Eagles

Eagles film review: Carson Wentz fakes and freezes Denver's D

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Eagles film review: Carson Wentz fakes and freezes Denver's D

A few weeks ago, Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich said Carson Wentz carried out fakes better than any quarterback he's ever been around. 

Carrying out a fake is certainly a skill but more than anything it's effort and timing. 

On Sunday against the Broncos, you might have heard cornerback Chris Harris Jr. say that the Eagles run a college offense. That probably sounded a little salty after his team lost 51-23, but he also said the Eagles had the best offense they have seen this year. And there's nothing wrong with college concepts in the pro game. 

That's where we'll start: 

The zone-read play everyone remembers from Sunday's game was the touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffery and we'll get to that one next. But this play came earlier on the same drive. 

The Eagles are in 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end) with Brent Celek (circled) on the left side of the line of scrimmage. Wentz is in shotgun with Jay Ajayi lined up to his left. 


 

At the mesh point, Wentz has both linebackers pushing hard toward where the run would go. Celek (still circled in red) has engaged Shaquil Barrett and is just waiting to release. 

After Celek releases his block, Barrett sees an open lane to the quarterback, so he takes it. The problem is, Wentz is going to find Celek with a nice touch pass that goes for nine yards. 

There's an art to this for Wentz. He has to sell run and then stare down a defender to deliver a touch throw. 

•••

OK, the play you'll remember. This is the one that goes for a touchdown. The Eagles are still in 11 personnel and Jeffery (circled) is on the near side of the field. Wentz is in shotgun with Ajayi to his right. The Broncos have a single-high safety. 

Here we are at the mesh point and the Eagles have allowed Von Miller to come free. In a weird way, this is one way to neutralize him on the play. A little risky but Wentz knows what he's doing. 

The single-high safety is about to drive toward the run and the corner on Jeffery, Aqib Talib, is watching closely too. 

Got them. That safety's momentum is coming forward. Miler has an open lane to Wentz but he's not going to get there in time. And, most importantly, check out Talib (circled in green near sideline). He's stuck right here and Jeffery is about to blow past him. 

None of that would have mattered without the throw. Wentz nonchalantly tosses a beautiful ball off his back foot that hits Jeffery in stride. 

•••

The last play we'll look at happened in the second quarter from the Denver 27-yard line. The Eagles are in 12 personnel (two tight ends), so the Broncos stay in their base defense. But the Eagles split out Celek and Trey Burton. Burton (circled) is on the near side of the field and is covered by Brandon Marshall, who is a good linebacker but doesn't have a chance to cover Burton 1-on-1, even with an eight-yard cushion. 

There was no question Wentz wanted to go Burton's way on this play; there was a clear mismatch. But first, he has to make sure that safety isn't able to get there. He takes care of that with the first part of this sluggo (slant-go) route from Burton. 

It wasn't a dramatic pump fake from Wentz. Heck, it wasn't even really a pump fake. It was more of a shoulder fake (you'll see the video below), but it was enough. Burton is about to break back outside toward the end zone, but that little fake slows up the safety just enough. The safety is the only player Wentz has to be worried about; he knows Burton will beat the linebacker. 

The throw from Wentz is great. It looks underthrown but it's almost a back-shoulder throw. Marshall has no chance and the safety is just arriving too late to make a play. Had Wentz not used that little pump fake, he doesn't buy that extra split-second. Burton catches the ball and falls backward into the end zone for a touchdown to put the Eagles up 24-6. 

•••

Wentz is the favorite to win MVP this season and his league-high 23 touchdown passes obviously stand out. He's been incredible through nine games. But there's so much more to him than just the stat sheet. How he picks up some of those numbers has been incredible. His ability to freeze defenders and fake them out has really been on display.

Eagles Stay or Go — A few easy choices for once

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Eagles Stay or Go — A few easy choices for once

Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro continue our series examining the future of the world champion Eagles.

Mack Hollins
Roob: Hollins wasn't really a factor later in the season, once Torrey Smith got going, but he did show early in the year what kind of player he can be, notably with that 64-yard TD catch in the second Redskins game. Depending on what the Eagles do about Smith, Hollins should be either the Eagles' third or fourth receiver this fall. Either way, he'll be here, and I expect him to make a big jump in Year 2.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Hollins caught just 16 passes as a rookie and it seemed like he just never started producing the way he seems capable of. Even when Smith struggled, Hollins got more playing time and didn't produce. The good news is he's still young and plays a role on special teams. The Eagles will probably bolster their receiving corps in some way, but if they don't, Hollins will have a shot at starting if Smith is gone next season. 

Verdict: STAYS

Alshon Jeffery
Roob: Jeffery really played better than his stats this year. He made every big catch, caught every big third-down pass, made huge plays in the end zone. Jeffery was a star receiver without a star receiver's stats. His unselfish attitude carried over to the rest of the receivers and throughout the roster. And he did it all with a rotator cuff injury that required post-season surgery. Can't wait to see what Alshon can do healthy.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Jeffery didn't put up eye-popping numbers during the regular season, but if you needed any proof he's a No. 1 receiver, go back and watch Super Bowl LII, when he made that ridiculous catch in the end zone for a huge touchdown. The good thing about Jeffery is he really doesn't care at all about his numbers. There are a lot of diva receivers in the NFL, but Jeffery clearly isn't one of them. All he cared about last year was hoisting the Lombardi Trophy and he certainly helped get the Eagles there. 

Verdict: STAYS

Malcolm Jenkins
Roob: Jenkins has so many roles on and off the field — community activist, NFLPA organizer, locker room leader — it's easy to forget just how good a player he is. Jenkins has been here four years and has had four very solid, very consistent, very productive seasons. He made his second Pro Bowl this year and joined Bill Bradley (3) and Dawk (7) as only the third Eagles safety since 1960 to make multiple Pro Bowls. Jenkins is signed to a cap-friendly deal through 2020 and should be an Eagle for many years to come.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: As important as Jenkins is to the Eagles as a safety and defensive back, you could make a legitimate argument that he's even more important to the team as a leader and man. There's a reason he became the guy to follow up Doug Pederson's postgame speeches. He isn't just the leader of the defense; he's the leader of the entire team. And on the field, he's still playing at a really high, Pro Bowl caliber level. He's 30 now but is still signed through 2020 and maybe outside of Fletcher Cox is the Eagles' most important defensive player. 

Verdict: STAYS

Eagles Stay or Go — 2 young linebackers

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Eagles Stay or Go — 2 young linebackers

Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro continue our series examining the future of the world champion Eagles.

Darrell Greene
Roob: The Hall of Fame cornerback is now 58 years old and 21 years removed from his last Pro Bowl season with the Redskins. Oh wait … wrong Darrell Green. This is Darrell GREENE, and he's a 6-foot-3, 320-pound guard out of San Diego State who's been on the Eagles' practice squad most of the last two years. The Eagles liked Greene enough to keep him around the last couple years, and unless they see something in Chance Warmack that I missed, Greene has a chance to stick around as a young O-line prospect.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Greene has been around now for the last two seasons. He was without a team for most of 2017; the Eagles didn't bring him back to the practice squad until December. The offensive guard had some real potential coming out of San Diego State, and the Eagles paid him a lot of guaranteed money to sign as an undrafted free agent before 2016. But he's never really impressed them enough to stick around for good. 

Verdict: GOES

Jordan Hicks
Roob: With Hicks, it's always about durability, not ability. Hicks has played more than half a season only once in his three NFL seasons, and since he's under contract for 2018 with a modest $2.068 million cap figure, he's obviously not going anywhere. The question is what the Eagles do with him after 2018 when he's due to become a free agent. Hicks can play. We all know that. He needs to prove this year that he can stay healthy in order to get a big-money deal a year from now.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Losing Hicks was a problem in 2017 and his absence started showing up late in the season. He's a big-time playmaker. It's a shame he got hurt last year because if he didn't, he'd be in line for a payday. For now, he'll be back in the final year of his four-year rookie contract until he can prove he's the same player he was pre-injury. 

Verdict: STAYS

Kamu Grugier-Hill
Roob: Grugier-Hill must be Howie Roseman's dream. He's signed at the minimum through 2019 but is an awfully valuable member of the roster — a reserve linebacker and emergency kicker and maybe the team's best special teamer. Kamu's not going anywhere.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: He really doesn't play at all as a linebacker, but Grugier-Hill has become one of the best special teams players in the NFL and had a real chance to be named a Pro Bowler in 2017. He led the team in special teams tackles with 19 last season. He's still young, cheap and is a big part of Dave Fipp's group. 

Verdict: STAYS