Grayson’s Grades: Eagles at Titans
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The Philadelphia Eagles went to the Music City and played out of tune early in the game. Ultimately they started playing the right song but failed to finish it and left with a 26-23 loss to the Tennessee Titans in overtime.
Alshon Jeffery made his 2018 season debut after missing the first three games due to an injured shoulder. He did miss three days of practice due to a pretty bad illness, but was able to play in the game and made a decent contribution.
The Eagles defense once again gave up some yards and not only bent but also broke frequently in this game.
Philadelphia ended the first month of the season with a 2-2 record. It is not the start to the season anyone in an Eagles uniform wanted. They have a lot to correct as the calendar turns to October.
Here is the latest edition of Grayson's Grades:
Carson Wentz - Wentz was asked to do a lot with his arm in this game. The running game had windows of success, but its failure to sustain success allowed the Titans to bring all kinds of pressure and get to Wentz. If they didn't sack him they at least forced hurries and sometimes hit him. They appeared to disguise their pressure very well and confuse the Eagles offensive linemen and running backs. Wentz fell victim to some dropped passes. He did connect with Jordan Matthews in-stride on a deep ball for a 56 yard touchdown. It gave the Eagles a 7-3 lead in the 2nd Qtr. Wentz completed all six of his passes on that drive for 97 yards and the touchdown. Wentz appeared to really avoid taking off out of the pocket and at times decided to do that a little too late. He completed 33 of 50 passes for 348 yards and two touchdowns. He also carried it two times for eight yards. Both of those rushing attempts were on scrambles.
Alshon Jeffery - Jeffery gutted it out and played in his first game of the season. He missed the first three games due to a shoulder injury. Jeffery almost did not play in this game after missing the last three days of practice due to a bad illness. His impact was positive making his first catch of the season early in the second quarter when he pulled in a 31-yard pass to get the Eagles out of the shadow of their own goal post. Later, he ran a great route on third and goal and used his size to protect the catch pulling it in at the goal line for a 16-yard touchdown. Jeffery caught eight passes for 105 yards and a touchdown in his return.
Jay Ajayi - Ajayi deserves a lot of credit for playing with a broken back. The Eagles really needed him with Corey Clement inactive for this one. Ajayi broke off some really nice runs. He shot forward for a ten-yard gain on his first touch. He did get the most carries taking the ball 15 times for 70 yards. That is an average of nearly five yards per carry. Ajayi also caught three passes for 11 yards. It was a gutty effort from a guy who had to be in some pain throughout the game.
Zach Ertz - Ertz was once again Carson Wentz' security blanket. The Titans left him wide open numerous times in the first half. Wentz continued to hit his Tight End over and over again. Ertz had eight catches for 83 yards by halftime. The Titans adjusted at the break and held him to just two more catches for 29 yards the rest of the game. Ertz finished with ten receptions for 112 yards.
Jordan Matthews - Matthews played college football at Vanderbilt here in Nashville and had a triumphant return hauling in a 56-yard touchdown pass. Matthews got ahead of the defensive back and broke away from the defender for the score. Wentz hit him in-stride making it an easy score for Matthews. His stats were not overly impressive in his second game back with the Eagles; however, he can only take advantage of the opportunities presented to him. Matthews did have one drop in the game over the middle. The pass was a little low by Wentz, but Matthews should have had it. He did appear to have more snaps in this game than he did a week ago. That should continue to increase. Matthews was targeted three times but had just the one catch for 56 yards and a touchdown.
Avonte Maddox - Maddox rotated in at times at Free Safety and did pretty well. He picked off a pass by Mariota and tacked on a nice 23-yard return to set the Eagles offense up deep in Titans' territory. Maddox finished with that one interception and also a successful pass defense.
Michael Bennett - Bennett nearly got an 'A' from me. He seemed to get into the Titans' backfield pretty frequently early on. They started figuring out how to slow down some of that pressure later in the game. Bennett was forcing Mariota to occasionally take off or throw it away. Bennett had one tackle in the game including a sack, a tackle for a loss and two quarterback hits.
Malcolm Jenkins - Jenkins was frequently around the ball, particularly in overtime. He made some big plays in OT. First, he batted away a pass and then followed that up by making a huge tackle for a 2-yard loss forcing a third-and-four. Jenkins made another big tackle for a four-yard loss to help keep the Titans out of Field Goal range for the time being. Ultimately the Titans got into the end zone to end the game. Despite the absence of McLeod, Jenkins still played near the line of scrimmage a lot. It helped in stopping the run, but did not allow him to help on many of the deep balls that the Titans threw. Jenkins finished tied for second on the team with seven tackles. He added two tackles for a loss and one pass successfully defended.
Haloti Ngata - Ngata was a positive factor on the Eagles' Defensive Line. He contributed four tackles including a sack. That sack was due in large part to Brandon Graham forcing Mariota to step up in the pocket where Ngata was just busting through a block. Ngata added two tackles for a loss and that one quarterback hit.
Derek Barnett - Barnett continues to make strides in the right direction. He racked up another sack after tallying 1.5 sacks last week. Barnett continues to appear more and more comfortable at this level and his contributions are increasing. Barnett had three tackles in the game including that sack, a tackle for a loss and two quarterback hits.
Wendell Smallwood - Smallwood would have had a better grade if not for some missed blocks that got Wentz sacked. He did not recognize where the pressure was coming from in time and that led to those hits on his Quarterback. Smallwood did a good job carrying the ball averaging nearly eight yards per carry. Smallwood carried it five times for 39 yards. He added three receptions for 15 yards.
Corey Graham - Graham saw a lot more playing time due to the injury to Rodney McLeod. However, rarely should a safety lead the team in tackles. That typically indicates that plays were successful and required safety help to finish it off. Graham did go on to lead the team in tackles with nine of them. He also had a tackle for a loss. Graham did have his mistakes as well. He missed a tackle on Dion Lewis that turned into a big gain on second-and-22. It eventually led to a third-down conversion and a Field Goal for the Titans. Graham also committed a costly pass interference on fourth-and-four that extended the Titans' game-winning drive in overtime.
Doug Pederson - Pederson typically has a pretty good opening script to the game. I liked the deep shot on the first play, but Nelson Agholor could not pull it in. The offense appeared to be out of sync throughout much of the first quarter. Eventually they made some adjustments and were able to start moving the ball. Totally disagreed with the call on third and four with 11 seconds left in the first half. He ran Ajayi for a one-yard gain and had to call his last timeout. He should have at least taken a shot in the end zone. That run play had no chance of scoring. I was also not a fan of how he called the offensive plays when the Eagles got down pretty far into Titans' territory. He never took a shot in the end zone which would have ended the game. I felt Pederson settled for a FG believing his defense would at least hold the Titans from a Touchdown and allow his offense to get the ball again.
Nelson Agholor - Agholor really struggled in this game. He has been so reliable that it was hard to watch him struggle like he did against the Titans. Agholor had a chance at a deep ball on the Eagles' first offensive play but it went through his hands. It was a tough catch, but probably should have been made. He had a couple of drops later in the game including a costly one on third down in the fourth quarter that forced the Eagles to punt while nursing a four-point lead. His woes also included losing the handle after a catch. Early in the second half with the Eagles driving, Agholor fumbled the ball and caught a break as it barely got out of bounds. It was not the type of performance we became accustomed to seeing from him. Agholor was targeted 12 times but only managed five catches for 22 yards.
Jalen Mills - Mills gave up multiple deep completions or caught a break on some of those attempts that the receiver dropped it. He gives a lot of cushion to receivers and at times appears to expect safety help but does not have some. Either the safety is late recognizing where to help or there is some sort of miscommunication. Malcolm Jenkins defended Mills after the game saying, "A lot of times people look at this from home and think he had a bad game but a lot of it wasn't necessarily his fault. The way our coverage was it was not all on him." Mills got beat on a double move on the first possession of the game and gave up a third down completion taking the Titans to the Eagles 27 yard line. He also committed a costly pass interference in the third quarter giving the Titans a first and goal inside the five-yard line. The Titans eventually scored on that drive. Mills later gave up a deep completion for 51 yards in the fourth quarter with the Eagles nursing a four-point lead. It was not Mills' better performance. I believe Jenkins that some of it was coverage issues that does not fall on Mills, but enough of it was not good to warrant the grade.
Offensive Line - The offensive line gave up way too many hits on Carson Wentz. Too often, Titans defenders were coming in unblocked or barely touched. Wentz was sacked four times for a total of 33 yards. He also got hit 11 times in the game. At one point or another it was either miscommunication or too late recognizing where the blitzes were coming from that created the pressure or sacks on Wentz. "They did a good job of executing and pick it up," Offensive Tackle Lane Johnson said. "We will watch the film and get all the details corrected." It appeared that at some point every player on the line failed to pickup a block that led to the pressure. That has to be cleaned up as the season progresses.