WTS: The ‘Big Winner’ And ‘Big Issue’ For the Birds
With the Eagles preparing to take on the Dallas Cowboys with first place in the NFC East on the line, let’s dive into the latest Philadelphia Eagles stories from around the web.
The defense stole the show from the Sam Bradford–Carson Wentz storyline, writes Don Banks for NFL.com.
Forget about the Bradford versus Carson Wentz trade-inspired quarterback drama, because the Bradford Bowl really wasn’t the headline story of the day, no matter the pregame billing. The Eagles defense was the real star of the show — and what zany plot-twists this one gave us, with the teams combining for five turnovers and just two first downs in the first nine-plus minutes of the game. It was like a greased-pig contest for a while there at Lincoln Financial Field, and neither team looked prepared to execute offensively.
The Eagles persevered through the early sloppiness and wound up earning a win they absolutely had to have, ending a two-game losing streak in the process and improving to 4-2 in the tightly bunched NFC East, just a game behind first-place Dallas (5-1) — the team they happen to play next week in Arlington.
“That was a strange first quarter, very interesting,” said Eagles safety Rodney McLeod, who had a first-quarter interception in his own end zone and later a strip-sack forced fumble against Bradford. “After the game, I said, I’ve never been a part of something like that.
“But our mindset was, ‘Hey, man, we need this win. It’s a great team coming in and what better stage to go out and get our respect back against a team that’s undefeated and has been playing so well.’ We wanted to get that taste out of [our] mouth and end that two-game losing streak.”
With Wentz struggling for a second consecutive game, there’s more interest on the rest of the team, especially the defense, writes Jason Reid of The Undefeated.
Having flawlessly executed defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz’s aggressive game plan, the Eagles surprised the Vikings with an assortment of not-previously-revealed-on-film zone-blitz packages. Combined with the defensive front’s effective four-man pressure, the Eagles would have ruined any opposing passer’s day. It just worked out that it was Sam Bradford was back in town.
Playing at Lincoln Financial Field for the first time since the Eagles traded him to the Vikings about a week before the regular season kicked off, Bradford had a miserable experience against the team for whom he had a career year last season. Philadelphia dominated Minnesota’s reconfigured, shaky offensive line (both starting tackles are out) while chasing Bradford from the pocket often and seemingly crushing him on every other play. Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer best summed up Bradford’s protection.
“Embarrassing,” Zimmer said, stone-faced. “We didn’t block anybody. We were soft. We got overpowered.”
The Eagles’ defense was so good and the Vikings’ offense was so bad that the whole Wentz vs. Bradford storyline was old news by halftime. Philadelphia stomped on Minnesota’s winning streak at five games. More importantly for the Eagles, they started moving in the right direction after two rough weeks. That was the plan.
The defense is the real deal for the Eagles, opines Greg A. Bedard of SI.com.
The whole Carson Wentz storyline was cute for a while but what Philadelphia’s two-game losing streak and then 21–10 victory over the previously unbeaten Vikings tells us is that it’s all about Jim Schwartz’s defense in Philly. While Wentz was busy turning the ball over three times to keep Minnesota in it, the Eagles were absolutely relentless in their punishment of QB Sam Bradford (six sacks, 11 quarterback hits). The Vikings didn’t stand much of a chance.
Brandon Graham was a big winner from Sunday’s game, but NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal thinks the Eagles have a big problem on offense.
The Eagles re-signed pass rusher Vinny Curry in the offseason to a deal much bigger than the one Graham earned in 2015. Curry now plays 20 defensive snaps per game while Graham has been the best player on a Philadelphia defense that could have three to four Pro Bowlers. Graham’s 6-QB hit performance Sunday was another standout day in his breakout season.
Really big issues for really good teams
2) The Eagles’ passing game: It’s hard not to notice the Eagles have combined for 283 passing yards the last two weeks. Yards can be overrated, but the Eagles rank 29th in total offense. The offensive line hasn’t been the same since suspended tackle Lane Johnson left. Jason Peters and Jason Kelce haven’t been the same this season, period. Throw in a lackluster wideout group, and it’s a lot for rookie quarterback Carson Wentz to deal with.
For the second straight week, Wentz had the second-lowest QBR (23.1) in the league, according to Sharon Katz and Jacob Nitzberg of ESPN.com.
Similar to Bradford, Wentz entered Sunday’s game having committed one turnover on the season before committing three on Sunday. Wentz cost his team 5.1 points more than what an average QB would have on the same number of plays. Only Bradford cost his team more this week.
Wentz was 0-of-7 on passes that traveled more than 10 yards downfield Sunday, the only quarterback to have no such completions in a game this season (min. 3 attempts). His 16 completions had an average distance of 1.6 yards downfield, the lowest among any quarterback in a game this season.
Of Wentz’s 138 passing yards, 81 percent of them came after the catch. No other quarterback this week had more than 55 percent of his passing yards come after the catch. Similar to Bradford, Wentz’s 23.1 QBR this week was adjusted for facing the Vikings’ defense, and his raw QBR was 13.0.
Wentz and Darren Sproles aren’t needed on your fantasy football team, opines Michael Beller of SI.com.
Carson Wentz, QB, Eagles
Ah, okay, so it isn’t as easy to be a successful quarterback in the NFL as Wentz made it seem early in the season. Maybe, just maybe, it had something to do with playing the Browns and Bears in his first two career games. To be fair, no one should beat up Wentz for struggling against the Vikings, arguably the league’s best defense. He threw for 138 yards, 4.93 yards per attempt, one touchdown and two interceptions, numbers that have become common for quarterbacks when they play Minnesota. Wentz hasn’t done much over the last three weeks, though, scoring just 11.13 points per game in standard-scoring leagues. Wentz has exceeded expectations, but that only makes him a stream play in one-quarterback leagues, not someone who has to stick on your roster.
Darren Sproles, RB, Eagles
Sproles has a hold over some corners of the fantasy community because of his ability to explode in any given week. He put that on display back in Week 3, when he caught six passes for 128 yards and a touchdown. The problem, though, is those games are so few and far between, and nearly impossible to predict. Outside of that game, Sproles has a total of 176 yards from scrimmage this season. If you’re starting him you’re doing so out of desperation, not because he’s set up to succeed. That’s the definition of a droppable player.
ESPN’s Tim McManus thinks you should start to look at Dorial Green-Beckham for your fantasy football team.
The former second-round pick caught his first touchdown of the season against the Vikings. He indicated earlier in the week that he would be used more in the red zone moving forward, and that proved true Sunday. Green-Beckham finished with just two catches for 8 yards — he probably can’t be relied on every week, from a fantasy perspective — but there’s a good chance quarterback Carson Wentz will look his way around the goal line plenty in the weeks to come.