For the sixth time in the past seven years, the Eagles started off their regular season campaign with a win. Per ESPN, “season-opener winners are more than twice as likely to make the NFL playoffs (52%) than losers (24%).” You obviously can’t secure a playoff spot after the first week of the season, but you can put yourself in a worse position with a loss, especially to a divisional opponent.
As would be expected in any week one contest, there were both positives and negatives to be found in the 30-17 victory over divisional rival Washington. Let’s talk about some of them.
Dougie Fresh’s Questionable Play Calling
And how. This aspect of Doug was one of the main reasons I disliked him last season, and (at least after one week) it seems like nothing has changed.
Sometimes, it seems like Doug thinks he’s the smartest guy out on the field, and that he thinks he knows more than the opposing coach. Now, admittedly, that’s an admirable quality for a coach to have. Still, there’s a difference between actually possessing the quality and thinking you possess the quality. Most of the time, it seems like Doug falls into the latter category.
Chip Kelly was a big “execution” guy. He was of the belief that if a group of players practiced a play enough during the week (to the point where they could execute the play in their sleep), they’d be able to execute the play perfectly on game day regardless of what the defense did. Now, I know that Pederson isn’t part of the Kelly coaching tree, so it’s surprising to see that he seemingly believes in the same thing.
If a play doesn’t work, stop using it. How hard is that concept? I don’t know why Pederson was so enamored with the WR screen play, but clearly Washington wasn’t biting and the Eagles offense couldn’t execute. If that’s the case, why keep going back to it?
Personally I’d love to see 20 more Eagles WR screens that go for no gain
— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) September 10, 2017
Here’s another question: what was that chickenshit backwards-pass play midway through the first quarter when the Eagles were in field goal range? Following a forced fumble by Fletcher Cox, you have a great opportunity to put more points on the board and extend your lead in the first quarter of a road game against your division rival. So, what do you do? Apparently, you send Nelson Agholor (who had a nice start to the season, by the way) on an end-around and try to force a swing pass to him that ended up looking more like a backwards-pass or a lateral.
Naturally, the incomplete pass was ruled a fumble, and Washington got the ball right back. Now, per Doug, the play didn’t go as initially designed (shocker). Still, I’m hoping not to see that play for a while, if ever again.
Final question: why are the Eagles not allowed to run the ball? When the Eagles reached the 50-play threshold, do you know how many of them were rushing attempts? 16. One of the main issues with Carson Wentz last year was that he was called upon to pass way more than any rookie should. I understand he’s in his second season, but that doesn’t mean he needs to pass the ball over 600 times again. I know this team doesn’t have a true bell-cow back and they’re relying on a questionable RBBC at this point, but Doug has to have more confidence in his rushing attack.
With Doug, it seems like it’s always one step forward, one step back. There were times Sunday when he was calling a solid game, making you think that maybe he’s figured this whole head coaching thing out. Then he goes and calls another WR screen that doesn’t work, and you question why you took the time out of your day to watch the Eagles when you could be doing something constructive with your life.
Carson Wentz: The Ride 2 – Electric Boogaloo
In my 2016 season review, I had compared the Eagles second-year signal caller to a roller coaster in that he had incredible moments along with head-scratching ones. The first game of the 2017 season was no different.
The play that everyone is talking about occurred on the Eagles first drive of the season. On a 3rd-and-12, Wentz managed to elude the pass rush, finding Nelson Agholor open on the near side of the field. Agholor would make one defender miss en route to putting up the first points of the season for the Birds. Here are a couple different angles showcasing Wentz’s athleticism.
I’ve said before that, while you can have issues with other aspects of Wentz’s game (as I do), you can’t dispute his athleticism. However, athleticism will only get you so far, and if you can’t handle the other duties that come with being an NFL QB, you won’t last too long.
A major issue surrounding the former second overall pick is his inability to consistently throw the deep ball, and he did nothing on Sunday afternoon to dispel those concerns. Take a look at some of these passes:
Do you notice a theme with the first three? The ball is underthrown and close to being picked off. Wentz finished with one interception on Sunday. He could have finished with a higher number. In the fourth GIF, Wentz overthrows Wentz. Now, I think you’d prefer your QB to overthrow on a deep ball so as to keep the ball out of reach of any nearby defenders, but if Wentz hits Torrey Smith there, that’s six points. That’s a pass he needs to make consistently.
Aside from the deep ball issues, Wentz also had some problems making even the simplest of throws that any NFL QB should be able to make in their sleep. I was hoping to see a new and improved Carson Wentz against Washington on Sunday, but I was left with the same questions I’ve had since the 2016 season ended. As I’ve stated before, I’m rooting hard for Wentz, but he needs to show drastic improvement sooner rather than later.
The Eagles Front Seven
The Redskins called 17 run plays on Sunday. They gained 64 yards. Rob Kelley rushed 10 times for 30 yards. Kirk Cousins kept the ball four times, gaining 30 yards in the process. Both tied for the team lead in regards to the ground attack. When Kirk Cousins is tied for the team lead in running the ball, you haven’t had a good day on the ground. Give credit to Jim Schwartz and the Eagles tenacious front seven.
Seen by many as a top unit in the league, the Eagles front seven started off the 2017 season on the right foot. They were constantly finding ways to get to Kirk Cousins, finishing the afternoon with four sacks on Washington’s signal caller along with multiple pressures. They forced two fumbles. The group never let one of the backs find a hole (the longest run of the day for the Redskins was 10 yards). Overall, the Eagles front seven proved that they’re a unit that should be feared.
Especially with the loss of Ronald Darby for four-to-six weeks following an ankle injury, the front seven will have to continue getting after the QB as well as they did on Sunday. They’ll have to continue stuffing the backs for little to no gain. Week Two will feature a big test in the form of rookie Kareem Hunt, who shot onto the scene with an outstanding performance against the Patriots Thursday night. Leading up to their week 10 bye, the Eagles will also face Melvin Gordon, Carlos Hyde, and the Jonathan Stewart/Christian McCaffrey duo. Depending on the extent of his injury, they may also have to face arguably the best back in the league in David Johnson. The Eagles front seven made a great first impression on Sunday, but the test has only just begun.
We can only use the cliche “Oh, it’s Week One for the refs, too!” so much before it becomes an annoyance. The officiating was not at its best throughout Sunday’s game, and the biggest example of that came in the most crucial moment. Down five with under two minutes to go in the fourth, Kirk Cousins appeared to have thrown an incomplete pass, which would have brought up a manageable third-and-short. Alas, apparently Cousins’ arm was never coming forward, and the incomplete pass was ruled a fumble. Fletcher Cox returned the fumble for a TD, and the game was iced. Here’s the play in question:
How can you honestly say his arm isn’t coming forward? I’m happy that the Eagles started off the season with a win on the road against a divisional opponent. Still, I know damn well that if something like that happened to Wentz and the Eagles, I’d be furious. I don’t know if the Redskins would have drove down the field and got a TD, but they should have at least had the chance to. I feel like I’ve been saying this for a while, but the officiating needs to get better, and it needs to get better now.
The Streak Is Over
With their 30-17 victory, the Eagles snapped a five game losing streak to the Redskins. That’s a cause for celebration!
Up Next: The Eagles will travel to Arrowhead Stadium for a match-up against the Kansas City Chiefs, who defeated the Patriots 42–27 last Thursday to kick off the NFL season. The kickoff time is 1:00 PM EST.
The Redskins will travel west to the Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles to take on the Rams, who throttled the Andrew Luck-less Colts 46-9 on Sunday. The kickoff time is 4:25 PM EST.