Wednesday, April 16, 2014
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McLane's Game Review: Grading the Eagles vs. Raiders

Position-by-position grading of the Eagles following their 49-20 win over the Raiders on Sunday.

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

Eagles quarterback Nick Foles. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)
Eagles quarterback Nick Foles. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)

Position-by-position grading of the Eagles following their 49-20 win over the Raiders on Sunday:

OFFENSE

Upon a second viewing, Nick Foles’ record-setting performance was as scintillating a day later as it was live. Two weeks ago, after he laid an egg against the Cowboys, he received a failing grade. But he was as good against the Raiders as he was bad then and deserved a perfect score. The only knock against the outing, and it in no way detracts from Foles’ day, was how anemic the Oakland defense looked. Cornerbacks fell on several deep passes and there were missed assignments on other throws.

But Foles knew where to go in almost every instant, making the correct pre-snap reads and accurately hitting his receivers. Perfect example: On the Eagles’ first drive, he read a three-to-two advantage on the outside and tossed a bubble screen to Riley Cooper, who ran 42 yards. But he also made strong downfield throws on straight drops, as he did when he hit Jeff Maehl for 19 yards on third down and 13 later in the drive. A series later, after he flicked a 2-yard touchdown pass to Brent Celek, Foles had Cooper in single coverage on the outside at the Raiders 17. He looked the safety away and lofted a perfect fade in the corner of the end zone. Cornerback D.J. Hayden looked lost in his coverage, but there’s little any defender could have done to stop the touchdown.

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Foles went at Hayden again when he connected with Cooper for a 63-yard touchdown on the first play of the next possession. Cooper had the corner beat, but Hayden tripped and the receiver waltzed into the end zone. Foles’ throw was again on the money. He made several more strong passes into traffic on the next drive, finding DeSean Jackson for 17 yards on third down and 16 and moving outside the pocket and tossing a strike to Jackson for 20 yards.

Foles was impressive outside the pocket, especially moving to his right. Later that series, he went through his first few reads before hitting a wide open Zach Ertz on the move for a 15-yard touchdown. He found Cooper in the back of the end zone for his NFL record-tying seventh touchdown in the third quarter. The play was designed for Foles to roll out and he patiently waited for Cooper to get free. Foles’ two other scores were gift-wrapped, but he found his open receivers, something he struggled with two weeks ago. The first came when the Raiders didn’t account for LeSean McCoy in the flat and he ran nearly untouched for a 25-yard score. The second occurred when Jackson slipped corner Mike Jenkins, who had fallen, for a 46-yard touchdown.

Some have questioned Foles’ arm strength in the past, but if his deep balls against Tampa didn’t silence the critics, they should probably take a look at his 59-yard bomb to Jackson that was all carry.

Foles ran three times, never in the read option. He scrambled once for four yards, rushed nine yards on a pump-fake keeper and was credited with one yard when he ran in a sort of triple option play that had him tossing a lateral to Cooper, who darted 18 yards.

Midway through the fourth, Matt Barkley replaced Foles. The rookie mostly handed the ball off, but dropped for three throws, once wildly overthrowing James Casey.

Running back – B

Foles and the passing game were so efficient that the running game didn’t need to be on its “A” game, but there was enough production to keep the Raiders honest. Bryce Brown had the big run on the day – a 32-yard scamper that recalled some of his carries from last season. Brown hit a big hole up the middle, broke a tackle and shifted outside for an additional 20 yards. A play earlier, he ran eight yards, also shaking a defender. Brown averaged 2.6 yards a carry through the first eight games and it looked like he did too much bouncing outside. Kelly never criticized him, but mentioned Monday that the tailback did a better job of squaring his shoulders, something the team obviously had been working on.

LeSean McCoy was held to 44 yards on 12 carries. He had a mixture of good and bad, once running into a wall up the middle and bouncing outside for 17 yards. In the third, he ran for a few positive yards up the middle before backtracking and dancing for a short gain. McCoy had more impact as a receiver, catching a 13-yard screen in the first and the 25-yard touchdown in the second.

Wide receiver – A

The Eagles had two receivers finish with a 100-yards receiving.  Riley Cooper got things started with a 42-yard catch-and-run bubble screen. He reached out for a 17-yard touchdown, ran under a deep pass for a 63-yard score and tip-toed in the back of the end zone for 5 yards. Cooper became the first Eagles receiver to catch three touchdowns in a game since Kevin Curtis in 2007. Away from the ball, Cooper ran a rub route that picked a defender on Celek’s score.

DeSean Jackson caught 5 of 6 targets for 150 yards and a score. He’s on pace to finish the season with 88 catches for 1,463 yards and 11 touchdowns – all career highs. He caught a variety of passes but his best grab came when he pulled in the 59-yard bomb from Foles.

Jeff Maehl’s 19-yard catch wasn’t a simple one. He had to reach slightly back for the ball. Jason Avant was targeted only once. It would have been a tough grab, but he dropped a pass that hit his hands in the second. Damaris Johnson didn’t return for most of the day, but he played on offense for 15 snaps.

Tight end – B+

The education of Zach Ertz continues. The rookie caught five passes for 42 yards and a touchdown. On the opening drive, he caught a short pass and plowed ahead for ten yards. Ertz also had blocks on Cooper’s 42-yard screen and the 19-yard lateral. Brent Celek shined as a blocker. As a pass catcher, his touchdown and a 24-yard screen that he ended by lowering his shoulder were highlights. In the third, a Raider was called for pass interference when he grabbed Celek, who had him beat. But there were offsetting penalties. James Casey saw some early action as an H-back and played a season-high 16 snaps.

Offensive line – A

The Eagles o-line gave Foles time all game against the Raiders’ four-man rush and the few times Oakland did blitz, the quarterback and his blockers were able to fend off the extra rushers.

Lane Johnson had arguably his best game as a rookie. The right tackle did not allow a single quarterback hurry and neutralized defensive end Jason Hunter. As a run blocker, McCoy ran behind him on a 6-yard tote in the first. Johnson did get pushed back when McCoy was dropped for a one-yard loss in the first.

Center Jason Kelce, like most of the line, had more success in pass protection than in run blocking. But he did have strong moments in the ground game, especially when he pulled block on Brown’s two longest carries. He got pushed back when McCoy was dropped behind the line in the first and he had trouble with a Raider when the Eagles set up a screen for McCoy in the third that went nowhere.

Todd Herremans’ performance was a microcosm of his season. He was solid against the run, not so in pass pro. To be fair, he had only a few breakdowns in pass blocking, allowing Foles to be pressure four times. The right guard was called for a hold bringing back a McCoy first down rush in the first, but he had lead blocks on Brown’s 9-yard carry and McCoy’s 9-yard run in the third.

Aside from back-to-back penalties for holding (declined) and a false start, Evan Mathis was a bulldozer as a run blocker, helping to open the hole on Brown’s 32-yard scoot. He had no noticeable mistakes in pass protection.

Like Kelce and Mathis, Jason Peters did find work protecting Foles matched up against end Lamarr Houston. The left tackle was late on a pull block in which McCoy was tackled three yards behind the line. Allen Barbre played 17 snaps when Peters left with a pectoral injury. Julian Vandervelde played his first five NFL snaps at center when Kelce took a rest late.

DEFENSE

Defensive line – B+

For the second straight week, Eagles coach Chip Kelly signaled out Fletcher Cox when asked about the best performers up front. Cox never got to Terrelle Pryor and was credited with only one tackle, but he pushed the Raiders quarterback outside about a half dozen times.

Cedric Thornton had a quiet game compared to his first eight, but he had pass pressure in the first and stopped a rush for no gain in the third. Bennie Logan, it’s safe to say, has already been more productive than Isaac Sopoaga at nose tackle. The rookie played 39 snaps, his most, and clogged the middle against the run. He assisted on three tackles for short gains, and while he didn’t have as much impact as a pass rusher, he drove Pryor out of the pocket in the third.

Vinny Curry continued to make a strong case for more time. Playing a season-high 36 percent of defensive snaps, he had five hurries and sacked Pryor in the third when he contained the elusive quarterback and he fell to the turf. Curry also got involved against the run when he stopped a short carry in the third.

Clifton Geathers held his ground mostly against the run, but didn’t contribute any plus plays in 34 snaps. Damion Square, active for the first time since Week 2, batted down a Mike McGloin pass in the fourth. He was called for offsides in the second.

Outside linebackers – B

Connor Barwin was relatively silent for the first three quarters, but snatched his first career interception when Patrick Chung defended a pass and it bounced into his waiting arms. A series later in the fourth, Barwin batted his eight pass at the line this season.

Trent Cole had a good game and his best effort this season as a pass rusher. He sacked Pryor on the Raiders’ first series and pressured him on five other occasions. He drew a penalty (declined) when the running back grabbed him in the second. Cole also had two stops against the run of less than two yards.

Brandon Graham played 28 snaps, but didn’t make the stat sheet. He dropped into coverage once and when he came up after a short pass, missed the tackle. Casey Matthews saw the field for 16 plays.

Inside linebackers – B

DeMeco Ryans had another solid effort, but his blow to Pryor on a quarterback keeper should be capsulated. Pryor had the Eagles chasing him for much of the afternoon, but Ryans held him to one yard there. He was his usual stout self against the run, but held his own in pass coverage, which is not usually the case. When the Raiders went at him he managed to keep the catches to short gains. Ryans had a pass breakup, too, in the third. He had a few bad moments – over-pursuing on Rashad Jennings’ 8-yard TD in the second and being called for pass interference in the third.

Mychal Kendricks was strong up until he left in the third with an injury. He returned and gave up a few passes and missed a few tackles, but the Eagles were playing soft. Pryor got around him a few times, but there aren’t many linebackers in the NFL that could keep up with him. Kendricks did force Pryor to throw one away in the second and he sacked him in the fourth when he came up and ran him out of bounds. He contained Pryor for a short keeper in the first.

Emmanuel Acho replaced Kendricks and promptly recorded a tackle after a short pass. He played 23 snaps, most in mop-up duty. Najee Goode took 20 snaps and was credited with five stops.

Cornerbacks – B

Cary Williams had good coverage on a deep ball in the second and a sideline pass two plays later. He knocked a third down pass away in the third. He was called for holding in the end zone in the first but there were offsetting penalties. He gave up 15- and 27-yard passes to Denarius Moore. Bradley Fletcher allowed only a few short passes in coverage. He came up and made a tackle after a 3-yard catch in the third. He notched his second interception in the third when the ball caromed off the receiver’s hands.

Brandon Boykin gave up a 66-yard catch to Rod Streater when he was picked off the line. He showed good hustle, though, in helping to run the receiver down short of a touchdown. He made two tackles on short passes. He moved outside when Fletcher left with a pectoral injury and broke up a pass in the end zone. Roc Carmichael played 20 snaps and had a pass breakup in the end zone. He allowed a 15-yard catch when the receiver turned him around.

Safeties – B

Nate Allen helped stop a Wildcat rush for three yards in the first. He pushed Pryor out of bounds to end a drive in the first. He had good coverage on a 16-yard completion in the second. Earl Wolff was strong running downhill. He drew a hold on a first quarter run. He blitzed and batted a pass away and forced intentional ground in the second when he corralled Pryor.

Despite playing for the first time in three games, Patrick Chung had a strong return. He threw his body around and didn’t seem to show any leftover affects from a shoulder injury. He made two tackles against the run and broke up the pass that landed in Barwin’s hands.

Kurt Coleman played briefly in the slot when Boykin went outside and then the rest of the way at safety. Colt Anderson played 18 snaps, missed two tackles and broke up a pass.

SPECIAL TEAMS – B

Donnie Jones had two punts inside the 20 and finished with a 43.2-yard net. DeSean Jackson returned three punts, the longest a meandering 32-yard return that was broke up some when he grabbed the punter’s face mask. Brandon Boykin’s 41-yard kick return to open the second half was the Eagles’ longest on the season. He could have had more yards but tripped. Kurt Coleman gave the Raiders a first down when he ran into the punter. Alex Henery had five touchbacks on eight kickoffs.

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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