OHHHHHHHHHHHHHH HOW SWEET IT IS… to watch a meaningful Philly sports game. By my count, it has been since January since we’ve seen one. Sure, the Phillies played almost a whole season and the Flyers did… whatever it is they did last season… but not since the Sixers’ mini-January run has it felt like we’ve had a worthy sporting event over which to get excited. Imagine trying to run a local sports blog during that stretch. Imagine blogging Maikel Franco. Just imagine that. So, to be honest, I was just happy that there was a game yesterday. For it to be a win, on the road, against a division rival, with a post-game Gatorade bath? That’s just the icing on the Doug. There’s a lot to discuss, some bad, mostly good, as we head into a Week 2 showdown with Doug Pederson’s maker, The Fat Man.
To the Droppings!
Russ pointed this out on the podcast today, but the opening play action bomb to Torrey Smith – which was underthrown by Carson Wentz and could have been a touchdown – felt like such an Andy Reid play. Russ thinks it happened every year. I’m not so sure about that– it might just be that the preseason T.O. pass stands out so much in our minds that we think Reid did this every year. It doesn’t matter. I liked the play call and it almost worked. The Eagles probably weren’t expecting Josh Norman to be on Smith, but I can admire the gonadotropins Wentz had to try it anyway, because Lord knows, he’s likely not using them in other ways.
I LOVE IT. For years FOX’s graphics felt like they were designed by a foreman from a midwestern steel plant who was delusional about robots coming to take over his job. Even George Lucas during the filming of Episode II thought they went too heavy on the animated robots with overly-mixed mechanical sounds.
There’s a practical reason for the shift to a bottom line over the score bug. Perhaps two of them. When broadcasts shifted to HD 10-12 years ago, networks still had to compensate for those who had standard definition TVs, where the score bug lived in a corner of the screen. Those TVs didn’t show the wide-angle view, so, if you were watching in HD, you’d be left with a score bug near the middle of the screen. In fact, it was one of the immediate ways to tell you were watching HD — if the score bug was curiously in the middle of things. Now, even standard def broadcasts get the wide screen view (with black bars) and putting the score bug in the corner would make it needlessly far to the side. The bottom bar makes more sense. Also, as Adam pointed out on the podcast, it allows networks to place other scores, stats and, most importantly, ads in that area.
The first touchdown to Agholor was absolutely fantastic and showed off the best of what Carson Wentz has to offer. There is no better way to sum it up and put it in context than by laying it next to Donovan McNabb’s famous pass against the Cowboys, as Philly Voice’s Matt Mullin did:
Alshon Jeffery (and many others) compared Wentz to Aaron Rodgers on this play.
— Matt Mullin (@matt_mullin) September 10, 2017
The two plays match each other almost beat for beat (fine, he sped it up), except only one features a touchdown (the other features an asshole putting on a fake wrestling belt).
I thought Wentz played well overall. He completed 26-of-39 passes for 302 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. That’s hard to argue with. However, he still overthrows receivers. Those passes usually come on “touch” throws. I thought at times he still looked a little raw – more than I was expecting heading into his second season – and didn’t work through his progressions as well as he should. Here’s an example from a play fake to Smallwood:
He wound up throwing it backhand out of bounds.
He’s at his best when he’s out of the pocket or forced to make athletic plays, not unlike Donovan McNabb or even current quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson. This is a strength, to be sure, but he still needs to work on making the quick read and his touch passes. Those touch passes, specifically, are troublesome. Like a pitcher throwing to first, Wentz struggles to change his mechanics for the soft throw and is wildly unpredictable in those circumstances. Look no further than the horrible screen pass to Agholor.
Part of the blame, I think, goes to Doug Pederson, WHO I PROMISE NOT TO BASH TODAY. He calls plays like I do playing Madden— predictable run, screen, screen, BOMB, fake screen, gadget bubble, try to outsmart the opponent on fourth down and wind up blowing a timeout. Wentz is at his best throwing the 10-15 bullet on out routes and hook patterns. He seems to excel here. The distance is far enough to allow him to LET LOOSE the python which hangs from his shoulder, while at the same time not being so deep as to make it a difficult pass. Ertz is the beneficiary of many of these, but it seems like the Eagles could get the wide receivers more involved, or even utilize Sproles on cut and option routes here. But Pederson takes Wentz out of his rhythm way too often with his chode offense and forced deep balls.
I’ll start with the bad and then end with the good.
There were two highly questionable series in my view: The first actually resulted in an Eagles touchdown… thanks to a punt fumble recovery by the Eagles. It was their third drive of the game from their own 13. Here’s the sequence:
First and 10: Handoff to LeGarrette Blount for 4 yards.
Second and 6: Handoff to Blount for 5 yards.
Third and 1: Ineligible receiver penalty and handoff to Blount (from the shotgun!) for -2 yards. Penalty is declined and the Eagles kick.
By the third play, everyone in the stadium knew the run was coming, even if Doug tried to outsmart them by lining up in the shotgun.
The Eagles luckily recovered a Redskins fumble on the return and scored their second touchdown on the drive.
The second also involves Blount.
You can argue the Eagles got him SPECIFICALLY to chew up clock late in the fourth quarter. When they got the ball at their own 15 with 12:21 to go following a Jalen Mills interception. Here’s what they decided to do:
One touch for Blount (no gain), following a run out of the shotgun (!) and two passes. Four of the first six plays of the drive were passes, and the Eagles chewed only a little more than five minutes of clock and wound up punting from their own territory. This is a nitpick, to be sure, but if you are going to use Blount, this is the situation to do it in. Rather, we have Darren Sproles and Wendell Smallwood running out of the shotgun.
That said, I did like Doug’s playcalling at the end of the first drive mentioned here, when the Eagles got inside the 10 at the start of the second quarter. The bubble screen-whatever to Agholor was an excellent play-call but a bad throw by Wentz which Agholor, improbably, saved. And while some on Twitter seemed upset at the strategy behind him running Blount OUT OF THE SHOTGUN and then passing to Celek and Blount (TOUCHDOWN!) from the 3-yard line, I think this is where Doug’s gadget-y offense excels. There was some degree of “trickeration,” and indeed throwing to Blount, who put on a shifty move at the one, worked. These play-calls have their place, but Doug uses them too frequently at mid-field and zaps the life out of drives.
The drive to end the first half that resulted in a field goal was also excellent:
The dumb screen
This is why Torrey Smith’s NFL stock is so low. He was awful on this play. He missed a block…
… and then didn’t even attempt to get the ball while Carson Wentz was diving into the pile:
The good news is that it’s just dislocated.
BUT COME ON:
It’s bad pic.twitter.com/QODlMMIuZE
— Kyle Scott (@CrossingBroad) September 10, 2017
Jalen Mills and Patrick Robinson did an excellent job in replacing Darby and covering Terrelle Pryor, who was held in check for most of the game. I don’t know if I’d count on that kind of reliability for the rest of the year, but for one game they stepped up big time.
The Redskins’ second touchdown when Chris Thompson evaded 11 EAGLES TACKLERS was embarrassing and easy to ridicule. But other than that the defense played excellent. Kirk Cousins was under pressure all day and though he never reached full Eli Manning, he was never able to get comfortable in the pocket. I actually thought he played well given the circumstances. He’s a gamer, and he used his legs late in the game to keep the Redskins in it. But all the credit in the world goes to the outstanding defensive line, which got pressure on almost every play. And when Jim Schwartz did decide to Blitz, linebackers and secondary players got in the backfield almost at will. So while we’ll remember the play with the missed tackles, it’s worth noting that it was a rare miscue from an otherwise excellent defensive effort, capped off by Fletcher Cox recovering an incomplete pass and running into the end zone like a fat duck.
The penetration on the kick coverage is outstanding.
I actually thought he played well. He didn’t break off any big runs, but he ran downhill on several occasions and was able to pick up healthy gains when he broke through the line. He looks like he still has something left in the tank and runs with some level of effort, which is good to see. I actually could’ve used more of him yesterday, like on that late fourth quarter drive where the Eagles needed to chew up clock.
Wentz to Ertz
Shades of the Sproles play from a year ago:
— Eliot Shorr-Parks (@EliotShorrParks) September 11, 2017
I’m pretty sure we broke this down plenty leading up to the game, but there’s no reason Ertz shouldn’t be a top tight end this season. This is exactly what was expected of him yesterday. The touchdown balls will come, and then presumably go right to Mike Trout.
While everyone feels good about the win today, and it’s useless piling on Doug after what was a rough week that quite honestly he probably didn’t deserve (even if there was some truth to the stories about him), it’s worth mentioning the sometimes maddening decisions he makes.
Sending the offense back out there on fourth and 1, up 2, was silly. Even though it was simply to try to draw the Redskins offside and get a first down, the game still very much hung in the balance at that point and wasting at timeout seemed foolish. Just kick the field goal to go up five and keep all three of the timeouts in case you need them. Don’t get cute. I’m not sure what it was, but Duce Staley didn’t like something about the play:
The two-point conversion came likely because Caleb Sturgis hurt his hip and had already missed a PAT earlier in the game, so I’ll give Doug the benefit of the doubt here. But since “math” was such a big topic last week, mentioned both in Jeffery Lurie’s and Pederson’s press conferences, it’s worth pointing out that this was probably the wrong decision. Kicking the PAT would’ve put the Eagles up 12 and meant the Redskins had to score two touchdowns. Had the Eagles not converted the two-point conversion, then the Redskins would’ve only need a touchdown with two-point conversion and field goal to tie. So, mathematically speaking, this is not a situation to go for it.
Contrary to what most might expect, I actually didn’t hate the Gatorade bath. Sure, it was hokey, but Pederson was coming off a rough week and the Eagles have struggled against the Redskins. I actually thought it was a cool show of support for the coach.
Zach Ertz on Gatorade bath for Doug
— John Clark CSN/NBC (@JClarkCSN) September 10, 2017
Jason Peters on Gatorade bath, articles ripping Doug
"Pressure's on him"
— John Clark CSN/NBC (@JClarkCSN) September 10, 2017
They like each other!
Not pictured here is Jim Schwartz’s other hand stabbing Doug Pederson in the back.
Here is the playing time distribution from Sunday's win over Washington: pic.twitter.com/5mceeEHbWu
— Zach Berman (@ZBerm) September 11, 2017
For everyone saying Mack Hollins was going to take Jordan Matthews’ role… he got five snaps. Interestingly, Nelson Agholor got only 42 and still had 6 catches for 86 yards.
According to @profootballfocus.com #Eagles O line gave up 17 QB pressures (2 sacks, 3 QB hits, 12 hurries), tying Arizona for 2nd most.
— Ed Kracz (@kracze) September 11, 2017
Wentz was blitzed on a career high 47 percent of his dropbacks, per ESPN Stats & Info. Unfazed, he went 11-of-18 for 119 yards and a TD.
— Tim McManus (@Tim_McManus) September 11, 2017
Next week, the Chiefs. Thumbtack.