Eagles

Eagles Film Review: Getting the ball to Nelson Agholor in space

Eagles Film Review: Getting the ball to Nelson Agholor in space

We saw a different Nelson Agholor during the Eagles' 30-17 win over Washington on Sunday. He followed up his excellent offseason with a career game, setting career highs in catches and receiving yards (see story)

Now, it's probably too early to definitively say it's going to last. After all, he had a big touchdown in Week 1 last year too. 

But he clearly looked more confident on Sunday. That could be a big boost for the Eagles because while Agholor isn't a starter outside anymore, he still has a huge role as their slot receiver. 

And on Sunday, we got an idea of one way the Eagles really want to use him this season. Doug Pederson wants to get the ball into Agholor's hands in space. 

"Putting the ball in Nelson's hands can be exciting with his speed that he has," Pederson said on WIP Monday morning. 

So with that in mind, we'll take a look at three plays from Sunday's game where Pederson simply tried to get the ball in Agholor's hands. They worked to varying degrees. 

This is the play we've heard a ton about during and since the game. It happened in the first quarter (6:37 left) on 2nd-and-9 and resulted in a fumble. It was a disastrous play. 

Pederson explained that this play was a run play, a read-pass option, and Carson Wentz decided to get the ball to Agholor as an "advantage throw" because Washington showed zone coverage. "It turns into basically a punt return on the perimeter," Pederson said. 

The play ended up being a backwards pass, but it never should have been. The throw is designed to go forward. 

Live, I thought the play call was atrocious. After rewatching it, I'm still not convinced it was a great call, but this wasn't all on Pederson. Three different Eagles screwed up on this play. The call wasn't great but the execution was much worse. 

Before the snap, Agholor was brought in motion behind Wentz in the shotgun. On Monday, Pederson admitted that Agholor got a little too deep, which eventually helped lead to the play's failure. 

You'll notice on the outside, Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith are in 1-on-1 coverage and their blocking assignments on the play are pretty simple. 

At the point of the throw, it's clear to see the problem with how deep Agholor was. The pass was never supposed to go backwards but Wentz doesn't have much of a choice. Agholor is three yards behind him. 

Also, you'll notice at the top of the screen that CB Kendall Fuller dissects the play early and has already blown past Smith, who completely whiffed on the block. That's the second ingredient that led to the disaster. 

The third is the throw. It's a little early to see here, but Wentz completely soars the ball. The fumble could have been avoided if he places it in Agholor's hands. 

Agholor almost pulls it down, but the defender is already in his face thanks to Smith's whiff block and the fumble is inevitable. 

One more thing: Smith needs to get on this football. He probably thought it was an incompletion but if the quarterback is jumping in the pile, it's a bad look to stand there and watch. 

This next play call I thought was tremendous. While it is pretty unique, the Eagles actually ran this play early in the 2016 season against Chicago. Back in Week 2 last year, the Eagles ran it late in the third quarter on a 1st-and-10 from the Bears' 14-yard line. It went for an eight-yard gain. 

This time, the Eagles ran the play on the first snap of the second quarter from the Washington 8-yard line on 2nd-and-4. It went for a five-yard gain, but it should have been a touchdown. The only major difference in design from last year was this time the play went to the right. 

I also seem to remember Chip Kelly running these types of plays with DeSean Jackson when they were together. 

On Sunday, Wentz is lined up under center, with LeGarrette Blount in the backfield. Agholor (circled) is at the bottom of the screen and is about to go in motion. 

Agholor is speeding toward the backfield, which gives the appearance of a possible jet sweep. The Eagles run those types of plays to Agholor fairly often, so Washington was probably prepared for it. 

Here, you'll see Agholor's ability to stop on a dime, as Wentz pulls off a little play action look. By this point, Jeffery is taking Josh Norman out of the play and there's a lot of space to the right side of the field. 

Safety D.J. Swearinger (circled in green) is the only chance Washington has of stopping a touchdown. 

This should be six points. Agholor has an easy couple steps on Swearinger, but the pass needs to be perfect. It isn't. Wentz lofts it a little bit, which will allow Swearinger to make a touchdown-saving tackle. 

Agholor makes a tremendous grab on a high pass, but it slowed him down just enough to let the defender back into the play. Still, Swearinger had to dive at his ankles to make the tackle. 

The Eagles scored two plays later on a short pass to Blount. 

Here's what the play looked like in real time. Great design:

This last play we'll look at came in the fourth quarter on 3rd-and-9. This design is much simpler. It's basically just a bubble screen to Agholor, who should have Jeffery and Smith — two pretty big receivers — to block. 

Agholor (circled) is at the top of the screen and will come in motion toward the near side. 

Simple enough. Little bubble screen. Agholor is now behind his two teammates who have pretty straight-forward blocking assignments on the play. Block the guy in front of them. 

Neither did. Both Jeffery and Smith missed blocks and the play was doomed, which was a shame for the Eagles because there was a lot of space on that side of the field, and Lane Johnson was getting to the next level to block. Instead of a big gain, Agholor was dropped for a loss of one. 

Some of these plays worked on Sunday and some of them failed. But the failure probably won't deter Pederson from going back to them simply because even on the plays that failed there was opportunity present. On these types of plays, everything needs to be perfect. Agholor has to be in exactly the right place, his blockers need to block and Wentz needs his throws to be on the money. 

If nothing else, though, Sunday's game gave us a pretty clear example of how the Eagles want to use Agholor for the rest of the season. 

Jay Gruden 'very upset' Eagles were able to land Carson Wentz

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Jay Gruden 'very upset' Eagles were able to land Carson Wentz

Washington head coach Jay Gruden has faced Carson Wentz just three times so far.

That's all he needed to think Wentz is special.  

"I think he's progressed at a rate as fast as anybody I've seen really," Gruden said on a conference call with Philly reporters on Thursday. "His ability to make plays in the pocket, his ability to stay in the pocket in the face of a rush and still deliver balls accurately, his command of the offense. 

"I think he's already proven this short in his career that he's one of the top quarterbacks in the league, quite frankly, and he's going to be for a long time. And I don't know how he got to Philadelphia. And I'm very upset about that." 

Wentz is 1-2 against Washington in his first three games, but that first win came in this season's opener on the road. In that game, Wentz completed 66 percent of his passes for 307 yards, two touchdowns and one pick, for a passer rating of 96.8. 

And Wentz has gotten even better since then. He's now the favorite in Vegas to win the NFL MVP. 

When asked how daunting it might become to face Wentz twice per season for the foreseeable future, Gruden pointed out that it's similar to the Cowboys and Dak Prescott. Then he pointed out they still have to face Eli Manning twice per season. 

"Every week it seems like we're playing against an excellent quarterback and knowing that Wentz is going to be there for a long period of time just puts a few more gray hairs on my head," Gruden said. "But love the competition and it's our job to get after him and make him uncomfortable." 

While Wentz is clearly the Eagles' quarterback of the future, things are a little cloudier in Washington, where Kirk Cousins is in his second year of playing on a franchise tag. 

Gruden said the "intent" is to have Cousins for the long-term, but it's already been a long saga and there's still no deal in place. 

Cousins has had a crazy career path. He began as Robert Griffin III's backup after being taken three rounds later in the same draft in 2012. But he won the starting job and he's started every game for Washington the last three seasons. 

Thursday, on a conference call with Philly reporters, Cousins said he thought there was a good chance the Eagles were going to draft him in 2012. He felt that way after meeting with Howie Roseman and Andy Reid before the draft. But instead, the Eagles took Nick Foles 14 spots ahead of him. 

After watching the Eagles rotate quarterback since then, Cousins doesn't have any hard feelings. 

"I think the Eagles have ended up with the guy that they want," Cousins said. "I think they're really excited about Carson Wentz and for good reason. They're one of the best teams in the league on third down, and some of the plays he's making off-schedule are very special. I think they're very content and I'd like to think the Redskins are as well. Hopefully, it can make for a great rivalry that a lot of fans can get behind and get excited about, hopefully, for many years ahead."

Doug Pederson responds to Chris Thompson's comments about Eagles fans

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Doug Pederson responds to Chris Thompson's comments about Eagles fans

Redskins running back Chris Thompson doesn't want to bring his family to the Linc Monday night because he's afraid of what Eagles fans will do.

Doug Pederson hopes Thompson changes his mind.

"Philly fans are some of the meanest fans I've ever experienced," Thompson told ESPN radio's Washington affiliate, ESPN 980, on Wednesday, according to a story in the Washington Post.

"I heard that's the one stadium you keep your family from going to. My family will be (up from Florida) this week, and they were like, 'I want to come to the Philly game.' I said, 'Absolutely not, you're going to have to wait until Dallas comes around. … I was told that right away my rookie year: Keep your family away."

Pederson said he loves Eagles fans and the energy and passion they bring but also said he hopes Thompson or any opposing player feels comfortable bringing his family to the Linc.  

"I just know that playing at home is a great advantage for us," Pederson said before practice Thursday. "Our fans are great, they're energetic, I love playing at the Linc. 

"You know, I hope every family can watch their sons play. I think it's important that they're there and have a chance to watch their siblings play, brothers, sisters, parents, grandparents.

"Right now in the league, every stadium is great for the home team and ours is no different. We're just excited now to finally be getting a stretch of games where we can play for the home fans."

Thompson, a fifth-year running back out of Florida State, has played at the Linc twice, in 2015 and 2016, both Redskins wins.

The Eagles, 5-1, host the 3-2 Redskins in a national TV game Monday night at the Linc. The Eagles are 8-2 at home under Pederson, including a 2-0 mark this year, although they're only 4-6 at home against the Redskins over the last 10 years.