Philadelphia 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. 

NFL Notes: Aaron Hernandez had severe CTE; daughter sues NFL, Patriots

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NFL Notes: Aaron Hernandez had severe CTE; daughter sues NFL, Patriots

BOSTON -- Former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez had a severe case of the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy, his lawyer said on Thursday in announcing a lawsuit against the NFL and the team for hiding the true dangers of the sport.

Dr. Ann McKee, the director of the CTE Center at Boston University, said Hernandez had Stage 3 (out of 4) of the disease, which can cause violent mood swings, depression and other cognitive disorders.

"We're told it was the most severe case they had ever seen for someone of Aaron's age," attorney Jose Baez said.

Hernandez killed himself in April in the prison cell where he was serving a life-without-parole sentence for murder. Baez said Hernandez had shown signs of memory loss, impulsivity and aggression that could be attributed to CTE (see full story).

Jets: Williams limited with bone bruise in wrist
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- New York Jets defensive lineman Leonard Williams was limited at practice with a wrist injury that he says is a bone bruise.

Williams was originally injured during the preseason, and says Thursday that his wrist is bothering him at times. It doesn't appear that the injury will keep him out of the Jets' home opener Sunday against Miami, but Williams might have to play through it.

Defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson sat out practice for the second straight day with a sore shoulder. He said Wednesday that it wasn't a big deal, and coach Todd Bowles says the Jets will see how it feels as the week goes along.

Starting right guard Brian Winters (abdomen) and tight ends Jordan Leggett (knee) and Eric Tomlinson (elbow) also didn't practice. Fourth-year backup Dakota Dozier would start if Winters is unable to play (see full story).

Packers: Perry latest key player to go down with injury
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The banged-up Green Bay Packers have lost another key player to injury with outside linebacker Nick Perry scheduled to have hand surgery.

Coach Mike McCarthy says he doesn't know how much time Perry will miss. He was off to a good start as the bookend to fellow edge rusher Clay Matthews with 1 sacks.

The Packers' first-round draft pick in 2012, Perry had a breakout 2016 last season with 11 sacks in 14 games.

The loss of Perry places added importance on the return of Ahmad Brooks, who was a full participant in practice on Wednesday after missing the Week 2 loss at Atlanta because of a concussion (see full story).

Broncos: Miller baffled by low hit from Cowboys receiver
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Von Miller says he's baffled by Cowboys wide receiver Noah Brown's low hit on him Sunday.

The Broncos linebacker pushed through Brown's block on the game's second snap and Brown got up and dived at Miller's knees as Denver's star chased down Ezekiel Elliott on a hand-off from Dak Prescott.

Miller shook off the hit to have a monster game in Denver's 42-17 win , but he has dealt with soreness in his left knee this week.

"My stance is as a player I've always tried to take care of my players on my football team and opponents as well, whether it's the quarterbacks, receivers, the running backs. So, when it's the other way around, it's just baffling," Miller said Thursday after returning to practice full-time following a limited practice Wednesday.

"But you can't really spend too much time on it," Miller added. "Everybody's situation in the National Football League is different. Everybody doesn't have the same outlook that I have and some of my comrades in the National Football League (have). Everybody doesn't see it that way. Everybody doesn't play the game like I play the game. You've got to respect that."

Earlier in the week, Broncos coach Vance Joseph declined to criticize the Cowboys wide receiver for his low hit, saying, "I saw it. It wasn't called. I'm OK with it."

Miller shook off the low hit and finished the afternoon with two sacks, five quarterback hits, two tackles for loss and a pass breakup.

Chris Long: Putting 'my money where my mouth is' with donation of game checks

Chris Long: Putting 'my money where my mouth is' with donation of game checks

Whether it was his passionate defense of Colin Kaepernick, his show of support for Malcolm Jenkins' raised fist by draping his arm around his teammate during the national anthem or his strong words about racism and violence in his hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia, Chris Long has been extraordinarily outspoken since he joined the Eagles.

Now he's more than outspoken.

"I had a few people that were like, 'Hey, these gestures are great but why don’t you guys get out there in your communities?'" Long said.

So he is.

Long announced via his Twitter account earlier this week that he plans to donate his first six game checks from this year's salary — more than $350,000 — to create two scholarships for students in Charlottesville.

At his locker on Wednesday, he explained what led to the remarkably generous gesture.

"My wife and I have been investing in scholarships in my hometown for a while," Long said. "I'm interested in education, always have been, and … the best way I can give back to something I love is take it out of my game check, because what I love doing is playing football.

"I could [fund the scholarship] another way, but just taking it out of my game check makes it real easy for me to realize why I’m coming to work every day. It’s been a blessing."

Long, 32, is in his 10th NFL season and first with the Eagles. He's the son of Hall of Fame defensive end Howie Long, who graduated from Villanova in 1981.

Chris Long had his first sack as an Eagle Sunday against the Chiefs. He now has 59½ in his career.

"I’ve been lucky," Long said. "I’ve made a lot of money in my career, so it’s not like I’m scrapping check to check. This isn’t a hero thing. It’s nothing like that. It’s honestly just that I want to put my money where my mouth is.

"It’s something we’ve done before, but we’re upping the ante this time."

Long signed a two-year, $4.5 million contract with the Eagles this offseason after winning a Super Bowl ring with the Patriots last year, the first time he's ever played for a team with a winning record.

His 2017 base salary is $1 million, which means each of his 17 game checks equal $58,823. Six game checks equal $352,941.

Long said being able to donate that kind of money makes the game more meaningful for him.

“It for certain does," he said. "It means a lot to go out and play football every Sunday. To be honest, I would play games for free. The thing I wouldn’t do for free is sit in meetings and do practice every day.

"Honestly, it’s a joy no matter what. But just knowing that the game checks are going to that makes it more special for me. You know, 10th year, you don’t know how long you’ll be able to do this, so your platform is really important and meaningful now. You don’t know how meaningful it’ll be in a year or two.”

Long said he's not done yet, either.

His foundation — the Chris Long Foundation — has more charity work in store in the coming weeks.

"My foundation is going to launch another campaign this year that’s going to be similar that’s hopefully going to have some fan involvement," Long said.

"It’s going to be broader reaching than just a couple kids getting scholarships, so I’m excited about that."