Grayson’s Grades: Eagles at Giants
EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - The Philadelphia Eagles began the season picked by many of the experts to get to the Super Bowl. The team did not come close to delivering that to its fans and closed out an otherwise disappointing season with a 35-30 win over the New York Giants.
It was anything but a normal game week in Philadelphia. Chip Kelly was fired as Head Coach one game shy of completing his third season with the Eagles. Owner Jeffrey Lurie named Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur the Interim Head Coach for the final game of the season.
On top of that, there were implications towards next season at stake in this game. With the win, the Eagles avoided having to play the St. Louis Rams in London. Instead, they will visit the Seattle Seahawks. The win also prevented the Eagles from potentially owning a top-10 pick in the NFL Draft.
With the 7-9 season history, here is the final report card for the 2015-2016 campaign.
Sam Bradford - Bradford finished the season strong in my mind. He was a victim of a couple of dropped passes once again, but his accuracy was near perfect on many of his throws and put in places where only his receiver could catch it. Bradford to me has come a long way from where he was in the first half of the season to where he is now at the end of it. Perhaps his time in Philadelphia is over. He is a free agent. Jordan Matthews and Zach Ertz told me after the game that they both want him back in a big way. Matthews told me he has expressed as much to Owner Jeffrey Lurie. Bradford's lone interception in the game was off a tipped pass at the line of scrimmage. He completed 30 of 38 passes for 320 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. That performance earned him a quarterback rating of 108.3.
Jordan Matthews - Matthews dropped a perfect pass that hit him right in the hands ahead of a defender that would have gone for a big gain. It seemed to motivate him throughout the rest of the game. He made some difficult catches in traffic and ultimately wound up with a pretty good day. The drop early on did hurt, but Matthews put the finishing touches on another solid season. Matthews finished with 997 receiving yards on the season and said falling just short of 1,000 will definitely motivate him this offseason. In this game, he caught seven passes for 54 yards and two touchdowns.
Zach Ertz - Ertz closed out another solid season with a big game. He was a frequent and reliable target by Sam Bradford. Bradford hit Ertz in stride for a big 60 yard reception in the first quarter. It set up the Eagles second touchdown of the game. Ertz did miss some time in this contest due to a concussion evaluation. He put up roughly 400 receiving yards in his last four games and said he will challenge himself this offseason to move into the group of elite tight ends like Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham. Ertz finished with nine receptions for 152 yards.
Pat Shurmur - Interim Head Coach Pat Shurmur had to lead this team through the fog that lingered after Chip Kelly was fired on Tuesday. Overall he did a pretty good job. I liked certain elements of his play-calling and questioned others. I do not understand how Kenjon Barner gets more carries than either Darren Sproles or Ryan Mathews unless part of the plan was to give him a chance to show what he could do. I also did not understand the desire to run the ball outside about as much as Kelly tended to do either. Self-inflicted wounds in the form of penalties especially hurt this offense throughout the season and the Eagles were called for just one penalty in the game and it was against the defense. Leading this team to a road win after the week that was in Philadelphia was pretty impressive.
Darren Sproles - Sproles did not get a ton of touches in this game, but he did a pretty good job of making some positive plays when he did get his hands on the ball. Sproles made a really nice move on his 6-yard touchdown run late in the first quarter. It was an average performance for Sproles who does a really nice job providing the Eagles with a nice change of pace out of the backfield. He finished with three rushes for 24 yards and a touchdown. Sproles also caught three passes for 20 yards.
Fletcher Cox - Cox once again did his thing under the radar. At one point in the second half I thought to myself that Cox was pretty quiet. Then I looked at his stat line and noticed he was among the team leaders in tackles. He finished second on the team in tackles with eight of them.
Kiko Alonso - Alonso played a pretty good game in week one and finished off the season with a decent performance in week 17. Alonso was one of three players to lead the team in tackles and did a decent job of staying with receivers over the middle. He seemingly attacked the ball better than he had throughout most of the season. Alonso finished the game with nine tackles including one tackle for a loss.
Malcolm Jenkins - Jenkins was once again a solid force for this defense. He did a good job in coverage recording two passes successfully defended. Jenkins also did his part when he played closer to the line of scrimmage in recording some tackles. He was one of three players to lead the team in tackles with nine of them.
Eric Rowe - I think the rookie showed great improvement throughout the season. If you remember, he had a rough preseason but played much better when opportunities presented themselves in the season. Due to injuries he was required to play a whole lot more late in the season and did a pretty good job. He helped keep Odell Beckham, Junior in check for the most part today. Beckham got most of his catches and yards when the Eagles were just worried about keeping the Giants out of the endzone. He also had really good coverage on a play in the corner of the endzone that fell incomplete. Rowe finished with five tackles in the game.
Marcus Smith - Smith received a considerable amount of playing time in this game. He was outspoken during the week at his relief that Chip Kelly was let go. Smith played like a man with something to prove. He recorded his first career solo sack. Smith also tallied a tackle for a loss. Smith, a 2014 first-round pick, has largely been a disappointment through two seasons. Perhaps that was due in some way to Kelly. Smith closed out with some positives that he told me will help fuel his fire during the offseason.
DeMarco Murray - Murray took his first carry of the game straight up the middle through a huge hole and scored from 54 yards out. He followed that up later in the game with several carries for a loss. In fact, his other 11 carries went for just 15 yards. Murray also fumbled the ball away and that led to a Giants touchdown on the ensuing possession. It was nice to see Murray break free, but he cannot fumble it and still looked a little indecisive looking for holes to open up. Murray finished with 12 carries for 69 yards and a touchdown.
Nelson Agholor - The rookie did not get many chances with the ball in this one. But when he did get it, he made the opportunity count. Agholor made an amazing move on a 16 yard catch and run to get down to the 4-yard line. He also moved the chains on an earlier reception. Agholor caught two passes for 23 yards.
Walter Thurmond - Thurmond was having a rough game until the third quarter when he won a jump ball and picked it off. Thurmond started running out of gas, but did reach the endzone on an 83-yard interception return for a touchdown. Other than that, Thurmond missed a few tackles. He also gave up a long 45 yd touchdown pass to Reuben Randle. Overall it was an average performance with a huge play mixed in.
Connor Barwin - Barwin was able to apply some pressure on Eli Manning forcing Manning to throw the ball away. He did get to Manning and hit his arm in the third quarter knocking the ball in the air and into the arms of Walter Thurmond who returned it for a touchdown. Barwin recorded just two tackles and did force a fumble that the Giants recovered.
Mychal Kendricks - Kendricks did not have a good game. He badly missed some tackles, including one on the Giants first touchdown of the game. Kendricks did make up for that by breaking up a fourth down pass with less than a minute to go to preserve an Eagles win. There is some extra weight on that play included in his final grade. Include the fact that he was one of three players to lead the team in tackles with nine and it was overall an average performance.
Ryan Mathews - Mathews was not effective today. He carried the ball four times for 11 yards. Once again, I believe much of that lack of success is due to some poor run blocking by the offensive line. I like Matthews' running style and will be interested to see how the new coaching staff looks to use this stable of running backs. Not a good day for Mathews, but he had some positive moments this season.