Wednesday, July 30, 2014
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McLane's Game Review: Grading the Eagles vs. Cowboys

Position-by-position grading of the Eagles following their 17-3 loss to the Cowboys on Sunday:

McLane's Game Review: Grading the Eagles vs. Cowboys

The Eagles´ Fletcher Cox and DeMeco Ryans. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
The Eagles' Fletcher Cox and DeMeco Ryans. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

Position-by-position grading of the Eagles following their 17-3 loss to the Cowboys on Sunday:

OFFENSE

Quarterback – Grade: F

Not even an optimist could look at Nick Foles’ performance and find anything worth salvaging. OK, he didn’t have any turnovers – there you go. But other than not giving the ball away, Foles was about as ineffective as a quarterback could be against a defense that had yet to stop any offense in its first six games. He was terrible under pressure (2 of 9 for 25 yards and three sacks). He was terrible when he wasn’t under pressure (9 of 20 for 55 yards). And he was terrible when the Cowboys blitzed (1 of 4 for 9 yards).

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On Monday, Chip Kelly said that Foles did not re-injure his groin and that he didn’t think the second-year quarterback folded under the magnitude of the moment. Whatever the reason, Foles went from completing 70 percent of his passes and compiling a 133.3 passer rating one week to connecting on only 39 percent and finishing with a 46.2 rating the next.

I counted 10 throws to open receivers that were off the mark. Foles overthrew Zach Ertz in the first when he had LeSean McCoy open on a wheel route. He threw behind Jeff Maehl on third down in the second. He air mailed a pass to a wide open Brent Celek. He threw behind an open Jason Avant on another third down. Foles had DeSean Jackson deep down the sideline in single coverage but threw the ball out of bounds. That third down and one throw was questionable considering the circumstances and field position late in the second. He missed an open Jackson deep and then threw it behind Maehl, who was also alone, on third down in the third. He threw to Jackson in double coverage, but was also off mark. And Foles inexplicably short-armed an easy pitch-and-catch to a wide open Avant in the end zone in the third.

And then there were passes that Foles should have never thrown – An overthrow to Avant in the second when he was surrounded and an across-the-body lob to Avant again in the third. Two of three sacks and an intentional grounding penalty Foles took were mostly because he held onto the ball too long. He held too long because there were times his receivers couldn’t get open against man-to-man defense, but he should have thrown the ball away before he was sacked on the third down and goal in the third. Foles suffered a concussion on the play.

Foles ran three times. He scrambled for 12 yards and a first down in the first. He took off on third down and was caught from behind a yard short of the marker. And he kept on the option and ran 5 yards in the second.

The positives through the air were few. Foles delivered to Riley Cooper for 14 yards in the first. He stood in against the rush and hit Jackson for 16 yards in the second.

After Foles left, Matt Barkley stepped into a difficult spot in his first NFL action. Down 14 points with less than ten minutes left, the Eagles were forced to the air and Barkley dropped to throw on 20 of 22 snaps. He completed 11 of 20 passes for 129 yards and three interceptions.

The picks had more to do with poor decision making than anything. The first came on third down and long when Barkley threw to Avant and didn’t see Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee underneath. A series later, Barkley was pressured in the pocket, didn’t set his feet and overshot Maehl by 15 yards for another interception. His last pick came when Avant ran a corner route in the end zone and Barkley didn’t see cornerback Brandon Carr. He had another interception called back by a penalty and was almost picked off when he tried to squeeze a throw to Avant.

There were a few highlights. Barkley hit Cooper for 17 and 26 yards on hitch routes. He converted third downs with quick tosses to Jackson and Celek. Barkley’s arm strength remained in question, though, and some of his throws wobbled to their spots. It’s difficult to come to any conclusions on the rookie after that game.

Running back – D

LeSean McCoy said after the game that it was the worst he had played since he was a rookie. He may have been right. The offensive line wasn’t without blame, but McCoy wasn’t punching throw holes like he normally does. He managed just 12 yards on eight carries in the first half, but had more success after the break (10 carries for 43 yards).

McCoy picked up five yards essentially on his own in the first when Foles, in a new play, pitched laterally to his tailback. He picked up a fourth down and 1 in the third when he lowered his helmet and inched past the sticks.

He had his ups and downs as a receiver. McCoy ran 11 yards on a screen to open the game. He drew a holding penalty on a wheel route later in the quarter. The Eagles tried a screen that the Cowboys sniffed out, but McCoy danced too much in the backfield and was dropped seven yards behind the line.

McCoy also did a poor job as a blocker when he tried to undercut a linebacker in the first and Foles was eventually forced out of the pocket.

Bryce Brown had two first quarter carries for four yards. He appeared to have lanes on his first carry, but tripped and fell. Foles threw to him later on another wheel route, but Brown couldn’t make an over-the-shoulder grab.

Wide receiver – C-

Aside from the 16-yard catch, DeSean Jackson had little impact. He broke free in the end zone in the third, but Foles’ throw was a little late and safety J.J. Wilcox batted the ball away at the last second. Jackson couldn’t pull in a couple of slightly-off-target passes from Barkley.

Jason Avant was targeted 12 times and caught only three passes for 32 yards. Foles missed him countless times as noted above. He had a solid downfield block on McCoy’s 11-yard screen, but missed a block two plays later on a McCoy carry. Riley Cooper was the most productive receiver, finishing with six catches for 88 yards. He picked up a first down when he broke a tackle after a short catch in the second. Cooper, too, blocked on McCoy’s screen, but he failed to help Jackson on a short screen a few plays later. Jeff Maehl played 15 snaps and was targeted four times. He dropped a screen that wasn’t likely to go anywhere. Foles threw behind him twice – the first he could have pulled in. Damaris Johnson played two snaps.

Tight end – C-

Until Barkley got in, Eagles tight ends combined for just one catch for five yards. Brent Celek drew a holding penalty a play after Foles missed him in the second. He wasn’t as crisp blocking in the run game as he was a week prior. And he dropped a Barkley toss. Zach Ertz played 23 snaps after playing a season-high 42. He caught two passes from Barkley for 26 yards.

Offensive line – B-

It was hard to find much fault with how the line played. The unit certainly wasn’t perfect, but Foles and Barkley had plenty of time in the pocket. In the run game, they didn’t open as many lanes as usual, even though they had hat-for-hat blocking. The whole operation seemed off.

Jason Kelce was solid yet again. The center had trouble with Cowboys defensive tackles on two short McCoy rushes in the first half, but he stood up the difficult Jason Hatcher on McCoy’s 12-yard screen in the second and paved the way for the running back’s 10-yard scoot in the third. Kelce allowed only one quarterback hurry.

Lane Johnson’s struggles continued, but his mistakes weren’t egregious. Defensive end George Selvie got around the right tackle in the first and recorded a sack, but Foles probably held onto the ball too long. He had trouble containing Hatcher, who flushed Foles out of the pocket and into grounding the ball. When McCoy gained no yards on a carry in the second, Johnson appeared to block the wrong man. A TV camera caught Celek yelling at the rookie after the play. Johnson allowed a total of seven hurries.

Evan Mathis was called for holding Hatcher in the third, but did the best job at getting to the next level in the run game. Todd Herremans had a number of strong lead blocks, but his pass protection remained suspect. Hatcher beat him clean in the second and sacked Foles.

The Cowboys were without nemesis DeMarcus Ware, but Jason Peters’ strong effort shouldn’t be discounted. Foles was rarely pressured from his blind side. Peters may have been late to block on a first quarter screen set up for Maehl.

DEFENSE

Defensive line – B

Fletcher Cox wasn’t as dominant as he was in Tampa, but the end followed up that game with another strong outing. The plays didn’t show up in the stat sheet, but the end pressured quarterback Tony Romo on six occasions and disrupted Joseph Randle carries a few times, as well. Cox jumped offsides in the first. Cedric Thornton was once again the best lineman against the run. He had five tackles, once fighting off a block and running across the field to drop Randle after a three-yard gain. Thornton hurried Romo several times, including in the first when the quarterback was forced to check down on third down and long.

Bennie Logan played 21 snaps and struggled to get off a number of one-on-one blocks. Isaac Sopoaga made two tackles against the run and near the line, but remained ineffective as a pass rusher. Vinny Curry played his most snaps of the season (26) and notched a sack with a bull rush in the second. He has two sacks and seven hurries in 67 pass rush situations. Trent Cole has one sack and 12 hurries in 219 pass rushes. Curry didn’t do much against the run, though.

Clifton Geathers played 11 snaps and had a hurry and a tackle.

Outside linebackers – C

Connor Barwin forced Romo into an incomplete throw when he was unblocked off the edge in the second. He later pounced on the quarterback in the fourth when Romo couldn’t handle a hot snap. Barwin missed a tackle on receiver Dez Bryant in the open field and couldn’t wrap up Randle on a six-yard carry in the third. Trent Cole was active in the run game, dropping Randle on four short carries. He didn’t get much pressure as a pass rusher, but did hurry a Romo overthrow. Cole dropped to cover Jason Witten in the second and actually had fairly good coverage when Romo overshot his tight end.

Brandon Graham took 18 snaps. He fought off a blocker and tackled Randle after a one-yard rush in the second. He hit Romo in the third when he was unblocked, but the Cowboys still converted on third down.

Inside linebackers – B+

DeMeco Ryans had his best game of the season. He had several stops against the run, including holding Randle to no gain on third down and one in the first. He rushed ten times and sacked Romo in the first. He was solid in coverage, reading screens to Randle in the second and fourth. In the third quarter, he went up and intercepted an errant throw and returned it 36 yards.

Mychal Kendricks had a quiet game, but did a decent job of keeping Witten in check when matched up. He did miss a tackle when he took a bad angle in the second. He had only a few stops against the run and was blocked back by receiver Miles Austin on a Randall 12-yard run in the first.

Cornerbacks – C+

Bradley Fletcher had both good and bad moments. He broke up a third down bass in the first. The Eagles have credited him with 11 pass breakups this season. He had coverage on Bryant on a deep sideline throw in the third. Fletcher was called for pass interference when he wrapped an arm around Bryant in the end zone in the third. He got beat by Terrance Williams on a 9-yard touchdown slant in the fourth.

Cary Williams gave up a 25-yard back shoulder toss to Williams and a ten-yard hitch to Williams in the second. He was stuck on Bryant when Romo overthrew his receiver in the first. Williams probably got away with interference on a third down toss to Bryant in the second.

Romo threw at Brandon Boykin five times and completed each throw, but only once did the corner allow yards after the catch. That happened in the first when Cole Beasley beat him for 11 yards and a first down. Boykin dropped the receiver after a short catch near the goal line in the third and twice on the Cowboys’ touchdown drive in the fourth. He broke up a pass intended for Austin in the third. Boykin hurt himself and left the field, but returned a series later.

Safeties – B

Nate Allen was virtually errorless. Romo hardly threw at him. He completed a throw to Witten for eight yards in the fourth, but Allen’s coverage was solid. He blitzed in the second and Romo was forced to throw away. Allen came up and made a tackle on Dwayne Harris in the sixth and on a Williams 1-yard catch in the fourth.

Earl Wolff left briefly to get checked out for a head injury – missing only four snaps – but he produced his best game of the season. He covered Bryant tight when Romo missed his receiver in the first. He corner blitzed and forced a Romo errant pass. He lost Bryant for a 19-yard catch in the third. He recorded his first career interception on a Hail Mary at the half. And he decked Bryant on a short throw in the third, but had to leave.

Kurt Coleman filled in for four snaps.

SPECIAL TEAMS – B

Donnie Jones did a splendid job kicking Harris into corners. He punted nine times for a 41.8-yard net. Alex Henery was wide left from 60 yards and snuck a 31-yard field goal through in the fourth. Harris took one of Henery’s kickoffs back 39 yards. Damaris Johnson did little of note as a returner.

Jeff McLane Inquirer Staff Writer
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Birds' Eye View is the Inquirer's blog covering all things Philadelphia Eagles and the NFL.

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