The Eagles fell short of the mark in Dallas last night, crumbling when it mattered most and succumbing to Dak Prescott and the Cowboys in Overtime. With another divisional showdown just around the corner, what positives can the Eagles take?
Wentz was incredibly accurate, but worryingly conservative in his first Sunday Night Football appearance. Part of that falls on the playcalling and part of it on the receivers, but while Wentz got the job done and protected the ball, he averaged just 4.7 yards per pass and threw a longest pass of just 14 yards. The Eagles have to trust in the arm of Wentz in the coming weeks if they are to emerge as a dangerous Offense as the lack of explosiveness on the outside makes picking up big gains on screens and short passes incredibly difficult. Wentz held his own and showed poise, but that alone wasn’t enough against Dallas.
The Eagles backfield took a very different shape on Sunday night, where a lead back dominated the carries and amassed 86 yards, averaging 5.7 yards per attempt. That back happened to be Darren Sproles, in a bizarre game that saw the 33-year old veteran run the ball 15 times. The backfield found a new level of productivity, but with a veteran at the helm who is unlikely durable enough to sustain that workload as the year progresses. A lone carry from Wendell Smallwood was fumbled and Ryan Mathews made his impact in a reduced “goal line back” role. It was nice to see the Offensive balance favor the Eagles, but Pederson appears to still be figuring out how to complete the puzzle.
Surprisingly, the Offensive line was easily one of the most impressive aspects of the Eagles Offense last night. The unit seemed far more disciplined and the silly penalties vanished. In their place, an impressive rushing display and a lack of pressure on quarterback Carson Wentz, with the rookie taking 6 hits and 3 sacks. Big V seems to have found his footing, but the injury to Allen Barbre is going to unnerve many, with depth now becoming an issue.
Drops, an inability to separate and a failure to make the small plays count. The Eagles receivers struggled against Dallas, both on a technical and a physical level. There were some impressive highlights, the touchdown pass and overall improved game from Jordan Matthews being one of them, with DGB having a rollercoaster game on the outside, making some tough catches and dropping others. If the Eagles are going to run a conservative Offense that relies on yards after the catch, they NEED more than just route runners on the outside.
Bearing in mind that the unit was missing Bennie Logan, the Eagles D-Line did a good job of stuffing the run at times and pressuring Dak Prescott against one of the most dominant Offensive Lines in the league. The sacks and QB hits were nowhere near as overwhelming as they were in the win over Minnesota, but forcing Prescott into errors was a large reason that the Eagles were able to stretch out their lead in the third quarter.
(ESPN stats) The Linebackers played a big role in holding Ezekiel Elliott to a “quiet” game, with Bradham and Hicks accounting for 17 tackles, but the pass coverage was where they shone. Jordan Hicks showed up in Texas once again, picking off a pass in the endzone and giving the Eagles a surge of momentum, while Nigel Bradham made his presence felt against Jason Witten, keeping him quiet for most of the game.
Missed tackles forced their way back into the game, but the unit had a strong game considering how much weaponry they were tasked with stopping.
Leodis McKelvin endured a rollercoaster of a game. After being burned early on, he came through with some very impressive and very physical play, before later being exploited again by Dak Prescott. Malcolm Jenkins and Jaylen Watkins contributed in the slot role and were able to keep the Dallas TE’s and much tougher receivers quiet for most of the game, while Mills, like McKelvin had some highs and lows. Carroll appeared to channel his inner aggression and it showed on the field with some great plays. The cornerbacks seemed much more consistent than they had been in recent weeks, which is a huge step forward..but we will analyze their play much closer in our cornerback grades and analysis article.
Rodney McLeod came up big once again, just as he’s done all season long. With some rotational help from Brooks, Jenkins and Watkins, the Eagles Safeties played a very hard-hitting game.
The Safety blitzes are becoming a more prominent factor of the Defense, which is great to see..and at this stage, the case for Rodney McLeod to make his first Pro Bowl and establish himself as the MVP of the Eagles Defense is all too strong.
Caleb Sturgis was money once again when it came to Field Goals, converting everything the Eagles threw his way, making the decision not to set him up with a long-range attempt late on even more questionable. Josh Huff exploded with another big kick return, while the coverage team forced a fumble on the very opening play of the game. The Eagles special teams unit has been strong for quite some time now, but they’re yet to hit their ceiling..which is just frightening for every other team in the league.