Grayson’s Grades: Eagles 2020 Mid-Season
PHILADELPHIA - The Philadelphia Eagles have not met the expectations they and their fan base had going into the 2020 season. They finished the first half with a 3-4-1 record. However, that is good enough to sit alone in first place in the NFC East.
There have been a boatload of injuries and certainly some poor play. On the flip side, there have been some bright spots too. Ultimately, the first half of the season will not dictate how the season ends.
A strong second half will yield another division title and a home playoff game. But some things will have to change, especially the play of Quarterback Carson Wentz.
Here are the mid-term grades:
Travis Fulgham - Fulgham was a great find and has been a big spark. He was not even on the roster when the season started. All he has done in five games played is lead the team in receiving. He has 29 receptions for 435 yards and four touchdowns. Most importantly, Fulgham has earned the confidence of his quarterback. That means that Carson Wentz is comfortable enough with Fulgham to give him a 50/50 ball and believe he will win it. Missing from Fulgham's stats are some pass interference penalties he has drawn helping the offense to get down the field.
Jason Kelce - Kelce's durability is impressive. In a season where everyone to his left and right on the offensive line has gone down, he has remained healthy enough to keep leading the o-line. Kelce is the only starter on the line to play in every game so far this season. His experience and ability to make the calls on the line play a big role in any successful play. Rarely does an offensive lineman get much recognition, but his durability and consistency needed to be recognized.
Brandon Graham - Graham is having a great season. He has already racked up seven sacks and 11 tackles for a loss through eight games. Graham is providing the kind of spark the defense needs and as a result is starting to get on track having won back-to-back games going into the bye. Graham has also forced two fumbles and recovered one. He has been the most consistent player on the defensive line and is currently providing the pulse and life for the entire defensive unit. That kind of effort can be contagious and trickle down through the rest of the defense. We will see if Graham can keep it up. He is on pace to record 14 sacks.
Greg Ward - Ward proved to be a huge part of the passing attack last season when injuries decimated the receiving group. He has continued to be a steady and consistent presence on the field through the air. Ward is leading the team in receptions with 32. He has 243 receiving yards and three touchdowns. Ward is a solid possession receiver and rarely drops a pass. Like Fulgham, he has earned the confidence of his quarterback and it shows.
Miles Sanders - Sanders was on pace to have earned an 'A' grade through the first half of the season. Unfortunately an injury took him out for a few games. Sanders was on pace to rush for more than 1400 yards. Through five games he has 71 carries for 434 yards and three touchdowns. He has also added 12 receptions for 91 yards. Sanders has established himself as the lead back on this team and they have missed his production. Barring a setback, Sanders is set to return Sunday against the Giants.
Derek Barnett - Barnett has had to battle through injuries so far in his NFL career. When he is healthy, he is a factor on the field. Barnett gets off the line of scrimmage quick and has shown the ability to get to the quarterback and make some things happen. Barnett has played in seven of the eight games so far this season. He has 3.5 sacks and 4.5 tackles for a loss. If he can stay healthy, he should put up a pretty productive season.
Fletcher Cox - Cox continues to do the unsung work in the middle of the defensive line. He does not always get credit in the stat sheet for the things he does. Cox is frequently double-teamed and draws a crowd allowing his teammates to make plays. Occasionally he is able to do it himself. Cox has recorded 2.5 sacks and 7.5 tackles for a loss.
Josh Sweat - Sweat is emerging as a solid pass rushing threat for the Eagles. Jim Schwartz loves to rotate in some fresh bodies on his defensive line and Sweat is playing well in that role. You have started to hear his name called during the game more and more frequently as the season has progressed. Sweat has racked up three sacks and seven tackles for a loss. He has also forced two fumbles.
Rodney McLeod - McLeod is turning in a solid season so far. It has not been consistent but is getting better and better as the season progresses. McLeod is helping to turn the ball over lately recovering two fumbles and picking off a pass. He even scored a huge touchdown after recovering a fumble against the Cowboys a little over a week ago. McLeod leads the team with seven passes successfully defensed. He also has a tackle for a loss and is second on the team with 46 tackles.
Boston Scott - Scott has done a decent job filling in for Miles Sanders. He is averaging 3.8 yards per carry which is enough to help move the chains. Scott has yet to rush for 20 yards or more on any one carry but does hit the hole and find positive yards almost every time he touches the ball. Scott did make a huge touchdown reception to beat the Giants a few weeks ago. The ball was thrown through a tight window and Scott hauled it in and maintained possession as he went to the ground securing the touchdown. He has 48 carries for 183 yards. He has also added 12 receptions for 103 yards and a touchdown.
John Hightower - Hightower has shown some promise in his rookie year. He has also failed to finish some plays that could have been huge gains for the offense. On the plus side, Hightower has shown the ability to beat his man downfield and be in position to make some big gains. However, he has also failed to pull in some of those deep balls. It appears the more time he and Wentz get to work together should yield more success on those plays. Hightower has pulled in some of those deep passes helping his stats. He has nine receptions for 166 yards. But he has been targeted 24 times so clearly there are plenty of passes going his way that are not getting completed.
Zach Ertz - It has been a disappointing season for Ertz so far. It began with some complaints about wanting a contract extension and got off to a slow start. He has not been the consistent threat that we have seen in years past. Ertz got hurt a few weeks ago and should start to work his way back to the field in the coming weeks. In six games he has 24 receptions for 178 yards and a touchdown. But he has been targeted 45 times and strange to see how he and Wentz have not been on the same page throughout the first half of the season.
Doug Pederson - Pederson got very conservative in the Bengals game which played a big role in their only tie this season. Then again, he has been overly aggressive at times on fourth down which has not gone well. They have only converted four of 14 fourth down attempts. Those failed conversions lead to shorter fields for the opponents. He has also shown a lack of consistency and adjustments in play-calling during the game. Granted, it is not Pederson's fault that Wentz continues to hold the ball too long leading to some of his 32 sacks. On the plus side, Pederson has shown a consistent ability to keep his team fighting even when adversity strikes through injuries, losses, etc. Within games, they have continued to fight and in some cases come from behind to win. The Eagles are in sole possession of first in the division and control their own destiny towards repeating as NFC East Champs. In the second half of the season Pederson needs to get his quarterback to stop turning the ball over. That in and of itself will dramatically help increase their chances of winning week to week.
Jim Schwartz - Schwartz has his defense trending in the right direction which could cause this grade to increase quickly. However, they got off to a rocky start giving up nearly 30 points per game through the first six weeks of the season. They struggled to force turnovers and faced short fields to defend after their offense turned it over or failed to convert on fourth down. However, lately his defense is getting to the quarterback and forcing turnovers. They have even put points on the board themselves. One of the trademarks of Schwartz' defenses over time has been that they bend but don't break. In other words, they give up yards but ultimately tend to keep the opponent out of the endzone. Let's see if they can keep trending upward as the second half of the season begins Sunday against the Giants.
Carson Wentz - Wentz has clearly underperformed. That is an understatement. He has shown poor decision-making and that has in turn led to way too many turnovers. Wentz has thrown 12 interceptions and lost four fumbles. In other words, he is on pace to turn it over 32 times this year. He is holding the ball too long and trying to make miraculous plays just to ultimately take a big hit or at the very least get dropped for a sack. Wentz has been sacked 32 times, so 32 times he has lost yards and put his offense in a bind. On the plus side, despite his rough play and miscues, Wentz has brought this team back and won in the fourth quarter. Now it would be nice to see the team have the lead going into the fourth quarter so the come from behind wins are not necessary. The big question is how Wentz spent his bye week. Did he do some self scouting? Did he watch some film and learn anything from his mistakes through the first eight weeks? There is a huge opportunity to lead this team to a second consecutive division title and give himself another chance to win a playoff game. But that can only happen if he picks up his play and puts an end to the turnovers. Wentz has only completed 58 percent of his passes for 1,883 yards and 12 touchdowns. He has also carried it 39 times for 202 yards and five touchdowns.