Carson Wentz has been outstanding so far. The jump in ability between year one and year two is crystal clear in nearly everything he does. Wentz has completed 60.5% of his passes through the opening four games of the season, throwing for 1,058 yards, 6 touchdowns and 2 interceptions in the process. The touch on his deep ball, his pocket presence and footwork, sheer athleticism and ability to scan the field and progress through his reads have all been accompanied by a surge in confidence at the line of scrimmage that allows the NDSU product to call runs, catch Defenses off-guard and run the Offense to some degree. Wentz is everything the Eagles hoped he would become and more in the second year of his career.
Two weeks ago, this grade would have been a lot lower. But the Eagles backfield has put up some stunning numbers over the last two weeks, albeit against Defense who have struggled to stop the run this season. LeGarette Blount has led the charge with 249 yards this year, averaging 5.93 yards per carry. Both Wendell Smallwood and Corey Clement have recorded a touchdown each and have helped the rushing attack combine for 572 yards with the help of their quarterback. Wentz has attempted 147 passes in comparison to the backfield’s 102 rushing attempts. The balance is beginning to establish and the Birds’ rushing threat has flashed huge potential over the last two weeks. But before we get carried away, seeing how they perform against a stout run Defense first is probably a good idea. But the progress is promising.
Zach Ertz may well be on his way to a Pro Bowl nod and his first 1,000 yard season. It’s been a long-time coming, but the continuity and chemistry with Carson Wentz has helped push his game to another level, with Ertz receiving for 326 yards and a score thus far, leading the team in receiving. Trey Burton has been a nice cog on both a blocking and receiving standpoint, while Brent Celek’s blocking role is as important ever…even if it does mean we see less and less of the veteran lining up to catch passes. Overall, the unit is performing as expected…which isn’t exactly a bad thing.
This is an interesting one. It’s easy to look at Alshon Jeffery’s 17 receptions for 215 yards, Torrey Smith’s inconsistency and the breakout of Nelson Agholor and say the unit is underwhelming…but their sheer presence alone has helped the Offense flourish. The Eagles are simply soaring in the passing attack due to the flurry of options available which is exactly why the team needed a dominant number one wideout. If not for Alshon Jeffery, Zach Ertz may not be having the year he is. However, production matters…and 552 total yards among wideouts accounts for just over half of the team’s total receiving yardage. The potential is there, the offense is explosive and the results are staggering in terms of points…but right now there’s a little too much in the way of “should have’s and could haves” to grade this unit as exceptional.
Even without Fletcher Cox, the Eagles DT committee has been simply dominant. Timmy Jernigan didn’t take long at all to settle in and hit the ground running with 11 tackles and 1.5 sacks to his name already. Beau Allen, Elijah Qualls and Justin Hamilton have all stepped up to the plate when called upon…but when Cox is in the game, the Eagles pass-rush is just something else. The talent runs deep, the production speaks for itself, and there’s little more entertaining than watch Jernigan and Cox tear through line after line and harass quarterbacks.
Again, this is an interesting position. While Brandon Graham leads the team in sacks with 2.5 and newcomer Chris Long is only .5 away, the continued disappearance of Vinny Curry is a little worrying. The hustle of Derek Barnett partnered with his impact as a rotational DE has been very impressive, but Curry continues to struggle at the final hurdle…and it’s a bitter pill the Eagles may have to swallow sooner rather than later. Graham, Long and Barnett have all been extremely impressive thus far…and if the same could be said for Curry then this would be an elite grade.
Samba rules this Animal Kingdom. Nothing has changed on that front. Hicks has 20 tackles to his name already, while Nigel Bradham matches him on that front. Mychal Kendricks has been more than just a pleasant surprise as he continues to carve his niche in this Defense, tipping passes, bringing down quarterbacks, and playing with an extra edge to his game that we haven’t seen before. Kendricks looks fast, dangerous, and complete…a contrasting picture to what we saw one year ago. Linebacker may be one of the team’s strongest positions when you consider Joe Walker’s goalline hustle against the Giants and Kamu Grugier-Hill’s contributions to date.
The Eagles suffered some major hits at the Safety position, with Rodney McLeod, Corey Graham and Jaylen Watkins ALL missing valuable time. Malcolm Jenkins was left without his running-mate and Chris Maragos was called up to the plate due to a severe lack of depth. The last line of Defense has very much held its own despite everything possible going against it. The Safety spot hasn’t been glamorous, it hasn’t been dominant. But considering just how many setbacks they’ve had to deal with…it’s difficult to complain.
Two words. Jake Elliott. The heroic rookie kicker’s act against the Giants will long be remembered as a defining moment for his career and for the fans in attendance. Since being signed due to an injured Caleb Sturgis, Elliott hasn’t missed a PAT and is 8/10 on field goals. Not bad for a kicker who was signed from the Bengals practice squad.