The Philadelphia Eagles may have to run the table to win the NFC East.
Dallas’ 13-10 win over New Orleans last night put the Cowboys in the driver’s seat to win the division with the Birds and Boys set to clash in Big D next Sunday.
But first things first.
EAGLES PASSING GAME VS. REDSKINS PASS DEFENSE
PHI- 96.6 PASSER RATING (15/32), 253 YPG (13/32)
WAS- 94.2 PASSER RATING ALLOWED (17/32), 261 YPG ALLOWED (23/32)
We’ve seen flashes of last year’s Eagles offense, especially last week with Josh Adams’ emergence, but it’s still not all the way back to the 28.6 points per game average they were at in 2017, which was second in the NFL. Instead, they’re putting up just 20.9 points per contest (24th) and have been shutout in nine of 11 first quarters. Philadelphia has put up 30 points just once after eclipsing it seven times through its first 11 games last year.
Carson Wentz remains optimistic that the offense will turn it around.
“I think for some it could be. But I think the way we’ve kind of handled things is we’re always just trying to stay optimistic and believe in ourselves and really showing some of the things we’re doing well. And saying ‘hey this is something we can build on’ or ‘we just missed here a little bit and this can make a big difference.’
So we’ve been really good about staying positive, staying optimistic, but if we didn’t have the chemistry and the culture we have around here, without a doubt it would be easy to start being pessimistic and down on yourselves, but we’ve handled it pretty well.”
Wentz thinks they’re close.
“Some of the plays that we just miss, it’s usually just one little thing on each play,” Wentz said. “We just kind of say, ‘if this just changes, this little detail of this play, that’s a big play, that’s a touchdown.’ Things like that. Instead of degrading guys and things like that, we just say, ‘hey, this can be the difference.’ Guys can just focus on the little details and stay encouraged because of that.”
Golden Tate has caught 11 passes for 97 yards on 20 targets in the three games he’s played in Philadelphia since being brought in for a third-round pick a few weeks ago. It’s still been a struggle incorporating him into the offense.
This is how the Eagles integrated Golden Tate into the offense, terribly designed. Carson should’ve thrown this ball into the stands. pic.twitter.com/FMchVWigPn
— The Bitter Birds (@AdrianFedkiw) November 25, 2018
With so many receivers who like to work the middle of the field, the Eagles elected the stack and bunch the slot more than in previous weeks. Sometimes we saw Nelson Agholor paired with Tate, Jeffery took some snaps in there and tight ends Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert were in there for a couple plays too.
Nelson Agholor wide open on 4th-and-1 and Eagles move the chains pic.twitter.com/FxqQjsdb0z
— The Bitter Birds (@AdrianFedkiw) November 25, 2018
It’s going to be a tough matchup for the offensive line in pass protection, Washington’s front seven has been underrated all season long. Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith do an outstanding job of collapsing the pocket and the Redskins like to bring the heat. Eagles offensive coordinator commented on their defense.
“Their front seven is outstanding, as good a front three or four – the D-line they have is excellent. They’re strong at the point of attack. They got excellent lateral quickness. They can get on the edge and push the pocket in the middle. Both those guys on the perimeter, [Redskins LBs Ryan] Kerrigan and [Preston] Smith, can collapse the pocket outside. They have an elaborate blitz package and they’ve been in this defense for a number of years now and these guys play well together.”
Philadelphia still leads all teams in quarterback hits allowed and its blitz pickup has been an issue all year long.
EAGLES RUNNING GAME VS. REDSKINS RUN DEFENSE
PHI- 4.2 YPC (22/32), 100.8 YPG (24/32)
WAS- 4.3 YPC ALLOWED (13/32), 100.3 YPG ALLOWED (8/32)
Doug Pederson finally gave Josh Adams the ball and there was finally some balance in the Eagles’ offense last week. Adams carried the ball 22 times for 84 yards Sunday after not toting the rock more than 10 times all season. It was the first time in 2018 that the Eagles ran the ball more than they threw it. They came into Sunday’s contest running the ball just 38 percent of the time, which was 25th.
Josh Adams and the OL taking this game over on the ground, 9 carries for 60 yards over the last 2 drives for Adams pic.twitter.com/g2uFmNmIzy
— The Bitter Birds (@AdrianFedkiw) November 25, 2018
Why did it take so long to commit to the running game? Pederson answered.
“I just think that sometimes it takes time. The run game, just like the passing game, there is timing, there is rhythm, there are all sorts of things that have to stay in sync. It just comes with continued work. You just trust. You just trust your players, trust your [running] backs, and [wide] receivers are a big part of that. You just keep working at it.”
It’s no secret that the Eagles find more success when they are more balanced.
“Any time we stay balanced I think as an offense, good things happen and you’re able to score points and sort of control the ball. I think you look around league, the common theme of teams that have that balance are winning games … We’ve seen glimpses of that this season when we’ve rushed the ball for close to thirty times a game. That’s been a good recipe. If you go back and look at the wins, we’ve been pretty successful doing that. The games that get lopsided obviously it’s a different story because you have to rethink your plan just a little bit.
But great job by the guys up front; starts with them. Tight ends are involved, receivers are involved, as I mentioned, and then of course your quarterback. Your quarterback getting us in and out of runs, good to bad and bad to good. Just making all that work.”
Adams’ touches will be increasing moving forward.
“If you remember he started on the practice squad to start the season. We had [RB Darren] Sproles, we had [RB] Jay [Ajayi], and Corey, and [RB] Wendell [Smallwood], so kind of knew what we had coming out of training camp.
But you still don’t know until players play. Then to his credit, with taking advantage of some of the injuries, he has just kind of slowly worked himself into this position.
Listen, it’s not to discount or discredit Corey and Wendell because they do a lot of great things as well. It’s just that Josh now has kind of taken that lead, and we continue to grow and try to increase his touches each week.”
Can Adams be an every-down back?
“He’s making really good strides in all three of those, when I say protection, running the football and then catching the football, those three. He’s done — he’s getting incrementally better, and I think the more integrated we get him into the game plans and the more comfortable he becomes, I think you see him as a back — and most running backs are this way, where they might not look pretty, early — same with the offensive line, right? But as the game goes on and wears on, they get a little more explosive and a little more powerful and that’s what Josh has become. We’ll keep integrating him in the game plans and get him as many touches as we can because we feel like he’s the guy that can handle it at this point.”
The big difference between Adams and the duo or Clement and Smallwood are the feet and vision. Clement and Smallwood are one-cut runners, they can’t make this cut and bounce to the outside like Adams did here. I’m still not sure if Adams is a true No. 1 running back, but we’ll find out soon.
Big difference between Josh Adams and Corey Clement/Wendell Smallwood are the feet and vision. Clement and Smallwood are one-cut runners, they can’t make this cut and bounce to the outside like Adams did here. Still not sure if Adams is a true No. 1 RB, but we’ll find out soon. pic.twitter.com/z1hfBzh5UR
— The Bitter Birds (@AdrianFedkiw) November 26, 2018
REDSKINS PASSING GAME VS. EAGLES PASS DEFENSE
PHI- 97.4 PASSER RATING ALLOWED (20/32), 276 YPG ALLOWED (28/32)
WAS- 84.1 PASSER RATING (27/32), 258 YPG (11/32)
The Eagles secondary is getting healthier with Sidney Jones close to returning, but Pederson said Thursday that Jalen Mills and Avonte Maddox are further away.
“I know it’s a long, long list. I’ll tell you this. Jalen Mills, [Avonte] Maddox, Jordan Hicks, those three are probably the furthest away, even though Mills and Maddox are a little bit closer. I would say Jordan is a little bit further. The other guys will actually do some stuff today in practice.”
It was an impressive effort from the quartet of Rasul Douglas, Cre’Von LeBlanc, De’Vante Bausby and Chandon Sullivan last week. Even though Pat Shurmur didn’t do the Giants any favors by limiting Saquon Barkley’s touches in the second half, the Eagles allowed just 57 total yards over the final 30 minutes.
Malcolm Jenkins requested that defensive coordinator simplify the defense and Jim listened.
“The biggest thing we were just having — we had so many new guys on the field and we were having some issues with communication and execution.
We just simplified some things. They were trying to use — not hurry-up tempo like you would think, like no-huddle, but they were trying to get out of the huddle and snap the ball quick and things like that.
Like I said, we had some new guys and a lot of different layers to a lot of our calls, but we sort of eliminated those, and it worked out pretty well for us.”
Schwartz attributed tackling as a big reason for the Eagles’ strong second half.
“I think the change really started middle of the second quarter more than in the second half. Just played more consistent. We tackled a little bit better. We tackled poorly early in that game. Had a lot of missed assignments early in that game.
Settled down in the second half. Made a couple plays. Put them in some third down and long situations, which are always good from a defensive point of view. I don’t know if I’ve ever had a game like that. I think Stroh [Eagles Director of Public Relations Brett Strohsacker] pointed out that was the most yards anybody has ever given up in the first half of a game. For me, that’s the most yards I’ve ever given up in the first half of a game, and probably the least yards I’ve ever given up in a second half of a game.”
Now this Birds defense gets Colt McCoy, who tossed a trio of interceptions on Thanksgiving Day in his first start filling in for Alex Smith. Smith threw just five picks all year. McCoy knows he needs to be smarter with the football against Philly.
“For me, turnovers are just going to lose you games. Being smart with the football, No. 1, is of the utmost importance. Going from there, it’s understanding what we’re trying to accomplish. What were we designing on this play? Where’s the ball designed to go here? Now let’s make sure that happens … I just have to be able to be smart and take care of the football.”
The Redskins were a smart, methodical offense with Smith at the controls. He didn’t take risks, but he didn’t make mistakes. They average just 20 points per game, which is 27th, but they were winning games because they were victorious in the field position battle and by simply not turning the ball over.
REDSKINS RUNNING GAME VS. EAGLES RUN DEFENSE
PHI- 4.9 YPC ALLOWED (27/32), 102.7 YPG ALLOWED (11/32)
WAS- 4.3 YPC (16/32), 117.7 YPG (13/32)
Can the 33-year-old Adrian Peterson hold up this late in the season?
So far he hasn’t in November. Of course, season ending injuries to guards Brandon Scherff and Shawn Lauvao haven’t helped, but Peterson is averaging just 3.05 yards per carry this month. He totaled just 35 yards on 12 carries against Dallas and suffered a shoulder injury during the contest.
Redskins head coach Jay Gruden commented on Peterson’s performance against the Cowboys.
“I’m not saying he was poor running the ball, but I don’t think he was quite himself and [he] is quite a dominant player over the course of his career and I think he’d probably agree with that. We have to do a better job of trying to get some more holes for him.”
Pederson said what Peterson has done this season has been exciting.
“It’s exciting to watch, a veteran player who has a lot of energy, a lot of juice for that football team. Not only that, but I think personally, the way he runs, he runs very violently, very aggressive. Gives them a run game that you have to defend and for a player that — as many touches that he’s had in his career, it’s good to see that he’s playing well and playing at a high level still.”
PREDICTION: I believe Doug has learned his lesson and will lean more on Adams and the running game again for an Eagles win against a decimated Redskins team. Following Dallas’ upset win over the Saints last night, there’s no more time for falter. Philadelphia may have to run the table to win the NFC East.