The Eagles finally won themselves a laugher, and against a hapless Jets team, that’s exactly what they had to do.
Here are our 10 instant observations from the Eagles' 31-6 win over the Jets at the Linc Sunday:
1. It wasn’t the prettiest blowout ever, but the Eagles took care of business, and that’s really all I care about. Tough to complain about a 31-6 win. Would I have liked to see the offense more efficient and productive? Yep. Would I have liked to have seen Corey Clement get the heck away from that punt he muffed that led to the Jets’ only touchdown? Yep. Would I have liked to have seen some big plays from the offense? Yep. But the Eagles are out there with three cornerbacks who weren’t on the team 13 days ago, DeSean Jackson is still missing, and at this point I can handle winning ugly. But make no mistake about it. The Eagles have to play better to beat real teams.
2. I’d love to believe that the Eagles’ 10 sacks represent something of a breakthrough for a defense that had only three sacks through four games. We’ll see. This Jets offensive line is so bad and their quarterback so raw and inexperienced and really unable to recognize what he’s seeing in front of him that it would have been concerning if they didn’t sack him a bunch. Good for the Eagles for taking advantage of the opportunities that were there. They’re not going to come this easy again this year, but the Eagles have to find a way to make sure they do keep coming.
3. The job Cory Undlin did getting his cornerbacks ready for this game is remarkable. He was playing with one cornerback who was on the roster 13 days ago. Craig James signed on Sept. 24, Orlando Scandrick Sept. 27 and Ryan Lewis Friday. I don’t care who was at quarterback, to hold any NFL opponent to six points with three cornerbacks who weren’t in the NFL two weeks ago is one heck of an impressive accomplishment.
4. And I don’t think Scandrick is going to be going anywhere. What he did after spending the first month of the season on his couch is insane. He became the first Eagles cornerback since Bobby Taylor in 1997 with two sacks in a game, and he became the Eagles’ first cornerback with a fumble recovery return for a TD since Sheldon Brown in 2009. The play he made stealing the ball from Luke Falk and running 44 yards for a touchdown was legendary. The dude spent nine years with the Cowboys and another with the Chiefs and never had a game like this. The greatest first game as an Eagle defensive player since Will Witherspoon had a sack, a pick-six and a forced fumble in 2009? I don’t care who the opponent is. Incredible performance.
5. Jordan Howard is a flat-out beast. I like Miles Sanders and I love how Doug Pederson uses him in the passing game. Sanders caught his third pass of 30 yards or more Sunday, which is amazing for a guy who had only one entire game in college with 30 yards. But Howard needs to be this team’s lead back. With his 13 for 62 Sunday, he boosted his season average to 4.7. He’s such a forceful, powerful runner, and you can just see him wear defenses down as the game goes on. Pederson is going to continue with a committee, which is fine. I just want Howard to be chairman of the committee. Thirteen carries isn’t enough.
6. As inconsistent as everything else on this team has been, the Eagles’ run defense has been off the charts. Look at the rushing numbers for the opponents’ lead backs so far:
10 for 18 (1.8) … Derrius Guice, Redskins
11 for 22 (2.0) … Devonta Freeman, Falcons
20 for 36 (1.8) … Kerryon Johnson, Lions
13 for 21 (1.6) … Aaron Jones, Packers
15 for 43 (2.9) … Le'Veon Bell, Jets
Considering the Eagles are down Tim Jernigan and Malik Jackson, and Fletcher Cox is just working his way back to where we’re used to seeing him, that’s pretty impressive. One thing we’ve seen is that the defensive ends, even when they haven’t been generating pass pressure, have been stout against the run, and Rodney McLeod, Malcolm Jenkins, Brandon Graham, Nigel Bradham and Rasul Douglas have all been solid as well. You’re not seeing missed tackles, and you are seeing gang tackling. The Eagles were bad against the run last year, allowing 4.7 yards per carry. Five games in, that figure is down a yard and a half per carry to 3.2. That’s been huge. It really allows the Eagles to force teams to play one-dimensional football.
7. Carson Wentz’s numbers were pedestrian, but for the second straight week he didn’t turn the ball over, he got the ball in the end zone, he spread it around, he converted third downs and he took what the defense gave him. I think the biggest growth we’ve seen in Wentz is not forcing things down the field when they’re not there. That’s three games in a row with no interceptions.
8. Nate Gerry is turning into a bit of a playmaker as an outside linebacker. He sure has a knack for the ball and good hands. His pick-six gave him two interceptions this year and three in the last nine games that he’s played on defense. His pick-six Sunday came at a big moment, with the Eagles up, 7-0, but sputtering on offense and needing a little kick-start. Not bad for a fifth-round pick who wasn’t really expected to be much more than a special teamer.
9. Graham finished with a career-high three sacks, two tackles for loss and five quarterback hurries. B.G. has been quiet this year, so it was really encouraging to see him bust out like this. The one thing about Graham is that even when the sacks haven’t been coming, his effort has never waned. He’s been physical, active and running around all year. This was the B.G. of 2017 we saw on Sunday and hopefully he can use this career game as a springboard for the rest of the season.
10. Finally this: Cameron Johnston is the best punter I’ve ever seen. The guy is a flat-out machine. Every time the Eagles need a monster punt, he bombs it. And he never hits a bad one. Coming into this weekend, Johnston was averaging 48.2 yards for his career — highest in NFL history. His unreturnable 60-yard line drive down to the 4-yard line in the second quarter was a work of art. He was one of the Eagles’ MVPs Sunday and really has been since he got here last year.
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