Hicks, Wentz Grade Out as Top Eagles
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Carson Wentz was spectacular in his NFL debut but there was one Eagles player who graded out even better, the quarterback of Jim Schwartz’s defense, Jordan Hicks.
According to ProFootballFocus.com, it was Hicks, who played 51 of Philadelphia’s 52 defensive snaps on the day, who got the game ball as the Eagles’ best player on the afternoon.
The second-year player out of Texas finished with four tackles on the day and a pass defended as Philadelphia found out what it’s like to win the time of possession battle again with Chip Kelly safely tucked away in San Francisco.
The Eagles held the football for 39:20 against the hapless Browns and those 52 defensive snaps faced sure looks good for a defense that had a history of wearing down late when Kelly and Bill Davis were in charge.
Hicks was very effective in pass coverage, being targeted three times and allowing just one reception for two yards, rating as the second-best NFL LB against the pass on Sunday.
The top-graded defenders behind Hicks were defensive end Brandon Graham, rookie cornerback Jalen Mills, who was forced into action for 12 snaps when starter Leodis McKelvin went down with a hamstring injury, safety Rodney McLeod and McKelvin.
As for the official snap counts, as expected Nigel Bradham was in the nickel with Hicks in place of Mychal Kendricks, who played just 19 snaps. Ron Brooks was indeed the nickel corner and was on the field 73 percent of the time (38 snaps). Meanwhile, the rotation up front saw Vinny Curry get 24 reps at DE in place of Graham and Connor Barwin while Marcus Smith got six tries. Inside Beau Allen was in for 17 plays while rookie Destiny Vaeao was in for 12 to spell Fletcher Cox and Bennie Logan.
If there was a negative for the defense, it was corner Nolan Carroll, who misplayed the ball twice on deep throws and allowed three receptions for 114 yards on four targets.
On offense, PFF obviously graded Wentz as the Eagles’ top player but the next three were offensive linemen, which stands to reason because the freshman QB was kept clean in the pocket for the most part.
Following Wentz were left guard Allen Barbre, right tackle Lane Johnson and right guard Brandon Brooks. Rounding out the top five was tight end Zach Ertz, he of the great one-handed, back-shoulder catch, which was Wentz’s first NFL completion.
Barbre was fourth among all NFL guards in Week 1 to this point and Johnson allowed just one QB hurry in 42 pass-blocking snaps, according to PFF. As for Wentz, he was particularly effective when pushing the football down the field, completing 9-of-11 on throws of 10-yards-or-more for 161 yards and his two TDs.
The most interesting playing-time note on that side of the ball was Allen's four snaps at fullback. The receiver rotation saw Jordan Matthews on the field for 71 of 77 plays with Nelson Agholor next at 67. Josh Huff (28) and Dorial Green-Beckham (25) also got plenty of opportunities.
The running-back-by-committee approach saw Darren Sproles (38) edging out Ryan Mathews (37) for playing time, followed by Kenjon Barner (6).
At tight end, Ertz was in 78 percent of the time (60) and Brent Celek 49 percent (38). Extra offensive lineman Matt Tobin was also in for nine plays.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen