The Eagles Defense looked as though everything finally clicked into place in Sunday’s win over the Jets whilst the Offense showed signs of promise but didn’t quite deliver the whole product. Overall, the team showed a lot of improvement from what we saw a week ago, but who were the five top performers in todays win?
5: Jordan Matthews
Our first player on this list isn’t going to be the most popular but hear us out. Jordan Matthews came into this game after two dismal weeks. He had a dropped pass against Atlanta that could have propelled the Eagles back into the game and despite scoring a touchdown against Dallas, his woes continued. More dropped passes early on cost the Eagles some momentum and it was evident the issue was playing on his mind. However in week three he came out and attacked. Matthews caught 6 of the 8 passes thrown his way and led the receiving core with 49 yards and stretched to a 17 yard gain. A great way to rebound and build chemistry with a Quarterback struggling to hit targets.
The one play that sealed his place was the touchdown that fell an inch short. Matthews outstretched his arms on the way down to be just short of a touchdown. But it’s that kind of determination that makes him special. Matthews will not relent or hold back on a play until it’s fully complete. Whether he is in possession or no. The second year receiver needed a big game to boost his confidence and whilst it wasn’t incredible..it was sufficient.
4: Ryan Mathews
There were only two things stopping Mathews from being higher up this list and one was his fumble late on. It very almost put the Eagles in a difficult scenario and one that may have put the lead in jeopardy. His ball security has never been terrific and the former Charger has a history of fumbling. Towards the end of the game when the Eagles were trying to run down the clock, the ball was so far from his body under one arm that it could have been stripped at anytime.
The other was his inability to catch passes still being highlighted. He only dropped two, but the ones he dropped could have easily turned into points scoring opportunities. It’s a weakness that has been present in all three games now.
If you take that away however, Mathews demonstrated exactly how dangerous this Eagles backfield can be. Perhaps it was just a vision into the animal it could become, but either way..it changed the dynamic of the game entirely. Does Mathews fit the system better than Murray, or did an improved Offensive Line compliment him? It’s a debate we will look deep into but you simply cannot discredit his performance. 25 carries for 108 yards rushing whilst adding a receiving touchdown to his name as well showed blissfully how Chip wants to run the ball down the field. Mathews was punching through holes and turning 2-3 yard gains into 5-7 yard gains and often first downs.
An impactful performance from Ryan Mathews and one that not only demonstrates how important the running game is to this Offense, but a performance that shows the genius of Chip Kelly. He knew exactly who he was picking up when he signed Ryan Mathews and whilst quiet in the opening weeks, he was thrust onto centre stage and performed beyond expectation.
3: Nolan Carroll
The stats don’t tell the whole story for the former Dolphins corner. Carroll recorded four tackles and two pass deflections but was a presence all day long. Without Decker, the Jets had two options. Fire everything to Brandon Marshall or aim for the unsung talent in the hope that the Eagles focus all of their attention to Marshall. Carroll made sure that every receiver the Jets placed in front of him was shut down. He never gave up a penalty, never made a bad play, but was constantly in contact or very close proximity of the receiver he was marking. Whether it was Marshall or whether it was Enunwa, Carroll controlled the sidelines all day long..forcing the Jets to throw elsewhere and relieving the pressure from Byron Maxwell. We will examine his game more closely in the coming days, but Carroll made some fantastic plays and certainly was a big part in the Eagles defensive dominance.
2: Darren Sproles
The little engine that could. Darren Sproles might be in the latter stages of his career, but that doesn’t mean he is any less deadly. Sproles thrives in this Chip Kelly Offense and today was another fine example. Whilst Sproles was great at running the ball for short yards including that one yard touchdown, he only ran for five yards on ten carries if you take away his 12 yard burst. It was in the receiving game yet again that he showed his versatility, catching four out of six for 19 yards.
But why was Sproles rated so high? It might have something to do with this record setting punt return touchdown..
— Bleeding Green Nation (@BleedingGreen) September 27, 2015
The Eagles running backs had amassed just 70 yards all year and without DeMarco Murray, a lot of people were quick to write them off. With the aid of Ryan Matthews..Darren Sproles changed everyone’s perception and proved he still has a LOT left in the tank. Not only that, but the Eagles special team units were incredible last season and haven’t been anywhere near as impactful until now. The punt return touchdown not only instils confidence in a team that struggled to score until this game, but also fires up a special teams unit that was lacking productivity. Sproles put the team on his shoulders and ran his way to the end-zone..twice. A huge game from a little guy that never stops giving. If anyone ever questioned how Chip will use three running backs, now you have your answer. You can never write off the Sproles train.
1: Jordan Hicks
Without a doubt, Jordan Hicks should take MVP honours for today’s game..not just Defensively, but for the entire game. The rookie out of Texas was pushed out into the front lines of a war his team were set to lose..and he changed everything. Hicks not only ended the game with ten tackles, but recovered a fumble and even recorded an interception. Three turnovers in two games for Jordan Hicks is definitely a stat to get excited about.
Chip Kelly called him a “third down linebacker” and it’s becoming clearer and clearer what he meant. The man is a force to be reckoned with. But at the same time, with so much media attention and with such a tough situation to make your full debut, he retained his composure and put on a dominant display.
The Eagles came into the showdown without Kiko Alonso and without Mychal Kendricks. With the defense already being slated in the media and the pass rush only amassing four sacks in two games, the pressure was on for Hicks..and he turned into the monster Philly needed.
With Alonso’s injury history, a lot of fans were worried about what would happen to the linebacker core if injuries started to add up…they need worry no longer, Jordan Hicks has made his mark. The best part? His NFL Career is only just beginning. We backed this kid from day one, saying The Eagles may have potentially the best sleeper in the draft…and we may just be right.
Who stole the show for you in today’s win over the New York Jets? Have your say in our poll below or let us know in the comments!