Position-by-position grading of the Eagles following their 15-7 loss to the Giants on Sunday:
Quarterback – Grade: D-
Chip Kelly said that instability at quarterback has been the primary reason for his team’s offensive struggles and that was clearly evident on Sunday with a gimpy Michael Vick ineffective for four drives and rookie Matt Barkley clearly not ready to start, although he may have to on Sunday against the Raiders.
Barkley completed 65 percent of his throws but hit on only 5 of 11 beyond ten yards. As long as the rest of the offense executes, Barkley can march the troops up the field with a combination of short passes and rushes. But there is doubt that he can carry an offense on his own with questionable arm strength.
For the most part, Barkley looked comfortable in the pocket. The offensive line gave him plenty of time. He fumbled his first snap, but hit Brent Celek for 9 yards in the second quarter. Two plays later, he and DeSean Jackson connected for 13 yards on a 10-yard out. The throw took some time to get there, but it’s a pass Barkley must show he can deliver with regularity. Later in the drive, he rolled to his right and found Jason Avant for 14 yards. Again, there wasn’t much zip on the pass, but Barkley got rid of the ball quickly.
Barkley had other highlights in the passing game: He threw good screen passes, where his receiver could run for yards after the catch. His third down toss to Jackson backed up on third down was on the money, as Kelly noted on Monday, but the receiver was dropped short of the sticks. The throw was wobbly and low, but Barkley found a wide open Avant for 25 yards in the fourth. Later in the quarter, he stepped into a throw and hit Avant for 15 yards. And then he completed a fourth down pass to Avant, but the receiver was called for pass interference.
Barkley was off on a number of throws, as well. He missed Ertz across the middle in the second. In the fourth, he overshot LeSean McCoy and Riley Cooper, but he was also under pressure. Kelly’s first and goal pass call before the half was questionable, but Barkley should have either thrown the ball away when he realized his two receiving options were covered or taken the sack. Instead, he was sacked, stripped from behind and fumbled. Barkley’s lone interception came during desperation time. He heaved a throw to Jackson that was undercut by the safety.
The Eagles didn’t run the zone read as often as it appeared. “The way the Giants chose to play it didn’t allow for that to happen,” Barkley said. Kelly said they ran it just once with a straight run-read option and it didn’t work because there was a “mesh problem” during the exchange between Barkley and Bryce Brown, who was dropped for minus-5 yards.
Vick didn’t look himself from the jump. On his second throw and first downfield, he didn’t step into his throw and was intercepted. It was unclear if Vick and Celek, his target, had a miscommunication. A series later, Vick faked the handoff, but Antrel Rolle read it and sacked him. Vick fumbled but pounced on the loose ball. The play was bungled from the get-go. The Eagles had six in to block four and the Giants had two defenders that read the fake.
On Vick’s third possession, he scrambled out of bounds for 1 yard and just as he hit the sideline you could hear someone yell an expletive on the broadcast audio. It sounded like Vick. He said after the game that it was the play in which he re-injured his hamstring. Two plays later, he held onto the ball too long and rather than get sacked, chucked the ball out of bounds. But he was in the pocket and called for grounding.
By Vick’s fourth and final possession, he was moving slowly and when the Eagles failed to convert a second third down, he was yanked.
Running back – D
Through three games, LeSean McCoy was averaging a robust 10.2 yards up the middle. In the last five games, it’s been only 2.7 yards a pop. The drop can be traced directly to defenses taking the inside zone read away and Kelly not running it as much with Vick sidelined. McCoy managed just seven yards on six carries in the first half. He was better in the second, rushing nine times for 41 yards, but the play many have been pointing to was a third down and 1 in the third quarter in which McCoy seemed to dance behind the line. It looked like there wasn’t much room to run up the middle, but he may have been better served just lowering his head and plowing straight ahead. As a receiver, McCoy caught four passes for 18 yards and drew a pass interference penalty when he ran a wheel route in the second.
Aside from the zone read carry that lost ground, Bryce Brown picked up a first down in the third. A play later, it appeared he had room the run, but was dropped when he tried to run behind Jason Peters. The left tackle appeared visibly upset.
Wide receiver – D
Like McCoy, DeSean Jackson faced criticism for not running north to south on the third down play in which he caught a pass a few yards shy of the sticks. It looked like Jackson was just trying to pick up more yards than avoid contact, but he could have simply flopped forward. “Can we catch the ball and go forward instead of going sideways,” Kelly said about no one in particular, but it was obvious which play he was referencing.
Jackson finished with eight catches for 63 yards – five for 33 yards came on screens.
Jason Avant did the most damage of the receivers downfield, making a nice shoestring catch for 25 yards, but the pass interference penalty was another example of one negative outweighing the positives. Riley Cooper had two receptions for 13 yards. He was targeted five times. Damaris Johnson played only three snaps but caught a pass for six yards. Jeff Maehl was on the field for eight plays but didn’t have a catch or target.
Tight end – D
Brent Celek had another strong game as a blocker. He had a lead block on McCoy’s 6-yard carry in the third and sealed the edge against defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul when McCoy dashed five yards to convert a third down in the third. He caught two passes for 17 yards from Barkley. Zach Ertz was quiet, catching one pass for five yards. There was tight coverage on Vick’s third down throw, but Ertz could have had the grab. James Casey caught his second pass of the season for 11 yards in the first and picked up the first down.
Offensive line – C
For the second straight week, it appeared as if the offensive line struggled during the game, but upon further review, it’s performance wasn’t so bad. Center Jason Kelce got pushed back on occasion in the run game, but held his own in pass protection. He helped pave the way for McCoy’s 6-yard run in the third. He was called for a false start in the same quarter.
Lane Johnson was probably the weak link. He had trouble with defensive end Justin Tuck a number of times. In the second, McCoy was dropped behind the line when Tuck slipped by Johnson. The right tackle was beat in the fourth and Barkley threw incomplete. There seemed to be some confusion between Johnson and Todd Herremans over who had Linval Joseph when he sacked Barkley in the fourth. The rookie otherwise had a so-so day.
Left guard Evan Mathis was once again a rock. He didn’t allow a sack or hurry in pass protection. Herremans and Johnson had what appeared to be another miscommunication in the fourth when Barkley was hurried into a bad throw. The right guard was solid for the most part. Jason Peters had some issues in the run game. It looked like he didn’t hold his block long enough when McCoy was held to one yard on the Eagles’ first drive. He was late to slide over and block defensive tackle Mike Patterson later in the quarter and McCoy had to reverse field for no gain. There were a few times Peters let Pierre-Paul get up field, but the issues on the ground had more to do with other circumstances.
Defensive line – B+
Fletcher Cox has strung together three strong games. He made plays against both the run and pass. He pressured Eli Manning in the second on third and goal and the quarterback threw out of bounds in the back of the end zone. He also picked up a late sack. Against the run, Cox dropped Peyton Hillis for no gain in the second and had other stops near the line.
The Eagles credited Cedric Thornton with seven stops against the run, most three yards or less. Kelly singled out Clifton Geathers. The defensive end had three solo stops in only 14 snaps. He fought off a block late in the fourth and tackled Hillis two yards behind the line. Vinny Curry (12)and Bennie Logan (11) played less and weren’t disruptive.
The Giants ran a lot of plays out of two-tight end sets, which meant nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga was on the field for 47 snaps – the most he’s played all season. He had one tackle against the run and once forced Manning out of the pocket.
Outside linebackers – B
Connor Barwin had a good day as a pass rusher. He tipped a screen pass intended for Hillis in the first. He read a naked bootleg in the third and forced Manning to ground the ball. And he batted another pass on the following play. Trent Cole forced Manning to throw one away in the first. He had another hurry, and one stop against the run in the fourth. Brandon Graham played 18 snaps and was credited with one stop.
Inside linebackers – B
DeMeco Ryans dropped Cox for a short gain in the first and again in the second when he ran him out of bounds. It looked like he lost tight end Brandon Myers when he caught a 27-yard pass in the first. Kelly said that he thought Mychal Kendricks had his best game of the season. Kendricks was given 11 tackles. He got off to a strong start by knifing into the backfield and tackling Cox for a 3-yard loss. In the second, he had a stop after a 1-yard rush. He stuffed Hillis in the fourth. He did fine in pass coverage, tackling Myers short of a first down in the fourth, but the tight end shook him late in the fourth when he caught a 10-yard pass that converted a third down.
Cornerbacks – B
Cary Williams played very well. He had good coverage on Hakeem Nicks deep in the second and twice in the end zone on fades. He dropped the receiver for no gain on a bubble screen in the first and he came up and helped against the run for no yards in the third.
Bradley Fletcher had a few problems. Nicks caught a 22-yard pass over Fletcher in the first. The coverage was good, the throw better. The corner was beat on a third down slant in the second. He had tight coverage on Nicks in the end zone. He was called for pass interference in the second when he nudged Victor Cruz. And he played soft when Cruz caught a 13-yard pass in the fourth.
With the Giants playing ball control, Brandon Boykin saw the field for only 27 plays in the nickel. He saw plenty of action, though, and was up and down. Cruz beat him for 26 yards in the second when Manning lofted a perfect pass near the sideline. Boykin let Cruz slip past him for a 9-yard third down conversion in the fourth. He blitzed Manning and nearly had him down before he threw incomplete. Boykin also broke up a pass intended for Nicks in the fourth.
Safeties – B
Nate Allen did a fine job of coming up and tackling on short passes. He dropped Nicks after a short grab on third down in the third. He also broke up a pass in the second.
Earl Wolff had issues in coverage in the first half. Cruz caught an 18-yard pass in the middle of the zone and in front of Wolff in the first. The safety appeared to lose the fullback underneath when he caught a 12-yard pass. Wolff lost Nicks in the second and the receiver converted a third down.
SPECIAL TEAMS – C
Alex Henery had an interesting day and he really wasn’t asked to do much. Rather than give his kicker a go at a 50-yard field goal into the wind, Kelly went for it on fourth down and ten in the third. Kelly also called for an onside kick that Henery booted right into the hands of Rolle. Donnie Jones punted six times with a net of 42.8 yards. Damaris Johnson had a 16-yard punt return. DeSean Jackson seemed to force one shanked punt, but he misplayed the other he was back for and it rolled out of bounds at the 3. Najee Goode recovered a fumbled and scored a touchdown after Zac DeOssie’s bad snap on a fourth quarter punt.