After watching the All-22 coaches film from the Eagles’ 24-19 win over the Giants, here are some final thoughts on the offense:
*A good amount of the Doug Pederson criticism is overblown, but one thing I still can’t wrap my head around is having your franchise quarterback serve as a lead blocker. Carson Wentz didn’t get hurt on the end-around reverse to Nelson Agholor, but it’s a completely unnecessary risk to take. (Ironically, the only person to not get hurt on his block was Wentz as both Eli Apple and Jason Peters exited the game with injuries.) It’s not that Wentz is likely to get blown up, considering he weighs at least 50 pounds more than many cornerbacks in the NFL, but when defensive backs see bigger blockers coming around the edge, they’ll sometimes cut the guy. It’s probably not the greatest idea to give defenders free shots at your franchise quarterback’s knees.
*However, one critique I disagree with is questioning Pederson about going for it on fourth-and-goal from the Giants’ 1-yard-line late in the third quarter. Even in the notoriously conservative — to a fault — NFL, teams typically go for the touchdown in that situation. According to Pro Football Reference, head coaches have kicked the field goal just 31 percent of the time in the last five seasons when presented with that decision. But the more important stat is this: teams score a touchdown more often than not (54.6 percent) in that situation; plus, runs are much more successful (56.5 percent) than passes (43.5). With the Giants’ top run-stuffer — Damon “Snacks” Harrison — getting injured on the previous play, it made complete sense to try to get a yard up the middle.
*Carson Wentz’s numbers weren’t good at all as he completed 13 of his 24 pass attempts for 152 yards and a 70.1 passer rating. He also averaged 6.3 yards per attempt, threw one touchdown pass and threw one interception. However, even though Wentz wasn’t great, he wasn’t as bad as his numbers suggest. He was very impressive in extending plays with his feet, and his interception doesn’t look all that bad — for him, at least — when watching the All-22.
*After seeing the wide shot of the field on Wentz’s pick, it makes sense that the Eagles’ coaches have shifted a lot of the responsibility on Bryce Treggs’ shoulders. Here’s what Pederson said: “You never like to throw late deep, but at the same time, Bryce was open. Carson did everything he could to avoid the rush and the sack, and he spun out of it. As a receiver, you are always taught to come back towards the ball.”
*Wentz’s escapability was downright ridiculous on Thursday. He avoided sacks several times and picked up 27 yards on the ground, but his most impressive escape was on his first passing play after returning to the game when he cleared concussion protocol. On first down in Giants territory a few minutes into the fourth quarter, the Giants had a free rusher up the middle. Jason Kelce and Brandon Brooks had a miscommunication — which Kelce took the blame for — but Wentz eluded the defensive tackle as he picked up 11 yards with his legs.
*One small, random thing I liked that Wentz did: Backed up on his own 2-yard-line, Wentz did a nice job of slowing down how fast the Giants could come off the ball with his hard count. Defensive linemen are trying to fire off the ball and time the snap perfectly to get a safety and completely change the momentum of the game in that situation, but Wentz kept New York guessing. He twice got a linebacker to take a false step forward with his hard count, and he got a defensive tackle to move, too. Neither were very close to being offsides, but the rookie quarterback helped his offensive line as much as he could’ve pre-snap to prevent defenders from quickly shooting the gaps.
WIDE RECEIVERS/RUNNING BACKS
*I know many view Nelson Agholor in a pretty cut-and-dry manner, but he confounds me. He’s been running better routes and getting open, and you’ll sometimes see him make nice catches like this one along the sideline to give Caleb Sturgis a shorter field goal attempt:
*However, Agholor will also have plays like this drop in the first quarter after he did a nice job of creating separation on a quick slant:
*Agholor also had his longest catch of the season — a 40-yard touchdown grab — but that was a result of a blown coverage; his 9-yard reception while staying in bounds was much more impressive (to me, at least). According to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats, though, Agholor reached a top-speed of 20.95 miles per hour on his touchdown, which is the 10th-fastest time an NFL player recorded in Week 16.
*Darren Sproles made a nice cut on his 25-yard touchdown run, and he was the most productive Eagle on the ground as he ran the ball seven times for 40 yards and a score. Ryan Mathews averaged just 2.6 yards per carry — he totaled 46 yards on 18 carries — but it didn’t seem like he left many yards on the table as the Giants stacked the box as the game progressed.
OFFENSIVE LINE/TIGHT ENDS
*Lane Johnson was impressive in his first game back, and he made an instant impact. I wrote yesterday about how well he played in the run game, so I won’t rehash all of that, but his success on the Eagles’ first offensive play of the game sums up his performance quite well:
*Some quick-hitters on these two position groups: Jason Peters’ balance in pass protection is impressive. Isaac Seumalo played pretty well as an extra blocker; I think he’ll be a good starter for the Eagles going forward. Zach Ertz continues to be more willing to initiate contact after being questioned for pulling off of a block in Cincinnati. Brent Celek is so physical after the catch, it almost seems like guys just fall off of him.
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