Eagles Evaluation: Sanders, Ward Power Birds Past Skins

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By Paul Bowman, Sports Talk Philly Editor

The Eagles offense managed to come into this game a move the ball with relative success.

While they largely lacked big play ability, they put together drives of 8, 10, 11, 12 and 16 plays to put points on the board throughout the game.

On the flip side, the defense played down to Washington’s abilities.

Rather than dominate, they missed tackles with regularity and got very little pressure on a horrid offensive line throughout the game.

The Redskins were allowed to compete almost entirely because the defense was unable to stop the 31st rated offense.

The very same unit that held down Super Bowl contenders managed to allow the lowly Redskins to score 31 points.

Luckily for them, the offense was able to keep them in the game throughout, never dropping behind by more than four points.

Personnel Changes

  • JJ Arcega-Whiteside was the go to guy early in this one, but after dropping a touchdown and cutting off his route to another touchdown pass, Wentz didn’t even bother throwing his way. Wentz clearly identified Greg Ward Jr. as the new WR1 despite JJ playing the most snaps (71).
  • Ronald Darby left a few times with injury and Rasul Douglas came in to replace him.
  • Boston Scott has clearly entrenched himself as the third running back on this team ahead of Jay Ajayi. Ajayi, for his part, has barely gotten any carries since a handful of carries after not playing football for over a year. One would think that he would get some carries as he re-adjusts to the NFL.
  • Nate Gerry has taken over the second linebacker spot on the defense and the third spot has become more of a toss up. Kamu Grugier-Hill actually played fewer defensive snaps than both Duke Riley and TJ Edwards in this one. It will be interesting to see if that continues considering both have flashed potential in their short time with the team.

Stock Evaluations

Buy: Miles Sanders

Miles Sanders had 172 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns in this one. He was huge in the run game and the passing game, averaging 6.4 yards per touch on the ground and 6.88 yards per touch overall. He also had the Eagles biggest gain of the day on a 56-yard rush.

The game made him the all-time leader in scrimmage yards for an Eagles rookie (formerly DeSean Jackson) and in rush yards for an Eagles rookie (formerly LeSean McCoy).

His breakout combined with that of Boston Scott really makes you wonder: what could this team do if they had all three available and could easily use two running back sets.

Sell: Avonte Maddox

The crux of this game for the defense was Avonte Maddox. It was Maddox who allowed a 75-yard score by the Redskins just seconds after the Eagles scored a field goal to put the first points on the board. Maddox wasn’t ready for the play and then missed the tackle, instead tackling Jalen Mills who had the coverage and a chance to make a play. Instead he pulled the same move that Marcus Williams pulled on fellow Saint Ken Crawley to allow the Minnesota Miracle. Sure Crawley had the coverage on that play, but I certainly wouldn’t make him the one most at fault for the play – same thing for Jalen Mills in this situation.

Then the Eagles took a lead again and the defense, once again, allowed the Eagles to drive down the field before forcing a third and goal. The defense could have made a stand here and kept the game tied, but Maddox somehow allowed the defender to get behind him despite the Redskins only having 15 yards of space, including the end zone. This put the Redskins on the board again and had a lowly Washington offense to start humming with two straight touchdowns off of Maddox.

While he later recorded two pass break-ups, making any play on the first couple of drives would have given the defense momentum – something they didn’t have the entire game, even after forcing a three and out. Don’t get me wrong, he was big at the end of the game, but Maddox had been one of the Eagles best guys in the secondary and he hadn’t been beat deep for the most part. The first half of this game was perhaps the worst he’s played all season, so his stock drops.

Buy: Greg Ward Jr.

Greg Ward tied with Zach Ertz as the team’s receiving leader in this one with 61 yards and a touchdown. Perhaps more impressive is that he made seven receptions for a receiving corps that made a total of seven receptions. Yes, Ward made every reception for the receiving corps and it was almost like no one else was out there. To be fair, Davis did have a breakaway opportunity that Wentz just didn’t see, but Ward has gained Wentz’s trust, something that no wideout other than DeSean Jackson has seemed to have consistently this season.

Ward came up clutch as the only receiver posing a threat on the team, so it would be insane for the Eagles not to bring him back next season and see what he can do with other competent receivers that need to be covered around him.

Sell: JJ Arcega-Whiteside

On the opposite end of the spectrum from Ward, we have JJ Arcega-Whiteside. JJAW had showed some potential with an incredible catch last week and a decent game before that. But this week his only contribution was falling on a fumble and making a handful of decent blocks. Not great production for 71 snaps – the most snaps played by anyone other than the offensive line and Wentz.

Outside of that, he committed an unnecessary penalty to back the team up, dropped a touchdown pass and stopped running his route because there was a defender in his way, allowing another touchdown to fall incomplete. Some have argued that the defender made a good play on the dropped pass and I could agree that he did make a good play, but Arcega-Whiteside is supposed to be able to play through contact and beat defenders even without the ball pegging him in the chest. If he is going to be successful in the NFL, those are catches he needs to make.

Buy: Boston Scott

Scott fumbled the ball again, but outside of that continued to be effective. He averaged five yards per touch from scrimmage and 29 yards per return.

Not only that, but the 5-foot, 6 back managed to register 4.3 yards per carry, maintaining his effectiveness on the ground while contributing to the pass game. That was key in situations where Sanders had to come out (such as following his 56-yard run).

Sell: Genard Avery

Avery came in roaring and was supposed to get more snaps as he learned the defense. That hasn’t happened and he played just fours snaps on Sunday. Avery got called for a neutral zone infraction. Avery certainly went into the neutral zone, but not a single Washington player reacted and Avery went back to his side and then there were a few seconds of nothing before the penalty flag was thrown. I have no idea why that flag was thrown considering no one on Washington’s offense reacted. If this was a good team, they would have reacted and should have gotten the call, but Washington didn’t and shouldn’t have.

Buy: Rodney McLeod

McLeod had perhaps his best game of the season making tackles left and right. Of course, much of McLeod’s work came because the front seven routinely failed to stop a 34-year-old Adrian Peterson before the free safety could come up from downfield to stop him. Obviously that isn’t ideal, but McLeod did what he could and didn’t allow Peterson to break lose for some long score on a basic run and had a very successful day tackling for a team that, otherwise, seemed to frequently lack the ability to do just that.

Sideline Chatter

  • The Eagles defense needs to stop watching the Eagles offense and matching them. Ignoring the end of the half and the opening drive, the first 14 drives resulted in:
    • Eagles Score
    • Redskins Score
    • Eagles Score
    • Redskins Score
    • Eagles Three & Out
    • Redskins Three & Out
    • Eagles Punt
    • Redskins Punt
    • Eagles Three & Out
    • Redskins Three & Out
    • Eagles Score
    • Redskins Score
    • Eagles Score
    • Redskins Score
  • The defense only managed a three and out whenever the Eagles offense went three and out. If the Eagles punted, they forced a punt. If the Eagles scored, they allowed the Redskins to score. The cycle was only broken when Wentz fumbled the ball to give up a field goal and when Haskins fumbled to end the game.
  • Essentially, the defense continues to play to the level of their opponents. When they play awful teams, their an awful defense. When they play a good team like the Bills, Patriots or Seahawks, they look like a top-tier defense. Jim Schwartz needs to figure out how to get them to play to that level every week.
  • Is this the greatest throw of Carson Wentz’s career?

Team Focus

The Eagles have their final home game of the regular season and the most important game thus far when they host the Dallas Cowboys. It is a win or go home contest and the Eagles will need to come out swinging.

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