Eagles

Eagles' offense only scores poor grades

Eagles' offense only scores poor grades

Grading the Eagles' 6-0 loss Sunday afternoon over the Dallas Cowboys at Lincoln Financial Field (see breakdown):

QUARTERBACKS
Nick Foles: 4/11, 39 YDS, 1 INT

Foles wasn't quite as bad as the numbers suggest. His incompletions include a drop, being hit as he threw, a throwaway and a receiver falling down, none of which were the quarterback's fault. That being said, Foles fled a clean pocket then woefully underthrew his target on the pick and even fundamental actions like catching a shotgun snap cleanly continue to give the sixth-year veteran trouble. Not the confidence-builder the Eagles had hoped for. Nate Sudfeld actually outperformed Foles — though not by much — completing 19 of 23 for 134 yards, a 22-yard scramble and three sacks. It was nothing that will warrant inevitable talk of a quarterback controversy.

Grade: C

RUNNING BACKS
LeGarrette Blount: 9 ATT, 37 YDS

It's true what they say about volume backs — they get better as the game wears on. Blount got off to a slow start, as he has in recent weeks. Yet as the carries piled up, so too did his effectiveness. After carrying five times for 11 yards in the first quarter, he finished with 26 yards on his next four carries, plus an 11-yard reception. Wendell Smallwood carried four times for six yards and had three receptions for 24 yards in his first action since November.

Grade: B

WIDE RECEIVERS
Nelson Agholor: 3 TAR, 3 REC, 11 YDS

One might wonder how Foles' day might've turned out had Torrey Smith made a simple catch to convert on 3rd-and-7 on the Eagles' opening possession. Smith's drop caused a good-looking drive to stall at the Cowboys' 39-yard line, and the first-team offense never regained its rhythm. The good news is Alshon Jeffery caught a pass this week, going for eight yards. Mack Hollins and Marcus Johnson saw the bulk of the action after Jeffery and Co. exited, each catching three passes for 48 yards.

Grade: C+

TIGHT ENDS
Zach Ertz: 2 TAR, 2 REC, 24 YDS

At least Foles can reliably find Ertz, and the Pro Bowl tight end generally hangs on to the football. Brent Celek was targeted four times, finishing with three receptions for 13 yards.

Grade: B

OFFENSIVE LINE
Can't blame the guys up front for the offense's inability to consistently move the football (see Roob's observations). Whether it was the starters or the backups, there were running lanes, and there was protection. Eagles running backs averaged 2.7 yards per carry, though that is a bit deceiving, and at least three of the seven hits on the quarterbacks were a product of holding on to the football too long. An illegal block by Jason Kelce and a holding penalty against Halapoulivaati Vaitai were drive killers, but solid-albeit-unspectacular work otherwise from this unit.

Grade: B

DEFENSIVE LINE
Steven Means: 1 TKL, 1.0 SK, 2 QBH

Tons of credit to the defense, beginning with the guys up front. Brandon Graham, Tim Jernigan and Derek Barnett were all inactive, and Fletcher Cox only played the first series. Despite being without four regulars, the Eagles limited Ezekiel Elliott to 3.8 yards per carry. That begins up front. Chris Long led the charge with six tackles, as he and Vinny Curry played pretty much the entire game along with Means. This was very impressive under the circumstances.

Grade: A-

LINEBACKERS
Najee Goode: 5 TKL, 2 TFL

Nice job by the linebackers, particularly Goode, who was all over the place. Dannell Ellerbe and Kamu Grugier-Hill each had four tackles as well, and rookie Nate Gerry nearly came up with an interception. Nothing particularly impactful, but with Nigel Bradham left inactive and Mychal Kendricks playing only sparingly, the unit got the job done.

Grade: A-

DEFENSIVE BACKS
Sidney Jones: 2 TKL

Rough day for Rasul Douglas. The Cowboys really went after Douglas in the second half, finally beating the rookie corner for a 20-yard touchdown pass after he let the offense go down the field. Ronald Darby and Patrick Robinson each broke up a pass, and Jaylen Watkins racked up seven tackles. As for Jones' debut, he was OK. The second-round draft pick lost contain on a first-down run by Elliott and should've been burned for a long touchdown on a double move, but was bailed out by an overthrow. Otherwise, he did not look out of place at all in his first NFL game. As a unit, the secondary limited the Cowboys to a 56.7 completion percentage and 5.5 yards per attempt.

Grade: A-

SPECIAL TEAMS
Donnie Jones: 7 PUNTS, 42.7 AVG, 3 IN20

If you like punts, this game featured plenty of them. Jones was the Eagles' most valuable player. In what could not have been easy kicking conditions, he repeatedly kept the Cowboys in modest field position. Coverage units played were strong as well, and tested often on a cold day when Jake Elliott wasn't booming touchbacks. The lone issue was a muffed punt by Kenjon Barner, which he recovered, but at his own 3-yard line.

Grade: A-

COACHING
Eagles' record: 13-3

A bit curious Doug Pederson would insist on playing the first-team offense, only to pull them after one quarter of bad football. Then again, one would imagine there wasn't a whole lot of preparation for a meaningless Week 17 game, so maybe there was no point in letting Foles and Co. keep banging their heads against the wall. Anyway, since this basically amounted to a preseason game for the Eagles, there really isn't anything to grade the coaching staff on. The key players all emerged from the contest healthy, which is all that matters.

Grade: N/A

Eagle Eye: Eagles facing a unique situation with Darren Sproles

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Eagle Eye: Eagles facing a unique situation with Darren Sproles

In the latest edition of Eagle Eye, Derrick Gunn and Barrett Brooks discuss Darren Sproles' upcoming retirement. Does it put the Eagles in an awkward position on game days? Why do players care so much about their ratings in Madden? Also, Barrett shares how he decided on his jersey numbers throughout his football career?

1:00 - Derrick is back! What did he do with his time off?
5:30 - Barrett spent time with his grandson ... who ate pancakes with ketchup.
10:00 - Darren Sproles says 2018 will be his final year.
15:00 - Why do players care so much about their Madden ratings?
19:30 - If you can script your career, how would you want to retire?
22:30 - How did Barrett decide on his jersey numbers?

Subscribe and rate Eagle Eye: Apple Podcasts / Google Play / Stitcher / Spotify / Art19

Howie Roseman using what he learned from Andy Reid

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Howie Roseman using what he learned from Andy Reid

One thing Andy Reid was spot on about during his long tenure with the Eagles was the importance of building around both lines. 

Big Red always made the offensive and defensive lines a priority, and during the Eagles’ stretch of deep playoff runs — from 2000 through 2009 — the O-line was anchored by guys like Jon Runyan, Tra Thomas, Jermane Mayberry and Todd Herremans and the D-line by Corey Simon, Trent Cole, Mike Patterson and Hugh Douglas.

During that 10-year stretch, the Eagles had the most wins in the NFC and the third-most wins in the NFL, and the one constant during that stretch was solid line play. 

Donovan McNabb was very good when healthy most of those seasons, and the Eagles always had good running backs and corners, but the heart of those teams was up front.

Just look at how Big Red drafted. Eight of his 11 first-round picks were linemen. After taking McNabb in 1999, all six of Reid's picks in the first half of the first round were linemen.

They obviously didn’t all work out, but Reid was committed to both lines, and Howie Roseman, then a young, rising personnel executive, was paying attention.

The Eagles have done a lot of things differently in the five years since Reid's final season here, but one thing Doug Pederson and Roseman believe in is building around the lines, and it sure paid off last year.

According to figures on salary cap website Spotrac, the Eagles in 2017 were the only team ranked among the top five in the NFL in both offensive line and defensive line spending.

And the only team that had a parade in February.

And they’re only going to spend more this year.

The Eagles will spend 22.36 percent of their 2018 cap money on the offensive line, fourth most in the league, and 28.84 percent to the defensive line, fifth most.

That’s more than half their 2018 payroll on the big guys up front.

The Jets — sixth in O-line spending, 10th in D-line — are the only other team in the top 10 in both.

Seven of the Eagles’ 10 highest-paid players last year were linemen, as are eight of their 13 projected highest-paid players in 2018.

And five of those guys — Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Jason Kelce, Vinny Curry and Jason Peters — are actually holdovers from the Reid era.

Think of them as Reid’s parting gifts to the 2017 championship team.

Creating a Super Bowl roster was a complicated process for Roseman, and to be able to make this sort of financial commitment to the two lines means you just don’t have much money left for everything else. 

The only way to make that work is to build with cheap labor elsewhere. 

And that means younger players on bargain-basement rookie contracts, cheap but productive quarterbacks and low-round picks and undrafted players with cheapo contracts excelling.

It means drafting well and making exceptional free-agent decisions without overspending.

It’s a crazy juggling act, and Roseman juggled all those things magnificentely last year.

In fact, according to Spotrac’s data, the two lines are the Eagles' only positional groups ranked even among the top 15 in the NFL.

The secondary and QB positions rank 16th in cap allocations, tight end 18th, running back 21st, wide receiver 27th, linebacker 31st and special teams 32nd.

These numbers are all based on the 53 highest-paid players currently under contract, so they will change slightly once the final roster is set, but they won’t change much.

The Eagles were very good in a lot of areas last year — really, in every area — but their offensive line was the best in football and the best in Eagles history, and the defensive line was easily one of the two- or three-best in football.

Everything the Eagles did, everything they accomplished, started up front.

Put Peters back on the O-line and add Haloti Ngata and Michael Bennett to the D-line with an increased role for Derek Barnett, and both lines could conceivably be even better this year.

It’s going to get harder for Roseman to keep paying the Eagles’ linemen the way he has. Once Carson Wentz signs his next contract, the Eagles’ entire salary cap balance will change. 

Those $25 million annual cap hits for one guy have a tendency to make roster decisions way more challenging.

So it will be tricky for the Eagles to re-sign Graham. He wants a fortune, and he deserves a fortune. 

But even if Roseman can’t get that done, Barnett has three more years on his rookie deal, and that’s the key to making this whole thing work. 

You can’t re-sign everybody, so if you want to remain elite, you have to draft well so you can replace the people you invariably lose.

You lose Patrick Robinson, you have Sidney Jones waiting. You lose LeGarrette Blount, there’s Corey Clement ready to go. You lose Mychal Kendricks, you hope a Nate Gerry can contribute. Trey Burton leaves, and Dallas Goedert is cheaper and better.

You get what you pay for. And the Eagles right now are paying for the best in the business.

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