Grayson’s Grades: Eagles vs. Cowboys
PHILADELPHIA – The Philadelphia Eagles closed out the 2016 season with back-to-back wins over division rivals. The Dallas Cowboys rested many of their starters and the Eagles took advantage of that handing them a 27-13 loss.
After beginning the season with three straight wins, the Eagles finished with a 7-9 record and potentially a little positive momentum heading into the offseason.
Credit the players with showing some fight in the final two games of the year. They could have packed it up and easily finished the season 5-11. Instead, they showed grit and desire to close out the campaign with a pair of wins.
Without further ado, here is the final edition of Grayson’s Grades as we put the 2016 season to bed.
Zach Ertz – Ertz was a huge factor in the receiving game over the last month or so. With Jordan Matthews and Nelson Agholor out for all or most of this game, Ertz saw a ton of targets and took advantage of the opportunities. He kept finding open space in the middle of the field. Ertz set the tone early catching three passes for 38 yards on the opening drive. He also did a great job on a corner route making a diving catch in the corner of the endzone for a touchdown. Ertz hauled in 13 passes for 139 yards and two touchdowns.
Brandon Graham – Graham spent a lot of time in the Cowboys backfield throughout the game. He was able to disrupt a lot of plays and came close to getting multiple sacks. Graham also helped force numerous incomplete passes due to the pressure he created. He did record a pair of tackles for a loss.
Jordan Hicks – What can you say about Jordan Hicks? This second-year player proved a lot this season. He answered questions regarding his durability by playing in all 16 games. Hicks has an incredible nose for the ball and picked Mark Sanchez off twice in this game on really athletic plays. His first pick was on a screen pass that he read and tipped the ball to himself for the interception. The second pick came when he dove to undercut a receiver and was able to hang onto it. Hicks is going to be a lot of fun to watch in Philadelphia over the next decade. Hicks led the team with five tackles.
Doug Pederson – Pederson got much better as the season progressed in understanding when he should attempt to use the challenge flag. He only threw it once in this game and it was the right call. Pederson won a challenge erasing a big gain through the air by the Cowboys. I disagree with his decision to go for it on fourth and nine from the 35. Caleb Sturgis has had a great season and made multiple 50+ yard field goals. I would have kicked that. Pederson was able to stop a sinking ship that had lost nine of 11 games at one point and lead this team to a pair of wins over division rivals to close out the season. Pederson has a lot of work to do on himself to lean how to manage the game a little better. It was an up and down season for Pederson and now there is at least a foundation to build on in terms of head coaching experience.
Rodney McLeod – McLeod had a pretty decent game as indicated by his grade. He did a nice job of tipping a screen pass and forcing it to be incomplete early on when Dak Prescott was in. He also came up to make some tackles in run support. McLeod finished with three tackles.
Vinny Curry – Curry ended the season on a pretty high note personally. He had one of his better games of the year. He got to Sanchez late in the third quarter and recorded a sack. He also tallied a tackle for a loss, a quarterback hit and a total of two tackles. Curry was not very consistent this year, but played well in this one.
Fletcher Cox – Cox had a good game and as usual, it does not show in the stats. Cox was creating havoc up the middle. Multiple times he helped collapse the pocket and in some cases help his teammates record sacks or tackles for a loss. All in all, I think Cox had a pretty good season. He recorded three tackles in the game.
Marcus Smith – Smith has come a long way from the guy who could not even be active on game day under Chip Kelly to a contributor now. His number of plays have increased throughout the season and he is making the most of his opportunity. I liked his role in this defense rotating in and out. He recorded a sack, a quarterback hit and two tackles.
Carson Wentz – Wentz has plenty to work on in the offseason. His mechanics definitely need some work. He threw way too much this season off his back foot. He also failed to step firmly into his throws when he could resulting in some of his passes to sail on him. That happened occasionally again in this game. Wentz clearly developed some chemistry with Tight End Zach Ertz late in the season. The two connected frequently throughout the final four or five games. Wentz completed 27 of 43 passes for 245 yards and two touchdowns. Also of note, Carson Wentz set a new NFL record for completions by a rookie with 379 this season. He also sits in fourth place on the NFL record list for passing yards by a rookie quarterback with 3,782 yards this season.
Nolan Carroll – Carroll had a disappointing season. He was called for way too many pass interference penalties. Carroll was flagged for two such penalties in this game. The biggest pet peeve for me regarding Carroll is his continued desire to never turn his head and play the ball in coverage. That begs the officials to throw the flag. Carroll committed a textbook pass interference penalty early in this game that was immediately followed by getting burned in the endzone for a touchdown by Terence Williams. Carroll finished second on the team with four tackles.
Dorial Green-Beckham – DGB dropped a tailor-made slant pass that hit him right in the hands. It was a perfect throw by Wentz in-stride that could have gone for a big gain. Instead it bounced off DGB’s hands and harmlessly hit the ground. That was immediately after he had a great catch on a ball thrown behind him to move the chains. It is that kind of consistency from the wide receiver position that makes it painfully obvious the Eagles need to upgrade that spot on the field by at least one and possibly two players. In my opinion, the DGB experiment failed. He finished the game with one reception for 15 yards.