Eagles-Browns Instant Observations
The Eagles beat the Browns, 29-10, to start the season. Here’s what we saw:
*Overall, Carson Wentz had a very strong debut. He completed 22 of his 37 passes for 278 yards and two touchdowns. He averaged 7.5 yards per attempt and recorded a 101 passer rating.
*Wentz delivered a beautiful 19-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Matthews in the first quarter, and an even better 35-yard touchdown pass to Nelson Agholor in the third quarter. Wentz handled the drastic adjustment of the speed of the game surprisingly well, and his ball placement was consistently good. He wasn’t perfect — he over-threw Matthews during one red zone trip on a fade route that cost the Eagles a potential touchdown — but Doug Pederson and Howie Roseman must be very pleased.
*Although Wentz’s downfield accuracy was impressive, one of his best attributes against the Browns was his willingness to stick in the pocket and step into the throw even though he knew a big hit was coming. Before his touchdown toss to Agholor, Wentz stood tall in the face of a blitz up the middle on fourth down. He completed the pass over the middle, and extended the drive that turned a potential turnover on downs into seven points.
*Pederson had a good plan entering the game for Wentz. He gave his rookie quarterback a lot of easy throws in the flat off of play-action passes. He moved Wentz out of the pocket, not allowing the Browns to pressure him much. Wentz also took advantage of Zach Ertz’s six inch height advantage over Browns cornerback Jordan Poyer on the outside on some type of vertical route, but Ertz made a heck of a play by bringing in the ball with one hand.
*Despite his early drop, Matthews played well. He led all receivers with 117 yards and one touchdown on seven catches. On his 28-yard reception, Wentz delivered a good ball, but Matthews was running wide open because he ran a good route.
*Jason Peters looked like he had a strong first half, both in pass protection and in the run game. He had an excellent down block early in the game to open up a hole for Ryan Mathews to pick up six yards. Allen Barbre was up and down, as he allowed his man to beat him to stop the Eagles for a one-yard gain in the first quarter. Later, however, Barbre mimicked Peters and executed a down block to open up a hole for Mathews to pick up a first down.
*Peters was called for a false start in the first quarter, but several Eagles moved early, so it was probably on Wentz or Jason Kelce. If so, it may be an example of the lack of chemistry Wentz has with his center because they haven’t had much practice time together.
*Matt Tobin was used as a sixth offensive lineman/third tight end, and he provides the Birds with some good blocking early on.
*Now, this is fun: Beau Allen goes in at fullback late in the fourth quarter for the Eagles’ final touchdown drive, and he helped pave the way for Mathews’ 1-yard touchdown run. The Birds rushed the ball 34 times for 133 yards, which is an average of 3.9 yards per carry. Mathews led all rushers with 77 yards on 22 rushes.
*The Browns get on the scoreboard in the middle of the second quarter, keyed by Terrelle Pryor’s 44-yard reception. Nolan Carroll was in perfect position running down the sideline with Pryor, but it looked like Pryor just made a heck of a catch. Then, on third-and-goal, Malcolm Jenkins is called for a pass interference. I’m not sure I’d throw the flag on that one, but it looked close. I’ll have to see a slow motion replay.
*Brandon Graham got the start at left defensive end opposite of Connor Barwin, but Vinny Curry still rotated in. Fletcher Cox and Bennie Logan both turn in a pretty good first half inside against the run, and the entire defensive line generated a good pass rush in the second half. Cox got on the board with a sack, but he did it largely because of Curry’s pressure. Graham also recorded a strip-sack, and Barwin added one sack of his own.
*Early on, Robert Griffin III threw a lot of underneath routes, but the Birds wrapped up well and didn’t give the Browns many yards after the catch. Late in the second quarter, however, Carroll missed a tackle on third-and-long to extend Cleveland’s drive. On the next play, Mychal Kendricks missed a tackle in the open field against Griffin, but it was a very difficult play to make.
*Rodney McLeod made some noise in the run game by making up for Graham, who was pancaked off the edge. The safety quickly came up and tackled the ball-carrier for a one-yard loss. McLeod also recorded an interception, after both Jordan Hicks and Carroll appeared to tip the ball.
*Donnie Jones had a great game. He averaged 69.5 yards on his first two punts, and he placed three others inside the 20-yard line. Jones only has one year left on his contract. Roseman should probably change that.
*Darren Sproles made people miss on multiple punt returns, one of which included a 40-yard run back. The first defender down the field on punts rarely tackles Sproles, and today was no exception.
*I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen this: On Caleb Sturgis’ 46-yard field goal, one official under the uprights signaled the kick was good, while the other said it was no good. The two conferred and decided Sturgis missed it.
*The Browns went for it on an early fourth down in their own territory, but Kamu Grugier-Hill quickly got in the backfield to make the tackle and sets the Eagles up with great field position. The Birds turned it into an easy three points.