Eagles grades vs. Raiders: Foles, Cole shine

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Eagles grades vs. Raiders: Foles, Cole shine

November 5, 2013, 9:00 am
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Lane Johnson had arguably his best game of his pro career, helping the Eagles' offense erupt for 49 points on Sunday. (AP)

You’ve been waiting for the day this year when the Eagles would play a complete game, when they’d get their offense and defense clicking on the same day.

Well, you got it. And wow.

With an unfathomable seven touchdown passes from Nick Foles and their fifth straight game of holding an opponent to less than 21 points, the Eagles had plenty of players deserving of game balls and just a few who need some extra sprints after practice in the aftermath of their 49-20 rout of Oakland.

Let’s get on with it ...

Game balls

Nick Foles
There’s really not much more to write about Foles’ mastery that wasn’t covered already, but what really stuck out on tape was Foles’ knowledge and understanding of the offense. Foles was under pressure plenty of times but was able to make throws on the run and throws with anticipation, knowing where receivers would be at certain times. His mechanics were a 180 improvement from the Dallas debacle, as was his accuracy and confidence. He just looked like a totally different guy.

I think Foles’ best touchdown was his fourth, a 15-yarder to Zach Ertz near the end of the first half. Oakland rushed four and had two safeties deep, playing a two-man coverage that should have made it tough for Foles to find open creases.

He first looked off the safeties off by faking to McCoy in the left flat, and even as he scrambled to the right Foles kept his eyes in the middle of the field, surveying all his targets. This kept safety Brandian Ross from fully committing to Ertz, who ran to the right corner of the end zone. Foles knew he had plenty of time and waited until Ertz was a good distance away from Ross before firing the ball over for an easy touchdown. Good use of his eyes, and unlike the Dallas game, Foles made an easy, accurate throw to a wide-open target in the end zone.

His 19-yard strike to Jeff Maehl on 3rd-and-13 on the opening drive might have been his best overall pass of the game. I can’t recall a more perfect game from an Eagles quarterback in my eight years on the beat.

Riley Cooper
Hard to believe after his first month, but Cooper is the Eagles’ second-leading receiver over the past four weeks. He’s emerged into the No. 2 receiver the offense desperately needed to make up for Jeremy Maclin’s absence (see story). Most impressive about Cooper’s career-best 139 yards and three touchdowns was how he used his body to get open against smaller defensive backs. Rookie corner D.J. Hayden tried to get physical with Cooper at scrimmage on the 17-yard touchdown catch in the second, but Cooper won that battle. Hayden played off Cooper on the 63-yard touchdown catch, but Cooper still got inside and made the catch in stride as Hayden lunged at his feet.

Trent Cole
This was the game Cole -- and all of you -- have been waiting for, a flashback to a time when Cole consistently abused the opposing offensive tackle and put constant pressure on the quarterback. He frequently made Terrelle Pryor uneasy in the pocket and finally picked up his first sack of the season, one of those second-effort sacks Cole used to pile up in years past. Credit defensive coordinator Billy Davis for moving him around more to create mismatches.

Fletcher Cox
He’s starting to become a regular in this category. Cox had several disruptive plays that collapsed the pocket and forced Pryor into scramble mode. He was also stout against the run. He’s been the team’s most complete lineman over the past three weeks.

Earl Wolff
Davis is dialing Wolff’s number more often on blitzes lately. Wolff came around left tackle and jumped in Pryor’s face to force the quarterback into an errant 2nd-and-16 throw to tight end Mychal Rivera (what’s with each team having a player named Mychal?). Later, he barreled down on Pryor and was disciplined enough to stay on his feet and force Pryor to ditch the ball, which would get Pryor whistled for an intentional grounding. His coverage is improving, too. He’s really molding into a playmaking safety.

Lane Johnson
The rookie had arguably the best game of his pro career. The Raiders tested him with blitzes, but he kept his side of the pocket relatively clean and gave Foles plenty of time to make his throws. Also had some nice blocks in the run game. A big step forward for the rookie.

Mychal Kendricks
Coaches are careful not to praise him too much, but Kendricks is doing a much better job getting around offensive linemen and fullbacks to corral ball carriers or help gang-tackle. He had one of the toughest assignments on the defense -- spying Pryor -- and, for the most part, did his job well.

Billy Davis
Davis continues to find ways to drum up pressure and rattle QBs without a bonafide pass rusher in the front seven. In this game, he moved Cole around more than he has all season and Cole came up with his best overall game. You want your defensive coordinator making adjustments from week to week.

Chip Kelly
His offense didn’t change all that much with Foles in charge, just like he said it wouldn’t, and it still racked up 542 yards and averaged 9.2 yards per play. I didn’t have any issues with his play-calling decisions, either.

Extra sprints

Todd Herremans
The veteran right guard’s day started with a bad hold against linebacker Nick Roach to negate a LeSean McCoy run. Herremans was strangely ineffective in the screen game, which is usually his strength. He seemed to have trouble getting in position to make good lead blocks. Herremans was nearly pushed back into Foles by defensive tackle Vance Walker on Foles’ 63-yard TD bomb to Cooper.

Jason Peters
His pass protection was good but he struggled again in run blocking, which has become a repetitive theme over the past few weeks. The shoulder and finger injuries are clearly making it tough for him.

Passing grades

DeSean Jackson
He was targeted six times and caught five passes for 150 yards and a touchdown. His 46-yard TD catch was assisted by cornerback Mike Jenkins falling in coverage, leaving Jackson wide open. Also, not sure why Jackson felt the need to grab the punter’s facemask on his 32-yard return, but the worse decision was to keep pulling it as he ran out of bounds.

Bryce Brown
With seven carries for 54 yards, Brown had his best game of the season. He ran hard and finally showed a willingness to run between tackles. His 32-yarder in the first was the longest run against the Raiders this season.

Brent Celek
Along with catching a two-yard touchdown, Celek had the lead block on the 42-yard screen to Cooper. Looked like a block in the back, but since the refs didn’t call it, good for him. Also had a nice seal block on Roach to help Foles pick up nine yards on a keeper.

Zach Ertz
Caught his first touchdown pass in his Bay Area homecoming and provided some strong leads blocks in the screen game (see story).

Evan Mathis
Had another strong game, save for a holding call that was declined after Foles got sacked. It was an iffy call. Mathis false-started on the next snap. Other than that, no problems.

Cedric Thornton
As usual, Thornton played the run very well. Still working on that pass rush.

LeSean McCoy
The 25-yard touchdown catch was a gift from the Raiders' defense. More impressive was McCoy’s 44 yards on 12 carries, given the poor blocking and lack of lanes. McCoy had to create on his own.

Cary Williams
He wasn’t tested much but did a great job "climbing the wall" to deflect -- and nearly pick off -- a deep pass from Pryor to Denarius Moore down the left seam in the second. He also broke up a 3rd-and-2 slant from Pryor to Moore to end Oakland’s second drive of the second.

Vinny Curry
The big lead enabled him to get 35 snaps and get his third sack, which ties him for the team lead. By far, Curry is the team’s best natural pass rusher.

DeMeco Ryans
Ryans had a tough assignment in helping to keep contain on Pryor. He had some ups and downs but mainly did his job against the run and finished with 11 tackles. Good job stopping read option and tackling Pryor on a keeper for just one yard and setting up third and long.

Brandon Boykin
Made six tackles, broke up a pass. Solid game.

Needs improvement

Jason Kelce
Seemed to have the same issues Herremans did on some screens and power sweeps, not getting his body in position to make the block correctly. In fairness, he got out in front for two Brown runs that totaled 40 yards.

Nate Allen
He took a bad angle trying to track down Rod Streeter on the slant that turned into a 66-yard catch in the first quarter.

Film don't lie
Pryor’s 35-yard run in the second showed how fast he is -- and how slow Ryans and Cole are, by comparison. Pryor was immediately forced outside of the pocket when Kendricks shot through the gap and forced him into scramble mode already 11 yards behind scrimmage. Pryor headed to his right, where left defensive end Fletcher Cox was supposed to keep contain, but Cox got pancaked -- rare for him -- by left tackle Khalif Barnes. Cole had dropped into coverage and Ryans had blitzed, but each had chances to slow down Pryor along the left side, but neither could keep pace.

Cole got his sack lined up as a conventional defensive end and rushing over left tackle, but Davis moved him around more than usual. Cole lined up over right tackle on one passing down and at middle linebacker at another. Near the end of the second half, on 3rd-and-9, he blitzed the B gap between left guard and left tackle from a middle linebacker position and barreled down on Pryor, who was forced to get rid of it quickly and threw incomplete to Juron Criner. Cole charged right past running back Rashad Jennings, who was assigned to blitz pick up, and whistled for holding as he threw himself on Cole as Pryor threw the ball.

A few weeks ago, Curry picked up a sack because Cole’s presence forced a lineman to leave his double team on Curry. In the third quarter against the Raiders, Curry picked up a sack thanks to pressure created by Cox. Cox beat right guard Mike Briesel and closed in on Pryor, who scrambled to his left. Curry had stunted over Raiders left tackle Barnes, and had Pryor stopped in his tracks. Pyror tried to reverse field and go back to his right but slipped and fell, giving Curry an easy sack.

Second guess
Kelly probably should have run the ball on the Eagles’ last drive of the second quarter. They were up 28-10 with 1:49 to play and suffered their first three-and-out on three straight incompletions before punting back to Oakland, which had all three timeouts and managed to get in enough range for Sebastian Janikowski’s 53-yarder. I get that Kelly didn’t want to take his foot off the pedal, a la Washington in the season opener, but the Eagles were getting the ball back to start the second half, so it made more sense at that point to run the clock down than going for another score.

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