Eagles

How the Eagles' screen game got cooking against Redskins

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NFL

How the Eagles' screen game got cooking against Redskins

The Eagles have obviously gotten their offense cooking just a little bit in the last two games, scoring 25 points against the Giants and 28 against the Redskins. 

Against Washington on Monday night, they really got the screen game going, which is a really good sign to see. I think this offense is at its best when they get a bunch of players involved and that usually includes the screen game. 

Corey Clement had his best game since earlier in the season. He carried the ball five times for 27 yards, but also caught three passes for 47 yards. His involvement on screens was big on Monday night and it could be big going forward. And Darren Sproles is back now too.  

So why did it work? 

“I think just calling it, and calling more of it, quite frankly,” Doug Pederson said. “I felt like the screens the last couple weeks have been big hitters for us. We had some opportunities again last night to have some big -- we had some big gains on them, but we could have had even a couple more later in the game.

“We just keep working. Again, part of that is coming off the run, coming off the play-action pass and utilizing some of the same formations. But yeah, it's a big part of what we're doing right now, and it's been working.”

Let’s take a closer look at how those plays worked on Monday night: 

This first play happened with 2:21 left in the first half as the Eagles were moving down the field to eventually take a lead on that Sproles touchdown. It’s 1st-and-10 from the Washington 40-yard line and Pederson dialed up a screen at the perfect moment. 

Clement is going to slip through the line as the Eagles’ OL lets the pressure through. The circled linebacker is coming on a blitz, which plays right into what the Eagles want. Jason Kelce is left unchecked and slips into the second level to get a block on linebacker Mason Foster. He made Foster’s night miserable. 

 

Just after the snap, you can already see the play setting up. Brandon Brooks did a great job of getting enough of a block to give the play a chance. Golden Tate is running a slant and taking his man out of the play and Kelce is lining up his block against Foster. 

 

At the point of the catch, you can see how well set up the Eagles are. Clement ends up really following the block from Kelce to the outside. If he bounces inside, there’s probably even more room to go. On the outside, young cornerback Fabian Moreau did a nice job of directing the play and coming back to make the tackle. That prevents a huge gain. Still, the Eagles pick up 11 yards and a first down. 

 

You’ll notice Kelce out in front on this play. His unique ability to get into the second level and block downfield is really special. Early this season, when he had a bad MCL sprain, he wasn’t able to do this. But now his legs are healthier and he’s making a difference. 

“His ability to get in space is pretty incredible,” Pederson said. 

This next play comes with 4:09 left in the third quarter. It’s 2nd-and-10 in what was still a one-point game. This play is going to pick up 23 yards and a first down on a drive that yielded a huge touchdown. 

This play was a culmination of the whole game before it because they used a play action here from under center. The Eagles had been running the ball so well and using different looks out of the play action, so this is a prime example of keeping a defense off balance. 

After the play action, it looks like Wentz could roll right, but instead sets up and comes back to find Clement, who slipped through the line. Again, the downfield blocking was exceptional on this play. 

 

As Clement gets the ball, this whole thing has been set up beautifully, but wouldn’t work unless Kelce was Kelce. His man is a defensive back nine yards away, but he’s still going to get there to deliver the block to spring Clement. 

Once Kelce gets that block and Isaac Seumalo delivers his block, Clement has Brandon Brooks in front of him with plenty of space to operate. Brooks is pretty incredible too. He’s the biggest guy on the offensive line and can still get downfield like this. 

 

“Just keeping them off balance,” Clement said. “Screens here and there, not going back to back with them. I think Coach Pederson did a great job of keeping the offense facilitating every single time, hitting different targets. I think if we can get everybody involved it’s a big game for us.”

This next play came later on that same drive. It’s the first play of the fourth quarter and it’s 2nd-and-10 from the Washington 17-yard line. 

I love this play because of how quickly it develops. We often think about screens as being slow developing plays where everything needs to go perfectly and sometimes that’s true. But check out how quick this play goes. 

Off the snap, the Eagles let the LDE through unblocked as Lane Johnson and Kelce quickly get to the next level. Clement slips right past the rushing end after a quick play action look.  

After looking like he was going to chip, Clement turns around and receives the pass with two blockers out front. 

 

Kelce and Johnson each execute perfect blocks and Clement does a great job simply following his blockers inside down the field to pick up a first down. 

 

On the next play, Wentz hit Jordan Matthews for a four-yard touchdown and the Eagles never looked back. 

It won’t be this easy to dominate the screen game on Sunday against a Cowboys team that features two young and really fast linebackers who have the ability to get sideline to sideline, but if Kelce is downfield blocking, I’d take my chances. The Eagles’ offense finally looked the way it’s supposed to on Monday night and these plays were a big reason why. They need to keep featuring them. 

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Eagle Eye Podcast: Any interest in Le'Veon Bell or Antonio Brown?

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Eagle Eye Podcast: Any interest in Le'Veon Bell or Antonio Brown?

On this edition of Eagle Eye, Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro discuss who the best quarterbacks were in the NFC East last season. 

Do either see the Eagles making a push for Le'Veon Bell or Antonio Brown?

Who have been the funniest, most underrated and most overrated players the guys have covered throughout their careers? 

1:00 - Rankings the NFC East quarterbacks.
10:30 - Will the Eagles be interested in Bell or Brown?
23:30 - Roob and Dave ask and answer random questions to and from one another.
24:00 - Favorite/least favorite road city.
27:00 - Which player do you want to host a podcast with?
29:00 - Funniest player you've ever been around?
33:00 - If you're in a bar fight, which former player do you want with you?
35:30 - Favorite current Eagle to interview?
39:00 - Most overrated/underrated player you covered?
43:00 - Guys answer questions from listeners.

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Was Carson Wentz the best QB in NFC East last year?

Was Carson Wentz the best QB in NFC East last year?

Carson Wentz returned from a serious ACL/LCL tear in Week 3 in 2018 and then his season ended early with a stress fracture in his back. But in the middle of all that, he actually put together some good numbers. 

This recent tweet from ProFootballFocus grabbed my attention. 

Yeah, they actually ranked Wentz as the best quarterback in the NFC East despite coming back from the knee injury and playing through a back fracture. My colleague Reuben Frank already dispelled 10 myths about Wentz (see story) and a lot of them were about the Eagles with Wentz vs. the Eagles with Nick Foles. I don’t want this to digress into the Foles vs. Wentz debate. 

I just want to take a closer look at how Wentz stacked up against the rest of the quarterbacks in the NFC East. Was he really the division’s best quarterback even with these injuries? 

Here’s a look at their overall numbers from the regular season: 

Carson Wentz: 11 games, 5-6, 69.6%, 3,074 yards, 21 TDs, 7 INT, 102.2 passer rating
Nick Foles: 5 games, 4-1, 72.3%, 1,413 yards, 7 TDs, 4 INT, 96.0 passer rating
Dak Prescott: 16 games, 10-6, 67.7%, 3,885, 22 TDs, 8 INT, 96.9 passer rating 
Alex Smith: 10 games, 6-4, 62.5%, 2,180, 10 TDs, 5 INT, 85.7 passer rating 
Eli Manning: 16 games, 5-11, 66%, 4,299, 21 TDs, 11 INT, 92.4 passer rating 

The thing that stands out there are the records. The Eagles were 5-6 with Wentz at quarterback, but I’ve always been hesitant to use wins as a QB stat. Sure, the QB plays a major role in them, but it’s a team stat that gets transferred to individuals.

Anyway, let’s take a closer look at a few of these stats with help from ProFootballReference: 

Passer rating

Wentz: 102.2 
Prescott: 96.9 
Foles: 96.0 
Manning: 92.4 
Smith: 85.7 

I know passer rating is an imperfect measure, but it’s still generally a really good indicator of quarterback play. It takes into account completion percentage, passing yards, touchdowns and interceptions. 

Wentz actually improved his passer rating from 101.9 in 2017 to 102.2 in 2018. Those two passer rating numbers are the third- and fourth-best passer ratings in Eagles history (minimum 300 attempts) behind Foles in 2013 (119.2) and Donovan McNabb in 2004 (104.7). Wentz is now the only Eagles QB to have two seasons of passer ratings over 100.

Completion percentage

Foles: 72.3 percent
Wentz: 69.6 percent
Prescott: 67.7 percent
Manning: 66 percent
Smith: 62.5 percent 

Foles and Wentz saw huge jumps in their completion percentage. The highest completion percentage Foles ever had in a season before 2018 was when he completed 65.5 percent of his passes as a backup in KC. Even in his 2013 year, he completed just 64 percent of his passes. 

As for Wentz, he had a goal to improve his completion percentage and, boy, did he do that. He had a near-MVP season in 2017 but completed just 60.2 percent of his passes. He improved that to 69.6 percent in 2018. 

Yards per game 

Foles: 282.6 
Wentz: 279.5

Manning: 268.7
Prescott: 242.8
Smith: 218

The Eagles’ two quarterbacks were pretty close in yards per game. The crazy thing is that the Eagles have never had a 4,000-yard passer in franchise history and both of these guys would have been on pace if they played 16 games. Wentz improved his yards per game from 253.5 to 279.5 from 2017 to 2018. He has improved in this category in each of his three NFL seasons. 

For as long as Manning has been in the NFL, he’s had just one season averaging more than 279.5 yards per game. Prescott set his own personal high this season. And Smith’s career high is 269.5 from his time in Kansas City. 

TDs per game 

Wentz: 1.9 
Foles: 1.4 

Prescott: 1.38
Manning: 1.31
Smith: 1.0 

This one is obviously huge. Since the start of the 2017 season, Wentz has thrown a ton of touchdowns. And in his first three seasons, Wentz has thrown 70 touchdowns; ninth-most ever in the first three years of a career. 

INTs per game

Prescott: 0.50
Smith: 0.50
Wentz: 0.64 
Manning: 0.69
Foles: 0.80

This is obviously in reverse order. Foles threw the most interceptions per game, while Wentz was in the middle. After throwing 14 interceptions as a rookie (in 16 games), Wentz has thrown 14 in 2017 and 2018 combined (24 games). Among the nine QBs who have thrown at least 70 touchdowns in their first three seasons, Wentz’s interception percentage (1.93) is the second-best.

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So what does all this mean? Well, it means what we’ve been saying for a while now: Despite the injuries, Wentz was still pretty good in 2018. He’s not absolved for the team’s struggles early in the season, but it would be foolish to pin those struggles and that record entirely on him. Had the Eagles won a few of those close games — Tennessee, Carolina, both Dallas games — perhaps we’d look back on Wentz’s 2018 season much differently. 

Was he the best QB in the NFC East in 2018? I don’t know. But, if he stays healthy, I think he’s going to be the best QB in the NFC East for a long time to come.

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