Five Big Things from the Eagles Loss to Giants

Patrick Causey, Follow him on Twitter @pcausey3

The Philadelphia Eagles left MetLife Stadium in a more precarious position than that in which they entered. 4-4 overall, 0-3 in the division, and having lost three of their last four games. With tough games against the Falcons, Seahawks, and Packers over the next three weeks, the Eagles are at the crossroads between staying in the playoff hunt and their season ending before December.

With that said, here are five big things from the Eagles loss to the Giants.

1.  Zach Ertz played his best game of the year

Zach Ertz had his best game of the season, catching 8 of 8 targets for 97 yards. Wentz looked to him early and often, and Ertz repaid that confidence, turning in the type of performance we had hoped to see all season.

You would have never guessed it had you jumped on social media during the game, as Ertz was lambasted by Eagles fans who have lost patience with the third year tight end. Some of it is understandable. Ertz’s production doesn’t match his big, shiny new contract and he avoids contact like DeSean Jackson despite being built like Brent Celek.

But the criticism has gone too far. At one point during the game, Ertz was ripped for not getting a first down on this pass from Carson Wentz:

Had Wentz hit Ertz in stride, that is likely a first down. But given the ball placement, there simply was no way for Ertz to have gotten the first down. That didn’t matter to some, who were quick to criticize Ertz for falling short of the sticks.

It seems like we are letting our (legitimate) frustrations with what Ertz is not distract us from what he actually does well. Ertz is not going to transform into a human wrecking ball in the mold of Brent Celek — carrying guys an extra 5 yards for a first down. But Ertz is still a talented player. He’s a great route runner and, as the still shot above shows us, is capable of making spectacular catches.

If the Eagles continue to feed him the ball, he should continue to produce at a high level. And for a team starving for anyone to make a play, this is welcomed news.

2. The refs were bad, but did not cost the Eagles the game

In each of the four losses this year, the officiating has seemed especially egregious. Perhaps I am magnifying these mistakes when the Eagles lose, but it’s hard not to notice some fairly blatant calls being missed by the refs.

But let’s be honest. The refs aren’t the reason the Eagles are 4-4. The Eagles are. Consider this:

  • The refs didn’t allow the Lions to score 21 points in the first half;
  • The refs didn’t force Jordan Matthews and Nelson Agholor to drop easy touchdown catches against the Lions;
  • The refs didn’t cause the Eagles to miss 9+ tackles against the Redskins;
  • The refs didn’t prevent the Eagles defensive line from sacking Kirk Cousins a single time;
  • The refs didn’t force Carson Wentz to throw 5 interceptions since the bye week;
  • The refs didn’t cause the Eagles to blow a 10 point lead in the 4th quarter against the Cowboys;
  • The refs didn’t force the Eagles receivers to drop 6 passes last week in the loss to the Cowboys;
  • The refs didn’t cause Doug Pederson’s questionable play calling and clock management against the Cowboys or Giants;
  • The refs didn’t cause Doug Pederson to refuse to kick 2 field goals yesterday, which made the difference between the game;
  • The refs aren’t the reason the Eagles have the 20th rated run offense in total yards; and
  • The refs aren’t the reason the Eagles have the 21st worst red zone offense in the NFL (which might be worse after yesterday’s poor performance).

I could go on, but you get the point. If the Eagles did their jobs, we wouldn’t be talking about the refs, we would be talking about the playoffs. So while it’s fair to criticize the refs, we shouldn’t let that distract from how poorly the Eagles have played.

3. Doug Pederson continues to look like a rookie

There is an argument to be made that Pederson is the chief reason behind the Eagles losses to the Giants and Cowboys, as his questionable decisions this week and indefensible decisions last week came at the most inopportune of times.

I’m not going to rehash the mistakes he made. You saw the game. You already know them off the top of your head. I instead want to offer some perspective.

Pederson is expected to go through growing pains, especially since this is the first time he has ever called plays at the NFL level. While the 40 second play clock seems like an eternity when watching casually on TV, a lot has to be processed and decided during that period of time, including:

  • What is the down and distance;
  • What calls have we already made that have worked and not worked;
  • What is the defensive personnel;
  • What type of coverage does this defense prefer with that personnel on the field;
  • What play calling works best against that personnel;
  • What is the defenses tendencies on this particular down and distance;
  • Who do we have in the game;
  • Do we need to make a substitution.

Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera… Even veteran head coaches struggle with this at times (hello, Andy Reid). So of course a rookie head coach who has never called plays before is going to be prone to mental lapses.

That’s not an excuse for all of Pederson’s mistakes. Some if them were bad, even after you take into account his lack of experience. But it is an explanation for why mistakes that seem so obvious and avoidable are happening with increased regularity.

I know we live in a react now society, where hot-takes and instant analysis are preferred over looking at things with the long view, but we should tap the brakes on crushing Pederson for now. He was hailed as brilliant after the Eagles started 3-0. He didn’t just become a bad coach in a matter of a few games. He’s learning on the go, is running a simplified version of his offense to make things easier on Wentz, and his offense is almost devoid of talent. If he makes these mistakes next season, then we should be concerned.

4. Ditto Carson Wentz

I am going to go into more detail on Wentz’s struggles later this week, so I will be brief here. The warts I saw in Wentz’s college tape — poor deep ball accuracy, faulty mechanics, tendencies to throw high — were noticeably absent during his first three games of the season. While he has improved overall on these issues, they are starting to rear their ugly head again, particularly since the bye week.

The most obvious explanation is that these types of mistakes happen when a rookie quarterback is under pressure (real or perceived). The first thing to go in that situation is the mechanics. On both interceptions yesterday, Wentz was pressured and made two high throws.

I am not overly concerned with his performances. As I wrote during the middle of his impressive 3-0 start, I expected him to struggle at times. That’s par for the course with rookie quarterbacks.

Bottom line: when you are evaluating Wentz’s play, keep in mind that (1) he’s a rookie going through typical growing pains, and (2) he has almost no help on offense, as I mentioned yesterday on Twitter:

5. The division is almost certainly out of the question, but the wild card isn’t.

Breaking news: at 0-3 in the division, the Eagles are almost certainly out of competing for a division title. Even if they win their remaining three division games, it would take a pretty significant collapse from the other NFC East teams for that to matter. While I am not ruling it out entirely, the chances aren’t in the Eagles favor.

The good news is that at 4-4, the Eagles aren’t technically out of the wild card. They have left themselves almost no margin for error for the rest of the season. Here is a list of the teams competing for the two wild card spots in the NFC. Notice that the three teams at the top have already beaten the Eagles and thus (at least for now) own the tie breaker:

Team Record Eagles Record Against
Giants 5-3 0-1
Redskins 4-3-1 0-1
Lions 5-4 0-1
Packers 4-4 0-0
Saints 4-4 0-0
Cardinals 3-4-1 0-0
Buccaneers 3-5 0-0
Panthers 3-5 0-0
Rams 3-5 0-0

The Eagles don’t play the Saints, Cardinals, Bucs, Panthers or Rams this year, but they do play the Packers, Giants and Redskins. If the Eagles have any shot of securing the wild card, they must win those three games. Otherwise, they will have 7 losses (assuming they win the rest of their games), and will likely not own a single tie-breaker with the teams with which they are competing for those wild card spots. Yikes.

The Eagles have legitimate gripes about the way their schedule has unfolded. They have played three straight games against a team coming off their bye week and have the red-hot Falcons next, who have had 10 days off thanks to playing on Thursday Night Football.

To make matters worse, the Eagles schedule only gets harder from here. They have the hardest remaining strength of schedule for the rest of the season, and their next three games are particularly brutal, facing the Falcons (6-3, .625%), at the Seahawks (4-2-1, .643%), and home versus the always dangerous Aaron Rodgers led Packers (4-4, .500%).

The good news for the Eagles is that they have yet to look like they don’t belong with the big boys. They blew out the Steelers and Vikings, and arguably should have beaten the Cowboys and Giants. So they should be competitive in these games. They just need to limit the schmorgesborg of mistakes that have plagued them since the bye week.

And if the Eagles just miss out on the playoffs this year, we will likely look back at these winnable games we let slip away with even more despair.

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Week 9 Pre-Game Notes

A few quick notes/thoughts before this afternoon’s game:

  • The Eagles are still in a strong position for a wild card spot.  As of this morning, the standings for non-division leaders in the NFC are (from PFR):

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A win over the Giants, in New York, would keep the Eagles in the lead, and put distance between them and the Giants, one of two teams currently tied for the wild card lead.

  • As far as the divisional race goes, this is a must-win.  It’s the final opportunity to get a division win on the road.  A loss here would force the Eagles to sweep their home games just to get to 3-3.  The Cowboys are 2-1 in the division.  In other words, with a loss today, the Eagles would need to win all three remaining division games AND have the Cowboys lose to either the Giants (Home) or Washington (@) just to equal the divisional record, which is the first tie breaker.  A loss would probably put the Eagles 3 wins behind the Cowboys (they play Cleveland today) with 8 games to play.  That’s a very tough hole to climb out of.
  • The Eagles are still the #1 team by DVOA.  The defense and special teams units are both #1 by that measure, while the offense ranks just 23rd.  Not much commentary to add there, but it’s important to step back and realize that, by most objective measures, the Eagles are a very good team.
  • What will the offense look like without Josh Huff?  That sounds like a silly question. Huff has just 72 receiving yards this year (10.3 yards per game).  However, he’s really the only WR that fits the bubble-screen game Pederson is increasingly leaning on.  JMatt, DGB, Agholor…none of them have the acceleration or quickness required to make those plays work.  We might see Darren Sproles line up in that spot.  However, that would require Pederson to trust Ryan Mathews as the primary RB again.  Needless to say, the offense’s complete lack of weapons will make both Pederson and Wentz’s jobs more difficult today and for the rest of the year.
  • Can Pederson rebound?  Last week was a truly horrendous performance from the 1st year head coach.  He repeatedly made the objectively wrong strategic decision (kicking on 4th and short, punting instead of trying a 53 yd fg, not using TOs to get the ball back in regulation, etc…).  Hopefully, he does some self-scouting, realizes what he did wrong, and gets it right next time.  Unfortunately, there’s no shortage of coaches who get those things wrong persistently, so it’s not as simple as “he won’t make those mistakes again”.   Additionally, while Pederson is in his 1st year as a head coach, he played QB for 11 years in the NFL and has been on coaching staffs for 7 years.  He shouldn’t have to “learn” some of these things…
  • Can Wentz find a way to push the ball downfield?  Over the past few weeks, the Eagles downfield passing game has disappeared.  A lot of that, IMO, is on the WRs and their failure to create separation.  Some of is also on Wentz, as he’s missed chances for lack of vision or willingness to throw the ball.  Today is a good chance to turn things around.  The Giants have the 3rd worst adjusted sack rate in the league. (FO).  That should provide a little more time in the pocket for Carson, which in turn should give the WRs a little extra help creating space.  At the very least, after today’s game we’ll have a better idea of how to apportion responsibility for the lack of a passing game.  It’s a combination of Wentz, the OL, and the WRs, but today the OL should be less of an issue.
  • Prediction:  Eagles win.  The Giants are a very mediocre team.  They have a win against the Cowboys, but that came in week one (Dak’s first game and his worst performance of the year prior to last week).  Beyond that, the Giants’ wins are against Baltimore (#20 DVOA), New Orleans (23), and LA (25).  Those four wins were by a combined 15 points.   

Outside of ODB, there isn’t a single guy on that offense to be worried about.  With the Eagles defense playing as well as it is, it’ll be very difficult for the Giants to score points without a TO or STs touchdown. Meanwhile, the Eagles are a better team than their record suggests, and have played very well in 6 of their 7 games so far. They seemed on the verge of blowing out the Cowboys before Smallwood’s fumble last week and some late-game choking from Pederson.  Those things will happen again, but not this week.  The Eagles finally put a full game together and roll the Giants.  28-13.

 

It’s Time to Take the Training Wheels off Carson Wentz

Patrick Causey, Follow him on Twitter @pcausey3

We are almost at the halfway point of the regular season and are getting a better understanding of the make-up of the Philadelphia Eagles. They have a strong defense, mediocre offense, and excellent special teams. Add in a penchant for self-inflicted wounds (drops, fumbles, penalties, missed tackles, and coaching brain farts), and it’s easy to see why the Eagles are 4-3 instead of 5-2 or 6-1.

The temptation is to look to the outside for help: a receiver that can consistently catch the football or a running back that can run five steps without fumbling would be a welcomed addition. The Eagles flirted with this idea before the trade deadline but didn’t pull the trigger, a likely smart choice given the poor track record of midseason trades. So Terrell Owens in his prime is not walking through that door (although the 41-year old version would if presented with the opportunity); the Eagles only chance to improve is from within.

This can happen in a number of ways. For starters, the Eagles can be a better version of themselves. I know that sounds like the start of a cheesy motivational speech, but if the Eagles catch and tackle like professional athletes should, limit penalties and improve their 22nd ranked redzone offense, they could win 10 games. They won’t be sexy. They won’t set scoring records. But they will have a shot at the division and playoffs. In other words, they will closely resemble the team that Andy Reid has built in Kansas City.

But another way in which they can improve their chances to win is by putting more responsibility on Carson Wentz. For a team that lacks legitimate playmakers on offense, giving Wentz — who has the potential makeup of a franchise quarterback —  more responsibility and opportunities to make plays just makes sense.

That starts with opening up the vertical passing game. Wentz’s critics cite his 24th ranked 6.69 yards per attempt as evidence that Wentz is nothing more than a Checkdown Charley. But this ignores the limitations that are imposed on Wentz by Pederson’s conservative play calling.

Pederson has combined the short passing concepts of the West Coast offense with a heavy reliance on running back and wide receiver screens. It’s a defensible strategy to an extent; Wentz is a rookie, the Eagles have question marks on their offensive line and lack legitimate skill position players on the outside.

But Pederson has become so conservative over the last too weeks that it’s becoming counterproductive. Through the first five weeks of the season, Wentz averaged 7.632 yards per attempt.  Against the Vikings and Cowboys, Wentz averaged a comically bad 4.815 yards per attempt. The short passing game made some sense against the Vikings given their dominant defensive line and pass rush. But the Cowboys do not have a strong defense, and Pederson’s reluctance to stretch the field allowed Dem Boyz to sit on the short routes and sell out to stop the run.

Based on my film review, only 16 of the 71 plays run by the Eagles involved at least one receiver running a deep route (totaling 20 yards or more). That’s less than one-quarter of all plays run by the Eagles on Sunday night and only 37% of the 43 pass plays. And the numbers look worse upon closer examination, as five of those plays did not present a realistic chance of actually throwing deep:

  • One deep route was used as a decoy to clear out space for a running back screen to Darren Sproles;
  • Three other plays involved Agholor running a go route to clear out underneath routes for receivers — Wentz did not even look at Agholor on the plays;
  • And one play would have been virtually impossible to hit the deep route simply because of the play design. Wentz ran a bootleg to his left off play action and had Jordan Matthews running a deep route on the same side of the field. Wentz dumped the ball off to the short check down, but hitting Matthews in stride would have required him to either throw across his body on the run (never smart) or stop, plant, and throw to Matthews before the defense got pressure (never easy).

Remove those 5 plays, and that leaves only 11 plays where Wentz even had the opportunity to attack the Cowboys vertically.

Of those 11 plays, I could find only two examples in which Wentz passed on an opportunity to throw deep when he should have let it rip. With 9:02 left in the third quarter, the Eagles lined up with trips right and Dorial Green-Beckham isolated at the bottom of the field.  Wentz completes a 14-yard pass to DGB for a first down. Yes, one of the best examples I could even find involved Wentz completing a pass for a first down.

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But look at Jordan Matthews (second receiver from the top). He’s running a go route from the slot, has inside leverage on his defender and no safety help over the top. If Wentz throws that towards the center hash, odds are Matthews is coming down with it for a huge gain and perhaps even a touchdown. But again, Wentz threw the ball for a damn first down. It’s hard to call this a bad decision.

The other play occurred with 14:50 left in the second quarter. The Eagles were at their own 25 yard line on a 1st and 10, and Wentz dumped the ball off to Ryan Mathews for a gain of one yard.

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But watch the play develop at the top of the screen, you can see a tight opening for Wentz to hit Ertz for a big gain. The defense was in Cover-2 zone, so there is a risk that the cornerback could have dropped back into that space. But the tight window was there, and Wentz was not under pressure. He could have taken the shot if he wanted.

On the few times Wentz attacked the Cowboys deep, his receivers dropped the football. This clip shows two different plays with the same result: Jordan Matthews and Dorial Green-Beckham dropping catchable passes for big gains (although the DGB pass technically didn’t travel over 20 yards):

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That’s four plays where the Eagles could have realistically attacked the Cowboys deep. Again: the Eagles ran 71 plays total.

There’s a delicate balance between being too aggressive or too conservative. We obviously don’t want Pederson calling four verticals all game, but we also don’t want him turning Wentz into Alex Smith or Sam Bradford. We’ve already read that book and know how it ends.

So how do the Eagles fix it? The most obvious answer is to start drawing up plays with more vertical passing concepts. Profound stuff, I know. But Pederson called more deep passes earlier in the year, and Wentz excelled at it. It’s unclear why Pederson has become so reluctant to attack defenses vertically the last two weeks — perhaps it was the game killing interception that Wentz threw against the Lions, or Pederson lost faith in the receivers or was simply trying to protect Big V — but regardless of the cause, Pederson needs to give Wentz the opportunity to attack defenses deep.

Pederson also should consider making some personnel changes with the receivers. Agholor simply cannot serve as our primary deep threat anymore. He’s not explosive enough to blow by defenders, not strong enough to out muscle them, and is only catching 58.3% of his passes. I don’t want to give up on a first round pick after a season and a half, but he hasn’t earned the amount of opportunities he is receiving.

While Pederson’s options are less than ideal, he should divvy those deep passing opportunities between Ertz and DGB. I know fans are growing tired of the Ertz talk — and rightfully so — but beggers can’t be choosers. Ertz is one of the only receivers on the team with good size, that runs great routes and has shown the ability to make tough catches. While DGB has a case of the drops, he at least gives Wentz a size mismatch to exploit.

Pederson should also consider calling more designed runs for Wentz. I’m not suggesting we turn Wentz into RG3, but he has only 19 runs on the year according to Pro-Football-Reference.com. Using Wentz’s athleticism 3-4 times a game gives defenses another thing to worry about and could make life easier on Ryan Mathews and the Eagles anemic rushing attack.

We are at a turning point in the season. The Eagles face a must win game against the New York Giants (they cannot afford to start 0-3 in the division), and have a tough sled of games against the Falcons, Seahawks, Packers and Bengals to follow. So it’s time for Pederson to take the training wheels off Carson Wentz. There’s a risk it backfires — Wentz is just a rookie — but we’ve already seen that the conservative approach isn’t working. So what’s there to lose?

Eagles Cowboys Preview

Patrick Causey, Follow him on Twitter @pcausey3

 

This is the game we have all be waiting for. Eagles v Cowboys. Wentz v Prescott. Sunday Night Football. It is one of the most anticipated games between these teams in recent memory. Here’s an advanced scouting report with a focus on key numbers and matchups that could determine the outcome of this game.

When the Cowboys are on Offense

Battle in the Trenches

Everyone will be talking about Dak Prescott v Carson Wentz, but the most important matchup in this game is the Eagles defensive line against the Cowboys vaunted offensive line. It’s a matchup of strength versus strength, and it’s no secret the two units aren’t fond of one another.

The Eagles have the number one rated pass rush in the league, according to Pro Football Focus, and their defense ranks 1st in overall DVOA, 1st in pass DVOA, and 13th in run DVOA.  The Eagles are 4th in the NFL in total sacks, with 22. The one weakness, as of late, has been the run defense. They’ve allowed 72 rushes for 381 yards 5.2 YPC and 1 touchdown in their last three games. Some will immediately blame the wide nine technique, since it creates large running lanes between the Eagles lineman to exploit, but the truth is the missed tackles have been more of an issue.

The Cowboys have the number one offensive line in the league, according to Football Outsiders. They rank 1st in run blocking, ninth in pass blocking and have allowed only 9 sacks on the season, which is the third best mark in the league.

This therefore presents a salivating matchup of two of the best lines in the league. If there was any edge, it might come down to health. The Eagles are without one of their best lineman in Bennie Logan, while the Cowboys get back their best lineman, and one of the best lineman in all of football, in Tyron Smith. Smith has missed several weeks with a back injury, and the All Pro Left Tackle returns just in time to square off against the Eagles.

For my money, the winner of this matchup will come down to whether Jim Schwartz dials up the blitz effectively. I’m just not sure the Eagles can afford to rely on their front four to generate pressure. Two weeks ago, the Eagles faced Football Outsider’s second best offensive line in football in the Washington Redskins. They rarely blitzed, got 0 sacks, 2 quarterback hits, and were gashed by Kirk Cousins and the ground game all day.

The Vikings have the worst offensive line in football according to Football Outsiders, but the Eagles were able to manufacture pressure because Jim Schwartz abandoned his philosophical aversion to blitzing by sending an extra rusher 12 times.  It worked. The Eagles got 6 sacks, 12 quarterback hits, 8 tackles for a loss and 9 passes defended.

I broke down some of these blitzes on Twitter, but never got to put up a post, so I am going to force them in here. Schwartz’s game plan was nothing short of brilliant. He sent blitzes often, varied the location of the pressure, and never let the Vikings offense get in rhythm.

If the Eagles can get pressure, the entire dynamic of the game changes. But if Prescott is able to operate with a clean pocket, the Eagles defense could be in for a long day.

Dak Prescott

Prescott has been fantastic this year. He’s completed 68.7%, for 1,486 yards, 8.2 y/a, 7 tds, and 1 int. Prescott’s 82.9 QBR is the second best mark in the league. He’s athletic, but chooses his runs smartly, and has added 3 rushing touchdowns on the year. Prescott makes smart decisions, has only two turnovers on the year, and has solidified himself as the Cowboys quarterback of the future (and perhaps, present).

I’m interested to see how Prescott does under pressure and when his team is behind on the scoreboard.  Prescott has only been sacked 9 time on the season, which is tied for the third best mark in the league among qualifying quarterbacks. Prescott has also rarely played from behind. He never trailed once against the Bears, Bengals or Packers and was behind for only portions of the wins over the Redskins. The only time he was behind for an extended period of time was against the 49ers, when he faced a 14-0 deficit in the 2nd quarter. But, that’s the 49ers, one of the worst teams in the NFL.

In other words, Prescott has benefited from playing in favorable situations throughout most of the season. That isn’t to take anything away from what he’s accomplished. But as we saw with Wentz the last two weeks, being under pressure and playing from behind changes the dynamic considerably. If the Eagles can get a lead and Schwartz can effectively dial up pressure with the blitzes, the Eagles might be the first team to make Prescott look like a rookie.

Ezekiel Elliott

Elliot has 137 carries, 703 yards and 5.1 ypc, 5 tds. If he keeps this pace up, he’s a lock to win the offensive rookie of the year award (Sorry, it’s true).

Elliot started slow during the first two games of his career: tallying 20 carries, 51 yards and 1 touchdown against the Giants, followed by 21 carries for 83 yards and 1 td against the Redskins. But since then, Elliot has been on fire, averaging 165.5 total yards and 5.93 ypc in his last four games. Granted, three of those games were against the Bears, 49ers and Bengals, who rank 20th, 29th and 23rd in run DVOA, respectively. But the Packers have the #2 rated run DVOA, and Elliot hung 28 for 157 yards on them. The kid can ball.

The Eagles are going to need to maintain gap discipline and tackle like they did against the Vikings, not the Redskins (where, by my count, they missed at least 9 tackles). The Cowboys entire offense is predicated on controlling the ball; they lead the league in time of possession; missing tackles will just make life harder on the D.

Three other stats that likely only interest me.

(1) 82 of Elliot’s 137 carries come with multiple tight ends on the field (43 with two, 39 with three tight ends). The remaining 55 come with one tight end on the field. In other words, Elliot has yet to gain a single carry without a tight end on the field. So if you see the Cowboys lining up with 4 wide receivers, odds are they won’t be running the ball.

(2) Another trend I noticed: if you see the Cowboys run a man in motion, odds are Elliot isn’t running the ball. Elliot has only 8 carries when the Cowboys put a man in motion on the season. His 129 other carries did not involve a man being put in motion.

(3) We’ve heard the old adage that runners get stronger as the game progresses. I haven’t tested whether that theory is true league wide, but it hasn’t been so far for Elliot. In his first through 10th carries of each game, Elliott averages 6 yards per carry and has 3 touchdowns. On his 11th through 20th carries, his ypc drops to 4.7 and he has 2 touchdowns. And on carries 21-30, he averages only 3.7 ypc and has 0 touchdowns.

Dez Bryant

Bryant returns just in time to face the Eagles, a team that he has performed well against during his career. In 9 career games, Bryant averages 5.4 catches, 86.11 yards and .88 touchdowns. But if we focus on the last 7 games, his numbers rise to 5.7 catches for 97.85 yards and 1.14 touchdowns. No one needs to be reminded of the damage Bryant caused to Bradley Fletcher back in week 14 of the 2014 season: 6 catches, 114 yards, 3 touchdowns. In my mind, that game — and Davis’ refusal to adjust — marked the turning point in Chip Kelly’s tenure as head coach. Bryant got off to a slow start this year because Witten and Beasely have served as Prescott’s security blankets. But  with Bryant returning from injury and the team playing in prime time, expect the Cowboys to get Bryant involved early in the game.

Cole Beasely

Speaking of Beasely, it’s time to start giving him credit as a legitimate slot receiver. He is firmly entrenched as Prescott’s favorite target, is a great route runner and has caught a ridiculous 84.6% of his targets. On the year, Beasely has 33 catches, 390 yards and 3 touchdowns, which puts him on pace for a career year. And with Ron Brooks out, Beasely will likely match up against Malcolm Jenkins in the slot, who Beasely roasted the last time the two matched up, catching 9 passes for 112 yards and 2 touchdowns. Jenkins had a terrible game against the Redskins, getting beat by Vernon Davis on a wheel route for a 37 yard gain and giving up 2 touchdowns passes. He rebounded nicely against the Vikings, but a lot of his production came as a blitzer. Outside of the battle in the trenches, Beasely v Jenkins could be a key matchup for the game. If Jenkins struggles, the Cowboys could dink and Dak their way down the field all game.

When the Eagles are on Offense

Big Picture

This matchup presents an opportunity for the Eagles offense to get back on track, as the Cowboys defense isn’t stout, but instead benefits from spending the least amount of time on the field than any other defense in the league.

The Eagles rank 24th overall offensively in DVOA, 19th in running game, 19th in passing attack. Their offensive line is about middle of the pack, which is a marked improvement over Chip Kelly’s last two years in Philly. They rank 13th in run blocking, 18th in pass blocking.

Conversely, Dallas ranks 20th in defensive DVOA, 22nd against the pass, 8th against the run.  The Cowboys have allowed only 92.2 rushing yards per game, which ranks 10th best in the league. They’ve also allowed only 2 rushing touchdowns all year, which tops the NFL.

Carson Wentz

After starting the season on a tear, Carson Wentz has cooled off significantly the last two games.  Wentz has completed 118/185 passes, completing 63.8% of his passes, for 1324 yards, 8 touchdowns, 3 interceptions, 7.2 y/a, a quarterback rating of 92.7 and a QBR of 54.1.

That Wentz has regressed after Lane Johnson’s suspension is not by happenstance. Johnson’s replacement, Big V, was an unmitigated disaster against the Redskins, giving up 3 sacks. He surprisingly played better against the Vikings, who have one of the best pass rushes in the league. But some of that was by design, as Doug Pederson provided Big V help with tight end and running back chips throughout the game. Indeed, Brent Celek and Trey Burton saw their playing time increase to 48% and Burton 22% of the snaps last week to provide Big V help. That, in turn, limited the number of pass catchers out on the field. But, it’s better than Wentz being on his backside almost immediately.

Wentz should not be under duress for most of this game. The Dallas defensive line is anemic, their 11 sacks is tied for 24th in the league and their 24 quarterback hits ranks 31st.

Eagles Receivers

Since the bye week, Wentz’s target selection has been questionable: Agholor leads the team with 17 targets, Matthews is second with 15, followed by DGB (12), Ertz (9), Sproles (8), Huff (7), Mathews (6), Burton (4) and Smallwood (2). Ertz has averaged 3 targets per game since coming back from injury.

The west coast offense is designed to spread the ball around to multiple targets. But given the limitations of most of the Eagles pass catchers, it would be wise for Pederson, Reich and Wentz to start force feeding the ball to Matthews and Ertz. Agholor just is not getting it done, and feeding him the ball at a high clip is one of the reasons the offense is struggling.

The Cowboys secondary is not spectacular, but it has improved thanks in large part to Byron Jones, who is an athletic freak at the back end of the Cowboys defense. (Not to rub salt in the wounds, but the Eagles drafted Agholor ahead of Jones — yikes). The Cowboys have also benefited from improved play from Morris Claiborne. He’s allowed just 21 catches on 40 targets for 191 yards and zero touchdowns. While he has never validated his lofty draft status (6th overall in 2012), he is finally starting to serve as a functional starter.

But make no mistake, there will be opportunities to be had for the Eagles. This secondary isn’t special, so the Eagles should be able to make plays.

Ryan Mathews

Ryan Mathews has had two critical fumbles in the last three games, one of which cost the Eagles a victory. But his issues extend beyond that. He’s carried the ball 67 times for 262 yards and 3 touchdowns. His 3.9 yards per carry rank 28th out of 40 qualifying running backs. That simply is not good enough. I thought Mathews was in for a good year based on his impressive production last year, when he was clearly the best back on the team. But now, Mathews is struggling and DeMarco Murray, who was a train-wreck last year, is one of the best running backs in football again. Because, reasons.

While the Cowboys have been effective against the run, they have struggled to stop pass catchers out of the backfield. Ty Montgomery caught 10 passes for 98 yards against the Cowboys two weeks ago, while Giovani Bernard caught 6 for 46, and the Bears running backs caught 6 for 62. In other words, Darren Sproles might have himself a decent game tomorrow.

Efficiency/Avoiding Costly Mistakes/Penalties

If I were to pick one key for the Eagles offense this week, it is to be efficient and avoid costly mistakes. As you can see from the numbers, the Cowboys defense isn’t actually very good. They instead benefit from facing the third fewest plays in the league because the Cowboys offense leads the league in time of possession.

Opportunities will be few and far between, so the Eagles must avoid beating themselves. They have a habit for inopportune mistakes; a penalty negating a big play, a drop on third down, etc. They will need to limit those mistakes so that they aren’t leaving their defense on the field for extended periods of time. If they can do so, they should have a chance to put up points. But if they don’t, this could be a repeat of the loss to the Redskins.

The Pick

I have gone back and forth on this one. The Cowboys are the more complete team playing better and more disciplined football. They should win this game — indeed, they have been favored by 4.5 points all week, a tell-tale sign that Vegas thinks the Cowboys are the better team. But something tells me the Eagles defensive line will take this game personally (as the have done in the past) and will wreak havoc on Prescott and the Cowboys offense. I also expect the Eagles offense to get back on track against a Cowboys defense that has been protected by its highly efficient offense.

Give me the Birds 24-17. 

Season record: 3-3

 

 

The Eagles Should Trade for Alshon Jeffery

Patrick Causey, Follow him on Twitter @pcausey3

I am preparing for an oral argument right now, so my time is limited. But I wanted to get some quick thoughts down on the rumors that first circulated on Monday night regarding the Eagles pursuing trading for a wide receiver.

The initial report involved the Eagles in talks over San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Torrey Smith, who is a 27 year-old, one trick pony on a $9.3 million a year contract. That’s the definition of meh. But Smith still presents an upgrade over the cast of characters manning the wide receiver spots not named Jordan Matthews. That of course is more of an indictment on the Eagles receivers than it is a compliment to Smith. But I digress.

So  Howie Roseman is doing his thing, working to maximize Carson Wentz’s ability to throw deep by getting him a receiver that can stretch the field. Don’t love it. Don’t hate it. Have at it, Howie.

But then Jason La Canfora dropped this:

Whether this was a “report” or educated speculation is unclear, but it gained steam when Benjamin Allbright confirmed the talks and provided further details about the potential move.

Now this is interesting.

Yes, the history of mid-season trades is not kind, and that is putting it mildly. The Professor (no, not this Professor) John Clayton broke down 10 of the most memorable midseason trades of all-time and they were mostly memorable for how spectacularly they failed: Herschel Walker to the Vikings, John Hadl (who?) to the Packers, Roy Williams to the Cowboys (ha), and Trent Richardson to the Colts (Ryan Grigson strikes again!), highlight some of the trades on this list. So if history is any indication, trading for Jeffery is fraught with risk.

But the Eagles should still do the deal. Jeffery is a 26 year old Pro Bowl receiver. He’s 6’3, 230 lbs and runs a 4.4 40.  The Bears are only considering the move because they are in rebuilding mode and Jeffery is a free agent at the end of the season. Acquiring him at a discounted rate is a rare opportunity that the Eagles should jump on without hesitation.

Sure, it likely won’t help them compete for a Super Bowl this year — learning a new playbook on the fly is no small feat (and are the Eagles really Super Bowl contenders?) — but long term? Jeffery is a complete receiver entering the prime of his career. His production — 174 catches, 2,554 yards, 17 touchdowns, on 14.65 yards per catch from 2013-14 alone —  is something the Eagles have lacked from the receiving position since they lost Jeremy Maclin to the Kansas City Chiefs. While Jefferey isn’t lighting the world on fire this season, he would still be a significant upgrade for the Birds. Consider this:

And while Jeffery doesn’t have any touchdowns this year (something that would likely change if his quarterback wasn’t Brian Hoyer and Matt freaking Barkley), his 16.3 yards per catch rank 12th in the league, according to ESPN.com. That type of deep threat would make the Eagles offense significantly more difficult to defend and would finally provide Wentz a legitimate target to attack defenses down field. I don’t know about you, but I am getting tired watching Nelson Agholor flail at that role.

And unlike Smith, Jeffery is more than just a deep threat. He is a physical receiver, good route runner, and does a great job of making difficult caches. Watch how he brakes Jalen Mills ankles on this stop and go route in week 2 and then adjusts mid-air to make a difficult catch in traffic:

 

I didn’t have the time to make more clips of Jeffery doing Jeffery-like things, so watch this Youtube video (on mute) instead.

But this isn’t just about what Jeffery can do. It’s also about what Jeffery’s presence means for other players on the Eagles offense. For starters, Jeffery’s ability to stretch the field opens up underneath routes for Zach Ertz, Jordan Matthews and Darren Sproles to exploit and takes pressure off the much maligned running game.

It also means that Matthews no longer has to be miscast as the Eagles primary receiving option, but can instead fill the roll as a damn good number two option. And this would undoubtedly help Ertz as well. I know we joke that Ertz will break out any day now, but having a legitimate receiving threat on the outside could make life a living hell on opposing team’s safeties. Right now, they are sitting on the routes Ertz runs over the middle because they don’t have to cheat to the outside to cover Agholor, Huff or DGB. With Jeffery  on the field they could no longer do that. That extra space over the middle should make life easier for Errtz (I hope).

Two final thoughts on his injury history and the expected opportunity cost. Lots of people are complaining that Jeffery is an injury prone receiver. And while I cannot totally dismiss those concerns, I do want to provide a dose of perspective:

  • Jeffery has played in 58 of 71 possible games, which amounts to an 81.69% play rate.
  • Julio Jones has played in 72/87, which is 82.75%.
  • And Dez Bryant has played in 87/103, which is 84.4% of possible games.

I wouldn’t put Jeffery on their level as a receiver (although he’s arguably not far off Dez). But this was more to show you that a receiver can still help a team even if they are missing approximately 1/5th of their potential games.

Lastly, I would be less bullish on this move if the Eagles were offering a 1st round pick. That changes the calculation entirely. But I feel much more confident trading a mid-round pick for a potential top-10 receiver just entering his prime. As I’ve explored before, the expected start rate (i.e., amount of games a pick from a specific round has started on a historical basis) for a third round pick is 34.8% of the possible games. That number drops to 23.4% for a 4th round pick, and 17.5% for a 5th. Those aren’t great odds. So if that’s all it costs to obtain a potential top-10 reciever entering his prime? Sign me up.

 

Time to Get DGB More Touches

Patrick Causey, on Twitter @pcausey3

When the Eagles traded backup lineman Dennis Kelly to the Titans in exchange for the talented but much-maligned Dorial Green-Beckham, expectations were low. Characterized as a classic low risk, high reward move, the Eagles took a shot in the dark that a change of scenery would help DGB maximize his potential.

At first blush, DGB’s production has been underwhelming, catching 11 passes for 131 yards and zero touchdowns. Spread out over 5 games, that yields a pedestrian average of 2.2 catches and 26.2 yards per game. But prior to last week, DGB’s production had steadily improved, a sign that the coaching staff was gaining confidence in the second year receiver:

Week Rec Yds Y/R
1 2 14 7.0
2 2 18 9.0
3 3 33 11.0
5 3 43 14.33
6 1 23 23.00

Last week would have been DGB’s most productive as an Eagle but for a block in the back penalty on Wendell Smallwood that negated DGB’s impressive 38 yard catch. While most focused on how well Carson Wentz evaded pressure, kept his eyes down field and threw an accurate pass from an impossible arm angle, DGB was equally impressive, breaking off his route to provide Wentz an open target, high pointing the ball and breaking a tackle to gain another 20+ yards:

If that play stands, DGB would have ended the day with 2 catches for 61 yards and a 30.5 average yards per catch. Not record setting, but again a sign of improvement.

DGB’s most enticing asset remains his physical profile: standing at 6’5, 237 lbs and running a 4.49 40, he dwarfs every cornerback and safety in the league and even rivals the size of most linebackers. DGB has proven adept at using that size to his advantage. Against the Lions, DGB bulldozed linebacker Tahir Whitehead, who is 6’2, 241 lbs, with a stiff arm that would have made Bo Jackson proud:

 

Green-Beckham is by no means a complete receiver, something the coaching staff will readily admit. He cannot run a complete route tree — far from it — and has had problems with drops and consistency:

While Green-Beckham’s 61% catch rate is nothing to write home about, it is on par with some of the best receivers in the game, including Julio Jones (62%), Amari Cooper (60%), Mike Evans (53%), Antonio Brown (64%) and DeAndre Hopkins (54%). I know, I know, sample size! But DGB has improved significantly over last season, when he caught only 51% of the balls thrown his way. So we should be encouraged by his improvement thus far.

With Nelson Agholor and Josh Huff failing to validate their draft position, it’s time for the Eagles to expand DGB’s role in the offense. They can do this in a number of ways.

For starters, they can continue to get Green-Beckham the ball in space. Despite his size, Green-Beckham has done well creating yards after the catch, with his 67 YAC ranking third on the team. The Eagles have targeted Green-Beckham most often with wide receiver screens, where his size and speed can turn a quick 2 yard catch into 10+ yards.

But the Eagles can also start utilizing DGB as their primary deep threat. As we saw with Wentz’s first career interception, Agholor is not excelling in that role: he lacks elite speed and isn’t strong enough to fight off more physical defenders. Green-Beckham, on the other hand, has already shown that he is capable of filling this role. He’s caught two deep passes from Wentz so far this year, both on Wentz’s favorite route, the deep in. Last week was a 23 yard catch on 1st and 20, and he made a similar catch against the Steelers during their week 3 win:

Defenses aren’t respecting Agholor as a deep threat, but they would have to respect Green-Beckham given his size. Sending Green-Beckham on a few go routes per game could open up the underneath routes for Zach Ertz (who needs to step it up), Jordan Matthews and Darren Sproles and take pressure off running back Ryan Mathews, who is averaging a woeful 3.9 yards per carry on the year.

The Eagles also need to work Green-Beckham into the redzone offense. Last season, almost 10% of DGB’s catches were for touchdowns, thanks in large part to his size, strength and ability to high point the ball on fade routes. DGB flashed that potential early in the preseason, but curiously has only gotten one such opportunity during the regular season (a pass which Carson Wentz under threw):

The Eagles rank 20th in the NFL in redzone touchdown efficiency, scoring touchdowns on only 52.63% of its drives, according to TeamRankings.com. While the Vikings have arguably the league’s best defense, cornerback Xavier Rhodes is 6’1 and Terrance Newman is 5’10. In a game where points will likely be hard to come by, it makes sense for the Eagles to take advantage of the clear size mismatch that DGB provides.

Green-Beckham has a long way to go before he can become a legitimate number two receiver. But that shouldn’t stop the Eagles from taking advantage of what he does well now, especially given the lack of weapons they have at their disposal.

 

In case you missed it: I broke down the good, the bad and the ugly on the Eagles loss to the Redskins.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly from Eagles/Redskins

Patrick Causey, Follow him on Twitter @pcausey3

The Philadelphia Eagles have done what they always do: provide a false sense of hope to its long-suffering fans for just long enough to suck us back in, only to turn around crush our dreams in glorious fashion.

After starting the season a surprising 3-0, capped off with a 34-3 romp over the Super Bowl contending Pittsburgh Steelers, it should come as a surprise to no one that the Eagles subsequently lost to the lowly Detroit Lions and mediocre Washington Redskins.

And while the losses weren’t entirely shocking — again, this is the Eagles, and, this is the NFL, where parity exists by design — it’s the way the Eagles lost that has to leave the greater Delaware Valley exceedingly frustrated.

Penalties. Missed tackles. Bad coaching. Bad quarterback play. All of it was on full display in 60 minutes of football that likely took at least 2 years off my life and left me with a few more gray hairs than I started with.

So without further ado, here are the good, the bad, and the ugly take-aways from that terrible loss to the Redskins.

The Good: most of Carson Wentz’s 2nd half

I know what you are thinking: Wentz played his worst game of the season. He completed 11-22, for 179 yards, 0 tds, 0 ints, and a 77.7 quarterback rating. How on earth can you say he played well?

For starters, there wasn’t much else from which to choose. But I also thought Wentz rebounded nicely for most of the second half, making some spectacular plays to carry the Eagles back into a game they had no business being in.

Wentz has been criticized by some for not attacking defenses down field. As I’ve explained before, the criticism seems to conflate the infrequency with which Wentz attacks defenses downfield with an inability to actually do so. While the numbers support the former, there is no support whatsoever for the latter. Look no further than this sublime 54 yard completion to Jordan Matthews between two defenders.

#AirYards

Wentz has also impressed all season long with his athleticism. But unlike most athletic rookie quarterbacks, Wentz is not using his legs to take off at the first sign of trouble, but is instead using his legs to extend plays while keeping his eyes down field looking for an open receiver. That skill takes some years to cultivate, while others (see, RGIII) never figure it out.

Late in the 4th quarter with the Eagles down 7 and facing a 3rd and 9, Wentz navigated the pocket to avoid pressure, kept his eyes down field and delivered a strike to Nelson Agholor for an 18 yard gain and a first down.

Wentz’s best play of the game did not even count, thanks to a block in the back penalty on Wendell Smallwood. Wentz again used his athleticism to avoid the sack, kept his eyes down field and released the ball while being tackled to the ground. That is an Aaron Rodgers/Big Ben-esque play from a rookie quarterback making only his fifth start.

The Eagles offensive line looked like they were training for a matador bull fight. The Eagles receivers reverted back to dropping passes at the most inopportune times. And yet, Wentz persevered, rebounding from a slow start to put the Eagles on the cusp of victory. We obviously want to see more consistency from Wentz moving forward, but it was hard not to be impressed with his performance during parts of this game.

The Bad: Wentz’s 1st half (plus end of the game) and Doug Pederson

While Wentz played well in the second half, he played poorly in the first. Wentz was hit early, as the Halapoulivaati Vaitai experiment was an unmitigated disaster. This seemed to throw Wentz off his game, as he completed only 3-8 passes for 28 yards, 3.5 ypa and a 47.9 passer rating. And Wentz reverted back to his college tendency of missing receivers high. I counted at least three high passes in the first half alone which contributed to the stalled drives and played a part in allowing the Redskins to jump out to a big lead.

Wentz’s poor play continued at the worst possible time: during the Eagles final drive of the game as they tried to comeback from a touchdown deficit. Wentz was sacked twice on second and third down, thanks in large part to Wentz taking too long in the pocket to get rid of the football. These sacks were entirely avoidable. Throw the ball away. Scramble. Do anything but take the sack. They were rookie moments at the worst possible time and effectively ended the Eagles chances in the game.

Doug Pederson had a few rookie moments of his own on Sunday.  Fifth round draft pick Halapoulivaati Vaitai was making the first start of his career and faced off against Pro Bowl outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan. Yet, Pederson left Vaitai out on an island for most of the first half and at critical junctures in the second.

It’s hard to blame the rookie. Pederson either misread Big V’s readiness to start or failed to adjust quickly enough to provide him the help that he needed. While I am surprised that Pederson is sticking with Big V this week against the Vikings’ vaunted defense, Pederson needs to avoid making the same mistakes twice. Provide Big V help more frequently, and if that doesn’t work, pull him and go to the veteran Stefan Wisniewski.

Pederson also confirmed  Eagles fans’ worst fear by replicating Andy Reid’s porous clock management at the end of the game. To set the scene: the Eagles were facing 4th and 20+ yards with about 1:40 left in the game, down 7. Pederson (correctly) chose to punt the ball, hoping that the Eagles defense would get a quick 3 and out and give the ball back to the offense with enough time to tie the game.

Inexplicably, Pederson took a timeout before punting the football, leaving the Eagles with only two timeouts on the ensuing Redskins drive (remember, it was past the two minute warning by this point, so there was no other way to stop the clock).

It didn’t end up mattering since the Redskins converted on 3rd down and ran out the clock to win the game. But it could have have mattered if the Eagles got the stop on third down and had no way to stop the clock. The outcome should not overshadow the process.

Pederson deserves a pass since he has exceeded expectations so far this season. But he will need to step up his game with the undefeated Minnesota Vikings coming into town this week.

Runner up: Malcolm Jenkins: there is no way to sugarcoat this. Jenkins had one of his worst games wearing an Eagles uniform. He missed tackles, got burned by Vernon Davis on a wheel route for a big play and gave up at least one touchdown in coverage (the second was in zone coverage, so Jenkins deserves only part of the blame). Jenkins has been one of the Eagles best players for the better part of the last two seasons, so we shouldn’t be concerned about this continuing. But it was a bad game from the safety.

 

The Ugly: Referees and the Defense

Last week, I held off on writing a piece that highlighted just how bad the officiating was in the Eagles loss to the Lions. It would have sounded like sour grapes, especially since the Eagles played so poorly in the first half.

The Eagles played bad again on Sunday, but the officiating was terrible for a second week in a row. The Eagles were called for 13 penalties for 134 yards after being called for 14 penalties totaling 111 yards the week before. Combined, that’s 27 penalties for 245 yards, compared to 11 penalties for 93 yards called on their opponents.

These things usually even themselves out in the long run, and the poor officiating seems to be a league wide epidemic, but it’s hard to ignore that the Eagles have received the short end of the stick in the last two games.

Here are two side by side comparisons of calls made against the Eagles but not the Redskins. To be clear: this is not to suggest the calls against the Eagles were wrong, but this is to say that the officiating missed more blatant penalties committed by the Redskins.

With that said, the Eagles don’t deserve any excuses. The coaches and players lost this game on their own merit. Perhaps most egregiously was the performance from the defense. I counted (at least) 9 missed tackles in this game, many of which were the byproduct of players taking bad angles, using bad technique, or giving bad effort. Here is each missed tackle in one depressing video:

But it wasn’t just missed tackles. The Eagles were porous on third down, allowing the Redskins to covert 7 of 13 opportunities. This contributed, in part, to a 34 to 25 minute disparity in time of possession.

The defense (and at times, special teams), just could not get out of their own way. Consider the following sequences of plays on two different drives. On the Redskins’ first touchdown drive, the following happened:

  • The Eagles punted the ball out of bounds at the 14 yard line, but were called for a chop block, which is a 15 yard penalty. This moved the Redskins up to the 29 yard line.
  • On the next play, Destiny Vaeao was called for encroachment, giving the Redskins another free 5 yards.
  • Without doing anything, the Redskins went from being pinned inside their own 15 to the 34 yard line. According to at least one study, this increased the Redskins odds of scoring from 26.7% to 36.3%, a 10 point increase.
  • On the following play, Jalen Mills was burned by DeSean Jackson for a 35-yard gain.
  • The Redskins scored a touchdown two plays later.

Or consider this sequence of events, with the Eagles down 7 with 12:09 left in the 4th quarter:

  • Malcolm Jenkins is beaten by Vernon Davis on wheel route for a 37 yard gain.
  • Malcolm Jenkins misses an easy tackle, allowing Chris Thompson to gain about 5 more yards.
  • Rodney McLeod is called offsides, which negated one of the rare instances in which the defensive line got pressure on Cousins and forced an incompletion.
  • The Redskins ended up getting a field goal.

 

That’s 10 points the Redskins scored thanks in large part to boneheaded mistakes and penalties from the Eagles. Did I mention the Eagles lost by 7?

Runner up: Jalen Mills. The rookie cornerback had a rough game, as he was repeatedly abused by former Eagle DeSean Jackson. Mills didn’t fair much better against Pierre Garcon, as the receiver caught two big plays against Mills. The day could have been even worse, as Jackson dropped a surefire touchdown on a play in which he had Mills beaten. Yet, through it all, Mills was finger waving like he was Dikembe Mutombo. Someone should tell Mills to stop, especially when he is playing so poorly.

Big Picture

This was the second week in a row the Eagles played sloppy, undisciplined football. They don’t have enough elite talent on their roster to overcome self-inflicted wounds. If they are going to have any chance against the Vikings, they will need to get back to playing fundamentally sound football in all three phases of the game.