Eagles Film Review: Run game struggled early against Bengals

Eagles Film Review: Run game struggled early against Bengals

Carson Wentz threw 60 passes on Sunday afternoon in Cincinnati. Sixty!

That's an incredible number, but it came from the fact that the Eagles got down in the 32-14 loss very early. At one point, they were down 29-0, so they needed to pass to get back into the game. 

But, believe it or not, they tried to establish the run early. Of their 16 called rushing plays during the game, nine of them came on their first three drives. They were wildly unsuccessful running the ball early. 

On those nine carries, they picked up just 14 yards (1.56 yards per attempt) and lost yardage on three of them. Six of those carries belonged to Wendell Smallwood, who did break off a nine-yarder, and three belonged to Darren Sproles. As you'll see, the Bengals didn't simply just stack the box on every play early. The Eagles had opportunities and they didn't make the most of them.  

Perhaps the Eagles really did miss Ryan Mathews in this game. In the two games without Mathews, the Eagles rushed for 81 and then 53 yards. 

Here's a look at what went wrong early for the Eagles' run game against Cincinnati: 

The Eagles came out ready to run. This is the very first play from scrimmage on Sunday afternoon. Carson Wentz is in shotgun with Smallwood lined up to his left. Brent Celek is on the left side of the line. Smallwood is about to run off the left end. 

Linebacker Vincent Rey clearly saw where this play was going; it was pretty clear it was going left. Had this been an inside draw play, or if he cut it upfield, Smallwood might have had a hole. 

Instead, the linebacker pushes him wider and eventually Jason Peters loses his block. This play was a loss of two yards and helped expedite a quick three-and-out. 

On the next drive, after the Bengals went up 3-0, the Eagles are sticking with the run. It's still early, Smallwood is in the backfield and the Eagles have a hat for a hat in the box. 

Off the snap, right guard Brandon Brooks does his job and opens up a hole. At this point, Smallwood is probably thinking he has a nice gain coming his way. 

But Domata Peko, who seemed to disrupt the Eagles for much of the afternoon, sheds his block from Stefen Wisniewski and quickly fills the hole. 

Smallwood is swallowed by Bengals defenders after a short two-yard gain. Now, the next run did go for nine yards, but eventually the Eagles' drive stalled and they punted away. 

Now, the Eagles are on their third drive of the game and they're already down 10-0. But they still don't want to give up on the run just yet. In fact, on their third drive of the game, they ran the ball five times. 

By the time this play happens, early in the second quarter, they have already picked up three first downs on this drive and they're moving. Doug Pederson is going to stick with the run. It's 1st-and-10 from the Cincinnati 33-yard line. 

On this play, Wentz is in pistol with Sproles behind him. They have Celek off the right tackle at the snap. 

The Eagles have Brooks pull to the left side of the line, which briefly creates a hole up the gut. And the little misdirection at least gets linebacker Karlos Dansby leaning the wrong way and is about to get picked up by Peters. 

But safety Shawn Williams doesn't get fooled by the little misdirection. He's there to fill the hole and stop this play for a 1-yard gain. 

The Eagles followed this play with an incomplete pass and then a run that went for a loss of one before Caleb Sturgis doinked a field goal off the right upright. 

On the ensuing drive, the Bengals went up 13-0 and never really looked back. The Eagles showed that they wanted to establish the run on Sunday, but they failed. And then they had to try to pass to get back in the game. 

Eagles' rookie schools veteran in intense practice

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Eagles' rookie schools veteran in intense practice

Rasul Douglas made a huge play during the special teams portion of Wednesday's practice. Going 1-on-1 against veteran special teamer Najee Goode, the Eagles' rookie plowed through him and sent Goode to the turf inside the practice bubble. 

Goode bounced up and locked down the next rep, but for a few seconds, there was pure exuberance on the practice field. A bunch of Douglas' teammates ran toward him and celebrated, while coaches gave him kudos. 

A couple hours later, Douglas didn't even remember it. 

"What play?" the rookie asked. 

After making sure he was serious, out came an iPhone to show Douglas this video: 

"Oh, I don't even remember that," he said. 

While Douglas might have been locked in and focused enough to forget about the most exciting play during the open portion of Wednesday's practice, it was the kind of play that got the whole team going. 

Without remembering the specific instance, Douglas rightly guessed that it was his defensive back teammates, who ran over to congratulate him and celebrate. 

"We get so happy when one of us makes a play because we work hard and we know our goals in our room," Douglas said. "And we know our energy transforms and just passes along to other people. You can get somebody energized and they get somebody else energized." 

Head coach Doug Pederson elected to have his team in pads Wednesday in an effort to keep the team's intensity and physicality high as the team gets ready for the NFC Championship Game. 

That play helped. 

"I think Coach Pederson talks about it all the time; match his intensity," linebacker Nate Gerry said. "So when you see something like that, I guess that's matching the intensity. It just kind of sets the tone for practice."

During the Eagles' first-round bye, the team's players council went to Pederson and asked for an extra day in pads. Pederson planned on one leading into the divisional round game against the Falcons, but his veteran leaders didn't want to go an extra week without that intensity, so the Eagles strapped on their pads. 

They did it again last week and they did it again Wednesday. 

All season the Eagles have believed they're going to play the way they practice, so it shouldn't be much of a shocker. Pederson and the Eagles — despite all the hoopla around the championship — tried to treat Wednesday like any other Wednesday. In part, that meant getting the pads on and going through a tough practice. 

"We ain't going to play on Sunday without pads, so you just have keep in tune with what you do," Douglas said. "I think pads are good." 

Zach Ertz makes largest jump in NFL jersey sales

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Zach Ertz makes largest jump in NFL jersey sales

Eagles tight end Zach Ertz has moved into the top 10 in NFL jersey sales this week, according to national sales figures from Dick’s Sporting Goods.

This week’s Dick’s Jersey Report shows Ertz making the biggest jump in the top 10, moving up 22 spots from No. 29 last week to No. 7 this week.

“There must have been a lot of women’s soccer fans buying jerseys this week,” Ertz said jokingly, referring to his wife Julie, a member of the U.S. Olympic soccer team.

Could be. It’s not like Ertz had a huge game Saturday. He caught three passes for 32 yards in the Eagles’ 15-10 win over the Falcons in the conference semifinal playoff round at the Linc. But he did make his first Pro Bowl this year and finished the season with 74 catches for 824 yards and eight touchdowns.

Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who caught the miracle last-second pass from Case Keenum to send the Vikings into the NFC Championship Game in Philadelphia on Sunday, also made a huge jump, moving from No. 23 to No. 4.

Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz remains in the No. 2 position in jersey sales, despite not playing since he tore his ACL Dec. 10 in Los Angeles. Only Tom Brady’s jersey sold better over the past week.

The rest of the top 10 is Rob Gronkowski third, Antonio Brown fifth, Leonard Fournette sixth, T.J. Watt eighth, Julio Jones ninth and Le’Veon Bell 10th.

Wentz remains the top-selling jersey this year, according to Dick’s after finishing last year at No. 3. Tom Brady, the top-selling jersey last year, is No. 2, followed by Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and Gronkowski.

There are no Eagles other than Wentz and Ertz in the top 50.