Eagles

Eagles-Redskins: Roob's 10 observations

Eagles-Redskins: Roob's 10 observations

BOX SCORE

LANDOVER, Md. — A crushing performance by the defensive front seven, a shaky performance by the offensive line, more strange Doug Pederson play-calling, some superb special teams and lots of Zach Ertz, Carson Wentz and Nelson Agholor and much more in our season-opening 10 observations of the Eagles' 30-17 win over the Redskins (see breakdown).
 
Bring on the Chiefs!
 
1. This was a win for the Eagles' defensive front, which absolutely dominated the Redskins on Sunday. The Skins' running backs ran 13 times for 34 yards (2.6 per carry), and the front seven racked up four sacks and pounded Kirk Cousins into his worst game ever against the Eagles. Then the Eagles finished the 'Skins off with a Brandon Graham sack, a Cousins fumble and fumble return TD for Fletcher Cox in the final minutes. Nice exclamation point. Total domination. Cousins started the day with the fifth-highest passer rating ever against the Eagles, but he and the 'Skins' offense were just overmatched. The Eagles held Washington's offense to 10 points and 264 yards in its own stadium, the fewest yards the 'Skins have had against the Eagles in nine years. And thanks in large part to that front seven, the Eagles ended that ugly five-game losing streak to their division opponents down I-95. All in all, a monster performance for Graham, Cox, Jordan Hicks and Co.
 
2. There is work to do on the offensive line. This was just a shaky, inconsistent effort up front. I know fans like to pick on Jason Kelce, but the breakdowns were across the board up front. It's a good thing Wentz is so good at making something out of nothing — like he did on the 58-yard TD pass to Agholor and that 23-yarder down the left sideline to Ertz — but the O-line has to be better and more consistent and has to be able to give Wentz time in the pocket. Wentz has the ability to stand in there and make plays when things are breaking down around him, and he did a lot of that Sunday, but over the long haul? This effort from the offensive line was simply unacceptable.
 
3. Very tough to see Ronald Darby go down with what is believed to be a long-term injury just 18½ minutes into his Eagles career (see story). Rookie third-round pick Rasul Douglas, who was inactive Sunday, will likely move into a significant role, quite possibly as a starting outside corner with Jalen Mills, with Patrick Robinson staying in the slot. Now, if the Eagles felt Douglas was ready to start and play at a high level, they wouldn't have traded Jordan Matthews and a third-round pick to the Bills for Darby. But this is the hand they've been dealt. The Eagles were one of the NFL's healthiest teams last year, and those sorts of things have a tendency to even out over time. Regression to the mean and all that. There are a few other ways the Eagles could go. They could activate Dexter McDougle and play him in the slot and move Robinson outside. Or play Mills in the slot with Robinson and Douglas or McDougle outside. However they line up, this is a huge blow to the Eagles' secondary.
 
4. Speaking of Mills, he really built on his strong preseason with a terrific game Sunday. The Redskins were targeting him much of the game, with Terrelle Pryor in particular, but Pryor — a 1,000-yard receiver with the Browns a year ago — was really a non-factor with six catches for 66 yards. Cousins kept trying to challenge Mills deep with Pryor but Mills won those battles, and when he didn't, Cousins just missed him. Mills hung in against Jamison Crowder as well when matched up with him. Mills then made a potential game-saving interception in the end zone — the first of his career — in the fourth quarter. Mills isn't a rookie, but he's a 23-year-old making his first career opening-day start, and it was a very good one.
 
5. I liked the concept of the Eagles' offense early. First quarter, the Eagles had seven running plays and nine passing plays. Nice balance. LeGarrette Blount had a little head of steam going. Then Doug Pederson did what Doug Pederson often does and forgot about the running game. Over the next two quarters, the Eagles ran 33 plays — 27 pass plays, six runs. Not surprisingly, the Eagles struggled to get into a rhythm offensively during that span, and that 13-0 lead gradually disappeared. In the fourth quarter, nursing a two-point lead, the Eagles had to try to run the ball and they had four carries for no yards. When you don't run the ball for a long period of time, it's not easy to dial it up and have success. This has to change.
 
6. Wentz, I thought, played very well considering the chaos that was happening around him. He rarely had a clean pocket but still managed to complete 67 percent of his passes (26 for 39) for 307 yards with two TDs and the one INT on a tipped ball. He repeatedly turned pocket breakdowns into positive plays and made something out of nothing. He played better than his numbers. And his numbers weren't bad at all (see report card).
 
7. For all the talk about Agholor, nobody really knew what to expect once the games meant something. But Agholor indeed looked like a different guy Sunday. You could just sense his confidence, and it all started on the broken play just 3½ minutes into the game, when he found open space on a scramble drill and settled under a Wentz throw on one of those he-just-made-it-up plays, caught the football naturally and easily, then ran into the end zone for a career-long 58-yard touchdown. Agholor had surpassed his career high in receiving yards by the middle of the second quarter and finished with six catches for 86 yards. Agholor has looked like a different guy since OTAs and I have to give him a ton of credit for finding his way and reinventing himself after going through some pretty heavy stuff and openly discussing his self-doubt last year. Everybody has their own path, and on Day 1 of Year 3, Agholor showed he can play this game.
 
8. The two new receivers, Torrey Smith and Alshon Jeffery, combined for four catches for 68 yards (and a two-point conversion) — not terrible but probably not what the Eagles were hoping for. But it's not all that unexpected. This group played very little football together during the preseason, so it's not surprising that the Eagles' three leading receivers — Ertz (8 for 93), Agholor (6 for 86) and Darren Sproles (5 for 43) — are all guys Wentz was with last year. Smith and Jeffery both came close to making some big plays, and you have to hope that with more time together those plays will be made.
 
9. Special teams had another terrific day Sunday, with a turnover in the punting game that led to the Eagles' second touchdown and then a punt downed at the 1-yard line by Jaylen Watkins with seven minutes left in the game that gave the Redskins — down by two — an impossibly long field. I know this: Eagles special teams will always be elite as long as Dave Fipp is running the show.
 
10. It was great to see Ertz begin a season with a big performance. Much has been made about how Ertz always starts slowly and finishes strong, but he was huge Sunday, with big catch after big catch and no drops. Ertz's 93 yards are the most he's ever had in any game the first seven weeks of the season. I'm on the record as saying Ertz will catch 100 passes this year. He's ahead of that pace. I think huge things are in store this year for the fifth-year tight end.

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

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USA Today Images

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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USA Today Images

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.