Eagles

Eagles Film Review: Despite numbers, Fletcher Cox disruptive vs. Falcons

Eagles Film Review: Despite numbers, Fletcher Cox disruptive vs. Falcons

For the fifth straight game on Sunday, Fletcher Cox didn't record a sack. 

If you were to just look at his lack of sack numbers, it would be easy to draw the conclusion that the veteran who signed a contract worth $64 million guaranteed this offseason isn't living up to the deal. 

Despite not sacking the quarterback on Sunday, Cox was extremely disruptive against the Falcons. 

He finished the game with one QB hit, but had six hurries that either set up his teammates or affected Matt Ryan. Cox faced double-teams for a lot of the game, but when he got 1-on-1s, he did his damage. 

Here's a look at Cox's disruptiveness from Sunday: 

On this first play, with 3:25 left in the first quarter, Cox is lined up on right guard Chris Chester, who had a tough afternoon against the Pro Bowler. This was a key 3rd-and-11 from the Atlanta 25-yard line. 

Nothing too special from Cox on this play. Cox goes wide and Chester tries to get him wider, but Cox is too strong. He collapses the pocket and forces Ryan to throw somewhat off his back foot. Ryan is able to complete an 8-yard pass to Mohamed Sanu, but Malcolm Jenkins tackles him short of the sticks. 

This next play comes with 1:27 left in the first half. The Falcons just got the ball back at the Eagles' 42-yard line following a Carson Wentz fumble. Cox is again lined up against Chester, with Brandon Graham to his left. 

Cox uses his hands and makes a move inside, which gives him a clear path to Ryan. Eventually, Chester is able to get enough of a block on Cox to make sure he doesn't sack the quarterback, but the damage on this play is done. The pocket is gone and Ryan has to try to step up to avoid the pressure. 

Graham gets credit for the six-yard sack, but it was Cox who forced the pressure. This sack was huge because three plays later, Matt Bryant missed a 53-yard field goal. 

This next play comes in the fourth quarter. The Falcons already have the lead, so the Eagles need to hold them. (They do and then take the lead back on the ensuing drive.)

The Falcons show a sweep to the left, but it's a play action. 

Off the play action, Ryan has what looks to be a huge pocket. But Cox is about to absolutely wreck it. Still working 1-on-1 against Chester, he moves the 300-pound lineman out of the way and gets his quarterback hit on Ryan. Incomplete pass. 

Here's a video to prove just how strong Cox can be: 

Two plays later, Cox shows off his quickness. Cox is again lined up against Chester, but he doesn't stay that way. 

Cox works to his right and is so quick, left guard Andy Levitre doesn't see him until he's already past him. In an effort to avoid the rush, Ryan quickly delivers a pass that falls incomplete. 

Most of the pressure that Cox generated on Sunday came from 1-on-1s, but he was doubled for much of the afternoon. When he was, his teammates were able to sometimes take advantage of their 1-on-1s. 

The bottom line is this: Cox might not have the numbers, but he's still playing at a high level. We'll leave you with a reminder of just how often Cox gets doubled: 

Yeah, he's still good. 

Eagles-Redskins predictions by our (cough) experts

Eagles-Redskins predictions by our (cough) experts

For the second straight game, the Birds are in primetime. And this time, it's in front of the home fans. 

Following last week's Thursday night win over the Panthers, the 5-1 Eagles host the 3-2 Redskins Monday night (8:30 p.m./ESPN).

It's a massive opportunity to sweep the Redskins and take control of the NFC East. 

Our experts provide their predictions for Week 7:

Reuben Frank (6-0)
Do you really think I’m going to pick against the Eagles now? Heck, I might not pick against them the rest of the year. Maybe at Seattle. Honestly, I look at the schedule and the way they’re playing? The way Carson Wentz is playing? Unless something fundamental changes — which in this league is always possible — it could be a while before they lose a football game. The Eagles are rolling in all phases, and Monday night will be a good test — the Redskins are 3-1 since losing the opener to the Eagles, with the only loss to the same Chiefs team that handed the Eagles their only loss. The 'Skins are sixth in offense and 12th in defense. They lead the NFL in yards per pass play. They can be explosive. They’re eighth in rush defense. Nothing will come easy for the Eagles Monday night. But the Redskins are not coming into the Linc and winning. Eagles go to 6-1 and virtually clinch the NFC East Monday night with a win.

Eagles 31, Redskins 21

Dave Zangaro (4-2)
Washington seems like a much more dangerous team than the one the Eagles faced in the opener on Sept. 10. 

But the Eagles are a heckuva lot more dangerous too. 

Since the Eagles went to Washington and came away with a win in the opener, Washington has gone 3-1. But the Eagles have gone 4-1 with the one loss coming to the Chiefs. The Eagles have the best record in football. 

So sure, they shouldn't head into this Monday night game expecting a cakewalk but they should absolutely expect to win. They're the better team. 

Kirk Cousins has played well as of late but the Eagles' defensive line was able to get after him in Week 1. If that group does it again, it won't matter how good Cousins is throwing the ball. As good as Cousins has been recently, Wentz has been equally impressive, vaulting his name into the forefront of the MVP conversation. This week he'll go against a banged up Washington secondary. 

The Eagles have a chance to further extend their lead in the NFC East and they shouldn't have a problem doing it. 

Eagles 31, Redskins 23

Derrick Gunn (5-1)
Because they have the best record in the NFC, the Eagles have a huge target on their backs and everybody is gunning for them. On Monday night, the Redskins are hoping to take them down a notch. The ‘Skins come limping to the Linc. Their star rookie defensive lineman Jonathan Allen is done for the year with a Lisfranc injury. Their starting cornerbacks Josh Norman (rib) and Bashaud Breeland (knee) both might miss this key divisional showdown.

Wentz has the Eagles' offense rolling, and the defense has been rock solid against the run. Cousins will go after a Birds secondary ranked 29th against the pass (273.5 yards per game). One of the key matchups to watch closely is how the Eagles will try to defend against ‘Skins running back Chris Thompson, who is Washington’s leading rusher. More importantly, he’s their leading receiver, averaging 18.9 yards per catch.

In Week 1 the Eagles sacked Cousins 4 times, but since then he’s only been sacked 4 times. The Birds broke the ‘Skins jinx in the season opener. I look for the home team to make it a season sweep.

Eagles 28, Redskins 24

Ray Didinger (5-1)
The Redskins are playing better now than they were when the Eagles defeated them in Week 1. The offense is more balanced and they have found an explosive weapon at running back in Thompson, who is averaging almost 19 yards per reception. The defense is not making as many mental mistakes but it will miss top draft pick Allen, who broke his foot last week.

Still, the formula for beating the Redskins is the same as it was a month ago and that is getting pressure on Cousins. The Redskins quarterback is having a good year — his 106.4 passer rating trails only Alex Smith and Tom Brady — but if the Eagles can harass Cousins as effectively as they did in the opener they will complete the season sweep of the Redskins. I think they will.

Eagles 30, Redskins 21

Andrew Kulp (5-1)
Everything points to the Eagles here. They’re a hot team, well rested, the offense is clicking and the quarterback is absolutely feeling it. Washington will be without Norman and possibly Breeland at cornerback as well, among other injuries, so this is a shorthanded group.

The only concerns are it’s a divisional matchup, which tend to be close games, and whether the extra few days off knocks the Eagles out of a rhythm. Otherwise, it’s clear which is the healthier and more talented squad. Oh yeah, and the capacity Lincoln Financial Field crowd is going to be extra lathered up for a Monday night.

Eagles 41, Redskins 24

Corey Seidman (3-3)
The Eagles are getting healthier and the Redskins are not. First-round defensive lineman Allen is out for the season, and both of Washington's starting cornerbacks (Norman and Breeland) are banged up.

Add in the fact that the Redskins haven't yet been able to get Terrelle Pryor or Jordan Reed going and this just looks like an Eagles win, which would give them a commanding lead in the NFC East and go a long way toward helping them secure a playoff bye. Yep, I'm already going there.

Zach Ertz dominates the 'Skins again, Alshon Jeffery finds pay dirt and the Eagles improve to 6-1.

Eagles 31, Redskins 23

Andy Schwartz (5-1) 
No suspense here.

After an impressive victory over the Panthers, how can we pick the Eagles to lose?

Which doesn’t mean they won’t. Every team throws in a clunker now and then. But until this team does, I’m not going to predict it. Especially when they’re well rested and playing at home against a team they’ve already beaten this season.

The Eagles are favored by 4.5 with an over/under of 48.5. Seems about right. A late Jake Elliott field goal covers the spread but isn’t enough for the over.

Eagles 27, Redskins 20

Nelson Agholor focused simply on having fun in midst of turnaround season

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USA Today Images

Nelson Agholor focused simply on having fun in midst of turnaround season

Don't talk to Nelson Agholor about his stats. Don't even try.

He doesn't want to hear about it.

Here we are in Week 7, and Agholor needs 45 yards Monday night against the Redskins for a career receiving high. For a full season.

His four touchdowns are already more than his combined career total of three from his first two years. His 16.1 yards per catch is 10th-best in the NFL and light years above his career high of 11.0 coming into the season.

Impressed?

“Not really," Agholor said. "I just look at how much fun I’m having and team success, and that’s the best part about this situation.

"If somebody came in and told me all my numbers and statistics, all that type of stuff? The best part of it is we’re winning a lot of football games right now and we’re having a whole lot of fun doing it."

Six games into the season, Agholor has 20 catches for 321 yards.

Compare that with the last seven weeks of last year, when a disappointing career turned into a disaster and he caught just 11 catches for just 108 yards.

Agholor just shrugs.

“That’s a great thing," he said. "I’m having so much more fun this year, so that’s the best part. I’m having more fun than my first two years in the league.

"They go hand in hand. The more fun you have, because winning is fun, making plays is fun, but there’s just a feeling about stepping on the field and enjoying the moment and enjoying the opportunity."

In his first two years, Agholor's best games went for 57, 62 and 64 yards. Already this year, he's had games with 55, 58, 86 and 93 yards.

So in just six weeks, he's produced four of his seven-best games as a pro.

We heard about it all spring, and we heard about it all summer, and Agholor has backed up all the talk about becoming a different guy with production.

He really has become a different guy.

Head coach Doug Pederson noticed it the first day of OTAs.

"Part of my message to him, specifically to Nelson, after the season, was just get away," Pederson said. "Get away, clear your mind, clear everything, and when he came back in the spring for OTAs, he was a changed football player. He was a changed person. His confidence level was higher. 

"I would say it wasn't like through the roof as it is now, but it was beginning to build at that point of the spring, and each day that he got a little more comfortable in his new role of playing in the slot helped that. And I think, too, the addition of Torrey (Smith) and Alshon (Jeffery) on the perimeter also took a little of the pressure off of him and diverted it to all three of them."

The move to the slot gave Agholor ownership of a specific position and created matchup problems for defenses that just don't have the speed to cover Jeffery and Smith outside and Agholor inside.

“It’s a great opportunity for me to just run different routes and give a different look," Agholor said. "I like playing outside, inside, wherever. I just like being a guy that you can get the football to, so I want to know as much as I can in terms of the route tree to help myself be a better football player, and Doug decided this was a great place for me to get those targets, and I’m very appreciative."

This time last year, Wentz wasn't even looking Agholor's way. Now, other than tight end Zach Ertz, he's become his favorite receiver.

"A guy like that, I’m just so happy for him," Carson Wentz said. "He’s one of the hardest-working guys I’ve ever been around. And so to see him kind of take that step? And really the biggest thing I think we’ve all seen is just his confidence is just through the roof, and that’s really been exciting for him, exciting for this team, exciting for this whole city."

One of the biggest differences in Agholor this year is his ability to make plays after the catch.

With his new-found confidence, he actually looks faster. Through six games, Agholor has 143 yards after the catch, or 7.2 yards per reception. He had 113 YACs all last year, just 3.1 yards per catch.

“It’s a want-to thing," he said. "First is securing the catch and then just the want-to after that.

"I’ve just been in position. Been in position to catch the ball and then grass in front of me and making plays. I just hope to be in position or often."

Here we are six games into the season, and Agholor and not Jeffery or Smith leads all Eagles wide receivers in yards so far this year.

And Agholor and Tyreek Hill of the Chiefs are the only NFL receivers with more than one 50-yard touchdown catch. Agholor had a 58-yarder on opening day against the Redskins and a 72-yarder against the Cards.

None of this surprises Agholor.
 
"I expected to keep on trusting the process and keep on getting better each day and then letting opportunity meet preparation," Agholor said. "And for me, I think like I have a lot more to do and I want to keep on getting better as a football player."