Denver Broncos

Eagles film review: Carson Wentz fakes and freezes Denver's D

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Eagles film review: Carson Wentz fakes and freezes Denver's D

A few weeks ago, Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich said Carson Wentz carried out fakes better than any quarterback he's ever been around. 

Carrying out a fake is certainly a skill but more than anything it's effort and timing. 

On Sunday against the Broncos, you might have heard cornerback Chris Harris Jr. say that the Eagles run a college offense. That probably sounded a little salty after his team lost 51-23, but he also said the Eagles had the best offense they have seen this year. And there's nothing wrong with college concepts in the pro game. 

That's where we'll start: 

The zone-read play everyone remembers from Sunday's game was the touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffery and we'll get to that one next. But this play came earlier on the same drive. 

The Eagles are in 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end) with Brent Celek (circled) on the left side of the line of scrimmage. Wentz is in shotgun with Jay Ajayi lined up to his left. 


 

At the mesh point, Wentz has both linebackers pushing hard toward where the run would go. Celek (still circled in red) has engaged Shaquil Barrett and is just waiting to release. 

After Celek releases his block, Barrett sees an open lane to the quarterback, so he takes it. The problem is, Wentz is going to find Celek with a nice touch pass that goes for nine yards. 

There's an art to this for Wentz. He has to sell run and then stare down a defender to deliver a touch throw. 

•••

OK, the play you'll remember. This is the one that goes for a touchdown. The Eagles are still in 11 personnel and Jeffery (circled) is on the near side of the field. Wentz is in shotgun with Ajayi to his right. The Broncos have a single-high safety. 

Here we are at the mesh point and the Eagles have allowed Von Miller to come free. In a weird way, this is one way to neutralize him on the play. A little risky but Wentz knows what he's doing. 

The single-high safety is about to drive toward the run and the corner on Jeffery, Aqib Talib, is watching closely too. 

Got them. That safety's momentum is coming forward. Miler has an open lane to Wentz but he's not going to get there in time. And, most importantly, check out Talib (circled in green near sideline). He's stuck right here and Jeffery is about to blow past him. 

None of that would have mattered without the throw. Wentz nonchalantly tosses a beautiful ball off his back foot that hits Jeffery in stride. 

•••

The last play we'll look at happened in the second quarter from the Denver 27-yard line. The Eagles are in 12 personnel (two tight ends), so the Broncos stay in their base defense. But the Eagles split out Celek and Trey Burton. Burton (circled) is on the near side of the field and is covered by Brandon Marshall, who is a good linebacker but doesn't have a chance to cover Burton 1-on-1, even with an eight-yard cushion. 

There was no question Wentz wanted to go Burton's way on this play; there was a clear mismatch. But first, he has to make sure that safety isn't able to get there. He takes care of that with the first part of this sluggo (slant-go) route from Burton. 

It wasn't a dramatic pump fake from Wentz. Heck, it wasn't even really a pump fake. It was more of a shoulder fake (you'll see the video below), but it was enough. Burton is about to break back outside toward the end zone, but that little fake slows up the safety just enough. The safety is the only player Wentz has to be worried about; he knows Burton will beat the linebacker. 

The throw from Wentz is great. It looks underthrown but it's almost a back-shoulder throw. Marshall has no chance and the safety is just arriving too late to make a play. Had Wentz not used that little pump fake, he doesn't buy that extra split-second. Burton catches the ball and falls backward into the end zone for a touchdown to put the Eagles up 24-6. 

•••

Wentz is the favorite to win MVP this season and his league-high 23 touchdown passes obviously stand out. He's been incredible through nine games. But there's so much more to him than just the stat sheet. How he picks up some of those numbers has been incredible. His ability to freeze defenders and fake them out has really been on display.

Nothing to celebrate yet, as far as Eagles are concerned

Nothing to celebrate yet, as far as Eagles are concerned

The world's most focused team just keeps on winning. And keeps on shrugging it off.

The Eagles won their seventh straight game Sunday, demolishing the Broncos and their vaunted defense, 51-23, to head into the bye week 8-1.

Normally this sort of thing is cause for celebration.

Not in the Eagles' locker room.

They're too busy figuring out when their next practice is to get excited about being the best team on the planet.

“We're just focused on one thing and every single week somebody’s in the way of us reaching our goal, and that’s winning the division, getting in the playoffs and making something happen once we get there," Rodney McLeod said.

"This week, the Broncos were in the way. They were that roadblock. That's all that was on our minds. All we care about is, 'Who's in our way next?'"

The Eagles head into the bye riding the eighth longest winning streak in the franchise's 85-year history. They haven't lost since they fell to the Chiefs in Week 2 and they seem to be gathering steam with each passing week.

They've been basically unstoppable for nearly two months.

“It means that we’re here and we kind of control our own destiny, and that’s a good place to be," Chris Long said. "But there is a lot of football left. Just getting into November, this is when games get bigger and bigger, but they’re big games because we put ourselves in a position to have big games.

"I think a healthy confidence is good and we’ve done a lot of good work to get to this point, but we also need to take it to another level when we get back.”

This team's focus is remarkable. They literally let nothing distract them.

Injuries? Trap games? Letdown games? Looking past an opponent? Taking a week off? It simply doesn't happen with this team.

"It’s the leaders on the team," said Brandon Graham, who is one of them. "People that have been in this spot before, having success, and who know what it takes.

"We know how it is and how things can change based on (our) attitude. … Everybody’s just out there having fun and not getting too big-headed about what’s going on. Just living in the moment."

The Eagles are one of only two teams in the NFL that hasn't lost a game by more than a touchdown.

The other is the Rams, who are 6-2 with a red-hot second-year quarterback of their own in Jared Goff. The Eagles-Rams showdown in Los Angeles in mid-December is looming as a possible battle for the No. 1 seed in the NFC.

Not that anybody is looking that far ahead.

"We are where we are because that group in the locker room," head coach Doug Pederson said. "They are playing with a lot of confidence. They love to play together. They practice extremely well during the week and prepare themselves, and they are doing the little things right. That's what you want out of our football team."

How rare is it for a team to win seven straight games and score 26 or more points in all seven games?

The Eagles are the 26th team in NFL history to do that. Which in the big scope of things is very, very few.

“Man, we don't get complacent at all," Jalen Mills said. "We have the wins. We know the record. We know we’re winning. But at the same time, it’s like a 24-hour rule with us. We're happy after we win, but when we get back in (the next day), everybody’s focused and it switches to our next opponent.

"It's always the team in front of us. Coming from last year, starting as fast as we did (3-0) and then being up and down, we learned a lot from that.

"We’ve got guys on our team who are hungry, guys who sacrifice their stats, guys who don’t care about their body, guys who don't care about anything but winning. Sacrificing everything to help the guy next to them.”

Things will get harder. Soon.

The Eagles have only beaten one team that currently has a winning record -- the 6-3 Panthers. Their eight wins have come over seven teams with a combined 25-41 record.

And among their next four opponents are the 5-3 Cowboys, 5-3 Seahawks and 6-2 Rams.

So we'll know what the Eagles really have here in about five weeks.

But for now, 8-1 in an NFL where no other team even has seven wins is a remarkable place to be.

"For us to be at 8-1 right now, it's a tremendous credit to the guys and coaches in the locker room," Pederson said.

"Hats off to those guys for the way they work, the way they practice, and prepare. And standing here today looking back at it, I'm not surprised by the way they work."

Eagles snap counts: Malcolm Jenkins finally takes a break

Eagles snap counts: Malcolm Jenkins finally takes a break

The Eagles are winning by too much and it's screwing up all cool snap count stats I had. 

Last week, Jason Kelce was taken out of a blowout, which ended his consecutive snaps played streak at 3,345 (see story)

This week, it was Malcolm Jenkins who took a seat. Late in the 51-23 beating of the Broncos, Jenkins was taken out of the game. He finished after playing 54 of 64 possible snaps. He hadn't missed a single defensive snap on the season before Sunday — 514 of 514. 

Jenkins missed more defensive snaps on Sunday (10) than he had in his previous three and a half years in Philly (eight in 56 games). Jenkins missed just one total defensive snap in all of 2016. So it was a pretty well-deserved break. Corey Graham played some extra snaps toward the end of the game at safety for Jenkins. 

Jalen Mills was the only defensive player to play all 64 snaps. Rodney McLeod played 63; he came out for a play because of an equipment issue. 

On offense, Corey Clement led all running backs in snaps with 28. He was followed by Jay Ajayi (17), LeGarrette Blount (16), Wendell Smallwood (6) and Kenjon Barner (2). All five running backs were active and four got a carry; only Barner didn't. 

Mack Hollins saw a big jump in his snaps. He played a career-high 30, while Torrey Smith played just one more, 31. Marcus Johnson also got 20 snaps. Over the last few weeks, Smith's playing time has decreased as Hollins and Johnson have been given more opportunities. 

Without Zach Ertz, Brent Celek got the start and played a season-high 54 snaps and Trey Burton played a season-high 47 snaps. Both had good production. Celek had three catches for 39 yards and Burton had two catches for 41 yards and a touchdown. 

Here is a full look at Eagles snap counts from Sunday: 

Offense
Stefen Wisniewski - 69 snaps (100 percent)
Halapoulivaati Vaitai - 69 (100)
Jason Kelce - 69 (100)
Brandon Brooks - 55 (80)
Carson Wentz - 55 (80)
Brent Celek - 54 (78)
Lane Johnson - 49 (71)
Alshon Jeffery - 49 (71)
Trey Burton - 47 (68)
Nelson Agholor - 40 (58)
Torrey Smith - 31 (45)
Mack Hollins - 30 (43)
Corey Clement - 28 (41)
Isaac Seumalo - 25 (36)
Marcus Johnson - 20 (29)
Jay Ajayi - 17 (25)
LeGarrette Blount - 16 (23)
Chance Warmack - 14 (20)
Nick Foles - 14 (20)
Wendell Smallwood - 6 (9)
Kenjon Barner - 2 (3)

Defense 
Jalen Mills - 64 snaps (100 percent)
Rodney McLeod - 63 (98)
Malcolm Jenkins - 54 (84)
Nigel Bradham - 54 (84)
Patrick Robinson - 51 (80)
Mychal Kendricks - 47 (73)
Brandon Graham - 40 (62)
Fletcher Cox - 39 (61)
Rasul Douglas - 37 (58)
Chris Long - 35 (55)
Vinny Curry - 34 (53)
Beau Allen - 30 (47)
Derek Barnett - 29 (45)
Destiny Vaeao - 28 (44)
Tim Jernigan - 20 (31)
Corey Graham - 18 (28)
Joe Walker - 15 (23)
Najee Goode - 13 (20)
Jaylen Watkins - 13 (20)
Kamu Grugier-Hill - 10 (16)
Dexter McDougle - 10 (16)