The700Level

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+

A surprising Eagle keeps getting drug tested

jake2.jpg
Jake Elliott IG

A surprising Eagle keeps getting drug tested

Jake Elliott has been a revelation for the Philadelphia Eagles after Caleb Sturgis went down with an injury early in the season.

But has he been too good...

The rook has made 12 of his 14 attempts for the Birds this season.

If you're looking for a good laugh today, go check out this reddit thread that starts with a photo from Elliott's Instagram story in which he points out he got flagged for his third drug test in two weeks!

The comment section is as good as a Jake Elliott 61 yarder.

"Well, he does bleed green...," abenyishay says..

"Is kickers doping really a thing?" ChaosFinalForm wonders, as do we.

What do you think? Just the way the random drug draw fell the last few weeks, or does the NFL think Jake Elliott is into something?

76ers Season Opener: One more moral victory before we start winning for real

76ers Season Opener: One more moral victory before we start winning for real

We've all been so excited about the start of the Philadelphia 76ers season that it feels like nobody even bothered to look at the first three games on the schedule this year: At Washington, home for Boston, at Toronto. The Sixers may be the fifth best team in the Eastern Conference when healthy this season -- Jeff Van Gundy thinks so, at least, as he kept gushing last night on the ESPN (!!) broadcast of 76ers-Wizards -- but they play three of the four teams ahead of them to kick off the season, their first after the supposed summation of The Process. It's a pretty cold way to welcome the Sixers to the land of the NBA living, really. 

So yeah, the Sixers lost last night in their season opener for the fourth time in four seasons -- and forever shout out to Michael Carter-Williams, Spencer Hawes, Evan Turner, and the rest of the squad that pulled off arguably the greatest regular-season upset in franchise history against LeBron and the Heatles on opening night, 2013. But the Sixers lost last night merely because they were playing the Washington Wizards, arguably the second-best team in the East last season and only stronger in the new year, in DC. And they still came a couple late-game deflections away from walking away with more wins than losses on their docket for the first time since... hey, don't forget James Anderson and Tony Wroten on that '13-'14 squad, either. Remember James Anderson? 

No, you don't, of course, because the Sixers don't have any James Andersons anymore: They have 10 professional basketball players, and arguably even more on the bench who might not crack the rotation this year until things go very south. (I'd take Furkan Korkmaz over all but maybe three players on the '15-'16 squad; we might not even see him on the court until we reach the deepest recesses of December garbage time.) And all of 'em looked good last night -- except for Amir Johnson, who went 2 for 27 from within three feet of the basket and somehow fouled out in 15 minutes. Even he should have nothing on the infuriating Sixers of years past: Brandon Davies ain't walking through that door anytime soon.

Everyone else was beautiful. Ben Simmons had a sparkling debut, posting an 18-10-5 with just one turnover, with shocking efficiency for a ball-handler who didn't attempt a shot outside six feet. Markelle Fultz was really impressive making plays for himself and others around the basket -- though he similarly balked at shooting from any kind of range, and his free-throw motion still looks disturbingly close to my fourth-grade form -- and fought on defense, generally showing that he can be a positive contributor even while he works on fixing his busted jumper. And we probably should've known that Joel Embiid's minutes limit was just a red herring: He played 27, posted 18 and 13, and got the crowd chanting "Trust the Process" like the Verizon Center was just an oversized Chickie's and Pete's. Dario Saric played unexceptionally -- 3 points on 1-5 shooting -- but he's Dario, so he's beautiful by default. 

But the real difference was in the wings. Robert Covington and J.J. Redick combined for an absolutely staggering 11 triples on 19 attempts -- the Sixers routinely went entire months at the beginning of the Process without the team making double-digit threes in a single game, now we have two guys doing it entirely on their own. Covington was of course the real superstar, accounting for seven of those triples on his way to a game-high 29 points with typically exceptional D. But man, when Redick pulls up into a quick-trigger three off the dribble... it's like, you didn't even know players were allowed to do that. Not Sixers players, anyway. 

And even with all that, the Sixers still lost, 120-115. Oh well. If Bayless can get the ball to an open Simmons under the basket in the final minute, or if Covington can swing a pass to an open Bayless in the corner a possession later -- both passes were deflected and stolen -- the game may have ended very differently. But it also may not have -- the Wizards have John Wall, they have late-game experience, and they have organizational consistency: In other words, they should win games like this, even against a team as improved (but still as green) as the Sixers. It's fine. It's great, honestly.

Of course, Redick and Covington won't always combine for 11 three-pointers, Embiid won't always be available for 27 minutes a night, and Simmons won't maintain a 5:1 assist:turnover ratio for the entire season. But it's not like any of that won't ever happen again, either: This is just a good team of good players now, and there will be games where they hang in against teams they shouldn't be hanging in against, and even escaping with the win on occasion. 

Will it happen in any of the team's first three? Maybe, maybe not -- it's a little frustrating that the Ballers might not get to demonstrate how improved they are in their W-L record for the season's first stretch, and you have to hope the team (and fanbase) don't fall into some Same Old Sixers malaise as they scrap against the conference elite. But watching the team last night in Washington, the feeling couldn't have been more different than even last year, when they nearly scraped together an opening-night win against an undermanned OKC team. It's not gonna be long before the Philadelphia 76ers are the team that makes the rest of the East go "Oh crap, we have to play them on opening night?"