Eagles

Eagles Film Review: Shaq Thompson is no match for Nelson Agholor

good-na2b.png
NFL

Eagles Film Review: Shaq Thompson is no match for Nelson Agholor

Coming into Thursday night's game, the Eagles thought they would have the chance to exploit a mismatch against the Panthers' defense. 

They were right.

At times, the Panthers like to stay in their base defense, which means lining up linebacker Shaq Thompson on Nelson Agholor. While Thompson is a pretty athletic guy for 6-0, 230, he's not nearly quick enough to match up with Agholor, who is having a great season. 

Through six games this season, Agholor already has 20 catches for 321 yards and four touchdowns. After a terribly disappointing start to his career, it appears Agholor has finally figured it out as the Eagles' slot receiver. 

On Thursday, he had four catches for 55 yards and a touchdown. Most of that came against Thompson. When lined up against Thompson, he had two catches for 48 yards, including the fourth-quarter touchdown. 

"They've done that in their past. Shaq's a tremendous athlete and very gifted," head coach Doug Pederson said. "[He] can run, [he is a] physical linebacker, [and] plays a lot like a nickel DB. It just so happened that he thought Nelson was going to — great move, great move at the top of the route. He juked him to the outside and he bit on the play and then Nelson broke inside. Carson (Wentz) made a very accurate throw for the touchdown. But that's something they've shown even leading up to the game."

We'll take a look at the touchdown, but first a look at an early reception: 

Agholor (circled) has plenty of space on 3rd-and-5. It looks like he's not covered, but he is. Linebacker Shaq Thompson (also circled) is about drop in coverage. 

At the top of Agholor's route, Thompson actually has pretty good coverage. After all, he's a really good athlete for a linebacker, but it's not going to be enough. Carson Wentz has plenty of time in the pocket; his offensive line is doing its job. 

Agholor wasn't his first read on this play. But Wentz doesn't like what he sees on the left side of the field where Torrey Smith is working. 

Now, Wentz has locked in on Agholor, who has gotten behind Thompson in coverage and he's about to slip to his right and get open. The deep safety sees it too. He's going to start driving toward the play, so it's going to take a perfect pass from Wentz. 

Perfect pass from Wentz. He was actually pretty shaky early in Thursday's game but this was a beautiful throw. After Agholor catches the ball he's able to get past the safety and pick up an even bigger gain of 24 yards. 

This next play is the first of the fourth quarter. The Eagles were already in the lead but this touchdown pass is about to put them up by 12 points. 

At the time of the snap, Thompson has Agholor in man coverage with absolutely no help. This isn't going to end well. 

Wentz notices the mismatch immediately and never looks anywhere else. He stares down Agholor until the receiver makes a break at the top of his route. He already has Thompson beat. Thompson is a good athlete but he can't cut the way Agholor can. 

By the time Agholor catches the ball, it's pretty clear he's already going to have the first down. But there's a lot of space in front of him. And the deep safety's momentum is taking him away from the play. 

Agholor takes a straight line right into the end zone for a 24-yard touchdown catch. 

On both of those plays, Agholor doesn't just get open in the slot. He uses his quickness to do it and then uses his speed to make something happen after the catch. For as well as Jordan Matthews played in the slot over the last few years, Agholor is just a more explosive player. 

"That's beneficial for a slot receiver to have that kind of breakaway speed," Pederson said, "and two great plays by him. Just got to keep him coming."

Through six games this year, Agholor is on pace to have the best year — by far — of his career. He's on pace for 53 catches for 856 yards and 10 touchdowns. That would be a big-time jump. 

Eagles snap counts: The left guard rotation might be dead

usa-stefen-wisniewski-eagles.jpg
USA Today Images

Eagles snap counts: The left guard rotation might be dead

Stefen Wisniewski started again at left guard on Thursday night, but this time he didn't get taken out. 

It looks like the left guard rotation might be dead. 

After three weeks of rotating with Chance Warmack, Wisniewski played all 62 of the Eagles' offensive snaps on Thursday against the Panthers. Warmack didn't get on the field once with the offense. 

Coming into the game, Pederson had said a couple times that Wiz was going to get more of the work than before but as Thursday night unfolded, he didn't just get more. He got all of it. 

With Wiz as the left guard, the entire offensive line — including Halapoulivaati Vaitai at right tackle for a concussed Lane Johnson — played all 62 snaps. So did Carson Wentz. 

With Wendell Smallwood (knee) still on the shelf, LeGarrette Blount got 30 snaps, Kenjon Barner got 22 and Corey Clement got 10. 

Alshon Jeffery again led the way for the Eagles' receivers in snaps with 56, followed by Nelson Agholor (48) and Torrey Smith (35). Mack Hollins got just nine snaps but caught two passes (both went for first downs) for 38 yards. 

The Eagles actually didn't win the time of possession battle against the Panthers, which kept the Eagles' defense on the field more than they've been used to. The Eagles' defense played 82 snaps on Thursday. The previous season high was 69 against the Giants. The Eagles' defense got into the 80s just once last season. 

Malcolm Jenkins was the only defensive player to be on the field for all 82 plays. He very rarely leaves the field. Jalen Mills and Rodney McLeod missed just one snap each and Patrick Robinson missed just two. 

Fletcher Cox returned to action with a beastly performance against the Panthers (see story). If there were any concerns about his calf, he answered them. And Cox certainly wasn't on a pitch count. He played 65 snaps, more than any other defensive lineman. 

Mychal Kendricks played 55 snaps (67 percent) but led the team with 15 tackles. Nigel Bradham, who had the best game of his Eagles' career, had 78 snaps (see story)

Jordan Hicks played 34 snaps (41 percent) before leaving the game with an ankle injury. 

Derek Barnett played a new career-high of 39 snaps and picked up the first half-sack of his career (see story)

Here are full snap counts from Thursday night: 

Offense
Brandon Brooks - 62 snaps (100 percent)
Halapoulivaati Vaitai - 62 (100)
Stefen Wisniewski - 62 (100)
Jason Kelce - 62 (100)
Jason Peters - 62 (100)
Carson Wentz - 62 (100)
Alshon Jeffery - 56 (90)
Zach Ertz - 49 (79)
Nelson Agholor - 48 (77)
Torrey Smith - 35 (56)
LeGarrette Blount - 30 (48)
Brent Celek - 24 (39)
Kenjon Barner -22 (35)
Trey Burton - 13 (21) 
Corey Clement - 10 (16)
Mack Hollins - 9 (15)
Isaac Seumalo - 8 (13)
Marcus Johnson - 6 (10)

Defense
Malcolm Jenkins - 82 snaps (100 percent) 
Jalen Mills - 81 (99)
Rodney McLeod - 81 (99)
Patrick Robinson - 80 (98)
Nigel Bradham - 78 (95)
Fletcher Cox - 65 (79)
Brandon Graham - 62 (76)
Rasul Douglas - 56 (68)
Mychal Kendricks - 55 (67) 
Beau Allen - 41 (50)
Chris Long - 41 (50)
Vinny Curry - 40 (49)
Derek Barnet - 39 (48)
Jordan Hicks - 34 (41)
Tim Jernigan - 25 (30)
Justin Hamilton - 15 (18)
Joe Walker - 13 (16)
Corey Graham - 7 (9)
Najee Goode - 5 (6) 
Steven Means - 1 (1)

Eric Rowe tracker
We are keeping an eye on Rowe in New England all season. If he plays more than 50 percent of the Patriots' defensive snaps this season, that 2018 fourth-round pick the Eagles got in exchange for him will turn into a third-rounder. 

The Patriots don't play until Sunday, but here's what we have so far this season: 

Week 1: 37 of 69 snaps
Week 2: 34 of 65 snaps
Week 3: 0 of 71 snaps
Week 4: 19 of 63 snaps 
Week 5: 0 of 72 snaps

2017: 90 of 358 (25.1 percent) 

Grading the Eagles' 28-23 Week 6 win over the Panthers

Grading the Eagles' 28-23 Week 6 win over the Panthers

QUARTERBACK

Carson Wentz: 16/30, 222 YDS, 3 TD

Wentz is the real deal, plain and simple. Under intense pressure for much of the contest, the second-year quarterback kept his composure and continued to come up big in clutch situations. The Eagles were only 5 for 14 on third-down conversions this week, but it was enough, and Wentz's lone turnover occurred on a strip-sack in the first quarter. The numbers may not look incredible, but he got the job done, guiding his team to victory, on the road, against a quality opponent and defense (see 10 observations).

Grade: A-

RUNNING BACKS

LeGarrette Blount: 14 ATT, 67 YDS

All numbers aside, this group struggled mightily in pass protection, especially Kenjon Barner. Barner wasn't effective with the ball in his hands, either, carrying five times for seven yards and catching one pass for nine yards. Blount was fantastic again, and the case could easily be made he should've touched the ball more. Have to think his limitations in the passing game keep him from being on the field more, although it's not as if somebody else was deserving of those snaps.

Grade: B-

WIDE RECEIVERS

Nelson Agholor: 4 REC, 55 YDS, 1 TD

Agholor is on a roll. He now has four touchdowns this season and really showed his wheels on this one, turning a short reception over the middle into a 24-yard score. Nice night for Alshon Jeffery as well with a team-high 71 yards on four receptions. Rookie Mack Hollins added two catched for 38 yards, and give Marcus Johnson a catch for 16 yards, as the Eagles spread the ball around and got everybody involved.

Grade: B

TIGHT ENDS

Zach Ertz: 2 REC, 18 YDS, 2 TD

It was a quiet night for Ertz, from the standpoint that he was targeted only five times, but he certainly made the most of the limited opportunities. The Eagles needed their tight ends to block here — not exactly Ertz's strong suit, but nobody is complaining when you score twice. That false start in the fourth quarter sure could've hurt though.

Grade: A-

OFFENSIVE LINE

Halapoulivaati Vaitai: Started at RT

Starting in place of Lane Johnson, Vaitai experienced his share of shaky moments (see breakdown). The backup right tackle had a hand in two sacks, one of which went for a forced fumble. Granted, Wentz likely could've got rid of the ball sooner. Vaitai would eventually settle down, and once he did, the offensive line was fine. The Eagles rushed for 103 yards with a 4.1 average (minus kneeldowns), while Wentz took three sacks and sustained eight quarterback hits — though much of that damage was inflicted early.

Grade: B

DEFENSIVE LINE

Fletcher Cox: 2 TKL, 0.5 SK, 2 QBH, 1 PD

This was one of the most dominant performances against the run that I can recall. Granted, Carolina has struggled in this phase all season, but outside of Cam Newton, they literally could not get anything going on the ground against the Eagles. Panthers running backs carried 13 times for one yard. Unreal performance, and it made the Panthers offense one-dimensional. The front four also registered 2.0 sacks and nine quarterback hits. Cox in particular was a beast making his return from a calf injury, forcing an interception (see story).

Grade: A

LINEBACKERS

Nigel Bradham: 10 TKL, 1 TFL, 2 PD

This was probably Bradham's best game of the season (see story). He prevented Newton from getting out of bounds during a two-minute drill. He held Christian McCaffrey short of the goal line to force a Panthers field goal. He sacrificed his body to make a pivotal third-down stop in the third quarter. The numbers speak for themselves. Jordan Hicks exited the game in the third quarter with an ankle injury but finished with four tackles, while Mychal Kendricks finished with a whopping 15 tackles in extended action.

Grade: A+

DEFENSIVE BACKS

Rasul Douglas, Patrick Robinson Jalen Mills: 1 INT each

Newton completed 28 of 52 passes for a 53.8 completion percentage, 4.6 yards per attempt with one touchdown pass and three interceptions. It should've been four picks, but a ticky-tack pass interference penalty against Jalen Mills wiped it away. Douglas led the way with three pass breakups (see rookie report), but the whole unit was solid in coverage. The longest play from scrimmage for Carolina in either phase was a 20-yard completion.

Grade: A

SPECIAL TEAMS

Jake Elliott: 2/2 FG, 2/2 XP

The Eagles nearly made a rare special teams miscue. Barner got clipped by his own man while attempting to field a punt and muffed it. Fortunately, Robinson was hustling on the play and there to clean up the mess. Otherwise, another strong effort. Elliott was good from 50 and 48 yards, and Donnie Jones averaged 51.0 yards per punt with one inside the opponent's 20. Jones also did a nice job handling a tough snap on Elliott's 50-yard try. Special teams captain Chris Maragos and Hollins both exited the game with injuries in the fourth quarter.

Grade: A-

COACHING

Eagles' record: 5-1

I'm sure you could nitpick all sorts of calls and decisions, but the record speaks for itself. Furthermore, to go down to Charlotte on a short week, with a hostile crowd and officiating crew, and beat a strong Panthers team speaks volumes about the job Doug Pederson is doing right now. They're winning on the road. They're winning close games. They're winning, period. If the season ended today, the Eagles would be the No. 1 seed in the NFC, and it's a credit to Pederson and his staff.

Grade: A+