The Eagles were never in a position to splash the cash when they entered a challenging yet crucial offseason. But somehow, against all odds, the lure of a surging franchise quarterback was enough to convince Alshon Jeffery to bring his superstar talent to Philadelphia. He wasn’t alone. Torrey Smith saw the City of Brotherly Love as a chance for rejuvenation following a disappointing stint with San Francisco.
We all knew that the duo were signed to take the top off of Defenses and finally provide the Eagles with reliable deep threats, but when week one came to pass, the duo only combined for four receptions and 68 yards. Overthrows on what looked like two certain touchdown passes to Torrey Smith and some contested drops from Alshon Jeffery that even an elite wideout would struggle to catch led to some questioning why the duo didn’t see much attention. The answer was under their nose the entire time…literally.
Of the 8 catches made by Zach Ertz, 6 were for first downs. 93 yards and a 100% catch rate sent alarm bells around the league. The time of Ertz is arriving. He led the team in receiving to start the season, finally putting an end to the freezing cold takes surrounding his inability to start the season red hot. For Doug Pederson, spreading the ball around was crucial against a secondary that was glaring heavily at the superstars on the outside.
“I was trying to be real conscious of trying to — and I don’t want to say forcing balls, but trying to get 17 involved, getting 82 [WR Torrey Smith] involved, getting 86 [TE Zach Ertz] involved, along with the runners.” Pederson told the media. “You know, once we got 17 a couple touches, and then he made another big catch late in the game to really — and the two-point conversion was huge. He did exactly what we asked him to do and will continue to grow.”
Ertz wasn’t the only one to gain from the Eagles insistence on sending talent storming past Josh Norman. Nelson Agholor caught a stunning 58-yard touchdown pass en-route to his 86-yard game, a career high in single game receiving for the USC product in his first game working out of the slot. Eight different receivers registered a reception against the Redskins, a stark contrast to when the two teams met in both games last season.
Jordan Matthews and Zach Ertz combined for a total of 33 targets of the 68 dished out by Wentz during both contests. The top two receiving threats in week one as we know didn’t see much attention, but Ertz and Agholor combined for 16 targets of the 38 thrown by the second year quarterback. The ball is being spread around the Offense which makes it so incredibly difficult to contain.
Teams can no longer bring Safeties down to the line or focus all of their attention over the middle to prevent Ertz from breaking out. There are simply too many dimensions to keep an eye on. The scariest part is that had Torrey Smith hauled in those two out-of-reach receptions, or Alshon Jeffery had sent the Eagles inside the redzone, that scoreline could have gotten very messy, very quickly…something the team will want to happen next time out.
“Well, on the first play of the game, his front foot slipped, and he couldn’t get everything on it, so it was a little underthrown. So because of that, in the back of your mind as a quarterback you’re saying, ‘The next time I get that opportunity, I don’t want to underthrow it.’ So that was the reason for the overthrow.” Pederson explained. “But obviously, he made the great scramble, deep throw on the run to [WR] Nelson [Agholor] early, third-down play for the touchdown. And then a couple times to [WR] Alshon [Jeffery]. He had his hands on the ball a couple of times right before half on one and then later in the game.”
“So you know, we’ve just got to keep drilling it, keep working it, keep throwing it, and it’s different from practice than game, obviously game speed is a lot different. But these are plays that our guys definitely need to make.”
Make no mistake, the Eagles came close…too close for comfort.
This was a sign of things to come for the Offense. Sure, it would be amazing to see Alshon and Torrey both put up monster numbers, but so long as the Offense churns and the points land on the Eagles side, it doesn’t matter who’s striding, sprinting, leaping, or diving into the endzone. That’s the effect a number one receiver can have on an Offense.
Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports