Eagles

Carson Wentz recycling plays from North Dakota State days

ap-carson-wentz-doug-pederson-eagles.jpg
AP Images

Carson Wentz recycling plays from North Dakota State days

This touchdown had everything but Carson Wentz and Corey Clement wearing green and yellow North Dakota State Bison jerseys.

Wentz's third-quarter touchdown pass to Clement Monday night, which gave the Eagles a 24-10 lead over the Redskins on their way to a 34-24 win, came on a play Wentz borrowed from his college playbook.

"That worked out well," Clement said. "He needs to bring more plays from North Dakota State."

Wentz said the play is one he felt comfortable with in college and generally worked in college, so why not try it here? 

"It's been effective, it's got good answers kind of all over the field," he said. "We mix it up with different things, too. It's not the same play every time, but it's something that fits us well."

Wentz said it's not that unusual for him or the other quarterbacks to make suggestions or bring in plays from previous stops.

"Nick (Foles) brings plays from offenses he used to be a part of, everybody's got plays that they love, and we can just have that open dialogue, that open conversation about what we like, why we think it's effective," Wentz said.

"Sometimes they get in the gameplan, sometimes they don't, but that's just the cool part of having a bunch of smart guys that know the game. When they all come together in that quarterback room, there's a lot of ideas flowing."

This is a 24-year-old, second-year quarterback with 23 starts under his belt that's suggesting plays to Doug Pederson and Frank Reich, who have a combined 47 years of NFL playing and coaching experience.

But this isn't an ordinary 24-year-old quarterback. Wentz is playing at an MVP level, and his knowledge and understanding of the offense is so deep that when he speaks, Pederson and Reich listen.

Intently.

"Sometimes plays have a good mojo for you, you've had a lot of success, you've got a lot of confidence in them," Reich said. "I think what happens when you run a play over and over again, you see it against all kinds of different coverages, you see it against different coverage techniques and leverage that defenders play, and really good quarterbacks learn how to beat any coverage when they have one play that they really like, and you feel like you can't stop the play. 

"And even as we've repped that play, and we have different variations of that play so teams can't zero in on it and ways to disguise it and ways to counter off of that play, but even in practice when we run the versions of that play, you can just see Carson just work the progressions and get to every receiver in the progression. 

"I mean, literally all five receivers have caught that ball in practice and have caught that on that particular route."

Clement was Wentz's last option Monday night, but it didn't matter that Clement's an undrafted running back who only caught only two touchdowns in college. 

Wentz went his way, and Clement made a circus TD catch.

"You can tell the type of trust they have in Carson," Clement said. "It's pretty awesome. They're open to all the suggestions that he has, all the corrections he thinks he might see on the field, especially after practice, and it just goes to show you the growth that he's made since he got here."

Wentz said there have been times he's actually gotten in touch with the North Dakota State football office and had them send him film of specific plays so he can relay the details to his coaches.

"Then we can run it in practice and I can convince them," he said. "It’s cool to have that relationship, that dynamic with Coach Reich, with Coach Pederson, that they respect my opinion when I bring them things like that. 

"I just love that relationship, that we can just bring up those ideas."

Eagles Injury Update: Jake Elliott (concussion) cleared to play vs. Bears

injury-report-eagles.jpg

Eagles Injury Update: Jake Elliott (concussion) cleared to play vs. Bears

After a week of worrying, everyone can finally relax. 

Jake Elliott is going to play on Sunday. 

The Eagles' kicker officially cleared the NFL's concussion protocol on Friday morning, when he was cleared by an independent neurologist. Throughout the week it looked likely that Elliott would be able to play, but it didn't become official until Friday. 

Elliott suffered a concussion against the Cowboys during the first half of Sunday's game at AT&T Stadium. The Eagles needed to finish the game going for two-point conversions and with linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill kicking off. 

Beau Allen (knee) and Trey Burton (back) will both be game-time decisions, according to head coach Doug Pederson. 

Burton's back spasms came from the game on Sunday and he has been dealing with the issue all week. He missed practice on Thursday. If Burton can't play, the Eagles would go into Sunday's game with two tight ends — Zach Ertz and Brent Celek. If Burton is inactive, Celek will likely have an increased role, Pederson said. 

If Allen can't play, it's likely rookie Elijah Qualls will be active for the first time since the Arizona game. Qualls has played just eight defensive snaps all season. 

Eagles' defense on historic run of eliminating big plays

ap-eagles-defense-cowboys.jpg
AP Images

Eagles' defense on historic run of eliminating big plays

Big plays killed the Eagles last year. They allowed the second-most 20-yard plays in the NFL, the third-most 30-yard plays and the third-most 40-yard plays.

Those plays have largely evaporated this year, and the Eagles' ability to reduce — and lately eliminate — big plays has contributed tremendously to their eight-game winning streak and NFL-best 9-1 record.

“We're just all doing our job, nothing more, nothing less," Patrick Robinson said. "When the plays are presenting itself, we make those plays. It’s been huge for us so far. Make them throw it down in front of us." 

After last year's barrage of long passes and big runs, the Eagles, this year, rank third in the NFL in 40-yard plays allowed, third in 30-yard plays and second in 20-yard plays.

The improvement is astonishing.

It's been a month and a half since an opposing offense last hit a play longer than 32 yards against the Eagles — the Chargers game, to be specific. 

That's six straight games without allowing a big play.

That's the Eagles' longest stretch without an opposing play longer than 32 yards in at least 25 years.

“Last year, it was something we wanted to correct going into this year," Malcolm Jenkins said. "Big plays, it’s a group effort. And that’s the D-line included in that, linebackers, DBs. 

"I think one of the factors when it comes to passes down the field, I think the corners and the guys on the outside are doing a good job challenging down the field and quarterbacks don’t have a lot of time to throw it down the field, so we get hit with a lot of quick plays, and we’re tackling well, so we don’t have those missed tackles and plays going for 20, 30 yards. 

"All those things are contributing to it. And we’re doing a great job on third down, so we’re giving ourselves an opportunity to get off the field, and we’re not allowing them to score quickly. They’ve got to dink and dunk it, and eventually, we win on third down."

Let's take a look at the longest plays the Eagles have allowed in each of their last six games:

Cardinals [34-7 win]: Passing - 28 yards, Rushing - 14 yards
Panthers [28-23 win]: Passing - 20, Rushing - 20
Redskins [34-24 win]: Passing - 32, Rushing - 15
49ers [33-10 win]: Passing - 24, Rushing - 12
Broncos [51-23 win]: Passing - 32, Rushing - 9
Cowboys [37-9 win]: Passing - 19, Rushing - 22

During that same span, there have been 233 offensive plays league-wide longer than any play the Eagles have given up.

Like Jenkins said, it's going to be very difficult to drive 80 yards down the field against the Eagles without hitting any big plays. They're ranked second in the NFL on third down coversion rate at 29.1 percent, behind only the Vikings (28.5 percent).

And during these last six games, the Eagles have allowed only eight offensive touchdowns. Three of them came on short fields. So they've only given up five TD drives longer than 52 yards since Week 5. Just one in the last three games.

Limiting big plays means limiting touchdowns. And that wins games. It's a pretty simple formula.

"Defensively, there are a lot of different things you want to do, but the very first thing you want to do is stop a drive," defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said.

"The thing that correlates the highest to scoring plays, whether it's a field goal or ends up being a touchdown, are plus-20 [yard] plays. You don't want to play conservative. There's a fine line there, too. You [might] not give up [a 20-yard play] the whole time and just let somebody matriculate down the field. 

"I think we're a good tackling team. I think we're a good communicating team, and we've had a lot of different guys get experience. Our lineup was a little bit different just about every game early in the season. Some guys got hurt early in games, and they were filling roles. I think as the season has gone on we've settled down. I think that's probably the biggest part of that."

Of the eight plays of at least 35 yards the Eagles have allowed this year, three were Philip Rivers passes, two were Alex Smith passes, one was an Eli Manning pass and the other was a 35-yard run by Austin Ekeler of the Chargers on his first carry of the year.

When you tackle well and communicate well, those big plays just aren't going to happen. 

For the sake of comparison, since the Eagles last allowed an offensive play longer than 35 yards, the rest of the NFC East has allowed 27 of them.

“I’d say communication (is) definitely a big factor," Nigel Bradham said. "And also chemistry. Guys understand the scheme and how to play together with one another and have a good understanding of the scheme. It’s our second year in the scheme, most of us, some guys in their first year contributing, but we’re learning and everybody’s just feeding off each other.

"We just motivate ourselves. We trying to get off the field and get our offense on the field. We know what we have on the offensive side of the ball. Their ability to put up points is unbelievable. So we’re just trying to get them on the field as much as we can."