How are Eagles cornerstone players performing after five weeks?

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For many, the Eagles offseason was an unforgettable rollercoaster. From shocking trades to huge contract extensions that helped minimize the cap hit felt by the team in 2016, the Eagles flipped their franchise upside down in the space of a few months. We’re now five games into the season and a lot has changed..but just how are the cornerstone players, who will likely spend at least five years in Philadelphia performing?

Fletcher Cox:
Snaps played: 76%
Tackles: 11
Sacks: 4
Forced Fumbles: 1

After a thunderous 2015 campaign, Cox was rewarded with a shattering contract extension worth $102,000,000 that looks to keep him in Philadelphia for the next six years. The now Pro Bowler took a while to heat up in 2016 however..but that doesn’t mean his production dropped.

Some early double teaming from the Browns kept Cox quiet for most of the game until the floodgates finally opened. The pattern has followed Cox throughout his 2016 campaign so far, but the ruthless defensive tackle is still well on his way to matching his level of performance that stunned fans a year ago. It only takes one play for Cox to completely destroy an Offensive drive or make his presence known..and sometimes, that’s all he needs.

With four sacks in five games and eleven tackles already, Cox has had at least one sack in three games this season already and more than two tackles in four. But against Washington, Cox didn’t register a single tackle or a sack.

Teams are finding ways to keep the Eagles star quieter for longer and limit the amount of damage he can cause..and for the amount of money he’s being paid, a worryingly poor game against the Redskins that was littered with avoidable penalties is unacceptable. But despite teams keeping Cox chained down for longer..it’s only a matter of time before the Man-Dog breaks free and makes a big play.

 

 

Lane Johnson:
Snaps played: 84%

After signing a 5-year extension with the Eagles, Johnson looked primed to one day take over from Jason Peters at Left Tackle after emerging as an integral part of the Eagles Offense. That importance was later made crystal clear when Halapoulivaati Vaitai played in the absence of Johnson, giving up two sacks in just 16 minutes.

Johnson’s currently serving a ten-game suspension for his second PED violation..and it’s a suspension that is already hurting the team dearly.

The Eagles rode an uncertain wave through the opening few weeks, waiting for the results of Johnson’s B-sample to be revealed. His level of play in that time was impressive and he proved to be pivotal to the Eagles pass protection, which saw a surge in production against the Steelers. But with Johnson now out of the picture, the Offensive Line is in jeopardy..and it’s something that the franchise right tackle has to take heavy responsibility for.

 

Vinny Curry:
Snaps played: 40%
Tackles: 5
Sacks: 1

A mild injury setback has seen one of the Eagles most explosive Defensive ends relatively limited through the first four games, but he’s also not been helped by heavy rotation at the position. In fact, his first game without a knee-brace reportedly came against the Lions..but should the Eagles be giving more snaps to a player who signed a five-year extension worth $46 million?

Curry did a great job of setting the edge in a play that saw Jordan Hicks run rampant in a big tackle for a loss, but it was very much a game of two halves. He lost the contain that allowed Cousins to rush for a first down..something that was also present in the Eagles loss to Detroit.

If Curry has been battling injury through the opening weeks, we should expect to see a much more prominent player in the coming weeks and some of the explosiveness he has been known for producing. But even so, the level of production thus far, regardless of reason has been underwhelming given how much excitement and expectation has been placed on the shoulders of the lifelong Eagles fan.

 

 

Zach Ertz:
Snaps played: 48.3%
Receiving yards: 117
Receiving TD’s: 0

The Eagles franchise tight end ended 2015 in emphatic fashion..and when associating Doug Pederson with Travis Kelce’s breakout last year, you’d expect Ertz’s production to surge..but the opposite has happened. An injury after the season opener kept the former Stanford TE sidelined until the team’s loss to Detroit, but even so..Ertz has been unusually quiet.

Against the Redskins, Ertz only caught one pass..which considering that he’s regarded as one of the team’s most dangerous receiving weapons is concerning. There were times when he was open and Wentz decided to throw elsewhere..but more notably than the lone completion, Ertz dropped a high pass just outside of the endzone..something that drew a lot of criticism.

Ertz suffered a displaced rib in week one and it’s an injury that can have dangerous consequences if re-injured, which explains his limited activity. But playing in 48% of Offensive snaps and only receiving for 117 yards is startling.

Against the Browns, Ertz only received for 57 yards and that was when healthy. He’s yet to hit the 5o yard mark for a second time this season.

Ertz signed a huge extension during the offseason, keeping him in Midnight green until 2022..but so far in 2016, the tight end has been one of the most underwhelming players on the roster. While injury can shoulder some of the blame, it can’t shoulder all of it. Trey Burton was able to shine against the Bears, recording his first ever NFL touchdown, standing in for Zach Ertz and there’s no reason why Wentz would be reluctant to target one of the most explosive receivers on the roster.

As time goes on, it will be interesting to see if Ertz sees a sudden spike in production as he did toward the end of last season..and especially as chemistry with rookie quarterback Carson Wentz improves. But a tough injury and limited targets have chained one of the Eagles biggest playmakers down thus far, depriving them of a much needed spark.

 

Brandon Brooks:
Snaps played: 100%

Former Texans Guard Brandon Brooks signed a five year deal with the Eagles during the offseason in an attempt to bolster the Offensive Line, building from the ball out and establishing a fortress for Carson Wentz to one day rule in.

Beneath the smoke and mirrors, the Eagles right guard has been very quietly having himself an impressive first season in Philadelphia and setting a high standard. Just how high is that standard?

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A few penalties (phantom or not) have certainly dampened the effect he’s had on the line, but Brooks has been one of the most consistent and impressive players on the Offensive Line and crucial in sustaining pass protection success..which is exactly what they guaranteed him $21,000,000 to do.

 

Carson Wentz:
Snaps played: 100%
QB stats: 102/157, 1.186 yards, 7.6 AVG, 7TD, 1INT

The Eagles placed all their chips on the table in not only trading up for Carson Wentz, but starting him in week one having traded Sam Bradford to the Vikings at the last second..but the payoff to this point has been tremendous. The most important cornerstone on the roster is the quarterback..and Carson Wentz has performed above and beyond everyone’s wildest expectations.

By this point, we don’t need to praise his poise, confidence, accuracy and leadership as we do so each and every week after he demonstrates each quality so perfectly. His winning record along with his impressive game management speak volumes and there will undoubtedly be plenty of articles that dive much deeper into the season Carson Wentz is currently having, just as there has been since his scintillating debut.

It’s only a small sample size and there have still been times where rookie tendencies have presented themselves, but Wentz is not only performing, but preparing at a level that’s expected of veterans..making both bold decisions big risks that have proved to absolutely be worth taking.

 

Malcolm Jenkins:
Snaps played: 99.7%
Tackles: 19
Sacks: 1
Passes Defensed: 6
Interceptions: 1

Jenkins is another player whose play has gone under the radar this season after signing a 4-year extension with the Eagles..especially compared with the Eagles second Safety, Rodney McLeod. The veteran has continued to make plays all over the field, but more has been asked of him.

From reps at nickel cornerback to a pick six that salvaged an uncharacteristically disappointing performance against the Redskins , Jenkins has been a major backbone in the Jim Schawrtz Defense..but his impact is seen a lot less due to the pass rush stealing the show.

A quiet year doesn’t necessarily mean a bad one..and Jenkins is still coming up with clutch plays and big stops when he’s called upon..although he seemed to struggle against Washington before the play that put the Eagles right back in the game.

 

Rodney McLeod:
Snaps played: 98.3%
Tackles: 36
Passes Defensed: 3
Interceptions: 2

The Eagles poached Rodney McLeod from the Rams, signing him to an extensive five-year contract in the hopes that he would bring the boom to the Jim Schwartz scheme..and that’s exactly what he’s done.

In the opening four games, McLeod asserted his presence on the Defense..and against the Redskins, he turned up the heat even more. Some big hits on running backs that had burst through the trenches, and great help over the top to aid a struggling Jalen Mills against the explosive DeSean Jackson saw McLeod become a one man band at times when the Eagles needed a surge in momentum.

After five games, McLeod leads the Eagles in tackles and interceptions but his physical style of play has gone under the radar all season. Often cleaning up missed tackles from linebackers, stopping powerful running backs and helping force incompletions on deep passes..you can certainly make a solid case that McLeod has been the Eagles Defensive MVP so far this season.

 

 

Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

 

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