Thursday Morning QB: 10 Thoughts on the Eagles-Lions All-22
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - The joys of construction in my home pushed the viewing of the All-22 between the Eagles and Lions back a day this week but better late than never.
Philadelphia’s first loss of the season came by one-point with a multitude of missed opportunities so there is little doubt that Doug Pederson is playing up the positives as Philadelphia gets ready for a key divisional game against the Washington Redskins.
Here’s what we saw:
-On the ill-fated Carson Wentz throw to Nelson Agholor, resulting in the rookie quarterback’s first professional interception which sealed the game to Detroit, Wentz probably should have gone to Jordan Matthews instead of shooting for the home run. That said, it was hardly a terrible read in that it was a 50-50 ball in single coverage.
As Wentz has stated, a perfect ball would have been delivered further inside by about a half-yard or so but a better receiver tracks the football and either adjusts to make the catch or at least force an incompletion, allowing the team to live and play second down.
Cornerbacks in the NFL are generally playing that position for a reason and it’s not due to a lack of athleticism. Most can’t catch the football consistently but it was Slay who looked like the natural with the football in the air while Agholor was totally discombobulated because it wasn’t a perfect throw.
Wentz’s biggest mistake on the play was trusting Agholor. That said, the leadership he displayed by taking the brunt of the blame is another positive development and another example of the intangibles the Eagles rave about with Wentz.
-The biggest news on defense was how Jim Schwartz curtailed Nigel Bradham’s snaps and if it was a disciplinary decision or not. By all indications, it was not and Schwartz’s plan coming into the game was to rotate Mychal Kendricks and Stephen Tulloch into the game -- even in the nickel -- on the third series.
Compare it to a baseball manager not going to his closer in Game No. 55 because he’s been overusing him over the prior week. The plan wasn’t just about last Sunday, it was about keeping players who aren’t used to playing significant numbers of snaps over 17 weeks - Bradham and Jordan Hicks -- fresh for the long haul.
And it didn’t work as the athletic Kendricks was lost in pass coverage against Theo Riddick and also missed a big tackle that allowed the drive to continue. For what it’s worth Kendricks sort of blamed his rustiness on the fact he hasn’t been playing a lot and to be fair he was in position to make plays, he just didn’t do it.
That said, failing in limited opportunities is not the way to earn more playing time.
-The frustrating part of Schwartz’s decision, meanwhile, was the fact that Bradham continued to play well while on the field, especially in pass coverage, a development few saw coming. In fact, it’s almost amazing that the athleticism of Kendricks doesn’t translate in coverage but the instincts of Bradham have served him well.
Here’s a great example of those instincts:
-Getting back to Wentz, the rookie continues to excel when the oppositions sends an extra rusher or two, something Pederson has claimed is due to the QB’s preparation. Against the Lions, Wentz was nearly perfect against the blitz, 7 of 8 for 70 yards and a TD, according to ProFootballFocus.com. He has been able to identify where it’s coming from and throw right behind it, a rare trait for any young signal caller.
-Right guard Brandon Brooks has been a rock-solid addition and played his best game as an Eagle in Detroit. Normally regarded as a road-grader in the the running game due to his prodigious size and impressive strength, the free-agent signing was almost perfect in pass protection in a very loud environment.
-Left tackle Jason Peters also had his best game of the season, an important development with Lane Johnson now gone for the next 10 weeks. Peters isn’t the player he once was but if the four veterans on the line can keep playing plus-football on a consistent basis that will make it easier for the Eagles to help Big V on the right side.
-The egregious drops weren’t there for the Eagles receivers versus the Lions but both Agholor and Dorial Green-Beckham had opportunities to pick up their QB a bit and failed. People need to remember that Wentz is playing with a shaky group as a whole and elevating their play to a degree. As the Eagles continue to upgrade the talent in the coming years, things should only improve.
-Brandon Graham has his way with a solid player in Lions RT Riley Reiff and continues to be one of the better two-way edge defenders in the NFL. BG has been a difference maker as a pass rusher and hurried Matthew Stafford on numerous occasions but the most impressive part of Graham’s game is how he has been able to set the edge in run support on a consistent basis.
-On the other hand, Connor Barwin and Vinny Curry each had their issues while setting the edge in run support, especially early in the game.
Here’s an example of both losing contain with Curry doing a really poor job on a cutback:
-The Ryan Mathews fumble was the big story in the running game but neither option, Mathews or Darren Sproles, was all that effective despite decent numbers. The problem was only getting the yardage blocked and failing to make defenders miss or pick up much yardage after contact.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen