Grayson’s Grades: Eagles vs. Falcons
PHILADELPHIA - The Philadelphia Eagles opened the NFL season with a hard fought 18-12 win over the Atlanta Falcons. The Eagles unveiled their Super Bowl Championship banner prior to the game and then got to work to begin their title defense.
Quarterback Carson Wentz was ruled out prior to the game still recovering from knee surgery nine months ago. Wide Receiver Alshon Jeffery also missed the game. Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles had control of the offense which struggled throughout most of the game but did manage to score a pair of touchdowns in the victory.
Grayson's Grades returns for another year. So without further ado, here is the first report card of the 2018 regular season.
Jay Ajayi - Ajayi did not get many touches at all early in this game. When he did get his opportunities he took advantage of them and started racking up some yardage. He provided a spark to the offense and eventually scored the first touchdown of the new NFL season on a one-yard run. Ajayi later had his number called and scored an 11-yard touchdown to retake the lead and tacked on a two-point conversion on the ground. Ajayi admitted after the game that he is still nursing an injury but is getting close to being at full health. He carried the ball 15 times for 62 yards and a pair of touchdowns. That is an average of 4.1 yards per carry.
Fletcher Cox - Cox was up to his usual antics creating plenty of havoc for an offense to handle. He did a great job of stopping Devonta Freeman on 2nd and Goal on the opening drive of the game. Later he read a screen pass on third down perfectly and forced Freeman to go back inside where Brandon Graham met him for a loss. That play was clearly set up by Cox reading it so quickly. He applied great pressure on Matt Ryan and was a frequent presence in the Atlanta backfield. Cox tallied two tackles including a sack, a tackle for a loss and four quarterback hits.
Brandon Graham - Graham had a quick first step after not playing in the preseason. He looked fresh and healthy. Graham had a clear presence in this game including several stops behind the line of scrimmage. He appeared to pick up this season right where he left off last year. Graham recorded two tackles including a pair of tackles for a loss.
Jordan Hicks - Hicks is such an important piece of this defense in the middle where he makes a lot of plays. He was very active in this game and even went over a lineman to get to Matt Ryan for a sack forcing a long field goal attempt. Hicks was everywhere and led the team with seven tackles. He added 1.5 sacks, a tackle for a loss, two quarterback hits and one pass successfully defended. Hicks is a very valuable piece to this defense and showed that in this victory.
Cameron Johnston - Johnston really helped to try and flip the field in this game. He punted very well the entire four quarters. Johnston booted six punts for 313 yards. That is an average of 52.2 yards per punt. That included a 58-yard punt that was downed on the Falcons' 10-yard line.
Ronald Darby - Darby displayed excellent discipline to avoid trying to pick off a pass without good position on Julio Jones. Instead, he just poked a hand out in front of Jones and batted it down to force a punt. It was a veteran move and would have surely drawn a flag if he tried to pick it off. Darby was also the defender shadowing Jones on the final play of the game not allowing Jones to get good position. Darby made it so the only way Jones could catch the ball was if he went out of bounds and that is exactly what happened to preserve the victory. Darby finished tied for second on the team with six tackles. He added one tackle for a loss and led the team with three passes successfully defended.
Rasul Douglas - Douglas made a big play in the game for the Eagles. As the Falcons were driving, Douglas picked off a pass at the two-yard line and forced a huge turnover while the Eagles held a four-point lead in the second half. He did not get a lot of snaps in the game, but took advantage of the ones he did receive. Douglas finished the game with that interception and one pass successfully defended.
Chris Long - Long appeared to get to know Falcons Quarterback Matt Ryan pretty well. He kept introducing himself to Ryan. Long racked up four tackles including 1.5 sacks and four quarterback hits along with a forced fumble. He played very well and was a key contributor to the frequent pressure the Eagles applied in the game.
Sidney Jones - Jones got the start at the Nickel Corner position and made a few plays in this game. Overall he played pretty well. Jones did a nice job of reading a pass in the flat in the fourth quarter and made the tackle for a loss. Jones finished with four tackles including one tackle for a loss.
Darren Sproles - Sproles played for the first time in nearly a year after suffering a season-ending injury last season. He looked good and even moved up the NFL career All-Purpose yardage chart. Sproles is now sixth in NFL history with 19,216 yards. He passed both Marshall Faulk and Steve Smith, Sr. in this game. Sproles carried the ball five times for 10 yards. He also caught four passes for 22 yards and added 29 yards on three punt returns.
Nelson Agholor - Agholor pretty much did it all in this game. He made some nice catches in traffic to help move the chains. Agholor also had a perfect passer rating completing a 15-yard pass to Nick Foles on a play very similar to the Philly Special they ran in the Super Bowl. He also took an end around and carried it 16 yards. Agholor's more traditional role included leading the team with eight receptions for a total of 33 yards.
Jim Schwartz - Schwartz appeared to go with a game plan that included allowing Julio Jones to do his damage primarily between the 20's and keep him from doing much closer to the end zone. It resulted in Jones catching ten passes for 169 yards. Jones was the target on the final play of the game from the Eagles' five-yard line and the pass was caught but out of bounds allowing the Eagles to preserve the victory. Schwartz had a pretty good game plan that brought pressure on Matt Ryan and resulted in several plays for a loss. All total the Eagles racked up four sacks and eight tackles for a loss. They also tallied 13 quarterback hits. The defense provided a goal line stand to force a turnover on downs, forced an interception and eventually kept the Falcons from winning the game on the final play.
Zach Ertz - Ertz did not have a good game by his own standards. He admitted as much in the locker room afterwards. Ertz acknowledged that he left some plays on the field missing some catches that he typically makes. One of them went through his hands and hit the ground. Ertz was targeted ten times catching five of those passes for 48 yards.
Nick Foles - Foles caught a pass for the second consecutive game as the Eagles ran a version of the Philly Special to convert a third down. They went on to score a touchdown later that drive. Foles did not appear to get into any kind of rhythm in the passing game. He was completing passes; however, they were all short passes for very little yardage. Foles did connect with Nelson Agholor a couple of times on third down to convert and move the chains. He took some shots downfield trying to hit Mike Wallace but all of those attempts fell incomplete. Wallace appeared to have his man beat on a couple of deep balls, but the passes were thrown short allowing the defender to make a play on the ball and prevent a completion. Foles completed 19 of 34 passes for 117 yards and one interception that bounced off of Dallas Goedert's hands. He also caught one pass for 15 yards.
Dallas Goedert - The rookie Tight End was targeted by Foles three times and caught one pass in the end zone; however, he had one foot come down out of bounds so it was ruled incomplete. Goedert caught one pass for four yards and should have caught one more pass, but it hit his hands and he got hit by the defender at about the same time causing it to bounce off of him and into the arms of a defender for an interception. He will grow and gain confidence with this team. Goedert is a good receiver and should evolve into a more reliable target as his NFL career progresses.