzing. This really is a day when the DL needs to step up.

SCOREBOARD

The Eagles built big leads in the first two games. Detroit came back to make it a close game. Minnesota couldn’t cut into the lead, but Philly couldn’t expand it. The Eagles need to be better in the second half today. Expect Nick Sirianni and his staff to remain aggressive.

Washington has been down in both games. They won in the opener and lost last week. But they won’t go away quietly. If the Eagles build a lead, Washington will keep grinding. The flip side…if Washington gets out to a lead, they remain vulnerable. They don’t have a good secondary so you can throw on them. They don’t have a good run game so working the clock is tougher. And Wentz has his Wentz moments so that can keep the opponent in the game.

_


Game Preview – PHI at WAS

Posted: September 24th, 2022 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 9 Comments »

The Buffalo Bills are the best team in the NFL, but after beating the Vikings on Monday night, the Eagles feel like the talk of the NFL. Buffalo was supposed to be this good. The Eagles feel a bit more like a revelation. There was optimism to be sure, but right now they might be the best team in the NFC. That wasn’t expected.

Jalen Hurts is drawing universal praise. The offense leads the NFL in total yards. The defense just picked off Kirk Cousins three times and shut down Justin Jefferson. The whole world was watching and that makes the Eagles the Flavor of the Month.

This week the guys in green go down to D.C. to take on the Commanders. Who is their QB this year? Oh yeah, Carson Wentz. The Eagles are the better team and they should win this game, but boy it makes me nervous. You never know what to expect from Wentz. He could be bad. Or good. Or great. Heck, he’s often all three in the same game. That’s why this is his third team in three years.

Washington normally has a better defense than offense. Not this year. The offense is 6th in yards, 8th in scoring and 15th in DVOA. The defense is near the bottom of the league in all those categories. Wentz has had a real impact. Say what you want about him, but he is very talented.

The Commanders are a mystery team. They trailed Jacksonville 22-14 in the opener before scoring a pair of late TDs to win that game. They fell behind the Lions 22-0 last week before making it a game and losing 36-27. They come alive in the second half, but things aren’t very pretty before that.

Let’s talk about the matchups.

EAGLES ON OFFENSE

Washington has invested heavily in its DL, but DE Chase Young is still out. He’s the best player so being without him really hurts. Some of the backups are hurt so depth is a real issue. The Eagles would be smart to go with tempo to see if they can wear down the DL. If that group slows down, the back seven is very vulnerable.

While the defense has struggled, they do lead the NFL in QB hits. They can pressure the passer, usually relying on blitzes to help them with Young out. The Eagles OL should win most of the battles, but blitzes and stunts are always an X-factor. The Eagles OL must be smart, be aware and communicate well to handle the DL’s games.

Run defense has been a real issue. Washington is allowing 7.5 yards per carry. And that’s not some weird stat that needs context. They are 28th in the league in rushing yards allowed. Detroit had a lot of success running right up the middle (and that was with a banged up OL).

We don’t have a lot of tape to study, but I’ve not been impressed with the LBs at all. I think the Eagles would be wise to attack the middle of the field, with the run and the pass. Send Miles Sanders and Boston Scott up the middle on runs. Throw the ball to Dallas Goedert. Work the middle.

I might put AJ Brown in the slot and side Quez Watkins outside. If you can get Brown loose in the middle, there are big play opportunities. The Washington secondary has had a lot of blown coverages and missed assignments. They will get safety Kamren Curl back this week and he’ll help, but the issues go beyond one player or position. Big plays will be available. The OL has to give Hurts time and he’s got to get the ball to his guys.

Hurts will have to deal with more pressure than last week. They will blitz and take chances to make sure they get hits on him. Hurts handled a similar style from the Lions.

EAGLES ON DEFENSE

Washington has a creative offense and the players to make it work. You might have to go back to 2012 to find the last time that was true. OC Scott Turner is being very creative with how he uses his guys and the results are impressive.

Wentz gives them their most talented QB in a long time. He’s the same guy he’s always been. Wentz is incredibly streaky. He can be up big and fall apart. He can be down big and get red hot. Wentz is a playmaker, some for his team and some for the opponent. He will make some incredible throws and then take some maddening sacks. Same old Wentz.

But that’s an improvement from Taylor Heinicke, Dwayne Haskins, Kyle Allen, Colt McCoy, Case Keenum, etc. Wentz can make big time throws. He can make plays.

And he’s got the guys to get the ball to. Curtis Samuel is the key player. He’s the workhorse receiver (15-133-2). Samuel lines up all over, including the backfield. He’s got 5 carries this year so they feed him the ball in different ways. The Eagles must identify where Samuel is and who has him in coverage.

The playmakers are Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson. They have combined for 13 catches (less than Samuel by himself), but they get the ball down the field and make game-changing plays. Samuel is the guy who moves the chains.

Last week the Eagles focused on Jefferson and shut him down. There isn’t one player to just shut down this week. Samuel is the workhorse, but you don’t put Slay on him. You don’t double him. All three receivers require attention. It will be interesting to see if Jonathan Gannon goes back to more zone to deal with them and to keep eyes on Wentz. We know he can run.

Washington’s run game isn’t good overall. They have 173 yards after two games, just a bit more than the Eagles had on Monday night. They average 3.5 ypc. They have one rushing TD. This would be the week to go with a light box and focus on the pass. Make Washington prove they can run it on you.

The OL is beaten up on the inside. They’ll have a new starter at center. The Eagles must get pressure up the middle in this game. They need to win that battle cleanly. I’ve not been overly impressed with the OTs. I think Haason Reddick could have a chance to make some plays in this game.

We know Wentz will take chances. The Eagles must make him pay when he does. He throws the ball high over the middle. That leads to chances for INTs. You must catch those. He will hold the ball in the pocket. The rush must get there and get him down. If you don’t take advantage of his mistakes, he will move the ball.

ST

Neither team is rated highly on STs. Dax Milne is the best returner in the game, but the Eagles have been solid in coverage. The Eagles have had almost no success on returns. Detroit had a long return last week vs the Commanders. Maybe this will be Watkins time to shine.

The Eagles need to get their blocking improved, for both kicks and returns. They had a FG blocked on Monday and the Vikings got close on another FG and two punts. That can’t continue.

MISC

Nick Sirianni has to be careful this week. His team is riding high. Facing Wentz adds another layer of distraction. And teams don’t tend to do well when they play on MNF and then go on the road.

Washington is the more desperate team. That always makes an opponent dangerous.

I think the Eagles have too many advantages overall and should win, but I could see this being an ugly game. One thing we know is true. The only score that matters is the final score. We’ve seen Wentz lead 17-0 and lose 27-17. We’ve seen him trail 24-6 and almost take that to overtime (30-28 with a failed 2-pt conversion). Sunday could be a wild ride.

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