Eagles-Bears Rewind: Offensive Breakdown
Here are some final thoughts on the Eagles’ offense after re-watching the All-22 coaches film from their 29-14 win over the Bears:
*Doug Pederson had another good game as a play-caller, particularly in the Eagles’ opening drive. He gave Carson Wentz a lot of short, easy throws — mostly quick outs, curls and slants — to get the rookie into a rhythm. The Eagles only got a field goal, despite reaching the 4-yard-line, but Wentz gained confidence in the first series. The quarterback did his part, too (more on that later), but give Pederson credit for how he’s scripting his initial plays.
*Perhaps my favorite play call was Wentz’s 8-yard completion to Nelson Agholor as the Eagles advanced to the Bears’ 6-yard-line in the third quarter. Agholor started the play in orbit motion as the left outside receiver toward the middle of the formation, but once the ball was snapped, he switched direction and ran back toward the left sideline. The cornerback trailing Agholor didn’t notice the receiver changed course until Wentz threw the ball, which was way too late. Agholor had a lot of space and picked up an easy eight yards to set up second-and-short. If Wentz hadn’t throw the ball too high, Agholor might have been able to pick up a few extra yards after the catch. It wasn’t the most significant play of the game, but it was a smart design.
*After the game, I was surprised to see Wentz’s stat line: 21-of-34 for 190 yards, one touchdown and 86.6 passer rating. The rookie quarterback played better than numbers indicate, and although every quarterback has receivers who drop balls, Wentz isn’t getting as much help from his targets as the Eagles would like. In Chicago, Wentz did a better job of making pass protection calls, he continued to stand tall in the pocket while delivering great throws under pressure and he threw the ball well on the run. I also thought Pederson’s no-huddle strategy to open the game reflected how much confidence he has in Wentz’s preparedness and intelligence at the line of scrimmage.
*Wentz had a few impressive throws, but his 18-yard completion to Agholor during the two-minute drill at the end of the first half was my favorite. He was flushed out of the pocket, but he kept his eyes up field and he made a tough throw — although he made it look easy — in between three defenders as he rolled left and threw a bit to his right.
*On the other hand, Wentz is taking too many big hits. The Eagles aren’t very concerned about contact in the pocket, but Frank Reich did single out the sideline hits the quarterback has taken. Here’s one example:
*Jordan Matthews has been a conundrum so far this season. He led the Eagles in receiving in each of the first two games, totaling a combined 13 catches for 185 yards (14.2 yards per reception) and one touchdown. Matthews is tied for fourth in the NFL in catches of at least 20 yards, and he’s tied for fifth in receiving first downs. The 24-year-old has been executing one route particularly well, which resulted in a 28-yard catch against Cleveland and a 32-yard reception in Chicago. Here’s an example of the fake-over-turned-corner route, which we also touched on in an All-22 last week:
However, Matthews also has a few drops, including this one in Chicago which cost the Eagles a touchdown:
*Nelson Agholor has had a similar rollercoaster ride in these first two games. His route running has been outstanding at times, and he’s been able to create good separation on deep balls, but drops have cost him big plays, too. On one long incompletion, Agholor executed a terrific double-move, but Wentz under-threw the ball, and when Agholor came back for it, he dropped it. The corner got his hands on the ball, but a slow-motion replay showed the ball coming out of Agholor’s hands before the corner touched him. Here’s the play:
*Add Ryan Mathews to the list of guys who outplayed their numbers. Reich admitted how it’s difficult for running backs to get into a rhythm despite getting just nine carries, as Mathews did in Chicago, but Mathews still broke four tackles. He also gained 40 yards after contact, even though he had just 32 rushing yards from scrimmage, according to Pro Football Focus. Mathews’ one-yard touchdown run is a good example of how he accumulates so many yards after contact:
*Darren Sproles led the Eagles in rushing with 40 yards, but he did so on 12 carries with a 3.3 average. Wendell Smallwood (two carries, 16 yards) and Kenjon Barner (two carries, two yards) both got touches, and the Eagles reached 100 rushing yards in the second straight game. Their average ended up dropping to 3.1 yards per carry in Chicago, but that number is a bit misleading as it stood at 4.2 before their final drive dedicated to killing the clock and ending the game.
OFFENSIVE LINE/TIGHT ENDS
*Two offensive linemen stood out in Chicago: Lane Johnson and Allen Barbre. They both played well against Cleveland, too, as Johnson has allowed just three hurries in 83 pass blocking snaps this season, while Barbre has given up just one pressure this year, per Pro Football Focus. Johnson and Barbre have been good on run and pass plays, but expect Barbre’s performance to take a hit when he moves to right tackle — which he’s much less comfortable at than left guard — if Johnson is suspended.
*I won’t go too in depth on this, because I have an All-22 coming on his struggles so far, but Jason Kelce had another disappointing game. He committed 10-yard and 15-yard penalties on back-to-back plays in the second quarter, and he was pushed around some in the run game. Kelce’s holding call negated Wentz’s impressive 19-yard completion to Brent Celek, and he was responsible for a tackle-for-loss in the fourth quarter. Reich heaped a lot of praise Kelce’s way for how much the center has helped Wentz in pass protection, but we’ll dive deeper into that in the All-22 as well.
*Similar to Kelce, I’ll have a story going a bit deeper into Trey Burton’s performance later (although it won’t be an All-22), but it’s not giving anything away to say the tight end did a nice job of filling in for an injured Zach Ertz. Burton was an effective third-down target for Wentz, and he finished the day with five catches for 49 yards and one touchdown. He has plenty of room to grow in terms of his run blocking and route running, but he seems likely to be a contributor in this offense even when Ertz returns.