It took a while but the Eagles passing game finally got going in the second half against Washington. Over the past four weeks we have seen glimpses of brilliance from each part of the Offense. A disallowed Zach Ertz touchdown, three deep passes that went for touchdowns and a stunning 45 yard catch from Nelson Agholor, a 100 yard game from Ryan Mathews and an impressive 8/10 run for Bradford earlier in the season. But the question is, is this the game everything finally comes together? We believe so. Here are three reasons why.
3: The Weakest Link
The Eagles have ran the ball successfully against one of the toughest defenses in the league and unleashed deep passes against a weak secondary unit leading Sam Bradford to say that the team have to be respected because of their new found attribute.
The good news for the Eagles is that the Saints defense this year has been shockingly bad. The team have conceded over 500 rushing yards (27th in the NFL), over 1000 passing yards (20th NFL) and are yet to record an interception this year. Partner that with conceding an average of 26 points per game and it’s fair to say that the Saints are in trouble.
Last week the Eagles finally established a running game..to an extent. By that we mean it wasn’t completely absent. Coming off of the impressive effort against the Jets, there is a consistent level of improvement..it just wasn’t as evident against Washington which is understandable considering that the team were missing even more key pieces from their Offensive Line.
Sam Bradford claims that teams have to respect the deep pass and he’s right. Washington had a weak secondary and he was able to build on the failures of previous weeks and turn them into game changing plays, finally convincing fans that there is hope. We said that all Bradford needed to be the complete package was unleash a deep pass and he did just that. All the Eagles need to do is find a way to draw all three pieces together. The short pass, the running game and the deep pass. If they can remove the pressure of not converting on third down, sustain drives for more than a couple of minutes and finally score a touchdown in the first half then it will boost the confidence of all parties and finally relieve some pressure of the Defense whilst keeping the Saints on their toes.
2: The Spread
Nelson Agholor has taken the most snaps of anybody and until last week was ranked at the bottom when it came to Eagles receivers. The problem was that in the opening three weeks, Sam Bradford seemed to favour Jordan Matthews and it was obvious. The second year receiver struggled to get open and avoid double coverage because Defenses knew that Bradford was unlikely to throw to a target who was not on the hot route.
The proof is in the statistics, Jordan Matthews had 22 receptions in weeks one to three whilst the rest of the core combined for 13 receptions and almost half of the yardage. But in week four..something changed. Perhaps it was a change in confidence, practice, mindset, chemistry or a combination of all of the above. But whatever it was, it benefitted the team hugely.
Riley Cooper, Miles Austin and Brent Celek all caught touchdown passes whilst Ertz had one called back. Bradford spread the ball around a lot more confidently, giving the Defense a headache. With a severe lack of star power at cornerback it’s easy to see why. Bradford was able to pick as many flowers from the garden as he wanted as there was nobody telling him otherwise. Reception after reception, gain after gain and some big plays from every receiver who took a snap other than Huff.
For a similarly suffering Saints Defense, this screams problems. If Bradford is now able to become less predictable by not only adding an element of the game that was not previously there but also spread the ball around then the Saints are going to have trouble gauging what plays are being called..something that at least two Defenses have found relatively simple until recently. The spread is a fantastic thing to see for fans and it may just result in this Offense finally taking off.
1:We talkin bout practise..
For the most part Bradford has done what has been asked of him. After week one he needed to see less of the ball, the coaching staff made adjustments. He then was criticised for lack of a deep pass, he threw for three huge plays against Washington. He was criticised for only targeting one receiver, three caught touchdowns. The running backs have also found a way to get involved in the game and it doesn’t all come from rushing. The point is a lot of the early weaknesses and rust have been shaken off..the only problem that remains is hooking it all together and the Offensive Line.
Kelly was keen to admit that the team have been working hard to correct the errors this week and you have to feel like this team has shown flashes upon flashes of sheer brilliance but fell short of some big wins due to poor circumstances or even a couple of missed field goals. Yes the team have been disappointing and yes there’s a LOT of room for improvement. But the fundamentals are there and as Bradford familiarises himself with the Offense, those fundamentals expand and become more deadly to opposing Defenses. All signs are pointing to a shootout this weekend and if the Eagles and fit all the pieces of the puzzle together..it’s a very winnable one.