Grayson’s Grades: Eagles at Redskins
LANDOVER, MD - The Philadelphia Eagles opened the season looking to end a losing streak to one of their division rivals. The Washington Redskins won their last five games against the Eagles. Four of those five games were decided by seven points or less.
This game proved to be more of the same. A back-and-forth affair that ultimately ended with the Eagles winning 30-17. It was their first win at FedEx Field since September 9, 2013.
The red pen is out and with it, the first regular season report card. Here is the latest edition of Grayson's Grades:
Jim Schwartz - Schwartz suffered a blow to his defense when Corner Ronald Darby went down with a horrible ankle injury. But he did not change his plan. The Eagles continued to pick their spots with the blitz and get pressure on Kirk Cousins. It worked to the tune of forcing two defensive turnovers, none bigger than the scoop and score by Fletcher Cox. Schwartz deserves a lot of credit for continuing to blitz with backups rotating at corner. The players cited the amount of trust and confidence it shows them he has in his defense to make the plays.
Nelson Agholor - Agholor moved to the slot in the offseason with the addition of Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith. It proved to be a good move. He looked a lot more comfortable in the slot and made a huge play early in the game. Carson Wentz extended a play giving Agholor time to improvise and slip behind the defense for a 58-yard touchdown. He added a few more catches later in the game. Agholor set career highs in receptions and receiving yards. He hauled in six passes for 86 yards and one touchdown.
Brandon Graham - Graham had a big effect on this game. Early on he crashed down the line and made a nice tackle for a one-yard loss. That helped set the tone against the Redskins rushing attack. The Eagles allowed just 64 rush yards in this game with 30 of them by Cousins on some scramble plays. Graham's biggest contribution was in the final two minutes of the game when he knocked the ball out of Kirk Cousins' hand just before it went forward resulting in a fumble that was scooped up by Fletcher Cox and returned for a touchdown. That essentially put the game away. Graham finished with four tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble.
Donnie Jones - Jones is about as consistent a punter in this league as there is. He seems to come up with big punts at big times and did so in this one. Jones boomed a perfect 50-yard punt with the Eagles leading 19-17 that was downed on the one-yard line. Jones hit four punts in the game for an average of 42.5 yards per punt.
Jalen Mills - Mills did a solid job in this game. The Redskins picked on his side of the field a lot early in the game, but without much success. Cousins made some bad throws with Mills in coverage that fell incomplete. Later in the game, Mills did a nice job to defend a jump ball in the endzone intended for Terrelle Pryor. He jumped and batted it away. Mills benefited from great pressure by Jordan Hicks that forced Cousins to throw the ball high and Mills picked it off on the goal line. If that pass falls incomplete, the Redskins likely kick a field goal and take the lead. Mills led the team in tackles with nine. He had two passes successfully defended and pulled in that one very big interception.
Fletcher Cox - Cox is the engine on the automobile that is the Eagles defense. When he is running on all cylinders it appears the defense follows suit. When he struggles, so too does the defense. Cox made some big plays in this game. He forced a fumble by swatting the ball out of Kirk Cousins' hand. His biggest contribution shut the door on the Redskins in the final two-minutes. With the Eagles leading by five, he picked up a Cousins fumble and returned it for a touchdown. Cox does not show up much in the stats, but his plays were huge. He finished with one tackle, one sack, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
Carson Wentz - Wentz faced a stiff pass rush throughout the game from the Redskins. He had to use his legs to try and keep plays alive. Wentz was able to buy enough time to make some big plays. He escaped pressure and got his eyes downfield to find a wide-open Nelson Agholor for a 58-yard touchdown on their first drive of the game. Wentz later did a great job to keep a play alive and hit Zach Ertz on the sideline for a solid gain. He also made some mistakes. Wentz threw a very poor backward pass to Agholor that hit the ground as a fumble and was recovered by the Redskins. Wentz also had a pass tipped and intercepted for a touchdown by Ryan Kerrigan to cut the Eagles lead to 13-7. Wentz made a huge play late in the game to convert a third down. He avoided a sack and made a perfect throw on the run to Zach Ertz extending a drive. Wentz used his legs to roll out and find Jeffery for a two-point conversion following Fletcher Cox's fumble return for a touchdown. Wentz completed 26 of 39 passes for 307 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. He added four carries for six yards and one fumble.
Patrick Robinson - Robinson did a real nice job coming in for the injured Ronald Darby in the first half. He made some nice open-field tackles shutting plays down. That is tough to do off the bench. Robinson finished with four tackles.
Malcolm Jenkins - Jenkins was solid on the backend of this defense. He moved all around and made plays all over the field. He did a really nice job in coverage not allowing any big windows to throw into. He also broke up a pass over the middle. Jenkins also crashed down on some plays to finish tied for third on the team in tackles with four.
Jordan Hicks - Hicks is one of the very solid pieces the Eagles have in the middle of their defense. He has gained more and more confidence as he has played more in this league. Hicks made a huge play in this game when he came on a blitz with the Redskins driving. He put his arm up forcing Cousins to throw over his intended target and into the arms of Jalen Mills resulting in a huge interception. Hicks finished second on the team in tackles with seven. He also recovered a big fumble early in the game.
Caleb Sturgis - Sturgis provided some big kicks in this game. Sturgis nailed a 50-yard field goal as time expired in the first half to give the Eagles a 16-14 lead. He followed that up with two more field goals from 42-yards and 37-yards respectively. The lone negative for Sturgis was missing an extra point in the first half. Those can be crucial but fortunately did not matter in this game.
Doug Pederson - Pederson's play-calling was definitely questionable at times. With the Eagles up 7-0 and driving once again, he had Carson Wentz throw a backward pass to Nelson Agholor. That pass was over Agholor's head and recovered by the Redskins. That is the kind of play you run when your offense keeps stalling and you try to inject a shot in the arm with a bit of a trick play. Horrible time for that play. I also question the run-pass lack of balance once again. The Eagles ran 39 pass plays compared to just 24 run plays. I think Pederson needs to get LeGarrette Blount quite a few touches early in a game to get him going. He ultimately carried it 14 times, but in spits and spurts. Pederson got the win against a division rival to start the season. But there is still much he can learn. I would also not mind if somebody on the staff burned the quick passes to wide receivers on the perimeter. Those seem to never work.
Alshon Jeffery - Jeffery was quiet throughout most of the game. He had just one catch until late in the fourth quarter. Jeffery added one more reception on a quick pass for no gain. His biggest contribution was a 24-yard reception on their final drive that led to a field goal extending the Eagles lead to 22-17. Jeffery finished with three receptions for 38 yards. He also added a two-point conversion reception following Fletcher Cox's scoop and score.
LeGarrette Blount - Bount had some solid hard runs. I did not feel he got enough carries to truly get going. Blount needs more touches to get a better feel for the game. He averaged 3.3 yards per carry. That has to be a little better as the season rolls on. Blount carried it 14 times for 46 yards. He did a great job to make a nice move on a one-yard touchdown reception.
Torrey Smith - Smith committed one of the major sins in this sport. He became a spectator while the ball was in play. Smith was blocking for Agholor on the backward pass and when it fell incomplete it appeared he had a chance to recover it but instead watched it thinking it was an incomplete pass. That is a big no-no. Smith did a good job getting open downfield on a deep ball, but Wentz missed him and overthrew it. Smith ultimately hauled in one pass for 30 yards.
Wendell Smallwood - Smallwood is still trying to get comfortable in this league. Injuries plagued him last year and this preseason. Pass protection has been his biggest achilles heel, which in turn keeps him off the field more. Smallwood did a good job picking up the blitz at one point, but then struggled on a couple of other pass protection assignments. In one of them, he picked up the wrong guy leaving a linebacker with a clear path to Wentz. Smallwood carried the ball four times for four yards. He added one reception for five yards.
Offensive Line - The offensive line allowed way too much pressure on Wentz. There were way too many times that Wentz had to bail out of the pocket and try to create something by extending the play. He was sacked twice and forced to run a few times. The Redskins forced nine quarterback hurries in this game. The line also failed to open holes for the running backs. The Eagles' longest rush of the game was just seven yards by LeGarrette Blount. That being said, Jason Peters was in for just one play in the second half with a groin injury. His absence has a trickle-down effect on the line. This line must protect Wentz better moving forward.