First, let’s talk about the play of Carson Wentz. From the beginning of the game, Carson Wentz asserted himself by converting on a big third down during the first drive. It was a 3rd and 14 after Wentz had just been sacked; however, as the play developed, Carson Wentz remained calm and collected even though the pocket around his collapsed. Wentz avoided a great sack, stepped up, avoided another sack, and threw a 58 yard touchdown to Nelson Agholor while falling to the ground. Wentz’s ability to escape the pocket and extend the play created the opportunity. For young quarterbacks, it is important to be able to extend plays as they continue to adjust to the pace of play of the NFL. Here at PhillyAnalytics, we try to quantify a lot of the game, but it is clear that such play cannot be assessed by numbers because it was just a beauty from the start. It is hard to analyze such play through a statistical lens, simply because of Wentz’s physical presence and pocket awareness, allowing him to continue the play.
Another instance that stood out from the first game was the interception he threw to Ryan Kerrigan. While the interception was caused by a deflection from the line of scrimmage, it was Carson’s fault. If he had just pump faked or something to that extent, he would have been able to get the lineman jumping and would have had a wide open receiver. Something that Wentz needs to improve is his lack of ability to read the field; currently, he simply makes the read between two receiver. This was evident by the fact that he missed some wide open throws to Nelson Agholor on crossing routes. On two different occasions, he had Nelson Agholor wide open but instead he chose to pass to Alshon Jeffery in triple coverage.
A key aspect of Wentz’s game that has been under scrutiny after the first week includes his lack of ability for the deep pass. On the first play of the game, Torrey Smith ran a vertical route, breaking through; however, Wentz’s pass was underthrown and nearly intercepted. As the game went on, I kept track of the number. It turns out that he had 4 interceptable passes. Wentz needs to work on his deep throw because they were not accurate. He was very fortunate to only have one interception because Josh Norman was very close to at least two other. I think some of the blame has to be on Doug Pederson, who will will talk about later.
Although he did not do well on his deep throws, he played well with the blitz. He went for 7-of-12 for 95 yards with two sacks. Those are some pretty good numbers, showing his ability to stay in the pocket. We talked about this point earlier when mentioning the first scoring play of the game. Another similar play that comes to mind includes when Wentz was able to scramble in the pocket and find Zach Ertz for a 23 yard gain. Once again, the beauty of the play is hard for me to quantify
Now, we are going to talk about a bit more controversial topic: Doug Pederson. I believe the play calling could have been much better during the first game. Last season, we saw that Carson would walk up to the line, read the defense, and audible if necessary. During the first game, it felt that Carson was being forced to do a lot by Pederson. I did not notice even once during the game Carson changing the play at the line of scrimmage. Also, Carson was given the job to simply make the read between two receivers and fire the ball. I would hope that during the second season, we see Pederson, allowing Wentz to control the offense. I get it that it was week one and a game on the road so there was no need for it at this time. However, I wish we did get to see a glimpse of it just because it would have made the calls unpredictable.
When talking about Doug Pederson it is important to bring up the fumble lost by Nelson Agholor and a very similar play, leading to a punt. The first play occurred during the first quarter when he had built some momentum. The play was poorly drawn up from the beginning. Torrey Smith did not block for Agholor to create separation. The throw was over Agholor’s head, making it impossible for him to get it. When the Eagles are close to opponent territory, it is illogical to do a lateral type play. At that point, it is best to play it safe and just continue to work vertical. This has been my biggest problem with Doug. He continues to work horizontally which makes it a lot harder for our offense. He does not understand that with a player of caliber like Alshon Jeffery, he is suppose to call post routes and seams and fire the ball for the receiver to get 20-25 yards. Until Doug Pederson realizes that these little lateral plays are only going to get him 5-10 yards at maximum, he is not going to be a successful play caller. When you look around the league at some of the best quarterbacks such Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady, it is clear that they are always running plays to get about 20-25 yards.
The second disappointing play of the game occurred during the latter part of the game. It was 3rd & 9 around the fifty yard line and Pederson calls the same play as before. According to all statistics and probabilities, it makes no sense to expect Agholor to get 9 yards with blockers. Let me give you some perspective: last year out of all the players with more than 50 receptions the highest averaged YAC per reception was 9.0 (James White – Patriots). Now, explain to me how the league leader in the average of YAC per reception of all players with more than 50 receptions can only get 9 yards. According to this statistic and in game analytics and probabilities, Nelson Agholor had less than a 3% chance of converting for the first down. Doug Pederson needs to rethink his play calling.
The next topic that I want to touch on briefly includes Alshon Jeffery. When you sign a player for 24 million dollars for one year, as the head coach, it is your job to find him some nice receptions. Great coaches always try to get their big players involved early on the game. It wasn’t until the second half that Alshon Jeffery got his first reception. It is very tough for mega receivers like an Alshon Jeffery to find their rhythm after the first quarter because they are use to many targets. I think it was awful coaching on Pederson’s behalf. Quite frankly, he won the game due to the big plays by the defense.
The defense played like a Jim Schwartz’s defense. While Ronald Darby was in the game, the front seven were firing on all cylinders. In fact, we were playing so well that we did not let up any offensive points in the first half of the game. Even on deep throws, our coverage was spectacular. It was very tough to see Ronald Darby go down with the injury because it just seems that we never have luck with cornerbacks. However, when the news came out that his injury was only 4-6 weeks, it was a bit relieving. In the meantime, I believe that Patrick Robinson will step in and fill the void. If the front seven can continue to put pressure on the quarterback and if the cornerbacks can atleast keep up with the receivers, I think the Eagles will be fine until Darby comes back.
To end on a good note- we should discuss the Fletcher Cox fumble returned for a touchdown. In my opinion, if it had been overturned, the Redskins would have went down the field and scored a winning touchdown. This is what Kirk Cousins does, he is a crunch time player. However, we lucked out that the call was in our favor, sealing the 30-17 victory.
I look forward to next week, playing against a high octane offense with speed all over the place. It will be fun to see how the Eagles defense holds up against Kareem Hunt and Tyreek Hill. It will definitely be an exciting game, so be on the lookout for my preview of the game.