On Monday night, the Eagles beat division rival Washington for the 2nd time this season winning 34-24. In doing so, they opened up a 2 1/2 game lead on everybody in the division. The team has won 5 games in a row and is starting to get national recognition as a legitimate contender. Carson Wentz is getting mid-season MVP hype. Everything is going well right now, but in the NFL you’re only as good as your last game and things can change in a hurry. Here are the biggest takeaways from week 7:
So sweep it is! Sweeping the season series from Washington is huge to the development of this team and its’ quest for the playoffs. Washington has been a huge thorn in the Eagles side for a couple years now. They may not stand out in any area but the Skins are a very well rounded football team. Learning how to beat Washington finally, and winning these divisional games in general, could spur a long run of success for this team at the top of the NFC East.
CARSON! Again the kid was unbelievable. The redzone throw to Corey Clement. The 1st down run after escaping a pile of Washington defenders. The touch and arm strength on the bomb to Hollins. The most cynical of “Negadelphians” are having a hard time finding criticisms. Even the pregame story about Carson and “The Dutch Destroyer” shows you that not only do the Eagles have a great player leading their team but an even better person. Consider yourself very lucky to get to enjoy his career in Eagles green.
The Breakout Continues for Ertz: This is what so many fans have been waiting for from Ertz. He would go on runs where he looked like he could be a great Tight End but injuries and inconsistencies held him back to a degree. There was also the question of why he wasn’t being used in the redzone. Many people pointed to his toughness or supposed lack thereof as to why he couldn’t muscle his way open in tight spaces and make the contested catch. Well, through 7 games Ertz is leading all Tight Ends in catches, yards, yards per catch, 40 yard plays, first downs and yes, touchdowns! He has arrived.
Tempo Tough: The up-tempo offense worked wonders again on Monday night. The Eagles were stagnant for the first couple drives of the game but Carson clicked into gear once they started to speed things up. Having a “human computer” at quarterback makes this work so well. Carson runs the tempo offense beautifully and looks extremely comfortable doing it. It’s very beneficial to the success of the offense to have this element be successful.
Disappearing Run Game: It wasn’t all roses for the Eagles offense on Monday. The run game went M.I.A. for the first time since week 2. Carson Wentz lead the team with 63 yards rushing. If you take away LeGarrette Blounts’ 21 yard run, he rushed 13 times for 8 yards. Smallwood wasn’t much better, only averaging 3 ypc. Some of it can be attributed to the Jason Peters injury and the line being in flux but the Eagles have to do better here. The lack of talent in this group is evident. They have been getting the tough yards and moving the chains when needed and that’s extremely important. Th Eagles need the balance of the run game going forward to be more consistent.
The Run Defense however… Continues to be phenomenal. Chris Thompson led the Redskins with only 38 yards and Rob Kelley was highly ineffective. This element of the defense is extremely important to the ultimate success of this team and will go a long way in defeating a team like, oh, I don’t know……DALLAS. Two big games with the Cowboys loom coming down the stretch. They’ve got to stay disciplined though. Several times on Monday they lost contain, specifically Vinny Curry and Derek Barnett, which allowed both Thompson and Kirk Cousins to rush for first downs. Just clean things up a little here and eliminate the mental errors.
Barnett Coming On: We’re starting to see Derek Barnett settle in. He’s around the ball more. He’s making plays in the backfield. He’s finishing plays. On Monday, Barnett delivered 2 sacks and another TFL. He’ll have his rookie mistakes and some inconsistencies but having another capable pass rusher can make this defense dominant.
Gotta Feel Good For Nelly: Raise your hand if you gave up on Nelson Agholor prior to this season. C’mon, be honest! This might be the best story on this team right now. Nelson Agholor is having a really nice season and looks like a totally different player. You have to feel good for the kid after going through what he went though last season with the stripper trying to extort him and his mind anywhere but the field. He had a real “welcome to the dirty word of being a professional athlete” moment, but he has rebounded tremendously and has become such an asset to this offense. Nelson is tied for 2nd in the league with 5 TD’s right now through 7 weeks of the season. Remember once that a guy named Brandon Graham was thought of as a 1st round bust and look how he turned out. Maybe next time, don’t be so quick to throw in the towel on a young talent. We all grow with age.
What Is With All The Penalties?! A week after the Eagles formally asked the league to look into Pete Morelli and his refereeing of their games, the Eagles had another 9 penalties on Monday. Four of them came on the first 4 plays which lead to a really slow start for the team. Some of the calls were nonsense but there were legitimate calls as well. Winning time of possession and dominating 3rd down on both sides of the ball go a long way towards winning games in the NFL, but the Eagles have to cut back on the penalties or it may cost them a big game down the stretch.
*TAKEAWAY OF THE GAME*
MAJOR INJURIES: Absolutely crushing. Jason Peters and Jordan Hicks were both lost for the season with injuries. For Peters it may be a career ender. Not only were these guys great players who played extremely important positions, but they were 2 of the most important leaders on the team. There is no accounting for a sudden loss of leaders like this. To lose both players at once was so devastating for an Eagles team that now has pretty high aspirations. With Peters, we’re certainly going to see his loss affect the run game where he was a dominant run blocker. The team may take less shots down field now if Wentz isn’t getting enough time to throw. For now, Halipoulivaati Vaitai will take over at left tackle with Lane Johnson remaining on the right side. They may be keeping Johnson on the right because of upcoming games with Denver and Dallas whose premier rushers, Von Miller and DeMarcus Lawrence, will both be rushing on Johnson’s side. The team also resigned Taylor Hart as opposed to bringing up someone like Dillon Gordon from the practice squad.
The team hasn’t announced what they will do at linebacker with Hicks out but the expectation is that Najee Goode will take his spot in the lineup with Bradham and Kendricks being the 2 linebackers to stay on the field in nickel situations. Also, Hicks’ play calling responsibilities will now go to Bradham. Hicks has yet to be placed on IR and no subsequent moves have been made. The Eagles did work out linebackers Jelani Jenkins, Donald Butler and Sean Spence just last week. Jenkins has since signed with the Raiders. Hicks isn’t a big thumping tackle machine in the middle but he is an excellent coverage linebacker. His loss was immediately felt on Monday as the Redskins attacked the middle of the field with ease. Hopefully they tie up communications issues throughout this week of practice.
The team has it’s work cut out for itself in replacing these 2 tremendous players and leaders. The NFL trade deadline is on Halloween although don’t expect much activity.
At 6-1 the Eagles are in the drivers seat in the NFC East. They are also the #1 seed in the conference. This week with San Francisco coming to town is no time for a letup. The 49ers are certainly better than their record would indicate, and despite getting blown out by Dallas last week, they’ve played a lot of teams very tough. This would be a good game to reestablish the run game against the 49ers 29th ranked run defense. If the team just stays focused they should take care of business and get the W on Sunday.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports