Position-by-position grading of the Eagles following their 24-16 win over the Redskins on Sunday, focusing on one player at each spot:
Quarterback – B+
If Nick Foles is only a product of the system, then other teams should be as lucky. His 127.9 passer rating leads the NFL after he qualified this week and he once again avoided major mistakes against the Redskins. Foles was accurate, completing 65 percent of his attempts and also ran eight times for 48 yards. He took a few unnecessary sacks and made a few wrong decisions in the zone read. But he has rightly earned the starting spot for the rest of the season.
Foles’ best throws came in the first half – lofting a feather to LeSean McCoy for 49-yards on a wheel route, hitting Riley Cooper in stride for 23 yards, firing strikes over the middle to DeSean Jackson for 15 and 22 yards, and stepping up and hitting Cooper on third down in the fourth. Foles underthrew Cooper early when his receiver was held (no penalty was called). And he was ahead of Jason Avant in the first and in the second.
As a runner, Foles scrambled for 14 and 7 yards. He kept for a 4-yard touchdown in the first and late runs in the fourth. In between, though, he missed a few reads and only McCoy’s elusiveness produced positive yards.
Running back – A-
LeSean McCoy finished with only 76 yards on 19 carries, but he danced out of ten would-be tackles by this count. He skipped away from a defender for 10 yards in the second quarter, eluded three Redskins and ran 16 yards later. He could have had more but tweaked his hamstring. McCoy returned in the second half and picked up 5 yards on two rushes when he slipped tacklers. He slid through a crevice for 7 yards. He spun away from linemen in the fourth and picked up yards. He scored two touchdowns. And he caught four passes for 73 yards. Bryce Brown converted one short fourth down, but was stopped on third and fourth and 1 in the fourth.
Wide receiver – B
DeSean Jackson did most of his work on intermediate routes. He found a hole in the zone for 19 yards in the first. He ran a short crossing route in the second and zoomed 26 yards. His route running, something he doesn’t get much credit for, was crisp on two long sideline completions.
Tight end – B
Brent Celek’s 42-yard catch and run on a screen pass was a thing of beauty. His run blocking wasn’t as consistent as it’s been in recent weeks, though. A week after getting shut out, Zach Ertz caught two passes for 31 yards. He dropped one in the third, but bounced back the next play and pulled in a 16-yard pass before taking a hit and staying upright.
Offensive line – B
It was an all-around solid effort from the line, although the unit was called for three holding penalties. Despite missing most of practice the week prior with a quadriceps injury, Jason Peters held his own at left tackle. He didn’t allow a quarterback hurry, hit or sack. He had a kick out block on McCoy’s 3-yard run on third down and 1 in the first. He got upfield and sealed a defender on Celek’s long screen. He was called for illegal use of the hands in the third and was beat when McCoy was dropped for a 6-yard loss in the fourth.
Defensive line – B+
Fletcher Cox, for the most part, was awesome up front. Bennie Logan also had his best game with three hurries from the nose tackle spot. Against the run, he dropped Alfred Morris behind the line in the second.
Outside linebackers – B
Trent Cole was credited with two sacks, but the second came courtesy of Cedric Thornton who pressured Robert Griffin III to step up in Cole’s arms. Cole beat tackle Trent Williams for the first sack. He added a tackle for loss against the run in the third. He may have missed his zone assignment when fullback Darrel Young caught a 62-yard touchdown.
Inside linebackers –C+
Najee Goode was up and down. He sacked Griffin on a blitz in the first. He missed wrapping up Roy Helu on a 24-yard run and then a play later tried to tackle high and couldn’t on a Jordan Reed 12-yard catch. He tipped a pass that Cox almost intercepted in the third. But Goode negated a Cox sack in the fourth when he held a receiver.
Cornerbacks – C+
Roc Carmichael was challenged only once through three quarters and he had good coverage on a throw to Santana Moss on third down. But he got picked on in the fourth, allowing a 19-yard pass to Aldrick Robinson and later a 41-yard touchdown when he lost the receiver on an underthrown ball. A series later, Moss beat him for 28 yards on third down and 25. And he dove to break up a pass, but missed and Pierre Garcon had a 17-yard reception.
Safeties – B
Patrick Chung bit his tongue when he missed a shoestring tackle on Griffin in the first, but he returned. He didn’t allow a catch when targeted twice in coverage, but missed two tackles in run support.
SPECIAL TEAMS – A
Donnie Jones’ 70-yard punt down to the 4-yard line was a thing of beauty.
REWIND THE TAPE
The Eagles had run previous plays designed to get the ball to the running back on wheel routes, but none worked as well as this 49-yard completion to LeSean McCoy. Chip Kelly is all about creating mismatches and he got one here when he pitted his 208-pound running back against 260-pound linebacker Ryan Kerrigan.
The Eagles had “12” personnel (two tight ends) on the field. Brent Celek was at the right end of the line, while Zach Ertz was just outside him a step back – almost lined up as a halfback. Both tight ends ran hitch routes toward the center of the field. With the Redskins in their nickel defense and playing man-to-man, the routes created space down the sideline for McCoy.
Seeing pre-snap that Kerrigan (in the circle) was out of position, Foles knew exactly where to go. McCoy circled out of the backfield and when Kerrigan reacted he was already a step behind. Foles lofted a strike. McCoy pulled in it, skipped out of a diving Kerrigan tackle attempt and ran down to the 4-yard line. Two plays later, Foles ran in for the Eagles’ first touchdown.
-- Despite playing less snaps that all of the other players with four or more interceptions in the NFL, Brandon Boykin has been targeted the most (70 times). The Eagles cornerback is tied for second in the league with eight others. The Lions’ DeAndre Levy and the Titans’ Alterraun Verner are tied for first with five.
-- LeSean McCoy is on pace to finish with 2,048 total yards from scrimmage, which would place him second on the Eagles’ all-time single season list behind Brian Westbrook, who totaled 2,104 yards in 2007.
-- Nick Foles leads the NFL with a 127.9 rating and is ahead of Peyton Manning (118.3) and Aaron Rodgers (108.0). Rodgers’ 122.5 rating in 2011 is the NFL record.
-- Cary Williams said before the season that he wanted to bring nastiness to the Eagles defense. Eleven games into the season, he was asked if the unit was getting closer to his goal. “I don’t know about nasty, but I think we’re playing better as a defensive unit,” Williams said. “We’re coming together collectively and I think guys are understanding what it takes to be successful.”
-- DeMeco Ryans has played on playoff teams before. He said the Eagles are starting to get that feeling. “It’s a good feeling, he said. “It’s a feeling of confidence and that’s what you want. That’s what winning teams have, that sense of confidence every time you step out on the field that you’re going to get the job done.”
-- Connor Barwin has batted a league-high seven passes down at the line of scrimmage. His secret? “I don’t know why more guys don’t do it,” Barwin said. “When I don’t get to the quarterback, I just put my hands up. It was stressed in Houston where I came from, obviously. And I think with my basketball background, [Texans defensive coordinator] Wade Phillips always taught us to rush and see the quarterback.”
Sideline spats happen all the time. Kelly and McCoy had a brief exchange in Tampa when the Eagles coach wanted his running back to hit a hole late in the game and McCoy fired back that there was no hole. (Kelly later conceded there was no hole and apologized to McCoy in front of the entire team).
Their subsequent conversation was caught on camera and millions of viewers wanted to know why McCoy was so animated. On Sunday, McCoy, DeSean Jackson and Riley Cooper got into it on the sideline late in the fourth quarter and again the row was picked up by the FOX broadcast. It appeared as if McCoy and Cooper had words, and they did, but it was Jackson who first had something to say, a source with knowledge of the situation said.
Jackson, like Kelly a month earlier, thought that McCoy was doing too much dancing in the backfield and let his teammate know it. The fiery tailback responded. Cooper then jump in, backing up his fellow receiver, and McCoy shot back at him. Running backs coach Duce Staley looked like he was trying to separate the two, but McCoy kept talking. The dustup eventually subsided, calmer heads prevailed, the Eagles won and all was forgotten. Kelly was asked about it on 94-WIP.
“They’re competitive and they all want to win and sometimes things get heated,” Kelly said. “We all love each other … this isn’t going to be Kumbaya and we all hug and kiss all the time. I mean I think you’ve got some highly competitive athletes that are talking about making plays or not making plays and sometimes that gets you dander up. I look at it as a good thing.”