Well, a win’s a win. And while our Birds came out and stunk up the joint, they absolutely dominated the game after halftime en route to a 32-27 victory over the Redskins. It was week 1, so I’m not overly worried about how the team came out, especially since both sides of the ball haven’t had a chance to play together yet.
There was definitely some good, but there was also room for improvement, so let’s talk about it.
1.) The Secondary is the Clear Weakness of the Defense
This was to be expected heading into the season, and the young core of players in our secondary didn’t do much to quiet the speculation.
Rasul Douglas allowed that huge 69-yard touchdown to rookie wideout Terry McLaurin, Ronald Darby continued to struggle against bigger, more physical receivers, and Sidney Jones and Avonte Maddox were just eh. In total, they allowed Case Keenum to put up 380 yards and three touchdowns on them, not very good by any means.
But, they shored up their coverage in the second half, allowing just 123 yards through the air after halftime.
As the season progresses, the secondary will continue to jell and their play will improve. But man, allowing Case Keenum to tear them up in the first half did not make me feel great about the potential of our young corners.
They’ll have their work cut out for them next week against Matt Ryan and his plethora of weapons on the outside.
2.) Carson Wentz, Glad to Have You Back Pal
Per Pro Football Focus, Carson Wentz was the third-highest ranked QB through the first week of the season. Not bad for a guy who’s coming off back-to-back season ending injuries.
It was a vintage 2017 Wentz performance. He used his legs to open up passing lanes, took what the defense was giving him and didn’t turn the ball over once.
He was even more impressive on third downs and when he was under pressure. According to PFF, Wentz went 8-9 with 132 yards and two touchdowns while under pressure, recording a perfect passer rating. He was equally impressive on third downs, where he went 11-12 for 197 yards and three touchdowns, recording a perfect passer rating again.
He benefited from great protection and the insertion of DeSean Jackson, but nevertheless, Wentz operated Doug Pederson’s offense to perfection for the most part.
He still struggled to get the offense moving in the first half, something that plagued him throughout the 2018 season. But, I attribute that more to shaky play calling and game one jitters.
If he can continue to do the things we saw on Sunday for the rest of the season, he’ll undoubtedly be back in the MVP conversation come December.
3.) DeSean Jackon, Glad to Have You Back Too My Man
I didn’t realize how much I missed seeing No. 10 get the long ball until Sunday. I uncontrollably screamed when he went deep in the first half, and screamed even louder when he got the deep shot again to give us the lead in the second. His ability to take the top off the defense adds a whole new dimension to Pederson’s offense.
Jackson finished the day with eight receptions for 154 yards and two trips to the end zone. While his two 50+ yard TDs were the highlights of his day, he showed the ability to do things that he wasn’t necessarily known for doing when he left Philly back in 2015.
His route running has improved, and his pure catching ability seemed as good as it’s ever been, only recording one drop on 10 targets.
Even if teams start to key in on him, it’ll just open up the offense for our other play makers. He could end up being one of the most valuable players on our offense this season.
4.) Pederson Still Loves Darren Sproles
I fully expected Sproles to have a role in the offense this season, I just didn’t think he’d play the lead back role. He didn’t lead the backfield in snaps, but he was utilized the most when he was in the ball game, finishing with nine carries for 47 yards and three receptions for 16 yards.
If he doesn’t break down with injuries like the past couple seasons, look for him to continue to play a pivotal role in Douggie P’s game plans.
5.) Miles Sanders is the Best Back on this Roster
While Pederson gave Sproles the most touches out of any back, Sanders led the backfield in snaps. He finished with 11 carries for 25 yards and one catch for two yards, and if it wasn’t for a bogus holding call on J.J. Arcega Whiteside, Sanders would’ve had nice 21-yard touchdown added to that stat line.
His burst and quickness adds a nice element to the Birds’ backfield, especially with a bruiser like Jordan Howard behind him. I would expect Sanders to lead the backfield in snaps as long as he can stay healthy.
6.) Dominant Up Front on Both Sides of the Ball
Stellar play up front on both sides of the ball will win you games in the NFL, regardless of who’s in the secondary or under center, and it’s the reason the Eagles were able to walk away with a victory in week 1.
Wentz was only sacked once and was able to operate in the pocket without much pressure in his face at all. Lane Johnson dominated Ryan Kerrigan, Jason Peters looked like the HOF tackle that he is, Jason Kelce continued to make great calls along the line and Brandon Brooks looked like he hasn’t missed a step after tearing his Achilles just eight months prior. In fact, Brooks was the highest performing guard according to PFF. Pretty unbelievable.
The Eagles were equally as dominant on the defensive side of the ball, keeping the Washington rushing attack in check all game. They held the Redskins backs to just 28 yards on 13 carries.
Although they were only able to record one sack on the day, they got pressure on Keenum quite a bit throughout the day. Three different Eagles ranked in the top-5 in QB pressures in week 1. Derek Barnett ranked first with eight pressure, Fletcher Cox ranked second with seven and Brandon Graham ranked fourth with six.
The big guys up front, both offensively and defensively, are the strength of this team. Dominating the line of scrimmage should be a common theme throughout 2019.