Grayson’s Grades: Eagles vs. Steelers
PHILADELPHIA - Consider it a statement made. The Philadelphia Eagles improved to 3-0 after routing the Pittsburgh Steelers, a team many believe will contend for the AFC title. They dominated all three aspects of the game and asserted themselves as the team to beat in the NFC East.
Rookie Quarterback Carson Wentz again looked very impressive in helping lead the Eagles into sole possession of first place in the division.
Carson Wentz - The rookie was impressive once again. He has great poise on the field and was very efficient against the Steelers. The Eagles used a short passing game to help loosen up the Steelers defense due to their ability to stop the run. Wentz continued to put the ball in the perfect spot. He hit Jordan Matthews in stride for a 12 yard touchdown. Wentz later looked like a veteran when he broke the pocket and appeared to look like he was going to run; however, he pulled up at the line of scrimmage with Darren Sproles breaking free on a fly route and hit him in stride for a 73 yard touchdown. Carson Wentz has now played 12 quarters without turning it over. He completed 23 of 31 passes for 301 yards and two touchdowns. I will leave this nugget right here and let it soak in - Carson Wentz is the first player in NFL history with 100+ attempts, 60+ completions, 5+ touchdowns and no interceptions in his first three career games.
Darren Sproles - Sproles looked like he was playing a video game with some of his moves in this one. He found open space and did what he does very well, make defenders miss. Sproles caught a screen pass and took it into the red zone for a 40 yard gain. He followed that up later on by breaking free on a fly route when Carson Wentz approached the line of scrimmage and ran circles around some would be tacklers en route to a 73 yard touchdown. Sproles finished with six receptions for 128 yards and a touchdown.
Brent Celek - Celek was the second-leading receiver on the team grabbing three passes for 61 yards. He did it the Celek way by holding onto the ball while taking hits. His first reception was a beautiful catch where he broke a tackle and shot down the sideline for a solid gain. With Celek and Burton making some nice catches the past two weeks, you can understand why Doug Pederson is eager to get Ertz back and fully utilize the three tight end formation.
Doug Pederson - Pederson has been impressive as a rookie Head Coach. He is managing the offense very well and winning over this team week-by-week with his confidence in them. Last week he kept feeding Ryan Mathews by the goal line until he got a touchdown. This week he did the same with rookie Running Back Wendell Smallwood. Those kind of things mean a lot to the players. I like that he challenged the catch by Antonio Brown even though it was confirmed and he lost the challenge. I enjoy seeing him not afraid to take a shot deep after a turnover. Dorial Green-Beckham should have caught that long pass for a touchdown, but it bounced away from him at the last second for an incomplete pass. Pederson has the full faith of this locker room. The players talk about how much they enjoy knowing he has walked in their shoes not only as a former NFL player, but a former player in this city.
Jim Schwartz - Schwartz has this defense playing among the best, if not the best in the league. They kept a really good Steelers offense from finding the endzone and only allowed three points to that offense. Schwartz put together a game plan that made the Steelers one-dimensional. The Eagles shutdown the running game and limited the number of big plays allowed downfield. In fact, the Eagles allowed just 29 yards on the ground and limited the Steelers to 222 yards through the air. The birds frequently disrupted the passing game with the pressure generated by the defensive line. They also got to Ben Roethlisberger frequently and either brought him down or forced him to throw incomplete passes. I continue to feel that Schwartz was the perfect hire for the players he inherited to fit his scheme and it shows each and every week that this team takes the field.
Fletcher Cox - Cox did what he typically does, affect the game in a big way. He once again received double-teams, but pushed his way through some of them to either disrupt a play or come up with a sack. Actually, Cox recorded a pair of sacks in the game and on one of them forced a fumble that was recovered by Brandon Graham. Cox received a big contract in the offseason and is backing it up with his play on the field.
Brandon Graham - Graham was very active in this game as he has been the entire season. He helped collapse the pocket multiple times and recovered a big fumble off of a Fletcher Cox sack. Graham also accounted for his own sack. Several times he got to Roethlisberger but was unable to bring him down. However, the disruption of the play resulted in some incomplete passes.
Bennie Logan - Logan had a great day. His first impact on the game was blocking a field goal on the opening drive. He also sacked Ben Roethlisberger later in the game. Logan was part of a crew of Eagles linemen that continued to collapse the pocket and disrupt the Steelers passing attack. Logan finished with two tackles, a sack, a tackle for a loss and two quarterback hits.
Malcolm Jenkins - Jenkins was flying all over the field just like he did the past two seasons. He was tied as the second-leading tackler on the team with five tackles. Jenkins also batted down three passes. Jenkins is doing what he needs to at the position, but I almost dropped him to a 'B' because he has opportunities to pick off passes and for whatever reason is unable to catch the ball. That is the next step for Jenkins, to consistently pick off passes that hit him in the hands.
Rodney McLeod - McLeod's biggest play came on a deep ball by Ben Roethlisberger. He wrestled the ball away from the receiver for an interception and a touchback. McLeod also came up in run support several times and helped take out the ball carrier. McLeod finished tied as the second-leading tackler on the team with five tackles. He also successfully defended two passes.
Jordan Hicks - Hicks looked to be playing at a slightly faster speed in this game. That comes from more comfort in the system. Hicks made some nice tackles to help stop the run. He was also very good dropping in coverage and broke up multiple passes. Hicks finished with three tackles, a quarterback hit and two passes successfully defended.
Nigel Bradham - Bradham started the game very well for the Eagles and helped set the tone early on by stopping the run. He made three tackles on running plays during the Steelers opening drive for a total of minus four yards. Bradham finished the game with four tackles including one tackle for a loss.
Nolan Carroll - Carroll got picked on a little bit by the Steelers but answered the call frequently throughout the game. He had solid coverage on the receiver he was covering and if they caught the pass he brought them right down. Carroll led the team with four passes successfully defended.
Wendell Smallwood - The rookie Running Back did a very good job of helping the rushing attack finally break through and get some solid gains against the Steelers defense. Smallwood showed a great ability to make defenders miss tackles. Pederson showed a lot of faith in Smallwood by giving him 17 carries for 79 yards and a touchdown. Smallwood was stopped twice about a yard short of the goal line. Pederson called for him to get another crack at it and it paid off. Smallwood earned his first career NFL touchdown. For the most part, he hit the hole hard and busted through. I believe there were two runs that he almost broke for huge gains or possibly even touchdowns. Pretty crazy that the Eagles had some success offensively with, at times, a rookie Quarterback and rookie Running Back in the same back field
Dorial Green-Beckham - DGB is starting to see a few more targets as he gets more and more comfortable with the offense. However, he has to hold onto the ball. Green-Beckham had two drops in the game. One was an easy catch that hit him in the hands. The other was on a deep ball in the endzone right after a Steelers turnover. Green-Beckham had it briefly but could not corral the touchdown pass and the defender broke it up. I thought with his size advantage over the defensive back that he needs to reach up to haul it in rather than wait for it to get to his hands around chest high. With one or both of those catches his stats would have been much more impressive. He hauled in three passes for 33 yards.
Trey Burton - Burton is a nice weapon to have as a third tight end. Few teams have that luxury if any. He is normally sure-handed and has been throughout training camp. However, Burton struggled catching the ball in this game. He dropped a pass wide-open roughly 20 to 25 yards downfield that would have gone for even more after the catch. He was targeted six times but only caught two passes for 19 yards.
Josh Huff - Huff seems like he could be a more dynamic player, but keeps falling one step short of reaching that status. If he could more frequently break a tackle, he could be potentially explosive. Huff caught five passes for 20 yards. Most of those were screen passes where he needed to make one move to break free. He was unable to do that. However, his speed was used as a deception multiple times where the Eagles faked the jet sweep to him and instead went to the other side of the field for big gains.
Penalties - Typically I grade the players, but several of them contributed to an outrageous number of penalties in the game. The Eagles have been pretty disciplined on the field and did not commit too many penalties in either of their first two games. That was not the case in this one. The birds had ten penalties accepted for a total of 99 yards. That can not happen in close games. The flags were thrown against Eagles players on all three aspects of the game. The offense, defense and special teams each made their mistakes in this regard. Undoubtedly, this will be addressed by Pederson.