The Eagles are officially halfway through their 2016 regular season campaign and it’s already proving to be quite the rollercoaster. After a stunning 3-0 start, the Eagles have lost four of their last five games..including three to divisional opponents, but there are still definitely bright spots on this team..something that this report card will look to recognize.
A scintillating start to the career of Carson Wentz saw the low bar of expectation raised considerably. After nearing the record for passes completed before his first career interception, Wentz received accolades across the board. From multiple Rookie Of The Week awards to NFC Offensive Player Of The Week, the North Dakota State star did it all in the opening few weeks.
Since then however, his game began to show rookie tendencies. From the high throws we saw in Training Camp to some poor decisions, we were gently reminded that Wentz is still a rookie..and one who was drafted to originally sit the 2016 season and learn the Offense.
The chemistry he’s developing with players is beyond impressive and after eight games, Wentz has completed 64% of his passes, throwing for 1,890 yards, 9 TD’s and 5 INT’s. Some of his recent errors have been down to gameplanning and coaching decisions while others are simply a reminder that this is a season intended for the future of the franchise to develop and find his feet in the NFL. Wentz has done that and is already sprinting toward long-term success.
The backfield may have rushed for a combined 826 yards and Ryan Mathews may have five rushing touchdowns on the year but make no mistake, there are heavy question marks over the longevity of this unit.
Days after affirming that Mathews was the starting running back, veteran Darren Sproles saw more carries than the rest of the backfield combined. From fourth quarter fumbles to a lack of production, and the unit averaging 4 yards per carry and rushing 63 less times than Wentz has thrown the ball, the future could be youthful and explosive..but as of right now, goal line production casts a misleading shadow over a unit still finding its identity.
The O-Line has had to battle more than its fair share of demons in the opening eight games. First Lane Johnson was suspended prior to a showdown with Washington and then injuries to Allen Barbre and Jason Kelce have only added to the problematic penalty issues plaguing the unit early on.
In recent weeks however, their fortunes have turned around. Wentz was sacked only two times against the Giants and the Line has improved drastically in comparison to the performances against Washington and Detroit. The level of discipline has been raised, the mistakes from rookie Halapoulivaati Vaitai are diminishing and production is increasing.
The unit has encountered just about every setback possible..but to turn a terrible start into a bright future is quite the commendable achievement..but a poor start and a reluctance to recognize the possibility of Johnson’s suspension no doubt hurt the Offense tremendously to begin with.
The Eagles wideouts have come under a lot of scrutiny this season..and rightly so. It took a while to get going after a promising start against the Browns. Hurt by a gameplan that limited them to just over 4 yards per pass attempt, the receivers have struggled with drops, an inability to separate and come down with the big catch in clutch moments.
Jordan Matthews once again leads the way in receiving and is on track for his first 1,000 yard season in the NFL while Dorial Green-Beckham took a while to find his feet due to only getting the playbook down after the Bye Week..but zero catches against the Giants has raised some new question marks, dampening his hot emergence in the Offense.
Zach Ertz was near invisible until a long awaited breakout against the Giants, delivering a glimmer of hope to salvaging his season. Burton has been a pleasant surprise while Celek’s role has been limited to blocking..but the group most expected to make the biggest impact, has underwhelmed so far.
Nelson Agholor just cant find consistency and after Josh Huff was released, Bryce Treggs quite literally burst onto the scene..receiving for 69-yards in his debut. The unit has put up Offensive Fireworks when the lid has been taken off the Defense by Doug Pederson, the only problem is that it happens so rarely, the production is often limited.
It’s still an area of concern..but knowing that the Eagles wideouts have the ability to make a big play having seen it numerous times this season, it just becomes a case of trusting in the arm of Wentz more often to make it happen regularly.
The Eagles front four was expected to set the league on fire in 2016..and for the most part it’s succeeded. Brandon Graham is having a thunderous season, with four sacks, twenty-six tackles and two forced fumbles already..while teams focus on containing Fletcher Cox, and the rotation at DE is beginning to cause problems for Offenses as the year wears on.
Bennie Logan’s recent injury was projected to be a huge setback, but the emergence of UDFA Destiny Vaeao partnered with some consistent play from Beau Allen has cemented depth at a position that previously lacked it.
It would be nice to see more from Cox given the size of the extension he signed, but that could be poised to happen in the latter games. As a general unit, they’ve exceeded expectations and look to emerge as one of the most feared front four’s in the league.
A recent surge in production from Jordan Hicks and Nigel Bradham have quietened the critics in recent weeks, but the unit struggled to get going in 2016. Mychal Kendricks suffered a huge setback in terms of snapcounts and failed to make an impact on his limited action, while Bradham looked to have been benched for the opening part of the Lions game for his off-field controversies.
The linebackers have contributed heavily to the stout run Defense and Stephen Tulloch’s prowess has played a pivotal role there, while Bradham and Hicks have excelled in coverage during the last few weeks. It’s a unit on the rise..that still lacks depth and misses a few too many tackles to be considered great, but the Eagles linebackers have done well to rebound from a disappointing start.
The development of Jalen Mills has been one of the few bright spots in a unit that continues to undergo a rollercoaster each and every week. McKelvin’s “injury concerns” have excused his poor decisions all year..the decisions that have far outnumbered his impressive plays, especially against the Giants.
Nolan Carroll had a very slow start to the year before showing signs of the great play he demonstrated a year ago and is now looking like a much tougher corner to matchup against. It was a similar story for former Bills special teamer Ron Brooks prior to his injury.
Depth is certainly a concern and the decision to trade Eric Rowe still haunts the cornerback corps to this day..but after a dreadful start, things are looking up..and the future of the position is in reaching distance of a seventh round pick out of LSU. (We’ll have our individual weekly grades and analysis article coming later today).
Rodney McLeod has done more than state his case for Eagles Defensive MVP. 52 tackles, 1 sack, 3 interceptions and 5 passes Defensed have seen McLeod emerge as a dominant force in the last line of Defense while Malcolm Jenkins’ versatility has seen him called to play all over the field.
The expectations were high for the tandem of McLeod and Jenkins and so far, the pair have delivered. There’s no criticism to be had here other than a few questionable decisions that were later redeemed by solid play..the Eagles Safeties have done more than bail out the corners and Linebackers after bad plays, they’ve become the lifeblood of this Defense, to which the front four is the heart.