Eagles

Film Review: Carson Wentz’s run plays give Eagles new dynamic

Film Review: Carson Wentz’s run plays give Eagles new dynamic

Doug Pederson told a little white lie last week. 

On Wednesday, as the Eagles prepared for their Sunday matchup against the Lions, Pederson was asked if he would start calling some designed runs for Carson Wentz. 

Here was his answer: “Without giving away the game plan? No, I’m not. Now, this week for us, it’s our fourth game of the season. As a staff, we’ve got to be extremely smart on how we handle that aspect of the game.”

Sneaky, sneaky, Doug. 

Pederson went on to talk about how the Chiefs used Alex Smith in the run game, saying that as the season went on, it was a possibility they would dial up some runs for the quarterback if there were playoff implications. 

Then Pederson called two zone-read-look run plays for Wentz on Sunday anyway. 

Both of Wentz’s runs came in the second quarter but on different drives. The first went for a 10-yard gain and the second went for four. Aside from just those plays, we then saw that the Lions had to respect Wentz as a runner for the rest of the afternoon.  

“Yeah, they were very successful,” Pederson said this week. “Obviously [we] gained a couple of first downs by doing that. The ability to run the inside zone with Carson reading the defensive end and/or linebackers, depending on plays, is something that we're going to continue to develop and continue to grow with. 

“Again, we're still relatively early in the season. So I don't want to expose our quarterback necessarily to too many hits outside of the pocket that way. But we'll continue to explore it and keep utilizing those types of runs.”

Here’s a look at how Wentz’s running plays helped the Eagles on Sunday:

On Wentz’s first running play, at the 12:57 mark in the second quarter, he’s in shotgun with Darren Sproles to his left, trips to his right and Zach Ertz as the tight end on the left side of the line. 

Now, we’re at the point of what looks to be the handoff. You can see the Lions, at all three levels of their defense, are pushing toward where they think the run is going. It leaves a nice pocket of space toward the left sideline. 

By the time the Lions defenders realize Wentz kept the ball, they have to try to stop dead in their tracks and recover. Wentz isn’t an Olympic sprinter, but he is fast enough to get around the edge here. Wentz picks up 10 yards and the Eagles score a touchdown three plays later. 

This next play starts with the Eagles on their own 46-yard line. It’s 2nd-and-1, so they’re pretty close to picking up the first down. On this play, Wentz is again in shotgun with Sproles to his left. But this time, he has three wide on the left side and a tight end of the right side of the line. 

As Wentz puts the ball into Sproles' gut before pulling it, you can see Lions defensive end Devin Taylor bite just hard enough. All of his force is going left, toward where Sproles is going. 

That hesitation by Taylor to go after Wentz is just enough time for the quarterback to get around him, pick up four yards and move the chains. The Eagles went on to kick a field goal on the drive at the end of the second quarter. 

This last play comes at the 8:49 mark in the fourth quarter. This is a key 3rd-and-2 situation inside Lions territory with the Eagles down 21-20. Wentz lines up in shotgun with Sproles now on his right. This is a three-wide formation, with Ertz the only tight end. Ertz goes in motion from right to left before the snap. 

As you can see, the offensive line immediately opens a large hole for Sproles. Meanwhile, the Lions’ free defensive end and linebacker sort of freeze. Earlier in the game, it’s likely they would have assumed Sproles was going to carry the ball, but they were beaten earlier by Wentz’s legs, so they now have to respect his running ability. 

By the time it’s clear that Sproles has the ball, Jason Kelce is in the second level blocking the free linebacker, and it’s too late for the defensive end to recover. Sproles has a huge hole and picks up 10 yards and a first down. 

Of course, the Eagles ended up losing the game, but this play helped lead to what would have been the game-winning field goal. The Eagles set it up throughout the game, by showing their play-action and Wentz’s ability with his legs. 

Even when Wentz doesn’t take off running, teams will now have to respect the threat. That can be a huge weapon for the Eagles going forward. 

5 minutes with Roob: Corey Graham still playing great football at 32

5 minutes with Roob: Corey Graham still playing great football at 32

In today's "Five Minutes with Roob," Reuben Frank chats with Eagles safety Corey Graham:

Roob: We’re here with Eagles safety Corey Graham. Welcome to Philadelphia.
 
Graham: Glad to be here.
 
Roob: I didn’t realize when you missed a game earlier this month you had a streak of 159 straight games played plus six playoff games so 165 consecutive games. A little hammy, how tough was it to see that streak end?
 
Graham: It was tough. You don’t want to think about stuff like that too much but obviously, things happen. You are thinking like, 'It's just a little hamstring, I can play through a hamstring,' and you don’t want to miss a game or anything like that when you haven’t missed one. I tried to play through it the game before and that is when I messed it up a little more and tore it. It wasn’t smart for the long haul.
 
Roob: You've been around the league and you played on some different teams, what is the feeling you get in this locker room? You have been on a Super Bowl team. What do you think so far? The team is doing well.
 
Graham: Very impressed. Offense, defense, special teams. Guys are flying around and are very upbeat. We are a great team. We need to stay on pace and we need to continue to work our butt off. Don’t get too high because things can always start out great and things can get bad. We just have to take it one game at a time and not believe all of the hype and the noise going on outside of this locker room.
 
Roob: I've got to ask you about probably the best game you ever played. Correct me if I am wrong. Playoff game against Denver in the AFC Conference semifinals in 2012, you had two interceptions off Peyton Manning, a Hall of Famer, one was a pick-six and the other was in overtime to set up the game-winning field goal. You went on to the semifinals and then won the Super Bowl (with the Ravens). Was that the greatest game you ever played?
 
Graham: An NFL game, yes. I had a better game in high school. It was my greatest NFL game because it was on the big stage and everything was on the line. We knew we had to win the game and I was just glad I was in position to make some of those plays. That’s how it goes sometimes. It was a great experience and I was glad we were able to go on and win the whole thing. It was a great ride, I loved being a part of that team and I loved everything I could do to help.
 
Roob: It was a little surprising Buffalo let you go since you played well last year. You were on the street a lot longer than a lot of people expected. How difficult of a process was it in the offseason leaving there and not really knowing where you were going to end up and then you came here and fit in real quick?
 
Graham: It was difficult being released because no one wants to get released. But when it was all said and done, I could have signed with someone right after, but I wanted to wait and spend some time with my family. That is why I prolonged it a lot until the end of July. Being released by the Bills in my hometown and wanting so much to go to the playoffs and end that streak. That was one of my biggest goals and to not accomplish that, it sucked.

Roob: You are in Year 11 now and you have played your best football in your 30s. You've made a Pro Bowl as a special teamer. As far as playing safety and defensive back, what still drives you in Year 11?
 
Graham: I love the game. That is the reason why I signed here. I wanted to be part of a good team and a good organization. I love being around the guys. We're having a lot of fun right now and we're enjoying the game of football. I just want to go out out and make a difference and that’s what pushes me. I want to be great, enjoy the game and play it the right way. When all is said and done we want to win. The last few years in Buffalo, we didn’t make the playoffs those three years. Leaving Baltimore after winning the Super Bowl and going home and not winning sucks. And no one wants to be a part of that. No one wants to lose. I want to win.

Eagles' newcomers not surprised 'special' team atop NFC

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USA Today Images

Eagles' newcomers not surprised 'special' team atop NFC

Tim Jernigan didn't have any choice in the matter. 

While he might be the Eagles' most important offseason acquisition, Jernigan was brought to Philadelphia in early April in a trade with Baltimore. 

Things have worked out pretty well, though. In a contract year, Jernigan has been great playing in a system that's almost completely foreign to him and he's probably earning himself a ton of money. But aside from that, he's been a key to the Eagles' quick 5-1 start. 

The Eagles are sitting pretty at the top of the NFC East and the entire NFC. 

That's not a shock to Jernigan or the rest of the Eagles' newcomers. 

"I'm not surprised at all," Jernigan said. "I knew that we had talent coming into the season. And more than that, I knew the work we had put in on the field in the weight room and away from football. Guys really bought in. The biggest thing now is not getting complacent with 5-1. Things can change fast. You never know. We still have 10 games guaranteed left. We have to focus on that."

This is Jernigan's fourth NFL season and he has been on just one team with a winning record. That came in his rookie season in 2014, when the Ravens went 10-6. 

There seems to be a really good chance this season could be even better for the Eagles. 

"I think we have a pretty good team, man," Jernigan said, echoing Carson Wentz. "I think we're going to be special."

While Jernigan had no choice in coming to Philadelphia, plenty of big-name free agents did. Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, LeGarrette Blount and even Chris Long all chose to come and play for the Eagles, who were coming off a 7-9 season. 

Obviously, one of the big reasons, especially for the receivers, was the chance to play with Carson Wentz. While Wentz didn't have a stellar rookie season, he showed flashes of what might make him a franchise quarterback. 

The Eagles also had some other key positions with talent. Their offensive line featured two Pro Bowl-caliber offensive tackles, a veteran center and a really solid guard. Their safety duo is one of the best in the league. Their middle linebacker is young and good. Their tight end has been productive. There were question marks, sure, but still talent. 

And then the team added those key free agents. 

"There's a reason I signed here," Jeffery said. "A lot of key additions, picking up Torrey, picking up LeGarrette, me and Timmy and some other guys. The front office staff did a great job putting us together. But just seeing how they were last year, just a few pieces here and there, it could be big." 

While Jernigan missed the really good years in Baltimore, Smith didn't. Jernigan's first year with the Ravens was Smith's last, which meant Smith was there for the 2011 season when the Ravens lost in the AFC championship game and the 2012 season when they won the Super Bowl. 

So Smith knows what a special team looks like. And he sees something special in the Eagles locker room. That's why 5-1 is coming as no surprise. 

"I knew as soon as I came in here, it just looks right," he said. "That's from the top down. It has the right feel. I said that the first day I came there and I still feel that way and obviously, you're able to see that, the way guys have been working." 

On the short list of five guys in the Eagles' locker room who have won Super Bowls, three of them came this offseason: Smith, Long and Blount. 

On Tuesday, Blount preached the importance of not getting caught up in the hype (see story). He preached the importance of focusing on only the game in front of them. They haven't accomplished anything yet. 

While Blount is trying to make sure the team stays grounded, he's not surprised either. It seems like no one is. 

"I feel like we've been a confident team since we started, all the way back from OTAs, training camp, preseason," he said. "I feel like we've always been a confident group. That's one of the things that you need in order for you to be a winning team. You have to have confidence. You have to have confidence in yourself, as well as the guys that you're going to be playing with, the coaches, and it goes on from there. You have to have confidence."