Mon, 28 Sep 2020

Cleaning out the Washington notebook with the Rams ahead

Philadelphia Eagles
15 Sep 2020, 19:12 GMT+10

Dave Spadaro

This in from the It's Never As Good As It Seems, Never As Bad As It Seems Department the day after the Eagles' 27-17 loss at Washington to open the 2020 season. It was a disappointment and it was shocking to see the Eagles blow a 17-0 advantage, and to see them turn the football over three times and take it away zero times, and to see a veteran team struggle to gain all of 13 yards in the third quarter and 90 overall in the second half.

Los Angeles is in town on Sunday for the home opener at Lincoln Financial Field and I'm here to look back and look ahead and transition to a new week and a new challenge ...

* Seventeen carries, 57 yards. A long of 13 yards from Boston Scott that came on a third-and-15 play on the first possession of the third quarter. That's the production the Eagles gained in the running game, and it's just not good enough. Getting Miles Sanders back - he's going to increase his reps in practice this week, so we'll know later in the week if he is a "go" against Los Angeles - will certainly help, but it's a lot more than just Sanders. The Eagles need to win at the line of scrimmage in the running game, something they didn't do well against Washington. The run/pass ratio thing, we've been talking about that for years and years, so I'll leave that alone. The idea here is that when you decide to run the football, you run it effectively, and the Eagles didn't do that. They had a 17-0 lead and they turned the football over twice and then the lead was 17-14 late in the third quarter.

* First downs were a huge, huge problem for the Eagles after they took a 17-0 lead. In the possessions that followed taking that lead, the Eagles did this on first downs: Scott run for -3, Carson Wentz interception, Wentz incompletion, Scott run for -5, Wentz interception. That's terrible, and even after a couple of possessions during which the Eagles moved the ball a bit and had success on first down, the fourth quarter was poor - Wentz sack for -10, completion to Dallas Goedert for 10 yards, Scott run for 3 yards, Wentz sack for -4 and lost fumble ... and the Eagles were down 10 points and done by that point. First downs matter and the Eagles must be better there moving forward.

* The injury picture isn't very pretty for the immediate future. Defensive end Vinny Curry and cornerback Craig James suffered "significant" injuries on Sunday, per Head Coach Doug Pederson, so the roster is further challenged. It doesn't appear that defensive tackle Javon Hargrave is all that close to returning. End Derek Barnett is still rehabbing. Sanders and offensive tackle Lane Johnson will have increased reps in practice this week. Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery is coming back, but just not sure when. Rookie tackle Jack Driscoll left Sunday's game after playing decent football - he has a bright future, but he has work to do - and there was no update on his status on Monday. This is a very tough spot for the Eagles so early in the season.

* Throw the football away. Live for another play. These are two sentences that have been used endlessly talking about Wentz through the years, and he's still a work in progress. Will he get to the point where he plays it conservatively and resists that notion of trying to make something out of nothing? It's part of what makes Wentz great, isn't it? But when you see a game like he had on Sunday with two interceptions, two fumbles (one lost), and taking a sack that pushed Jake Elliott just out of field goal range, you wonder if the message is sinking in. "We still have to continue to address him and to address those issues. It's part of the football game. We just have to keep talking that it's OK to throw the ball away. It's OK to dirt the ball on a screen pass or something of that nature and look," Pederson said. "It's something that we've just got to continue working through. There is a fine line, obviously, as we know, between the aggressiveness, but at the same time, we want to be smart."

* Some good things to build upon from the opener: Cornerback Darius Slay did a good job on wide receiver Terry McLaurin, who ended up with five catches for 61 yards on seven targets and not all of those receptions were on Slay. It will be fun on Sunday to watch Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey match up against DeSean Jackson, probably - or maybe Zach Ertz or Dallas Goedert? - as the Eagles figure out how to use Slay against the versatile Los Angeles receiving corps that includes Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp, who combined for 10 receptions and 145 yards in Sunday's 20-17 win over Dallas.

* Washington ran the ball 32 times and averaged 2.2 yards per carry on Sunday, so the Eagles' run defense had a very good start to the season. Malik Jackson had a nice day with a couple of tackles and two quarterback hits. Linebackers Nathan Gerry and Duke Riley were around the football all game. The defense deserved better, but at the same time I know Jim Schwartz is smarting that the Football Team turned the first two Eagles' turnovers into 14 points.

* A shoutout to Rudy Ford for his brilliance in punt coverage, and to Cameron Johnston, who averaged 53.6 gross yards on his punts, with a net of 50.2 yards and three punts inside Washington's 20-yard line. Yes, Johnston had a bit of a flub on a fourth-quarter punt that gave Washington possession on the Philadelphia side of the 50-yard line, but it was still a 43-yard gross punt and a 39-yard net kick, so it wasn't anything close to awful. Johnston had a huge day.

* Remember this: It's a long season and the NFC East is wide open. Dallas lost its opener and suffered some significant injuries as well. I just don't believe that Washington will be there in the end. New York? We will see how that team progresses early in the season. The Eagles need to right the ship, for sure, and it starts this week against Los Angeles, a good team that controlled the clock, ran the ball well, showed good balance, and defensively did a nice job on the Cowboys on Sunday night.

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