The Eagles may have come up short in the loss to Washington on Sunday, but there were plenty of positives to take in such a demanding game. The depth and character of the roster were tested more than they had been all season..but who rose to the occasion, and who stayed under the radar?
The third string tight end may have re-defined the term “swiss army knife” in Sunday’s loss to the Redskins. Burton caught 7 passes for 65 yards, long-snapped a field goal, made some fantastic blocks and held his own on special teams.
Burton has been progressively more impressive as the season has gone on and with Celek being injured late, Burton was given even more responsibility. The chemistry he has with Carson Wentz is undeniable and it’s clear that Burton can be an incredibly versatile weapon in Pederson’s Offense. A new found focus on tight ends certainly helps his case, but Burton has made the most of every opportunity so far.
Considering that for a portion of the game, Wentz was playing behind a 4th string right tackle, a backup left guard and a backup right guard, completing 32/46 passes for 314 yards, 1TD and 1INT is very impressive.
In fact, this was arguably the best we have seen from the rookie quarterback since the loss to the Detroit Lions. The pocket presence, accuracy and awareness that seemed to have depleted in recent games were prominent once again as Wentz continued to lead his Offense into the heart of a gritty battle.
When playing at home, it’s clear that Wentz plays more comfortably, but given that he was missing two running backs and linemen awhile dealing with a lack of help outside, his efforts were beyond commendable and very representative of a franchise quarterback.
It may have taken three quarters of the season, but we finally saw play worthy of the monster extension signed by Fletcher Cox in the summer. 1.5 sacks, 4 tackles and a constant nuisance for Kirk Cousins, Cox simply decimated whoever stood in front of him..which begs the question, what changed in the last week?!
This isn’t to say that the play of Cox has been underwhelming, but with so much expectation to thrive under Jim Schwartz and the sack against Cousins being his first since week 3, it’s fair to say that he hadn’t previously reached the potential that many can see he possesses.
Cox was thunderous against Washington and if he can maintain that level of dominance in the coming weeks, the Jim Schwartz Defense could surge in production as a result.
The Eagles tight end looks to be heating up toward the end of the year for the third consecutive season now. With 112 receiving yards against the Redskins and an impressive 227 in his last three games, Zach Ertz has provided explosiveness to an Offense that lacks it.
His effort on “that” Burfict incident may have been called into question, but once again Zach Ertz looks to be finding his rhythm..and finding it quickly. Given that the Eagles crave help outside, the tight end help comes as a huge release valve for Carson Wentz.
The fourth string right tackle became a human turnstile in what was a game deciding final drive, allowing Ryan Kerrigan to run straight through to force a late fumble on Carson Wentz. The decision of not going with a “max protect” package was a debatable one, but this is the first time that Tobin has been called upon this season..and it may also be his last.
In recent weeks the play of Nolan Carroll has certainly regressed and he struggled even more so against the Redskins. Carroll was burned a few times on deep routes and again often lost early in routes. I’ll be looking at this with more depth in tomorrow’s cornerback grades and analysis article, but it’s clear that a lack of consistency at cornerback is anchoring down the pass rush..which doesn’t bode well for Schwartz.
He may not be overly active, but Mychal Kendricks found himself preparing to long-snap in the absence of Jon Dorenbos. However, Pederson went with third string LS Trey Burton..and when asked about the preparations, Kendricks said the following:
“I just did it, I’m ready for whatever, man. S***, I’m not playing much anyway, ya feel me?”
It’s that kind of attitude that was called into question just one week ago The future certainly doesn’t look overly bright for the Eagles linebacker.
Despite showing some impressive efficiency early in the year, the Eagles have relied less and less on the former Oregon Duck. With Smallwood and Sproles both leaving the game early with injury, Ryan Mathews carried the entire workload on his own.
Establishing a run game was beyond important for the Eagles, but the committee aspect appears to have completely disappeared at this point, with Barner left watching from the sidelines more often than not. If an effort by committee isn’t in the plans next season, Kenjon Barner’s future in the City of Brotherly Love may well be shorter than we expected.