Grayson’s Grades: Eagles vs. Packers
The Packers kept drives alive and ultimately punted just once. They converted 71 percent of their third down opportunities. The Packers also dominated time of possession having the ball nearly 11 minutes more than the Eagles.
The loss puts the Eagles in a serious hole regarding a potential wild card berth. At 5-6 they fall to 1.5 games out of a playoff spot with five games remaining.
This latest edition of Grayson’s Grades certainly leaves something to be desired.
Dorial Green-Beckham – DGB had one of his best games as a Philadelphia Eagle. He caught four passes for 53 yards on the Eagles opening drive. DGB appeared to be more aggressive running his routes and attacking the ball in the air. It paid off to the tune of six receptions for 82 yards. DGB told me after the game he feels his chemistry with Carson Wentz is getting much stronger the longer he is here. He could quickly become Wentz’ favorite target depending on how serious the injury to Jordan Matthews is.
Jordan Matthews – Matthews has emerged as Wentz’ favorite target through the first 11 games this season. Their chemistry and timing seems to be on a slightly different page than the rest of the receiving corp. Matthews made a great back-shoulder catch late in the first half, but came up limping after suffering a right ankle injury. His absence was noticeable. If it was noticeable in the press box, I can only imagine it was noticeable to Wentz in the huddle. Matthews caught four passes for 47 yards all in essentially one half of football before he was injured. His status for next week is unknown at this point. Matthews production could be hard to replace if he is unavailable for a period of time.
Caleb Sturgis – Sturgis’ foot tried to keep the Eagles in the game. He nailed a big 48-yard field goal with 25 seconds left in the first half. Sturgis later booted a 50-yard field goal in the third quarter. He continues to be one of the most reliable kickers in the league this season. Three of his four kickoffs were touchbacks. All in all, a solid job by Sturgis.
Carson Wentz – Wentz looked great for the most part in this game. He had great pocket presence and knew just when he had to get out of there to avoid a sack. Wentz threw the ball well with the exception of the one that sailed on him early in the second quarter and went for an interception. He opened the game completing all six passes he threw for 70 yards and finished off that drive with an athletic run and dive into the endzone. Wentz looked like a magician with his legs at times avoiding improbable sacks and turning them into positive yards. With a banged up offensive line and without Jordan Matthews who is one of his favorite receivers, Wentz overall played well. He finished completing 24 of 36 passes for 254 yards and one interception. Wentz was also sacked four times. He added four carries for 33 yards and a touchdown.
Wendell Smallwood – Smallwood runs hard and typically wins the point of contact to at least fall forward. It seems the team and certainly the crowd feeds off his hard running style. He averaged 4.1 yards per carry, but only got nine carries in the game. Smallwood needs the ball more and this offense runs better when the ground game is given the opportunity to get going. I frankly thought Smallwood would get closer to 15 carries in this game. Instead he carried the ball nine times for 41 yards.
Darren Sproles – Sproles injured his ribs last week, but was out there once again to try and become a positive factor for his team. He did a great job as a receiver racking up 48 yards on five receptions. That number would have been even higher had DGB not been called for blocking too early on a screen pass that went for 41 yards. Sproles is the most electric player on this roster. He struggled running the ball carrying it three times for six yards. He did his job in this game and for that earned a solid ‘B’.
Offensive Line – The offensive line was shuffled up like a deck of cards. Brandon Brooks was hospitalized due to an illness. Halapoulivaati Vaitai was still injured resulting in other moves. Ultimately, Jason Peters started at Left Tackle, Stefen Wisniewski played Left Guard, Jason Kelce started at Center, Isaac Seumalo played Right Guard and Allen Barbre moved over to play Right Tackle. I understand this unit has not practiced much together, but Wentz had to scramble for his life a few times. He was also sacked four times. The run game struggled. Without Wentz’ scrambles factored in, the Eagles ran the ball 14 times for 48 yards. Not terrible, but not great either. Kelce had a bad snap that resembled a worm-burner in golf.
Doug Pederson – Pederson once again showed a great opening drive script that led to an Eagles touchdown. He seems to script the opening drive better at home than on the road. Against a poor Packers secondary, Pederson tried to let Wentz throw the ball. It worked for the most part, but the pocket did not hold together for long forcing Wentz to evacuate it and run. I thought Pederson made a poor decision to use his second challenge in the third quarter even though he won it. It left the Eagles with no challenges even though they should have won their first challenge on the punt that was downed at the one-yard line. For the second week in a row, the Eagles had a huge play called back due to a penalty. This time it was on DGB for blocking too early downfield on a screen pass. Overall, I think Pederson needs to do more in the rushing game. With Wentz’ four scrambles out of the mix, the Eagles ran the ball just 14 times. That is not enough. Pederson challenged the locker room after the game to find out who wants to be here beyond this season. Now that he has laid down that ultimatum, it will be interesting to see how the players respond.
Jim Schwartz – It should be hard for Schwartz to sleep this week after what the Packers did to his defense. The Eagles were unable to get to Aaron Rodgers with their front four. Rodgers used a quick release to get the ball to the outside and let his receivers do the work. Schwartz needed to get his corners to play bump-and-run to help eliminate that, but instead they continued to give enough cushion to allow the Packers to continue pushing the ball methodically up the field. The Packers converted 71 percent or 10 of 14 third downs. They ran 67 plays and racked up 25 first downs in the game gaining 387 total yards. The Packers had the ball for 35:23 compared to the Eagles who held it for 24:37. The defense was dominated and Schwartz needs to challenge his unit to make plays like it did the first month of the season.
Defensive Backs – The defensive backs as a unit played too loose on the Green Bay receivers and Aaron Rodgers took advantage of that. They refuse to play any kind of bump-and-run coverage, which would help throw off the timing of some of the quick passes that Rodgers threw in this game. The Eagles corners need to be more physical within the first five yards of the line of scrimmage as the rules allow and they are not. On top of that, rarely do they play the ball well when it is in the air. They fail to get their heads turned around and play the ball at times missing out on opportunities to pick it off. Nolan Carroll got beat twice by Davante Adams downfield. Once he failed to turn his head and the other time he turned the wrong way leaving Adams open. Leodis McKelvin got beat by Adams in the third quarter and never turned his head to play the ball leading to a huge gain. Rodney McLeod was one of several defensive backs who failed to make tackles in the open field, particularly on third down.
Defensive Line – The front four failed to get much pressure on Aaron Rodgers. I noticed several holding penalties not called when they got close a couple of times, but despite that they never made Rodgers uncomfortable. The closest they came to hitting him was when Fletcher Cox clotheslined him for a roughing the passer penalty. Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry and Connor Barwin are the fuel that feeds the engine that is this defense. When they get pressure, the secondary looks much better. When they fail to pressure the quarterback, the secondary looks awful.