eagles film review

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

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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 Film Review: Jason Kelce is doing work

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Eagles Film Review: Jason Kelce is doing work

Eagles center Jason Kelce might be the most unfairly scrutinized athlete in the city. We’re talking about a player who’s earned trips to the Pro Bowl two of the last three years, yet remains a constant source of fan frustration.

Well, until this season anyway. Kelce appears to be off to his best start since 2013. Through five weeks, he grades second among all NFL centers, according to Pro Football Focus. Gone are lazy complaints about the 295-pound lineman getting pushed around in the trenches, or taking too many costly penalties.

Nobody can argue Kelce isn’t getting the job done right now.

There are a lot of factors behind Kelce’s resurgence. For starters, he was never performing as poorly as the criticism might make you think. The offensive line is also improving as a unit, and the seventh-year veteran is benefiting from a developing rapport with the players to his left and right. It’s his second season in Eagles coach Doug Pederson’s system as well.

All of which has Kelce playing with a high level of confidence that was somewhat lacking in years past. There is perhaps no better example of just how much the guy is “feeling it” right now than on Carson Wentz’s 72-yard touchdown pass to Nelson Agholor in the Eagles’ 34-7 win over the Cardinals on Sunday.

“They brought an all-out blitz there,” Wentz said postgame. “If you guys go back and watch it, Jason Kelce made an unbelievable play. He ended up blocking two guys, so I shouldn’t have had the time to get that one off.”

Wentz challenged us to go back and watch the play, so we did – and couldn’t help but come away impressed.

If you recall the situation, the touchdown came on 3rd and 19. More often than not, defenses will set back and keep the play in front of the sticks. But the Cardinals are trailing 24-7 in the third quarter, and want to force the Eagles to make a mistake, so they are sending a zero blitz.

There are so many rushers coming for Wentz, they aren’t even all in the picture.

Kelce is going against unheralded first-year player Olsen Pierre here, and winning. There’s nothing spectacular about this one-on-one block, but Kelce is holding up at the point of attack and steering his assignment to the outside, leaving Wentz plenty of room to step up.

Make note of No. 41 in white, though. The Eagles only have six blockers for seven rushers, leaving safety Antoine Bethea unaccounted for – and a small crease to the quarterback.

Not on Kelce’s watch. At the last moment, he reaches his arm out and essentially clotheslines Bethea. It’s just enough to slow the blitzer.

Then, Kelce finishes the play, driving Pierre into Bethea. Both defenders wind up on the ground.

It’s not a pretty, clean pocket, but Wentz is great at navigating crowded areas, and he gets off a perfect throw. Everybody did their job here to make this play happens, including Agholor with the catch and run.

Kelce went above and beyond.

Obviously, this is only one play. Are there occasions where Kelce is overpowered at the line of scrimmage, whiffs on a block or is called for a bad penalty? Absolutely. Yet, for the past few seasons, fans only seem to take notice of his mistakes. You can pick anybody apart if you’re only looking for the negatives.

Kelce has a reputation for being a “finesse” player, somebody who’s only good when he gets into space. And when it comes to that aspect of the game, Kelce is the best in the league, hands down. He is perfectly capable of making the “ordinary” play as well though – even the ones that aren’t so ordinary.

Maybe it’s about time people stop throwing Kelce’s name into every trade rumor or debating whether he will be a cap casualty. The Eagles have arguably the best offensive line in football right now, and their center is a big reason why.

Eagles Film Review: How special teams sparked win vs. Cards

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Eagles Film Review: How special teams sparked win vs. Cards

It's the third of football that gets overlooked the most. Just not in Philadelphia. 

The Eagles have prided themselves on having one of the best special teams units in the league since the arrival of Dave Fipp in 2013. It wasn't surprising at all when Doug Pederson kept Fipp on the staff last year. That decision was a no-brainer. 

Sunday's 34-7 win over the Cardinals was a true team win, in that all three phases really played a role. That definitely includes special teams. 

Because while Carson Wentz and the defense get all the love, Fipp's units had one of their finest games on Sunday. They had big returns, blocked a field goal, made their own kicks and even pinned the Cardinals deep. 

Maybe the Eagles have had better days on special teams, but it would be hard to have a more complete special teams performance. 

"It was just a good day for our special teams," special teams ace Chris Maragos said. "Really able to help our team win." 

Here's a look at three big-time plays from Sunday: 

We'll go in chronological order, which means Kenjon Barner's big 76-yard punt return is up first in the first quarter. In the game, Barner had three punt returns for 110 yards. As great as Darren Sproles has been as a returner over the last few years, he put up that many punt return yards just once with the Eagles. 

The ball is about to be punted away by three-time Pro Bowler Andy Lee. You'll notice at the bottom of the screen that Corey Graham and Dexter McDougle have completely wrecked the gunner's pursuit of the play. 

Barner catches the ball inside the 10-yard line, a bit of a gamble, but it was a booming 56-yard kick, so he has some space. McDougle got downfield to continue to block the gunner on the near side of the field and Barner has room to work with. 

This is where Barner starts to make it happen by himself. After all, most punt returners need to make at least one guy miss on their own. Barner makes a couple miss. Right here, he's about to cut this thing back up the sideline and then inside to find a ton more room. Give credit to receiver Marcus Johnson who held up and stopped blocking to avoid a blocking in the back. His man fell on the play and if Johnson still had hands on him a flag would have negated this whole thing. 

Barner already made a few guys miss and here comes the poor long snapper, Aaron Brewer. He's not equipped to take down Barner, who is about to cut back inside for a huge gain. Brewer was actually injured on the play and had to leave the game. 

Once Barner gets past Brewer, there's a ton of open space. Credit Cardinals receiver Brittan Golden for hustling on the play and making a touchdown-saving tackle. According to NFL's Next Gen Stats, Barner ran a total of 114.2 yards on the play and Golden ran 131.8 to tackle him. 

Three plays later, Wentz hit Zach Ertz for a 11-yard touchdown to put the Eagles up 14-0. It doesn't happen that easily without this big play. 

"He had a heckuva return, man," Maragos said. "He did it all." 

This next play is the 51-yard field goal attempt the Cardinals tried at the end of the first half. The Eagles were up 21-7 at this point, but this was a chance for Arizona to finish out the half scoring the last 10 points. Didn't happen. Patrick Robinson (circled) is about to get around the corner and make a play. 

Malcolm Jenkins, who lined up to Robinson's right, actually makes the play. He rushes so hard inside that Jared Veldheer, who struggled against Brandon Graham at right tackle all day, has to get inside to block him. Veldheer isn't going to touch Robinson. 

The rest is just an extremely athletic play from the veteran cornerback Robinson. He nearly goes full Superman to block this one. He doesn't need to leave his feet but Robinson leans in hard to get a big piece of it. 

Instead of going into the half on a 10-0 run, the Cardinals went into the locker room on this note. To start the third quarter, the Eagles drove down the field and kicked a field goal of their own. That was a six-point swing that made it almost impossible for the Cardinals to come back. 

After Jake Elliott made a 36-yard field goal to put the Eagles up 24-7, he gets set to kick it off. In this game, the Eagles did something a little different. Instead of kicking balls deep into the end zone to force touchbacks, Malcolm Jenkins said the players "challenged" the coaches to let them make plays. So Elliott took something off most of his kickoffs and allowed his group to make plays. They did. 

The placement of this ball from Elliott was masterful. It landed just inside the goal line, which made return man Kerwynn Williams think about it. He stuttered leaving the end zone, which was a fatal mistake. Two of the Eagles' best special teams players -- Kamu Grugier-Hill and Chris Maragos -- are coming in hot. 

As Williams starts to come out of the end zone, Grugier-Hill and Maragos (both circled) have already beaten their blockers and have just the upback in their way. He's not going to be able to stop them. 

Grugier-Hill was coming head on and forced Williams to bounce to this left. That's where Maragos simply went around the upback and, with the help of McDougle, took down Williams at the 13-yard line. Aside from two punts that dropped the ball at their own 10-yard line, this was the worst starting position of the day for the Cards. 

The Cardinals' average starting position on Sunday was at their own 19-yard line and their average starting position on kickoffs was at their own 21-yard line. The Eagles gambled a little on Sunday, but it paid off. 

"I think for us, we've got guys that take a lot of pride in what they do and we've got a lot of talent out there," Maragos said. "And anytime we can get out there and cover and spark our team and give them a bit of excitement and start them backed up, it changes the way their offense is going to attack our defense. 

"And on the flip side of that too, if our defense can get 3-and-outs, which they did, they're punting the ball back to us and now we're getting better field position." 

After Sunday's game, Wentz said he "absolutely" enjoys wins more when all three phases play a role. That's what happened against the Cardinals. While offense and defense normally get all the love, the Eagles' special teams unit continues to thrive.