Grayson’s Grades: Eagles at Panthers
CHARLOTTE - The Philadelphia Eagles asserted themselves as a team to beat in the NFC by knocking off the Carolina Panthers on the road 28-23. The Eagles defense helped to spark the offense by forcing three turnovers including a pair of interceptions that gave Philadelphia the ball in the red zone.
Fletcher Cox returned to the defense and had a great game. Jim Schwartz suffocated the Panthers Running Backs holding them to 13 carries for one yard.
The Eagles did suffer some more injuries, but Jordan Hicks and Brandon Graham said afterwards that they should be good to go when the Eagles host the Redskins in eleven days. The downside of a Thursday night game is a short week. The upside is having extra rest after it.
Philadelphia sits all alone atop the NFC East standings at 5-1. They are looking forward to a nice homestand with three straight home games on the schedule beginning October 23 against the Washington Redskins.
Here is a mostly positive report card. This is the latest edition of Grayson's Grades:
Fletcher Cox - Cox made a triumphant return to the Eagles defense after missing the last two games due to a calf injury. He made a big hit on Cam Newton in the second quarter as his arm was coming forward to force the ball to hang in the air and eventually fall into the arms of Rasul Douglas for an interception and the ball at the 12 yard line. The Eagles turned the ensuing possession into a touchdown to tie the game at ten. Cox also met Brandon Graham for a big sack late in the first half to help hold the Panthers scoreless on that drive. Cox finished with two tackles, half-a-sack, one pass defensed and two quarterback hits.
Rasul Douglas - Douglas continued to play pretty well for the Eagles. The rookie did a great job reacting to a ball hanging high in the air and attack it for an interception. He was tackled at the Panthers 12-yard line giving the Eagles great field position. The ensuing possession resulted in a touchdown. Douglas led the team with three passes defensed. He also added a pair of tackles.
Nigel Bradham - Great job getting a hand on a third down pass to bat it away on the Panthers opening drive. Huge play to chase down Cam Newton with about 30 seconds remaining in the first half to get him down in bounds. It took about 20 seconds off the clock and helped the Panthers end the half without scoring or even getting off a field goal attempt. Bradham made another huge play chasing down a receiver in the flat on third and goal to force a Panthers field goal. Bradham was impressive in this one. He finished with ten tackles, one tackle for a loss and two passes defensed.
Jake Elliott - Elliott has been a major factor since taking over kicking duties for the injured Caleb Sturgis. He has made ten straight field goals with those ten makes coming from an average of more than 45 yards. Elliott gave the Eagles the first lead of the game after booting a 50 yd FG following a high snap by Ricky Lovato. Elliott added a 48 yard field goal in the third quarter. The kid is on fire and certainly making a difference in Philadelphia.
Mychal Kendricks - Kendricks had himself a day. He wanted more playing time prior to the start of the season. Due to injury, he got more playing time and is taking advantage of it. Kendricks led the team with a career-high 17 tackles. He was flying all over the field. Kendricks has clearly made a statement to the coaching staff that he should get more playing time. He finished with 17 tackles and one tackle for a loss. Kendricks is crediting his second year in Schwartz' defense as a big reason why he is finding so much success.
Donnie Jones - Jones flies under the radar most of the time. I wanted to make sure he got credit after this one. Jones booted six punts for 305 yards. He averaged 50.8 yards per punt helping to create a longer field for the Panthers than they otherwise might have had. Equally important was the job he did as a holder. He took a high snap from Ricky Lovato and got it down in time for Jake Elliott to hit a 50-yard field goal and give the Eagles the first lead of the game.
Jim Schwartz - Schwartz made it a miserable day for Panthers Running Backs. His defense saw those backs get 13 carries for a total of one yard rushing. They did give up some bigger runs to Cam Newton. He ran it 11 times for 71 yards and a touchdown. He defense was also able to help collapse the pocket on Newton without much in the way of blitzing. More help in coverage created havoc for Newton in the passing game. Schwartz' defense forced three turnovers. Two of them gave the Eagles the ball inside the red zone and both turned into touchdowns. Somehow Schwartz continues to manage injuries to key players on his defense and find ways to win.
Doug Pederson - I liked the idea of running a hurry up offense on the opening possession. The sack-fumble on Wentz ended that drive which was moving nicely down the field. Pederson elected to accept a penalty on a PAT and go for two. The ball was placed at the one and LeGarrette Blount pounded it in for the conversion. Gutsy call, but it paid off. Pederson called a pretty good game overall and had to try to figure out how to deal with the Panthers pass rush, which exploited the absence of Lane Johnson on the offensive line.
Brandon Graham - Graham left the game early due to a shoulder injury, but said afterwards that he should be fine for their next game. He was creating a decent pass rush that was getting close to Newton. He finally broke through and met Fletcher Cox at Newton to record half-a-sack for both of them. Graham finished with three tackles, half-a-sack and two quarterback hits.
Patrick Robinson - Great awareness on a screen pass that was bobbled by the Panthers and he was able to come up with it giving the Eagles the ball inside the red zone. Robinson is having a solid season so far and was around the ball again in this one. He finished with three tackles, one pass defense and an interception.
Derek Barnett - Barnett has struggled early in the season to catch up with the speed and skill of the NFL. Each game he is getting better and better. That showed in this one when Barnett was able to get to Cam Newton and bring him down with Justin Hamilton for half-a-sack. Barnett registered two tackles, half-a-sack and two quarterback hits.
Carson Wentz - Wentz did a great job running the hurry-up offense on the opening possession. The Eagles had a successful drive brewing when Wentz had his arm hit and forced a fumble that the Panthers recovered. He did a great job with his footwork throwing the ball on designed rollouts. Wentz was missing a little high early in the game. Settled down better in the second half. Made a beautiful pass on third and 16 to hit Mack Hollins over the middle for a first down. On the very next play he found Alshon Jeffery down the sideline for a 37-yard gain. Two plays later, Wentz hit Nelson Agholor in-stride on a slant and he took it the rest of the way for a 24-yard touchdown. Wentz completed 16 of 30 passes for 222 yards and three touchdowns. He also carried the ball six times for 25 yards.
LeGarrette Blount - Blount helped set the tone early in the running game racking up 24 yards on his first three carries. He went a while before getting more opportunities near the goal line following Douglas' interception. Blount failed to get into the endzone, but the drive ended with a touchdown. He ran hard and carried a pile of tacklers with him after contact just about every time he handled the ball. Blount lost his cool and committed a 15-yard personal foul penalty after a third down stop hurting the Eagles field position. Blount whiffed on a couple of pass protections earlier in the game that created hits on Wentz. That was about the only thing that he struggled with in this one. Anytime a running back can average about five yards per carry, he is having a solid day. Blount carried the ball 14 times for 67 yards and also ran in a two-point conversion.
Alshon Jeffery - Jeffery played a big role in this game making some key grabs to move the sticks. He also hauled in a 37-yard pass down the sideline to get the ball deep into Panthers territory. Jeffery had four catches for 71 yards and appears to be getting more comfortable in Pederson's offense.
Nelson Agholor - Agholor once again looked good. His biggest contribution came on a slant over the middle. Agholor caught the pass in-stride and took it 24 yards untouched for a touchdown. He was targeted seven times, but misfires by Wentz contributed to three incompletions his way. Agholor hauled in four passes for 55 yards and a touchdown.
Zach Ertz - Ertz did not get to be as much of a factor in the pass game because he had to stay in and help pass block more frequently with the blitzing by the Panthers as well as the absence of Lane Johnson. He did a nice job in the back of the endzone to catch a touchdown after Rasul Douglas' interception. Ertz appears to be something like a security blanket for Wentz. When he needs him, Ertz is there. Ertz was extremely efficient as a receiver in this game. He caught two passes for 18 yards. Both of those receptions were touchdowns.
Torrey Smith - Smith was not much of a stat maker in this game. He only had two passes thrown his way and caught one of them for six yards. The other one hit his hands on a deep ball that may have been slightly overthrown. That does not mean he did not have an impact. He was requiring attention from the Panthers defense knowing he would occasionally go deep.
Halapoulivaati Vaitai - Got beat by Julius Peppers on the Eagles first possession and gave up a sack-fumble that the Panthers recovered.
Kenjon Barner - Barner struggled against the Panthers. He was not a factor on special teams. Barner muffed one punt that was recovered by the Eagles. He also was not a factor on offense. Barner carried the ball five times for seven yards. He added one reception for nine yards.