The Eagles were just short of the mark against the Bucs, despite a solid comeback effort late in the game. But where does the blame really lie? There were several big plays that draw attention and finger pointing, but there were more contributing factors to the team’s first loss of the season than a couple of deep bombs and missed tackles.
Here’s a full report card:
Completing 35/48 passes for 334 yards and a touchdown, Nick Foles had a solid game for the Eagles, on the surface. The devil is in the detail however, with Foles averaging 7 yards per attempt. Managing the clock and moving his offense with what limited firepower he had, Foles performed admirably, making one of the most beautiful throws in recent memory for his only passing touchdown of the day, but the game seemed to lack confidence.
Playing against a Bucs secondary that was somehow even more depleted than the Eagles wide receiving corps, Foles seemed unwilling to take shots down the field and challenge what little talent remained on the backend. It’s a shame as it’s not as if the Eagles are totally devoid of talent to take the top off a defense, or a quarterback to pave the way for that to happen. For whatever reason, Foles was reluctant to push the ball downfield and it arguably stung the offense at the worst times. It wasn’t his worst game and he was as accurate as he ever has been, but the need for the confident gunslinger that is Carson Wentz was highlighted.
A combined 91 yards doesn’t scream rushing dominance, but there were some flashes. Corey Clement and Jay Ajayi both broke off big runs, but the offense would be without the latter for the first half and Darren Sproles for the entire game. This left Wendell Smallwood to feast on yet another opportunity, but once again, the food went cold. Smallwood carried the ball 7 times for 28 yards which simply isn’t good enough. This game acted as a stark ‘what if’ scenario that the Birds’ won’t want to be reminded of anytime soon.
It wasn’t the offensive line’s finest showing, allowing 12 QB hits and 3 sacks on Nick Foles, but there was a lot of movement going on. Jason Peters was in and out throughout the first half and Big V had a slightly big blip, with Jason Pierre-Paul accounting for 4 of those thumps endured by Nick Foles. The O-line did a great job of getting to the second level when asked, but this was one of their weaker performances, largely impacted by the constant change at LT.
In a game where the offense lacked wide receiver production, Foles leaned on Zach Ertz early and often. The Stanford product delivered, registering 94 yards and catching 11 of 13 passes thrown his way. Although the mystery behind Dallas Goedert’s disappearance remains just as puzzling as it was during the game, you can only really be impressed with Joshua Perkins.
The former Washington pass-catcher forced his way onto the bottom of the Eagles roster and caught 4 passes for 57 yards, lining up in the slot. Despite a couple of fatal drops, Perkins exceeded the expectations of just about everybody. A strong day from Ertz and Perkins, but the man in the middle could be the most important and he was nowhere to be seen.
Stock remains the same
Outside of Nelson Agholor’s impressive outing that saw him literally line up everywhere along the line of scrimmage, only Kamar Aiken was able to make a catch. The Eagles are crying out for wide receiver help and desperately long for the return of Alshon Jeffery. Agholor’s 88-yard game was stunning, but there was literally no other performance of note which is just worrying at this point.
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Fletcher Cox is an actual mythical beast and the development of Derek Barnett has to be applauded. The former first-round pick is showing great value as a run-defender this year, which isn’t something anybody naturally associated with his unique skillset. Michael Bennett also responded to the bizarre comments made about his happiness by enjoying a very dominant game in the backfield. It’s what we’ve come to expect, but the defensive line bailed out a struggling secondary once again.
Nigel Bradham’s return was thunderous. 1.5 tackles for a loss, a sack and 8 tackles overall saw the heartbeat of the defense pump some much needed life into the epicenter of the field. Jordan Hicks was beyond impressive for the second consecutive week as his payday looms on the horizon and it’s hard to pick a fault with Kamu Grugier-Hill, who had a quiet but effective game starting outside.
Let’s clear one thing up. It’s okay to criticize bad performances. No player is perfect, especially cornerbacks and unfortunately, the Eagles defensive backfield allowed over 400 yards of Fitz Magic that they’d like to forget.
Ronald Darby struggled to make some key tackles, (yes, THAT O.J Howard one) and in fact, one of the only positives of the day came from Sidney Jones who was so quiet in comparison. Cornerbacks are either on your screen for highlight plays in their favor or highlight plays they’ll never hear the end of. If you can avoid that spotlight, it’s a sign you’re doing your job right. Jones had a very comfortable day in just his second NFL start, but the rest of the unit struggled mightily.
Blown coverages all afternoon highlight an uncharacteristically bad day from the Eagles safeties. Rodney McLeod and Malcolm Jenkins both had their fair share of whiffs that ended up costing the defense plenty of extra yardage, but Corey Graham looked quite consistent in the time he saw on the field. It wasn’t the best representation of what this unit is capable of and while Jenkins was a force in blowing up the run, those few errors early on stick out a little too prominently.
Cameron Johnston’s leg is made of stainless steel, but Jake Elliott’s missed field goal hamper this slightly. The Eagles coverage teams were back to their stellar ways however, raising this rating. There was no way that this game could be seen as a negative when Johnston is literally punting balls into the parking lot.