Eagles

Eagles Film Review: Getting the ball to Nelson Agholor in space

Eagles Film Review: Getting the ball to Nelson Agholor in space

We saw a different Nelson Agholor during the Eagles' 30-17 win over Washington on Sunday. He followed up his excellent offseason with a career game, setting career highs in catches and receiving yards (see story)

Now, it's probably too early to definitively say it's going to last. After all, he had a big touchdown in Week 1 last year too. 

But he clearly looked more confident on Sunday. That could be a big boost for the Eagles because while Agholor isn't a starter outside anymore, he still has a huge role as their slot receiver. 

And on Sunday, we got an idea of one way the Eagles really want to use him this season. Doug Pederson wants to get the ball into Agholor's hands in space. 

"Putting the ball in Nelson's hands can be exciting with his speed that he has," Pederson said on WIP Monday morning. 

So with that in mind, we'll take a look at three plays from Sunday's game where Pederson simply tried to get the ball in Agholor's hands. They worked to varying degrees. 

This is the play we've heard a ton about during and since the game. It happened in the first quarter (6:37 left) on 2nd-and-9 and resulted in a fumble. It was a disastrous play. 

Pederson explained that this play was a run play, a read-pass option, and Carson Wentz decided to get the ball to Agholor as an "advantage throw" because Washington showed zone coverage. "It turns into basically a punt return on the perimeter," Pederson said. 

The play ended up being a backwards pass, but it never should have been. The throw is designed to go forward. 

Live, I thought the play call was atrocious. After rewatching it, I'm still not convinced it was a great call, but this wasn't all on Pederson. Three different Eagles screwed up on this play. The call wasn't great but the execution was much worse. 

Before the snap, Agholor was brought in motion behind Wentz in the shotgun. On Monday, Pederson admitted that Agholor got a little too deep, which eventually helped lead to the play's failure. 

You'll notice on the outside, Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith are in 1-on-1 coverage and their blocking assignments on the play are pretty simple. 

At the point of the throw, it's clear to see the problem with how deep Agholor was. The pass was never supposed to go backwards but Wentz doesn't have much of a choice. Agholor is three yards behind him. 

Also, you'll notice at the top of the screen that CB Kendall Fuller dissects the play early and has already blown past Smith, who completely whiffed on the block. That's the second ingredient that led to the disaster. 

The third is the throw. It's a little early to see here, but Wentz completely soars the ball. The fumble could have been avoided if he places it in Agholor's hands. 

Agholor almost pulls it down, but the defender is already in his face thanks to Smith's whiff block and the fumble is inevitable. 

One more thing: Smith needs to get on this football. He probably thought it was an incompletion but if the quarterback is jumping in the pile, it's a bad look to stand there and watch. 

This next play call I thought was tremendous. While it is pretty unique, the Eagles actually ran this play early in the 2016 season against Chicago. Back in Week 2 last year, the Eagles ran it late in the third quarter on a 1st-and-10 from the Bears' 14-yard line. It went for an eight-yard gain. 

This time, the Eagles ran the play on the first snap of the second quarter from the Washington 8-yard line on 2nd-and-4. It went for a five-yard gain, but it should have been a touchdown. The only major difference in design from last year was this time the play went to the right. 

I also seem to remember Chip Kelly running these types of plays with DeSean Jackson when they were together. 

On Sunday, Wentz is lined up under center, with LeGarrette Blount in the backfield. Agholor (circled) is at the bottom of the screen and is about to go in motion. 

Agholor is speeding toward the backfield, which gives the appearance of a possible jet sweep. The Eagles run those types of plays to Agholor fairly often, so Washington was probably prepared for it. 

Here, you'll see Agholor's ability to stop on a dime, as Wentz pulls off a little play action look. By this point, Jeffery is taking Josh Norman out of the play and there's a lot of space to the right side of the field. 

Safety D.J. Swearinger (circled in green) is the only chance Washington has of stopping a touchdown. 

This should be six points. Agholor has an easy couple steps on Swearinger, but the pass needs to be perfect. It isn't. Wentz lofts it a little bit, which will allow Swearinger to make a touchdown-saving tackle. 

Agholor makes a tremendous grab on a high pass, but it slowed him down just enough to let the defender back into the play. Still, Swearinger had to dive at his ankles to make the tackle. 

The Eagles scored two plays later on a short pass to Blount. 

Here's what the play looked like in real time. Great design:

This last play we'll look at came in the fourth quarter on 3rd-and-9. This design is much simpler. It's basically just a bubble screen to Agholor, who should have Jeffery and Smith — two pretty big receivers — to block. 

Agholor (circled) is at the top of the screen and will come in motion toward the near side. 

Simple enough. Little bubble screen. Agholor is now behind his two teammates who have pretty straight-forward blocking assignments on the play. Block the guy in front of them. 

Neither did. Both Jeffery and Smith missed blocks and the play was doomed, which was a shame for the Eagles because there was a lot of space on that side of the field, and Lane Johnson was getting to the next level to block. Instead of a big gain, Agholor was dropped for a loss of one. 

Some of these plays worked on Sunday and some of them failed. But the failure probably won't deter Pederson from going back to them simply because even on the plays that failed there was opportunity present. On these types of plays, everything needs to be perfect. Agholor has to be in exactly the right place, his blockers need to block and Wentz needs his throws to be on the money. 

If nothing else, though, Sunday's game gave us a pretty clear example of how the Eagles want to use Agholor for the rest of the season. 

Why Jeff Lurie's response to national anthem policy was disappointing

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Why Jeff Lurie's response to national anthem policy was disappointing

On the latest edition of Roob Knows, an Eagles podcast, Reuben Frank discusses the NFL's new national anthem policy and why he was disappointed by Jeff Lurie's reaction. 

Roob also looks at the Eagles' linebacker situation, what's the next move after a couple losses and why you shouldn't bet against Carson Wentz.

Also, rookie cornerback Avonte Maddox joins the podcast. And a look at some Zach Ertz statistics that may surprise you.

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Roob's 10 observations: Anthem policy, Kendricks' career, Wentz

Roob's 10 observations: Anthem policy, Kendricks' career, Wentz

Some thoughts on the NFL’s new anthem policy, Mychal Kendricks’ release, Carson Wentz’s return to practice and — of course — the Joe Callahan Stat of the Day!

It’s all in this week’s OTA edition of Roob’s 10 random Eagles observations!

1. The NFL’s anthem policy banning players from peaceful demonstrations during the anthem bothers me for a few reasons. First of all, it’s a dangerous precedent for the league to unilaterally restrict any such form of personal expression. Legislating opinions never works. Players are going to find other ways to express their opinions, and the policy is only going to breed resentment between the players and the league, which is the last thing the league needs right now. But more than that, I really have problems with the word “disrespect.” When someone arbitrarily decides what is and what isn’t “disrespectful,” you really get yourself in a lot of trouble. Nobody who’s listened to Malcolm Jenkins so eloquently discuss his reasons for raising his fist during the anthem would ever accuse him of being disrespectful. And also, since this is a policy that affects mainly African-American players, it has strong racial implications. These are issues that aren’t going to just go away, whether or not the NFL tries to make them disappear.

2. And I found Eagles owner Jeff Lurie’s statement uncharacteristically tepid and vague. Lurie has been courageously supportive all along of Jenkins, Chris Long and all the players league-wide who’ve used their platform to fight for equal rights and social justice. All that statement did was avoid taking a stand on the new NFL policy. Disappointing.

3. Onto football matters! There’s no question the Eagles are a better football team with Mychal Kendricks on the field. Kendricks was solid last year and very good in the postseason. But the bottom line is Kendricks has felt unwanted and disrespected for a long time. The Eagles have been trying unsuccessfully to unload his contract for a couple years, and Kendricks knew he had no future here. If a team doesn’t want a player and the player doesn’t want to be with the team, it’s not a healthy relationship. And that’s why Kendricks is gone. But Kendricks handled what could have been an ugly situation with class and professionalism, and he’s got a Super Bowl ring to show for it. He never became the Pro Bowl player I expected when I first saw him play in 2012, but he was a decent player here for six years, and he leaves as a champion.

4. Jason Kelce announced the start of the 5K at the Eagles Autism Challenge at the Linc in terrible conditions and parodied his Super Bowl parade speech: “They said it was too cold! They said it was too rainy!” Hilarious.

5. Watching Carson Wentz actually participate in individual drills at practice Tuesday morning was pretty wild. For him to be out there looking comfortable and fluid taking drops and firing passes just 5½ months after hobbling off the field at L.A. Coliseum was awfully encouraging.

6. I’m really starting to think Wentz plays Sept. 6.

7. One note about the Eagles’ linebacker depth. The days where teams ran three linebackers out there on every play are long gone. The Eagles last year played three linebackers on about 12 percent of their defensive snaps. In the Super Bowl, the Eagles played a total of three reps with three LBs. So if Jordan Hicks can stay healthy and Nigel Bradham plays like he did last year, the Eagles will be fine. Big if with Hicks. When the Eagles do play three ‘backers, I expect Corey Nelson to handle that role. Really, it comes down to Hicks staying healthy.

8. Career completion percentages of current Eagles quarterbacks:

82.6 percent … Nate Sudfeld
71.4 percent … Joe Callahan
61.5 percent … Carson Wentz
61.1 percent … Nick Foles

9. Was fun watching Mike Wallace run around at practice on Tuesday. Excited to see what he brings to this offense. He’s 31, an age where many receivers are slowing down, but he was one of just two receivers in their 30s last year who caught 50 passes and averaged 14.0 yards per catch (Ted Ginn was the other). And with Nelson Agholor and Alshon Jeffery here, he doesn’t have to be THE GUY. None of them do. That’s the beauty of this offense.

10. Potentially, this is the best trio of receivers the Eagles have ever had. Would you rather have DeSean, Maclin and Avant or Jeffery, Agholor and Wallace? I think this group is more versatile and slightly more talented. It’s close.  

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