Eagles

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.

Eagles mailbag: Moving Rasul Douglas, keeping Donnel Pumphrey

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Eagles mailbag: Moving Rasul Douglas, keeping Donnel Pumphrey

We split up your questions, so Part I of the mailbag ran yesterday (see story).

Just a reminder: training camp starts on July 25 and the first practice will be July 26. 

Let’s not waste anymore time. 

I’ve heard this a ton from people and it makes sense. Douglas seems to have what you’d look for in a safety and the Eagles value coverage skills in that position, something Douglas clearly has. So I see that as a possibility, but the Eagles have seemed hesitant to move him or even to really cross-train him. For me, the time to do it would have been during the OTAs and minicamp. Why not slide him back there for a few days to see how he handles it? That’s how I would have handled it. Without any extended time at safety in the spring, it’s hard for me to envision real cross-training in the summer. Eventually, though, you’re right; this makes sense. 

I don’t think so. Pumphrey looked a little better this spring, but he better have a great training camp. Right now, I have the Eagles keeping four running backs: Jay Ajayi, Darren Sproles, Corey Clement, Matt Jones. If they keep five, Pump has a real chance; he’d just need to beat out Wendell Smallwood for that final spot. I think he has a decent chance, but I haven’t seen enough to give him a roster spot. He’s a player I’ll be watching extremely close at training camp. 

I’ll preface this by saying I’m no punter expert, but Cameron Johnston looks pretty solid to me. He was a really good punter at Ohio State and seemed to boot the ball pretty well this spring. The Eagles were comfortable enough with him to move on from Donnie Jones. 

To answer the second part, he will be the holder for Jake Elliott. The two have been working together this spring. While Johnston held last summer, Elliott was still in Cincinnati. They have to gel. 

In my latest 53-man roster projection, I actually don’t have Tre Sullivan in there. Instead, I went with Corey Graham, who is still on the street. I agree with you that in most situations going with the younger guy is the move, but not with this team. Not this year. Graham was such an important part of last year’s team. And because the Eagles have a legitimate shot to repeat, I’d try to bring him back. The Eagles have about $6 million in cap space. Get it done. 

Hi, John. Mango. Always mango. 

Eagles Mailbag: Biggest concern on 2018 roster

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Eagles Mailbag: Biggest concern on 2018 roster

We’ve officially reached the only sort of dead period on the NFL calendar. The Eagles are through their spring practices and won’t be back at the NovaCare Complex until July 25 for the start of training camp. 

That sounds far away, but it’ll be here before you know it. 

You guys were great and gave me a ton of questions, so I’ll answer half today and half Sunday. Let’s go: 

I’m tempted to say defensive tackle just for health concerns surrounding Tim Jernigan, but I have to answer linebacker. Jordan Hicks appears to be healthy after tearing his Achilles last year, but as good as he is when healthy, it’s just tough to count on him. Two years ago, he was able to play a full season and things were looking good, but then he suffered another serious injury. If Hicks and Bradham stay healthy, linebackers aren’t a concern. The Eagles will have either Kamu Grugier-Hill, Nate Gerry or Corey Nelson take the weakside spot on base downs and they’ll be OK. 

But without Mychal Kendricks, it’s fair to be concerned about their depth at the position, especially after veteran pickup Paul Worrilow was already lost for the year. Kendricks came up huge last year as a fill-in; not sure the Eagles have that kind of depth this year. 

Not sure yet. What I can tell you about De’Vante Bausby is that he was impressive this spring and the coaching staff seems to love him. I remain very, very skeptical that he’s good enough to keep Sidney Jones off the field. With that said, I do think he’s talented enough to make the 53-man roster. We’ll get a better sense at camp when the pads go on, but I have him penciled in to make the team. 

Yes on both. The Nate Sudfeld hype is real. In our first extended looks at the young quarterback, he’s been incredibly impressive. It’s starting to make sense why the Eagles snatched him from Washington and then blocked the Colts from signing him last season. They kept him on the 53 in the second half of last year, so they’re completely prepared to keep three QBs on this year’s roster if Foles is still on the team. 

This is going to be the summer of Nate Sudfeld. We’re going to see him play a ton in those preseason games and that will let us know if he’s ready to be QB2 behind Carson Wentz. But the fact that the Eagles didn’t bring in a more experienced veteran after Wentz went down last year pretty much tells you all you need to know about what the Eagles think of him. 

We tried that. Didn’t work out well. We’re up for suggestions. 

You have no idea how out of water this fish is. This is like taking a fish from the ocean and dropping it in Kansas. 

How about Portugal? I’ll go with them because of Ronaldo.