Eagles

Eagles rookie report: Clement helps seal win; Elliott oozing confidence

This week's Eagles rookie report is a bit of a mixed bag.

Cornerback Rasul Douglas took a couple lumps, but kicker Jake Elliott and running back Corey Clement shined in the Eagles' 26-24 win over the Chargers Sunday (see breakdown).

Let's take a look at a few of the key plays involving the rookies.

1st quarter, 12:54, 2-and-10 at PHI 38 - Eagles 0, Chargers 0
L.A. was moving the ball pretty well on its first drive and got into Eagles' territory. First-round pick Derek Barnett is lined up on the right against Chargers veteran left tackle Russell Okung. Instead of the outside speed rush that Barnett favored in college and has used almost exclusively as a pro, Barnett bull rushes Okung. He drives the massive tackle into the backfield and collapses the pocket on Philip Rivers, forcing the Chargers' quarterback to roll left. Chris Long pursues Rivers from the other side of the field and hits him for a strip sack. Barnett then hustles downfield and is able to corral the loose ball. 

1st quarter, 4:26, 3rd-and-3 at PHI 23 - Eagles 7, Chargers 0
With the Eagles lined up in a three-wide set and lined up in shotgun, this play looks like a pass. Instead, Wentz hands the ball off to Clement, and the rookie running back takes it up the gut for 10 yards. With the Chargers expecting pass, the Eagles' offensive line gets a great push, including a great block by Jason Kelce at the second level. Clement hits the hole with excellent burst, probably the most he's shown in his young NFL career.

2nd quarter, 6:32, 1st-and-10 at LAC 25 - Eagles 13, Chargers 0
This is the first play that Douglas is beat on. Lined up against the speedy Tyrell Williams, Douglas bites on an outside move from Williams, and the wideout burns him for a 75-yard touchdown on a deep post. In Douglas' defense, the way he plays this suggests that maybe he thought he had help over the top. That's something we won't know until we get a look at the coach's film. 

2nd quarter, 0:36, 3rd-and-4 at LAC 19 - Eagles 16, Chargers 7
This play falls squarely on Douglas. Jim Schwartz has protected his corners a lot this season by utilizing off coverage. On this play, Douglas is up on the line to get a jam against receiver Keenan Allen. Allen is the only receiver lined up to the left. Allen does an outstanding job faking the slant and busting it outside. Douglas looks like a rookie on this play, taking the cheese on the fake and allowing Allen to make a 49-yard grab, setting up an L.A. field goal to end the first half.

3rd quarter, 0:07, 2nd-and-3 at LAC 37 - Eagles 19, Chargers 10
This play I really can't fault Douglas for. This time Allen actually runs the slant. Douglas is right on his hip and knocks the ball away, but Douglas draws the flag for pass interference. Douglas does have his hand on Allen's left hip, but he doesn't appear to turn the receiver. Considering how much contact the refs were letting defensive backs on both sides get away with all day, this seemed like a ticky-tack call. But it's the type of call players like Rivers and Allen get and rookies like Douglas don't.

4th quarter, 2:22, 3rd-and-1 at LAC 42 - Eagles 26, Chargers 24
This run sort of represents what Clement is all about. After picking up a 3rd-and-2 a couple plays earlier, Doug Pederson goes back to Clement. The Eagles overloaded the left side with Halapoulivaati Vaitai in as an extra tackle, and Brent Celek and Zach Ertz lined up to the left of him. It's no secret what the Eagles are doing here. The entire line slides right and it's set up for Clement to cut the run back to the left. This shows off Clement's patience and vision as he waits for his blockers to open up the hole. It's a simple four-yard gain but a crucial one for Clement and the Eagles. 

Analysis
Douglas was bound to have a game like this. And the reality is it may not be as bad as it appeared in live action. As mentioned, on the Williams TD it looked like Douglas was expecting help. The 49-yarder to Allen was the only play that you could blame on Douglas, but one of Allen's biggest strengths is his ability to get a release off press coverage. Perhaps that wasn't a great spot for Schwartz to put Douglas in. Either way, it's a good learning experience for the young corner.

I'd be remiss if I didn't reference Elliott. How spectacular was the rookie kicker again today? He was 4 of 4, nailing kicks from 45, 40, 53 and 47 (see Roob's observations). It's all about confidence for athletes. Especially kickers. Elliott was a great kicker at Memphis and a fifth-round pick. It appears that 61-yard GW last week has his confidence sky high and kicking like he did in college.

Clement finished with 30 yards on 10 carries, the highlights being the 10-yarder in the first quarter and the late short-yardage runs in crunch time. LeGarrette Blount and Wendell Smallwood are the more dynamic runners, but Doug Pederson appears determined to get Clement touches. The knock on Clement out of college is that he only picks up the yards that are blocked for him. With the way the Eagles' offensive line has been getting push, that works perfectly for Clement.