Eagles

Eagles' offense 'just OK,' does most of damage on broken plays

Eagles' offense 'just OK,' does most of damage on broken plays

The new and improved Eagles' offense didn't earn many style points in its regular-season debut Sunday. Actually, Carson Wentz and company didn't rack up many points at all.

Don't let the 30-17 final score fool you. The Eagles' offense crossed the goal line only twice during the team's win over Washington on Sunday (see breakdown). Caleb Sturgis kicked three field goals and Fletcher Cox returned a fumble for a touchdown.

So more than half of the Eagles' scoring was via defense and special teams. In a sense, that's great. Those units are important, too.

From the standpoint that the Eagles invested a lot of draft picks and money in the quarterback position and offense as a whole over the past two offseasons, this was not the desired result.

"We made some plays. A lot of them were broken plays," head coach Doug Pederson said after the game of the Eagles' offense. "Just OK."

There were encouraging signs, specifically in the passing game. Wentz completed 66.7 percent of his passes for 307 yards and two touchdowns, including a 58-yard pass to Nelson Agholor — one of those broken plays Pederson mentioned.

Washington's defense also registered two sacks and nine hits on the quarterback, as Wentz was frequently under pressure or held on to the football too long. There was no ground attack to speak of, either, with Eagles running backs averaging 2.6 yards per carry.

The Eagles totaled 356 yards on offense, but too often, drives stalled or ended in a turnover.

"We have to look at the field and make the corrections," Pederson said. "It wasn't perfect. Too many breakdowns in some crucial situations, some drive killers, whether it be a penalty or a sack. Those are things we have to take a look at, but all in all, we had some opportunities.

"There were some opportunities down the field, which is exciting, and those are things moving forward that we'll try address and we'll try to fix."

Wentz certainly tried to get his new toys involved, targeting Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith a combined 10 times, many of those deep shots. Each time, the pass was underthrown, or overthrown, more often than not turning the wide receiver into the defender.

Jeffery finished with three receptions for 38 yards with a two-point conversion in his Eagles debut. Smith had one catch for 30 yards. They were fourth and fifth on the team, respectively, in both targets and production.

"It was part of the way [Washington] played it," Wentz said. "Their defense took some things away on the outside at times.

"It was just all part of the way the offense worked today. At the same time, I'm not worried about it. Alshon and Torrey will get theirs."

There was some reason for optimism here, too. Those plays were there to be made if Wentz throws the ball a little bit farther or a little bit shorter, or if Jeffery comes up with the highlight-reel grab he tends to make look easy.

Even the mere threat of going over the top — an ability the Eagles' offense sorely lacked the last couple of seasons — can dictate the way an opponent defends.

"Coming into each game, you want to be able to do that," Pederson said. "You don't want the defense to play eight and nine in the box all the time.

"We're going to continue to look at that and find ways to get the ball down the field. We just missed on a couple today that could've been big hitters for us."

While it wasn't a big day in the box score for Jeffery or Smith, defenses still have to respect their ability, Wentz says.

"It opens things up," Wentz said. "We missed the first play of the game to Torrey. I overthrew him on another one. Nonetheless, teams see that and it will open some things up underneath."

Wentz pointed to the performance of tight end Zach Ertz — who finished with a team-high eight receptions for 93 yards Sunday — as an example of Jeffery's and Smith's presence.

"Just having those elements will continue to open things up for [running back Darren Sproles], for Ertz, for Nelson in the slot and some different things. It's a big part of our game."

The missed opportunities down the field, though, were only one aspect of the Eagles' struggles. The offensive line and running game looked out of sync in preseason action as well, and Wentz's issues with accuracy and holding on to the ball too long go back to his rookie year.

One reasonable explanation for everything is the starters played little during the preseason, and the Eagles need time to build a chemistry. Left tackle Jason Peters also exited the game with a groin injury.

Then again, maybe there's no need to make excuses at all. After all, the Eagles did win.

"We made enough plays to win," Wentz said. "Are there things that we left on the field? Totally. We made some mistakes — the turnovers, some different things here and there.

"We have to get those fixed, but we made enough plays to win, so we're going to enjoy that."

Once Pederson gets a hold of the film, something tells me the Eagles won't be enjoying this one for too long.

Eagle Eye: When does a contract negotiation become a problem?

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USA Today Images

Eagle Eye: When does a contract negotiation become a problem?

In the latest edition of Eagle Eye, John Clark and Barrett Brooks are pumped for the start of training camp. Following MLB Commissioner's comments on Mike Trout's marketability, the guys discuss if it's on the player or the league to market an athlete? The Falcons said they will not give Julio Jones a new contract. At what point does a public contract negotiation become a distraction in the locker room?

1:00 - Guys are excited for the start of training camp.
4:45 - Is it on a player or a league to market an athlete?
11:00 - When does a Julio Jones contract situation become a locker room distraction?
18:00 - When money starts dividing a locker room.

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Eagles 2018 training camp battles: Weakside linebacker

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Eagles 2018 training camp battles: Weakside linebacker

As we get near the start of the Eagles’ 2018 training camp, we’re going to take a closer look at some of the key position battles to watch this summer.

Today we’ll look at weakside linebacker.

Names to know

Kamu Grugier-Hill, Nate Gerry, Corey Nelson

What to watch

After years of trade speculation, the Eagles finally just released Mychal Kendricks this offseason. It saved them $6 million in cap room and let Kendricks out of a situation he had been ready to leave for some time. It also left the Eagles with a void. No, Kendricks didn’t play at an All-Pro level last season, but he stepped into a larger role after Jordan Hicks went down and helped the Eagles win a Super Bowl. Now, he’s gone and his old starting gig is up for grabs.

When Nelson was signed this offseason and said he was told he’d compete at the weakside linebacker spot, it raised some eyebrows. That was Kendricks’ job and as long as he was on the team, he wasn’t going to give it up. Now, it all makes more sense.

The WILL linebacker in the Eagles’ system doesn’t play a ton. The Eagles are in their nickel package for around 75 percent of their defensive snaps, which means two linebackers instead of three as the team brings an extra DB on the field. So Hicks and Nigel Bradham will stay on the field for most of the game and the third linebacker will play about a quarter of the snaps. And it’ll be one of these three guys.

What all three guys seem to have in common is the ability to cover. Grugier-Hill and Gerry are both converted safeties and Nelson is much smoother in coverage than Kendricks ever was. All three are good athletes and have shined as special teams players, but are hungry for more responsibility.

It’ll be interesting to see if this competition goes into the season. Bradham is suspended for the season opener, so it seems like two of these guys will start next to Hicks. So read into it how you will … because the guy who plays the WILL in that game might not be the guy who plays it in the next game because the player at the SAM will be on the field more and could possibly be ahead on the depth chart.

Prediction

Grugier-Hill appeared to be in the lead for this job and I think he hangs on, although this one really is up in the air. I just think his two years in the defense will mean something to Jim Schwartz and it’ll be enough to give him an edge on a second-year player and a veteran special teams player. 

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