Here is a player-by-player look at how the Eagles running backs, wide receivers and tight ends performed against the Cardinals, after having re-watched the game. Click here for other game reviews.
LeSean McCoy – Let’s start with the gameplan. Consider the following:
* In Week 2, the Cardinals’ defense allowed one touchdown drive against Tom Brady and the Patriots. And that came late in the fourth quarter.
* The Eagles were starting a left tackle in Demetress Bell, whom they didn’t think was good enough to dress two weeks ago.
* They had a center in Dallas Reynolds who was making his first NFL start after spending three seasons on the practice squad.
* They were without Jeremy Maclin at wide receiver.
Throw in that Michael Vick had six interceptions and three fumbles in the first three games, along with the fact that the Cardinals had a shut-down corner in Patrick Peterson, and it’s virtually impossible to figure out why Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg decided the gameplan would focus on big plays downfield.
McCoy had just four first-half carries for 15 yards. Overall, he finished with 13 for 70, averaging 5.4 yards per carry. Those are encouraging numbers, considering the Eagles have lost Jason Peters and Jason Kelce, two of their key cogs in the run game. The Eagles tried to get the ball downfield off play-action passes, something the Patriots had success with the week before. But in this one, Cardinals defenders weren’t fooled at all, and Vick would often have guys in his face as soon as he turned around on those slow-developing plays.
McCoy also had three catches for 8 yards. The Eagles have gotten nothing from their screen game.
And he had ups and downs as a blocker. On pass plays, McCoy was asked to stay in and block 56.8 percent of the time, per Pro Football Focus. In the first two games, that number was just 25.6 percent. Vick clearly expected him to block Kerry Rhodes on the fumble at the end of the first half.
Bryce Brown – With Dion Lewis once again inactive, it’s clear that Brown is this team’s backup running back. And he had his best showing Sunday, carrying four times for 28 yards, including a nice 17-yard pickup, his longest of the season. Brown was targeted twice, dropping one and making an 8-yard grab on the other. I’m not sure why he was on the field at the end of the half on second down near the goal line. Clearly, the Eagles were going to ask their back to block in that situation. McCoy, Chris Polk and Stanley Havili all have a leg up on Brown in that aspect. Overall, he played 10 snaps.
Stanley Havili – He played 12 snaps. No touches for Havili, but he had a solid lead block on McCoy’s 7-yard run in the second.
Brent Celek – He finished with two catches for 36 yards on six targets. Celek picked up yards after the catch on the 34-yard grab in the first. He got laid out by Rhodes on a deep ball over the middle in the second. As I explained in yesterday’s post, Celek had some issues in pass protection that led to Vick getting hit. Overall, he was asked to block more than usual. On pass plays, Celek stayed in 36.8 percent of the time, compared to 25.8 percent the first two weeks. Good block by Celek on Brown’s 17-yard run in the third. Only Calvin Johnson (9) has more catches of 20+ yards than Celek (7).
Clay Harbor – I have a difficult time figuring out why he played fewer snaps Sunday than the first two games. Considering the questions on the Eagles’ offensive line and the likelihood of the Cardinals blitzing, I figured Harbor would be used quite a bit to help keep Vick clean. But I was wrong. He only played 11 snaps. Harbor couldn’t finish his trap block on Sam Acho on Brown’s 3-yard run in the first. He was not targeted. I’ll have to take a look at the All-22 tomorrow, but it sure looked like Harbor was open in the end zone on second down before the game-changing fumble at the end of the first half.
DeSean Jackson – He finished with three catches for 43 yards on 10 targets. The Eagles wanted to get him the ball deep in the first half, but were unsuccessful. Jackson’s longest reception was 16 yards. The offense has had success all season long having him run intermediate routes outside the numbers. If defenses are going to play their safeties deep, I think the Eagles need to take advantage of these more. T-Mac wrote about a couple specific plays yesterday – one where Jackson complained to the ref and another where he got stopped short of a touchdown at the 1. My take? Maybe I’m nuts, but I really feel like he could have caught the deep ball had he finished his route and not complained to the official. If he comes down with that, it has a chance to be a 94-yard touchdown. I have no problem with the other play. Jackson is small, and he’s had two concussions. I don’t think he would have dragged Rhodes into the end zone. I’m fine with him getting down and protecting himself on catches over the middle. Jackson has not had a drop in three games.
Damaris Johnson – Up-and-down game. He obviously had the costly fumble on the punt return, setting up a Cardinals touchdown. He’s been unimpressive on special teams. Johnson had some good moments as a receiver, specifically on the crossing pattern where he spun away from a defender and picked up 26 yards. Overall, Johnson finished with five catches for 84 yards on 11 targets. Also, great hustle on the Vick fumble that was returned for a touchdown. Johnson sprinted downfield and nearly drew a block in the back penalty before James Sanders scored.
Jason Avant – The Eagles used three receivers or more all game long. Avant, Johnson and Jackson all played at least 88 percent of the snaps. Again, I’m surprised they didn’t use more two tight-end sets in this one. Avant had three catches for 38 yards on four targets. He made a nice 13-yard grab with a defender all over him in the second. And another nice 17-yard grab in the third.
Mardy Gilyard – He played six snaps as the fourth receiver. No targets.
Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at email@example.com.