The ultimate Eagles midseason report card: Offense edition

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The Eagles Offense has been firing on all cylinders since the season began. Captained by Carson Wentz, the Eagles have proved just about everybody wrong this season. With a flurry of deep touchdowns, breakouts from unlikely candidates and a run-game that has finally been balanced by Doug Pederson, this team is a force to be reckoned with. How do they grade out? That’s another question…

 

Quarterback:
Incredible. There is no more fitting word to describe the second-year quarterback who is leading the NFL in touchdown passes with 19. Wentz has been prolific this season, commanding the offense at the line of scrimmage and leading the team to an offensive explosion through the opening half of the season.

We could go on for hours about his pocket presence, leadership, footwork improvement, mechanical prowess, and sheer magical ability to evade pressure and turn a dead play into a touchdown. Wentz has been magnificent for this team and has evolved into the quarterback that the Eagles drafted him to become in the space of 12 months.

Completing 61% of his passes, Wentz has already amassed 2,063 yards and averages 7.8 yards per attempt. The NDSU product has a longest throw of 72-yards and has been nothing short of remarkable.

 

Grade: A+

 

Running back:
After a disappointing start to the season, the Eagles backfield has come on leaps and bounds. Riding a seven game consecutive streak of 100+ rushing yards, the Birds backfield is becoming more and more dangerous by the week.

LeGarrette Blount has not only influenced those around him and motivated a young corps, instilling a winning mentality, but has been a brute force on third down, which is exactly what the Eagles asked him to be. Blount pounds and pounds until eventually the big play opens up and with Jay Ajayi now behind him, the prospect of a shared backfield is terrifying.

One can only be impressed with Corey Clement, who has risen to every occasion so far this season. The UDFA out of Wisconsin has 131 yards and two touchdowns to his name this year and has been an integral part of the Eagles ability to close out games with long, clock killing drives.

Wendell Smallwood has been the weak link so far. Plagued again by injury, Smallwood only touched the ball twice in Sunday’s win and has been inconsistent as he was last year. Despite a promising offseason, Smallwood is yet to really assert himself as a three-down back…which likely played into the decision to sign Ajayi.

Overall, the backfield has done well to battle the injuries of Sproles, Smallwood and even Pumphrey, ensuring that their offense doesn’t lose any optionality. Considering how much they’ve overcome, this has been a big start to the season.

Grade: B+

 

Offensive Line:
After a wobbly season opener, the next five or six games saw the Eagles offensive front perform sensationally. Jason Kelce looks like a completely different center compared to what we saw one year ago, while Brandon Brooks’ ability to remain unseen plays into his favor. If an offensive lineman isn’t being mentioned, it’s usually a good sign and Brooks has quietly gone about his business as one of the most consistent RG’s in the league.

On the other side of Kelce, the Eagles endured a LG competition for the opening few weeks. Isaac Seumalo was eventually benched in favor of Chance Warmack and Stefen Wisniewski, who now have subsequently ended up playing in huge roles elsewhere due to the injury of Jason Peters. The rotation may not look clean, but it’s worked so far for the Birds.

At tackle, Jason Peters was showing no signs of aging until a devastating season-ending injury. Lane Johnson has enjoyed a big bounce-back season and so far, Halapoulivaati Vaitai has shown signs of emerging as the consistent tackle that the Eagles need him to become.

They haven’t been perfect. Silly penalties and a floundering ability to miss assignments has stung Carson Wentz and the backfield on numerous occasions, especially against teams who move their pass-rushers up and down the line. The last two weeks have been especially concerning, but it’s nothing that the Eagles can’t overcome.

Once the chemistry set in and the Eagles began to settle down, the offensive line flashed every bit of “best in the league” potential that they were labelled with during the offseason. There’s still a long way to go and a couple of wobbly performances have held them back, but up to this point, they have been a huge reason behind the stunning form of Carson Wentz.

Grade: B

 

Tight End:
Zach Ertz is FINALLY enjoying the breakout season he has been primed for since entering the league. With 6 touchdowns in 8 games and 528 yards to his name, Ertz has established himself as one of, if not the most dangerous receiving tight end in the NFL. The chemistry between Ertz and is quarterback has been incredibly fun to watch blossom as the season has progressed and it’s scary to think what the ceiling of this team really is with Ertz continuing to turn in strong performances.

Trey Burton’s ability to come “off the bench” and be a force to be reckoned with also has to be recognized. His numbers are lower due to Ertz remaining healthy this year, but Burton already has 70 yards and a touchdown this year. His ability to block and open up lanes for his receivers and backs are matched with the crisp route running and soft hands that Wentz found solace in one year ago.

The only drawback is the same as it has been since Pederson took over. Brent Celek’s role is diminishing with age. With just 4 receptions all year, Celek is revered as a blocking tight end in this offense and rarely sees any route-running action. It’s a shame, and three-tight end sets are used often to open up other parts of the offense…but the Eagles are going to need to find a tight end to eventually take over from the legendary Brent Celek soon if this offense is to continue to blossom in the years to come.

Grade: A-

 

Wide receiver:
This is an interesting one. Nelson Agholor’s breakout year headlines this section of the article. The USC product has five touchdowns this year and 392 yards. His move into the slot after the Jordan Matthews trade may be one of the most overlooked and underrated decisions of the season, but the growth and resurgence of Agholor has been outstanding. Of course, his ability to create separation is all down to him, but Wentz is able to target both him and Ertz so often due to the work of Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith.

Alshon finally had the game that Eagles fans have been waiting for agains the Niners, but his impact goes way beyond his 3 touchdowns and 416 yards. Jeffery’s presence alone has helped rip defenses open and carve holes underneath and over the middle for Ertz and Agholor to lead into. (As deeply explored here). You can’t overlook the impact Jeffery has had on this offense.

The Jenkins Judgement: Alshon Jeffery is everything the Eagles have asked and need him to be

Contributions from “Backpack” Mack Hollins and Marcus Johnson have been encouraging. Seeing Wentz spread the ball around so confidently is a joy to watch, and seeing the young underdogs get their spot in the limelight and largely capitalizing on it is just as enjoyable. The huge touchdown pass to Hollins last week stands out here, but development is certainly at the epicenter of this offense.

The lone downside has arguably been Torrey Smith’s quiet year. 210 yards and a touchdown aren’t incredible numbers, but there have been numerous shots where Wentz has misfired or simply overthrown his wide receiver. Smith ended “the worst stretch in his career” as he worded it on twitter with a touchdown the following week, and it’s not hard to see a breakout coming.

Overall, this wide receiver group is INSANELY better than last year’s, that’s not even a logical debate. With weapons at his disposal, Wentz and Pederson have ripped defenses apart all year long, and the fun is only just beginning.

Grade: B

 

Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

 

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