Eagles Evaluation: Birds Topple Defending NFC Champions

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By Paul Bowman, Sports Talk Philly Editor

The Eagles came into this match-up as true underdogs.

While the underdog mentality of the 2017 season has lingered on as an idea within the organization, Sunday night was perhaps the first time that they were such a clear underdog with nearly everyone picking against them.

The banged-up birds came out and played four of the best six quarters they’ve put up all season against the stiffest competition they’ve faced.

This was a statement win for the Birds that, even without much of their first-team offense, they can still hang with the top teams in the league.

It puts the team in a position in which they could host a playoff game again this season and have the potential to hang on until reinforcements could potentially arrive in the form of players like Goedert, Reagor, Suemalo, Peter, Jeffery, Jackson, Will Parks or even Craig James.

It was a game that changed the hopelessness surrounding the team to potential for the team to stay afloat and find some young contributors while getting Wentz back on track and integrating these young contributors with returning injured players.

Personnel Changes

  • TJ Edwards got hurt early on in this game and the Eagles replaced him with Alex Singleton. At this point, it might be a good idea to have both those players on the field whenever possible.
  • With Jason Peters on injured reserve, Jordan Mailata took over at left tackle. He wasn’t great, but improved over the course of the game and wasn’t a total liability. When Lane Johnson missed time, jack Driscoll was next off the bench.
  • K’Von Wallace drew the start in this game as the Eagles relied heavily on their safety group to cover for their dearth of cornerbacks.
  • Travis Fulgham drew the start in this match-up, which was a bit surprising but his playing was not unexpected with Greg Ward and John Hightower the only other healthy receivers on the roster.
  • Richard Rodgers not only took over as TE2 in this game, but he also took over Goedert’s role really well. There might have been an expectation that the Eagles use a bit less 12-personell with such a major loss, but Rodgers proved to be a reliable option for Wentz even getting open downfield and recovering the onside kick.

Stock Evaluations

Buy: Carson Wentz

Wentz was not perfect, but he was the Eagles MVP and looked light years better than he has the past few weeks. His run game remained critical (seven rushes for 37 yards and a touchdown) while his passing game picked up greatly. He missed some passes and threw an interception (one that I’d argue is due to the line allow pressure in all directions), but racked up 193 yards and a touchdown with just one Eagle registering over 40 yards receiving and none registering 60 or more. Additionally, Wentz had an incredible second and 22 play where he had all Eagles fans yelling at him to get rid of the ball, but threw off balance to register a gain of 17 yard. Though it was negated due to a defensive penalty, that is the kind of play that Wentz needs to be making to reach his potential.

Sell: Matt Pryor

Pryor struggled mightily in this one. What happened to the guy that started in the playoffs last year. This game showed why the Eagles turned to Herbig as backup before Pryor. He will need to improve his play for the Eagles to remain in games.

Buy: Derek Barnett

This was not the breakout performance that the Eagles are still hoping to see, but it was a good one nonetheless. Barnett registered just half a sack and two QB hits officially, but he also registered four tackles and plenty of stuffs or pressures against a Hall of Fame caliber left tackle. If the Eagles can get this level of play out of Barnett going forward, the pairings with Josh Sweat and Brandon Graham has the defensive line in excellent position.

Sell: Jack Driscoll

Driscoll played only a few series in this game, so perhaps his getting bullied in this one was partly due to that. Overall, however Driscoll did not provide assurance for a beat up offensive line and it will not go unnoticed by Wentz that his top depth piece on the line is someone he can’t trust to make a block.

Buy: Rodney McLeod

The captain had a very good game, coming up with eight tackles (seven solo) as well as making some plays to keep a runner from advancing before help arrived. McLeod also recorded the defense’s first turnover of the season.

Buy: Alex Singleton

Singleton came in due to injury and benefited from a terrible pass to record his first interception and touchdown, but the linebacker also recorded two tackles and did not have any egregious errors in pass coverage, which is something the other linebackers on the Eagles roster could not say.

Buy: Travis Fulgham

It doesn’t look great, but Fulgham actually lead the Eagles in receiving yards with just 57. He managed that on just two catches, however and was open on at least one other pass that Wentz couldn’t get the ball to him accurately. For a first game, this was extremely encouraging and Fulgham showed a combination of excellent awareness, physicality and deep-ball tracking on his 42-yard touchdown reception.

Buy: Genard Avery

I have admittedly been an Avery hater this season as his lack of production following an injury in training camp for an already beat up team combined to make it seem like a poor idea of roster building to keep him around. On Sunday night, the man proved me wrong, coming up with two half sacks and five QB hits on his limited snaps. I would be remiss by not mentioning that his pressuring Nick Mullens is what lead to the Eagles first defensive turnover on the season. Avery played a total of 16 snaps.

Sideline Chatter

  • Multiple times in this game the referees made poor calls or lazed around to give the 49ers, who were looking to conserve clock, more time. This included a referee flopping on the field like he had been shot after he got tripped up and them not spotting the ball because the head ref was on the other end of the field, giving the 49ers the benefit of the two-minute warning on the Eagles offensive drive.
  • It was interesting to see the Eagles, who have no corners, receivers or offensive linemen healthy, play the 49ers on national TV with their injuries. The national broadcasts seemed to imply that the 49ers were “devastated” at every turn while occasionally mentioning the Eagles injury troubles in relation to Wentz’s play.
  • In case you were wondering, the Eagles had 13 players on IR/PUP, four players ruled out before the game and two more players ruled out in the first half while the 49ers have 14 on IR/PUP and six ruled out.
  • Doug Pederson was aggressive in this game with a few play calls and every one of those calls worked out. When he played it safe, the Eagles tended to lose yardage.
  • After another fumble for Jalen Hurts on limited touches, maybe it is best that Hurts stays on the sideline instead of coming in for three yard gains or a fumble.
  • After Matt Pryor and Nate Herbig each committed penalties last week to pull points off the board, a Jordan Mailata penalty ended another Eagles promising drive this week while a Jason Kelce botched snap did it again later on to make it so four of the five starting offensive linemen in this game have been directly responsible for the Eagles not scoring more points.

Team Focus

The Eagles face the Steelers next week and their beat-up roster will play a Steelers roster that was now gifted a bye week because of the Titans having a COVID-19 outbreak.

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