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Eagles Notes: More blitzing; better run game; Wentz's fatal flaw

One of Carson Wentz's greatest strengths is his ability to extend plays. It also happens to be one of his greatest vulnerabilities as well.

For every highlight Wentz adds to his reel, there is another play where he hangs on to the ball way too long and takes a loss, a wicked shot, or both. Those can be drive-killers, or worse still, season-killers if Wentz winds up getting hurt.

Wentz was hit nine times last week in Washington. On some of those, his protection wasn't the greatest. Quite often, he appeared to get caught trying to do too much and wound up paying the price. The second-year quarterback needs to understand he's not going to hit a home run every time, that he has other options — that it's OK to check down or throw the football away on occasion.

"You're always learning," Wentz said. "There's good and bad when you're in the pocket dropping back, there's good and bad when you're scrambling making plays."

It's only natural to worry whether Wentz will survive for 16 games playing this way. That being said, don't count on any major changes to the 24-year-old's style of play in the near future.

"You just have to find the happy balance, but it's something that's part of our game, something that I think I bring to the table," Wentz said. "The receivers do a tremendous job getting open when things do break down, so we think the pros definitely outweigh the cons."

Nobody is suggesting Wentz shouldn't use his strength and athleticism to his advantage. He simply needs to realize there are times when it's probably more appropriate to dump the ball off or just get rid of it and live to fight another day.

Eagles believe running game will come around
Despite talk that the Eagles' running game woes in the preseason could be chalked up to just that — the preseason — the offense's mediocre ground attack carried into Week 1. Now, the goalpost is being moved, and the new expectation is we should start to see some progress in Week 2.

"It's the first game, so you can take it with a grain of salt," right tackle Lane Johnson said. "We got the win. It's not as crisp as what we wanted, so I think the biggest improvement you'll see is probably from Week 1 to Week 2."

Not crisp might be an understatement. LeGarrette Blount led the way against Washington, averaging 3.3 yards per carry on 14 attempts. Neither Wendell Smallwood nor Darren Sproles had many opportunities, but each averaged 1.0 yard, so you can understand why.

Nonetheless, the Eagles maintain they are close.

"You go back to watch the film, it's usually one guy away from breaking a long run," Johnson said. "It just comes down to execution. We have the guys in there who can do it."

At this point, there's no one place to point the finger. The offensive line has not looked dominant. The offense saw only limited action in the preseason. Likewise, the Eagles attempted just 20 running plays in Washington (compared to 44 dropbacks). And the team is still figuring out its rotation in the backfield.

There may be no shortage of concern outside the building. Inside the NovaCare Complex, they're focusing on the positives and waiting on continuity.

"Whatever we did, we did enough of it, so I don't mind if we had three rushing yards," Smallwood said. "We won the game and we got the job done. That's all that matters coming out of the gate."

Schwartz may revert to form, blitz less
No NFL defense used a standard four-man rush more often than the Eagles in 2016 (79.3 percent), according to Football Outsiders Almanac. So imagine everybody's surprise when defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz opened up the floodgates in Washington.

Schwartz wound up calling for the blitz on 13 of Washington's 48 dropbacks in Week 1, and it was wildly successful. Quarterback Kirk Cousins completed 5 of 12 passes for 80 yards with a sack and an interception when five or more defenders were rushing.

Just don't expect blitzing to suddenly become a staple of Schwartz's defense.

"Third-and-longs did have a lot to do with it, for sure," Schwartz said.

By all accounts, the higher percentage of blitzes had everything to do with the opponent and situations that presented. The Eagles were able to stop the ground attack — only 34 yards rushing from Washington's running backs — which helped keep the offense in a perpetual state of 2nd- or 3rd-and-8-plus to go.

"It was more than what we've shown in the past, but I thought we were pretty balanced between rushing and blitzes, and when we did blitz, it was situational and opportunistic," safety Malcolm Jenkins said.

In other words, don't count on the Eagles to send as much pressure in Kansas City.

As Jenkins noted in the locker room on Thursday, the Chiefs are a far different animal. Their offense adds new wrinkles every week to take advantage of multi-dimensional weapons such as Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill and Kareem Hunt, while Alex Smith is an efficient quarterback willing to take what he can get and keep the chains moving.

Jenkins acknowledged the Eagles' defense must continue to play fast — but any notion they are going into Arrowhead Stadium and blitzing the Chiefs out of their own building is misguided.

"We're going to try our best not to take our foot off the gas," Jenkins said. "Whether it be through our D-line, or sending blitzes, whatever it is, we want to go fast and not let the motions, the shifts, the jet sweeps and all the different formations slow us down at all.

"That's what their offense does. They make you prepare for so many things that you end up looking at everything and guys don't play fast. You want to continue to attack, play downhill, and obviously, they're going to give us something we haven't seen.

"Early in the game, we'll have to adjust, come back on the sideline and fix it, but we have enough veteran guys to do that."