10 observations from Eagles-Cardinals

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10 observations from Eagles-Cardinals

BOX SCORE

Can't tackle. Can't catch. Can't block. Can't run. Can't throw. Can't do anything.

After two encouraging weeks, the Eagles were back to embarrassing themselves Sunday night. 

They've now allowed 40 or more points in three of their last five games and lost by at least 23 points in those three games.

The Eagles got humiliated Sunday night on national TV, dropping a 40-17 decision to an Arizona Cardinals team that seemed to be just toying with the Eagles much of the game (see Instant Replay).

We've definitely had more than our share of this sort of 10 observations this year, haven't we?

1. Monday, the Eagles can get back to pretending they’re in a playoff race. And I guess technically they are, considering the current state of the NFC East. But nobody should confuse being in a playoff race with being a true playoff team. On Sunday, the Cards demonstrated just how big a gap there is between the Eagles and a true upper-echelon NFC team. They came in and manhandled the Eagles on both sides of the line of scrimmage, and they did it in the Eagles’ own building. Yeah, the Eagles can still back their way into the playoffs with wins over the Redskins and Giants (see Mychal Kendricks' take here), but they have a long way to go to be able to compete on a regular basis with a team like Arizona. The Eagles just looked overmatched Sunday. Missed tackles, blown coverages, fumbles. The kind of stuff that should have been cleaned up in training camp. The Cards have drafted better, signed better free agents and they’re better coached. They’re just on a different level right now, and they made sure everybody knew it.

2. I get giving DeMarco Murray a diminishing workload since he hasn’t been producing. I get playing Ryan Mathews more than Murray. But one thing Murray has done awfully well this year is convert on 3rd-and-short. In fact, going into Sunday’s game, Murray was 12 for 12 this year on 3rd- or-4th-and-1, and Mathews was 2 for 5. So why did Mathews get the ball on 4th-and-1 in the closing minutes of the second quarter? While Murray watched from the sidelines (see story), Mathews was stuffed for no gain. One guy is perfect on short yardage, the other guy is at 40 percent. I get using Murray less, but I don’t get not letting him do the one thing he’s still doing well (see Chip Kelly's take here).

3. We have to address David Johnson’s 47-yard touchdown run. Johnson is a talented kid, tough to tackle. But goodness gracious, that was embarrassing. There were five different times that play should have been over. I don’t care how many backups are on the field, how many guys are missing with injuries. That was a shameful effort. Johnson’s TD was the longest against the Eagles in six years and the longest at the Linc in nine years. That’s not talent. That’s not ability. That’s just want-to. Toughness. Will. When that’s missing, you really have a problem.

4. What a colossal embarrassment Chip Kelly’s three biggest offseason moves have turned out to be. Murray, last year’s NFL rushing leader, rides the bench. Kiko Alonso, traded for LeSean McCoy, can’t tackle anybody and doesn’t even look like he’s trying half the time. Byron Maxwell has had a few decent games this year but certainly has overall been a major disappointment. These are the kind of moves that can set a franchise back years when they fail. And when they all fail this miserably? This is what you get. Owner Jeff Lurie really has to think long and hard about making more changes in the front office this offseason and at least giving Kelly a respected NFL general manager to work with. Not Howie. A new voice, a respected voice, a reliable voice. Gotta do something. Gotta get players.

5. Note to Jordan Matthews: Do not celebrate a touchdown down 20 points in the fourth quarter. I don’t care how long it was, how don’t care how far it was. Hand the ball to the ref and go back to the bench. You are getting embarrassed on national TV in your own stadium. Understand the moment.

6. It’s understandable if you had no idea who No. 31 on the Cards was. He began the season as the Cards’ third-string running back. He only had 35 career carries until the Rams game two weeks ago. He’s started three games in his career. He’s David Johnson, a rookie third-round pick from Northern Iowa, and he pounded the Eagles for 187 yards Sunday. Yeah, he’s a talented kid. But to let him run up and down the field in your own stadium like that? Just embarrassing. Inexcusable. I don’t know what else to say about the Eagles’ run defense. I thought maybe they had turned the corner with a terrific second half against Shady, but this was just pathetic.

7. Just to put all this in context: From 1977 through 2014, a span of 36 years, one opposing running back ran for 185 yards or more in Philly — Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith in 1993. Then Doug Martin ran for 235 in Week 11 and Johnson ran for 187 Sunday. That means more backs have rushed for 185 or more yards in Philly in the Eagles’ last three home games than in the previous 36 years. Now that is bad run defense (see story).

8. I should probably say something about Sam Bradford. He did throw for 361 yards and he did make some big throws along the way. But he also threw two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown, and he only put 17 points on the scoreboard. I still don’t see the future when I watch him play football. Will the Eagles have a better option? I’m not sure. But I’m not straying from my belief that until they draft a young stud QB and grow with him, they’re not going to be an elite team.

9. One more note on the defense. The Cards racked up 493 yards Sunday. This is the second time this year they’ve given up 490 or more and the sixth time in three years under Bill Davis. The Eagles gave up 490 or more yards once under Jim Johnson. In fact, they’ve allowed at least 490 yards as much in the last three years as in the previous 40 years. The Eagles have now allowed at least 400 yards in five straight games, which ties the fifth-longest streak in NFL history.

10. As bad as the defense has been, the offense hasn’t been a whole lot better. The Eagles have now gone six straight games without scoring more than two offensive touchdowns. Now, two of those games were with Mark Sanchez and one was split between Bradford and Sanchez. Still. The second Dallas game is the only game since Week 6 in which the Eagles have scored more than two TDs on offense. And the last time they scored more than three was the Saints. And get this: The last Eagles wide receiver other than Matthews with 80 receiving yards in a game? Jeremy Maclin. That just about says it all.

Fletcher Cox named NFC Defensive Player of the Month

Fletcher Cox named NFC Defensive Player of the Month

The awards keep rolling in.

A day after Carson Wentz was named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week (see story), Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox has been named the NFC Defensive Player of the Month for September.

Through three games, Cox has fought through many double teams to pick up three sacks, a forced fumble and six quarterback hurries. Cox is coming off his strongest game of the season, against the Steelers, when he had two sacks and a forced fumble. He's nearly a third of the way to his career high in sacks, 9.5, which came in 2015.

This is the first Defensive Player of the Month award for Cox and the first for an Eagle since Connor Barwin took the honor in November 2014.

Cox, 25, is back in an attack style defense under coordinator Jim Schwartz and he's been extremely disruptive through three games. This offseason, the Eagles' best player signed a six-year extension worth $103 million, with $63 million guaranteed. A month in, Cox looks like he's worth the money.

The Pro Bowl defensive lineman has been a big reason why the Eagles' defense has been so stout and why the team has started the year with a 3-0 record. The Eagles have given up a league-low 27 points through three games and just 20 on defense. They're also tied for third in the league with 10 sacks and have given up just 274.3 yards per game (fourth in the league).
 

Eagles Film Review: Carson Wentz's improvisation pays off big

Eagles Film Review: Carson Wentz's improvisation pays off big

Carson Wentz takes pride in not letting plays die easily. 

In Sunday’s 34-3 win over the Steelers, one play he didn’t let die ended up being the back-breaker in the blowout. 

We’re, of course, talking about the 73-yard touchdown pass to Darren Sproles at the 13:08 mark in the third quarter. Coming into the second half, the Eagles had a 10-point lead, but this touchdown pushed it to a 20-3 advantage and the rout was on. This play was a tone-setter (see story)

“That’s something that we talk about a lot,” Wentz said after the game. “We always say that a play is never dead. I like to make plays when we need to and everyone just does a great job of getting open in those situations.”

This was the first big off-schedule play Wentz has hit during his three weeks as the team’s starter, but the signs were there. In the Chicago game, there were several times where he showed his ability to extend plays. We broke them down in a film review last week (see story).

Throughout the week, Wentz had been compared to Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. One of the reasons was their shared ability to extend plays and make something happen. Big Ben showed his ability in the first quarter and almost connected on a huge touchdown pass to Markus Wheaton in the back of the end zone, but the receiver couldn’t pull it in. 

When Wentz got his shot later in the game, Sproles was able to pull it in, then make something happen with his feet. 

“I saw Carson scrambling this way,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “Darren was literally right in front of me and when I saw him wheel, my first reaction was to find the sideline to see if he stepped out to be quite honest.  He hadn’t, and Carson just — it was like in slow motion — floated that ball up the sideline and Darren did the rest from there. It was a tremendous play from those two individuals. I guess the last thing I did is I always look back to make sure there are no flags on the ground on those long plays.”

There were no flags. Touchdown. Game. 

Let’s take a closer look at the play: 

Wentz is in shotgun with Sproles in the backfield with him. The Eagles come out with three-wide on the far side of the field and a lot of space on the near side. 

Stephon Tuitt, who actually had a pretty good game against the Eagles, takes this route to the quarterback. When he gets to left guard Allen Barbre, Barbre either didn’t see him or didn’t react quickly enough. 

While Sproles is still running his short out, Wentz feels the pressure and is able to step up through the hole created by Lane Johnson and Brandon Brooks. As soon as he makes it through, Wentz still has his eyes downfield. 

Now Wentz is through the hole and sees Sproles finishing his out-route. This is when Wentz, on the run, motions to Sproles to take off. This is something we’ve seen Wentz do a few times during his three weeks as Eagles quarterback. 

Wentz was left with a tough decision here. He could have run for 10, maybe even 15 yards. It was wide open, but he decided to try to make a play with his arm instead. 

“I always want to be a thrower first,” he said. “Even when a play breaks down, I’m always looking [to throw] because that’s where the big plays are happening. If I scramble I might get 5, 10, 15, 20 yards, but I’m not that fast. I always want to get it to the guys that can make plays. We always want to make plays when they’re there, and that’s what happened.”

With the line of scrimmage at the 27, Wentz has enough awareness to run horizontally to make sure he didn’t cross. And as soon as Pittsburgh safety Mike Mitchell takes that first step toward him, Wentz sees how much room Sproles has to work with. 

Ryan Shazier, who was covering Sproles on the play, froze and then started to step toward Wentz too. He said he thought the quarterback crossed the line of scrimmage, but Wentz was aware enough to stay behind.  

Once Sproles catches the ball in open space, he begins to do Sproles things. Defensive back Sean Davis took a bad angle on him and once he gets close, the veteran turns it inside. Davis said he was trying to buy time for the rest of his defense to get there and stop Sproles. It didn’t work. 

“Man, it’s Sproles!” receiver Nelson Agholor said. “Did you think he was going to get tackled?”

While he’s blocking downfield, Dorial Green-Beckham actually trips himself up and does a somersault. But it didn’t matter — Sproles didn’t need a great block. He pretty much did it himself. 

“Anytime that you can put it in the hands of [Sproles] something special can happen on any play, and he did the rest of it,” Wentz said. 

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