Eagles-Falcons: Roob's 10 observations

Eagles-Falcons: Roob's 10 observations


Good luck trying to figure this team out. The Eagles are now 4-0 at home, 1-4 on the road with four straight road losses, but 5-4 overall after an excruciatingly tense but ultimately impressive 24-15 win over the Falcons and their world-class offense at the Linc (see Instant Replay).

There's an awful lot to like off this one. The defense was phenomenal. Carson Wentz was efficient (see breakdown). The running game dominated. 

Yes, for only the second time since the bye week, we have a happy Roob's 10 Observations.  

1. This was one awfully impressive win, and it was sure encouraging to see the Eagles win a close game for the first time all year, come back in the fourth quarter for the first time all year, run the ball consistently for the first time all year and, more than anything, shut down the high-flying Falcons, who brought one of the highest-scoring offenses in NFL history into the Linc. Team win. Wentz was outstanding. The offensive line dominated. The defensive line wore down the Falcons. The defensive backs hung in there under the Julio Jones onslaught. And special teams contributed as always, with a bunch of long kick returns by Kenjon Barner and an enormous clutch 48-yard fourth-quarter field goal by Caleb Sturgis. To me, this was the Eagles’ best win this year because they when they were challenged, when they faced adversity, they fought back. After the Falcons took the lead, the Eagles held them to just 43 net yards on four drives. If the Eagles could just take some of this home magic and make it work on the road, they would be a very dangerous football team.

2. Remember back when people criticized Wentz because he had never rallied the Eagles back in the fourth quarter? As ridiculous as that complaint was, Wentz on Sunday made sure it’s obsolete as well. Wentz was masterful Sunday, and he managed the offense beautifully during a 76-yard fourth-quarter drive that turned a 15-13 deficit into a 21-15 lead. Really, Wentz was brilliant all day and didn’t get much help from his receivers. He finished 25 for 36 for 231 yards and gets credit for his first fourth-quarter rally.

3. You sure can’t ask anything more from the Eagles’ defense, especially considering it played most of the game without its only proven cornerback, Nolan Carroll. The defensive front shut down the run, got tremendous pressure most of the game and was physical with Matt Ryan. The secondary gave up a bunch of yards to Jones, but at the end of the game, they got stops when they had to. The Falcons were 2 for 11 on third down (and 0 for 1 on fourth down) and managed a season-low 11 first downs. The Eagles held the Falcons — who are on pace for the 16th-most points in NFL history — to one touchdown and just 15 points — fewer than half their average. Great game plan by Jim Schwartz, superb execution. This defense has taken some hits these last five games, but this was one heck of a performance.

4. I never write about officiating, but the non-call on Falcons safety Keanu Neal’s helmet-to-helmet hit on Jordan Matthews in the fourth quarter was just preposterous. The NFL makes a big deal talking all the time about protecting players, and then they let that go? Not to mention it would have given the Eagles a 1st-and-10 inside the Falcons’ 25-yard line down two points. That’s just unconscionable. How do you miss that? If you’re an official, how on earth do you miss a vicious helmet-to-helmet hit that leaves the Eagles’ only serviceable wide receiver lying motionless on the field and bleeding from his face? Forget the game. I’m sure the NFL will fine Neal, but these refs simply can’t miss those.

5. Man, I loved the way Ryan Mathews ran Sunday. He’s a guy that has to get double digit carries to get into a groove, and we saw it against the Falcons. He ran tough, he ran physical, he ran hungry. Mathews became the first Eagles' back since LeSean McCoy in 2013 with 100 rushing yards and two rushing TDs in the same game. Been a tough year for Mathews. Cost the Eagles a win in Detroit with that late fumble. Saw his playing time curtailed. Bounced back in a big way.

6. As much as I love Darren Sproles and the way he plays and what he means to this team, I just think the Eagles are a much stronger team when Mathews and Wendell Smallwood (and Barner) are the primary ball carriers and Sproles is a change-of-pace guy. Since Sproles is always going to be on a pitch count, you never really get to establish a commanding running game when he’s the lead ball carrier. I think Pederson finally realized that this week, and the Eagles finally got rolling in the running game and controlled the game with Mathews and Smallwood, two guys who you don’t have to worry about getting too many carries. This was the first time the Eagles have come close to running the ball with authority all year. The final numbers are overwhelming — Mathews came out of cobwebs to run 19 times for 108 yards and two touchdowns. Smallwood ran 13 times for 70 yards. Overall, the Eagles ran for 208 yards, their biggest rushing performance since late in the 2014 season. Pederson's been talking about balance all year. Was good to see him finally run the ball instead of just talking about it.

7. Sturgis did miss a 44-yarder earlier, but that 48-yard field goal he made with 1:57 left in the game to make this a two-possession game was flat-out money. I was terrified Pederson was actually going to go for it on 4th-and-2, but you have to trust your kicker there, and Sturgis has been very good all year. That is such a pressure kick. Those are the kinds of kicks you always knew David Akers was going to make, even if he had missed a kick earlier. Great stuff from Sturgis.

8. Then there’s Nelson Agholor. He had two catches for seven yards Sunday and it would have been one catch for three yards if not for a successful Eagles' challenge. Let’s look at his first nine games this year: He’s averaged 29 yards per game with two catches over 20 yards (the 35-yard TD on opening day vs. the Browns and a 23-yarder last week against the Giants) and just six catches over 12 yards. This is a first-round pick. Of 48 receivers who are full-time starters, only Torrey Smith of the 49ers has worst numbers (217 yards going into Sunday). Going back to last year, Agholor has 544 yards in 21 games, or about 26 yards per game. He has three career receptions over 21 yards. I think the kid wants to succeed, I see him putting in the work, I think he’s determined. It’s just not happening for him and we’re now well into his second NFL season. I just don’t see this changing. Since opening day of last year, no NFL receiver who’s been a full-time starter has fewer yards. What else is there to say about Agholor? The Eagles need to start thinking about trying someone else. Whether that means increased reps for Bryce Treggs or getting Paul Turner going or signing the top guy your pro personnel guys have identified on another team’s practice squad, I don’t know. But it’s getting to the point where the Eagles have to do something. You can’t go through an entire season with one wide receiver.

9. What makes Wentz’s season more remarkable is that he’s doing it with virtually one wide receiver. Matthews had six catches for 73 yards Sunday and the other wideouts combined had seven yards. This is two weeks in a row with zero contribution from Dorial Green-Beckham, and speedy Treggs didn’t play much of a role Sunday in a game where the Eagles focused on short pass plays and the running attack. Imagine if Wentz had Dak Prescott’s weapons?

10. Let me touch on Jalen Mills real quick, too. I know people are going to criticize him for giving up a couple big plays to Jones, but I’m telling you this kid is going to be a solid cornerback in this league. He’s tough, physical, aggressive and he never loses his confidence after giving up a big play. And you see that late in games. He makes plays. This is a rookie seventh-round pick forced into a ton of playing time probably before it’s ideal. But he just goes out there and battles. He’s been matched up against some of the NFL’s best wide receivers this year, and he’s going to give up some catches, but I think he’s going to settle into a very good career for this team before all is said and done.

Learning more about Rich Scangarello’s role in Eagles’ offense

Learning more about Rich Scangarello’s role in Eagles’ offense

INDIANAPOLIS — It’s a pretty ambiguous title.

The Eagles earlier this month hired former Broncos offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello as a senior offensive assistant. But if Doug Pederson is the play-caller, Press Taylor is the passing game coordinator and Jeff Stoutland is the run game coordinator, it begs a pretty obvious question:

What the heck is Scangarello going to do?

At the NFL Scouting Combine on Tuesday, Pederson finally answered that question with at least a little bit more depth than we previously heard.

“He’s going to be able to bridge the gap,” Pederson said Tuesday. “He’s going to be able to bring together the run division and the pass division. With a blend of formations and plays and things that really tie everything together. He’s going to have his hands all over the game plan as well. A lot of communication. A lot of film study. Yeah, he’ll work with the quarterbacks, just like I do. He’ll have a chance to have some input there."

OK, so we don’t exactly know how Scangarello will fill every minute of his work days but we’re starting to get a clearer picture.

Pederson said he and Scangarello bonded over their early backgrounds in the West Coast offense but it’s Scangarello’s close ties to 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan that the Eagles found most intriguing. Scangarello worked under Shanahan in both Atlanta and San Francisco and the Eagles are hoping to blend some of those concepts with the offense Pederson is already running.

Namely, the Eagles are hoping this hire really helps Carson Wentz. That’s the No. 1 reason Scangarello was hired.

In addition to the time Scangarello will spend actually coaching the quarterbacks, the idea of QB movement is key. For whatever reason, the Eagles seemed hesitant to move Wentz in and out of the pocket early last season but once they did, he thrived.

That movement, throughout Wentz’s career, has always seemed to get him in a rhythm. And the Eagles are finally ready to lean into that.

“It was important for me,” Pederson said. “I think when I look back at our season and how we kind of finished the season, the thing Carson excelled at was basically those two elements. The play action, the QB movement stuff, the screens were important. And the run game ties into all that.

“This was what was intriguing with Rich, the background, what he’s learned. He studies this game now. You’ll learn when you get to speak to him. This guy has spent a lot of time studying the game. Now helping us, helping our offense. That’s why he was so intriguing to me.”

Despite finding a relatively high level of success with rookie quarterback Drew Lock in Denver, Scangarello lasted just one year as the Broncos’ offensive coordinator.

After the season, head coach Vic Fangio fired Scangarello and replaced him with Pat Shurmur. There’s plenty of smoke around the idea that Fangio and Scangarello didn’t have the strongest of working relationships.

Check out this exchange I had with Fangio on Tuesday morning:

What were some of Scangarello’s strengths?

“Rich is a good football coach. He knew the system well that he came from, does a good job with quarterbacks. I think Rich has got a bright future.”

What specifically did you like about Scangarello as a coach?

“I think for the first year in there, he did a good job. We played with three quarterbacks, so that has some stress to it. He did a good job of handling that.”

So why didn’t it work?

“That’s a long answer to a short question. I’m not going to get into that.”

See? Plenty of smoke.

Fangio did say on Tuesday that he wanted his offense to be more aggressive in 2020, so perhaps that’s another reason they elected to make a switch.

The word out of Denver is the area where Scangarello struggled was on game day, calling plays. On the flip side, he seemed to excel in preparation and game-planning. The good news for the Eagles is that Pederson is probably never going to give up play-calling responsibilities, so they won’t need Scangarello to do much on game day anyway. They’ll be able to utilize his strengths without worrying about his weaknesses.

Only Pederson really knows the logistics of how this new offensive structure will really work. It’s rare for a team to not have someone with an offensive coordinator title but it’s not unheard of. And the Eagles even thought of deviating from the norm back in 2018 when they promoted Mike Groh.

If this structure doesn’t work in 2020, that failure will belong to Pederson. But if it does work, Scangarello will be a big reason why. 

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How Andy Reid’s life has changed since winning the Super Bowl

How Andy Reid’s life has changed since winning the Super Bowl

INDIANAPOLIS — If you were expecting Andy Reid to win his first Super Bowl and turn into a different guy, you don’t know Andy Reid.

At the NFL Scouting Combine on Tuesday, Reid spoke to a huge gathering of reporters at the first big NFL event since his Chiefs beat the 49ers in Super Bowl LIV.

And guess what?

Not much has changed for Big Red.

“I stay in the office, so I’m isolated a little bit that way. There’s not much change there. I’m sure the players, if you talk to them, they’re out there and being recognized as world champs. 

I have gotten a couple free meals. That was nice. But I’m not out there that much to where I’m affected by it too much.”

Gotta love when Andy plays the hits.

Reid said he and his staff enjoyed the Super Bowl for a few days. They had a parade and reveled briefly but then it was back to business as usual. The focus then had to immediately switch to free agency and the draft in what was now a suddenly short offseason.

“Maybe someday when we get a little older and we’re out of the game, you can sit back and go, hey, you know what, we did pretty good there,” Reid said. “But right now, it’s buckling down and making sure we take care of business."

During the Chiefs’ run to the Super Bowl, Reid was very aware of the support he was receiving from Philadelphia, where he spent 14 seasons as head coach. Not everyone was rooting for him but it seemed like a large portion of Philadelphians were happy to see Reid hoist the Lombardi Trophy.

On Tuesday, Reid was asked if he’s heard from folks in Philly since winning the big game.

"Yeah, I’ve talked to all those guys. I’ve stayed close to the organization,” Reid said before scanning the crowd in front of him. “Guys like Les (Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Les Bowen) I’ve stayed close with.”

Les gave a wave.

“There are a couple other guys here that are Philadelphia here,” Reid continued. “I spent 14 years there. I appreciated every bit of it. Jeff Lurie, I appreciated him being at the game and supporting me there, too."

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