Thursday, September 18, 2014
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McLane's Game Review: Grading the Eagles vs. Broncos

Birds' Eye View's Jeff McLane hands out his grades following the Eagles' 52-20 loss to the Denver Broncos.

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

The Broncos´ Trindon Holliday returns a kick for a touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)
The Broncos' Trindon Holliday returns a kick for a touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)

Position-by-position grading of the Eagles following their 52-20 loss to the Broncos on Sunday:

OFFENSE

Quarterback – Grade: B

Michael Vick was among the least of the Eagles’ problems in Denver. His final numbers weren’t great – he completed just 52 percent of his passes – but his receivers had four drops. Vick also dealt with more pressure than he should have considering the Broncos blitzed only 6 of 37 drops. He was sacked three times and eluded a few other would-be sacks. Some of pressure came from Eagles receivers not getting open against man-to-man defense. Some had to do with Vick not getting rid of the ball quick enough or not taking the necessary risks against one-on-one matchups. But the offensive line had another shaky day, especially rookie right tackle Lane Johnson.

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Vick also scrambled eight times for 41 yards. Most of his carries came in the first quarter with the Broncos leaving space underneath in their man defense. Vick’s best moments came on passes to DeSean Jackson in tight coverage. He zipped a 14-yard throw to the receiver, low to where he could catch in the second quarter. And he came back to Jackson a drive later with another low strike for 20 yards. Vick made a good read against the blitz on that same drive when he flipped a short pass to LeSean McCoy, who skipped for 21 yards. He threw on the run out the pocket to Brent Celek for a 27-yard catch in the 4th and later in the possession to Zach Ertz for 38 yards.

Vick avoided turnovers a game after he tossed two interceptions against the Chiefs. While not giving the ball away is among his most important jobs, Vick seemed reluctant to throw into tight coverage. He threw outside of Jackson short with his first throw and was a touch late on a difficult toss to the receiver in the end zone later in the first quarter. In the fourth, Vick dropped and set his feet, but he had only 2.5 seconds to throw before a late-blitzing linebacker sacked him.

Nick Foles replaced Vick with the Eagles down, 52-13, late in the fourth. He missed Bryce Brown on the flat with his second throw, but hit Jeff Maehl in stride for 38 yards and a play later hooked up with the receiver on a bubble screen that resulted in a 6-yard touchdown.

Running back – B

Whether it was the altitude like he said, or that he got the wind knocked out of him like the Eagles initially said, or the ankle injury he suffered last game, LeSean McCoy wasn’t 100 percent for parts of the game. He had his moments, but jaw-dropping moves were mostly absent.

McCoy made a tackler miss on a 2-yard run in the first. He shook another defender a play later for 10 yards. He had the 21-yard catch in the second, but had to take a breather afterward and was missing for most of the next two drives. McCoy opened up the Eagles’ first second half possession by rushing for nine and 15 yards. He dropped a pass, though, two plays later.

Bryce Brown had his most carries in a game, rushing 8 times for 19 yards. He got around the corner on an outside zone read carry, but tripped over himself after a 7-yard gain in the second. He caught a perfectly-called screen on third down in the second and ran 35 yards, but could have possibly scored had he not slipped. There were a few times when it appeared as if Brown didn’t hit the hole and opted to kick it outside. On one fourth quarter stretch play he was run out of bounds for minus-5 yards. A television camera caught Chip Kelly yelling and it looked like he was telling Brown to cut into a running lane.

It could be argued that Chris Polk has earned more playing time than Brown or at least more snaps than he’s been getting. He took a few when McCoy took a break and ran four tough yards for the Eagles’ first touchdown in the second. He also caught a 13-yard pass later in the quarter and plowed ahead for a few extra yards. When the starting skill position players sat late in the fourth, Polk ran 28 yards up the middle after he broke a tackle.

Wide receiver – C-

DeSean Jackson was targeted six times and finished with two catches for 34 yards. Broncos cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was on him like cement clue, but Jackson had trouble slipping slot corner Tony Parker, too.

Rodgers-Cromartie did get away with at least one hold when a TV replay caught the former Eagle grabbing Jackson’s jersey from behind. Jackson’s best moment came in the second when he lined up in the slot and was matched up against a linebacker in a zone and he caught and ran 19 yards. The play was called back by an Evan Mathis holding penalty, though. Vick threw to Jackson twice in the red zone, but he was covered both times.

He had a short drop in fourth.

Riley Cooper caught both passes thrown his way for 25 yards. It’s difficult to say for certain if he got enough separation to warrant more throws. He caught a 15-yard pass in the second when he ran a comeback route and kept his feet in bounds. Cooper appeared to be responsible for a burnt timeout in the first. Kelly could be seen scolding him on the sideline during the timeout.

Jason Avant was targeted four times but had only one catch for seven yards. He picked up a first down in the fourth. Jeff Maehl finished with two catches for 43 yards and a touchdown in garbage time. He carried a defensive back several yards during his 37-yard reception. Damaris Johnson played ten snaps but wasn’t targeted.

Tight end – C-

Brent Celek led the Eagles with three catches for 57 yards but had a costly drop on third down at the 5-yard line in the first. He played 72 percent of snaps, down from the 88 pct. in the first three games. Celek slipped a tackle and picked up 24 yards on his first grab. He had a 27-yard catch to open the fourth. As a blocker, he had a seal block on Brown’s 7-yard run in the first. He had trouble with the Broncos’ Robert Ayers, who sacked Vick in the third.

Zach Ertz’ playing time increased from 25 to 44 pct. The rookie was targeted only twice, though, and didn’t record his 38-yard catch till the fourth. He struggled with blocks on a Brown run in the first and a Polk carry in the fourth. James Casey snatched his first catch of the season – a 12-yard grab in the first. He had the key block on Maehl’s touchdown.

Offensive line – B-

The line didn’t play as poorly as it did against the Chiefs, but Lane Johnson’s rookie struggles continued, as did some untimely penalties for the unit. Johnson’s main issues were in pass protection. Ayers got around him on the first drive and Vick had to step up out of the pocket and scramble. He was late to react to an inside rush by Ayers and Vick was pressured into a bad throw. Johnson seemed to be confused by blitzes off the edge and which rusher was his responsibility. He seemed to pick the wrong guy in the third and Vick was forced to scramble again. He couldn’t handle Shaun Phillips around the corner when the Broncos linebacker sacked Vick in the third. A quarter later, Johnson whiffed on defensive end Malik Jackson. Vick avoided the sack, though. He did have some moments when he stood up against the pass rush, but there were too many mistakes. In the run game, Johnson took a holding penalty in the first as the Eagles were driving.

Evan Mathis had another solid game, but the left guard’s holding penalty was costly. He got beat inside and tackled Jackson. Mathis forged a path for Polk on his touchdown run and had the key block on Brown’s 35-yard screen pass. Todd Herremans bounced back from a poor outing against the Chiefs and made no visible mistakes that led to negative plays. He did get pushed back nearly into Vick in the first and was late to a second-level block on a Brown screen pass in the first. But Herremans eased some concerns for a week.

The Eagles switched their unbalanced line look from earlier in the season and had Jason Peters on the right outside Johnson. It worked to perfection on a Brown 9-yard outside run in the first. It didn’t work so well a play later when McCoy was dropped two yards behind the line. Peters rag dolled a defender to the ground on a McCoy 10-yard run in the first and had a good lead block on a Brown 6-yard rush in the second. He also got good push on Polk’s touchdown. Peters couldn’t contain Phillips in the third when he dropped McCoy near the line. And he was beat off the edge by Ayers in the fourth and Vick, after he fell to the ground, rushed a high throw to Avant.

Jason Kelce had some early struggles, but got stronger as the game went on. He didn’t have any fumbled snaps, but there were a few times when they were hot and off line. Kelce paved the way for an early McCoy 7-yard run with a pull block and later in the drive when the tailback ran six yards. He also fended off defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson on Polk’s touchdown and plowed ahead on McCoy’s 15-yard run up the middle in the third. Kelce ran all the way upfield on Brown’s 35-yard screen pass. In the first quarter, though, Vickerson beat him inside twice. He was virtually flawless in the pass game.

DEFENSE

Defensive line – D

Fletcher Cox had a quiet game. He’s asked to take on blockers and free up the linebackers, but there appeared to be too many times when Cox was getting pushed back on run downs. He got pressure on Manning in the second, but the quarterback still completed a short pass. Cox jumped offsides later in the drive and the Broncos were given first down and goal at the five. He rebounded a play later and dropped running back Knowshon Moreno after one yard. It was his only tackle of the game.

Cedric Thornton was more active. Both he and Cox could be seen taunting Manning’s pre-snap motions and calls at various points in the game, though. Thornton could be heard saying “Papa Johns,” referencing Manning’s endorsement of the pizza store chain, to disrupt Manning as he called out signals. On the Broncos’ first play from scrimmage, the Eagles rushed four and Manning had 4.4 seconds before he hit a wide open Wesley Walker for 33 yards. Thornton did record the Eagles’ only sack when he bull rushed the center in the second. He also had three stops in the run game of less than four yards.

Bennie Logan, Isaac Sopoaga and Clifton Geathers played a combined 75 snaps and were credited with two total tackles. Geathers split a double team in the third and forced Manning to throw a ball to the ground. Vinny Curry didn’t see his first snap until there was 1:54 left in the third. He played 13 snaps, but had little opportunity to pass rush with the Broncos running the clock out.

Outside linebackers – C-

Connor Barwin’s low moment came on the Broncos’ first drive when he called for encroachment on third down and four. The replay seemed to indicate that he didn’t cross the line, though. He made a stop of Moreno after a 1-yard gain earlier in the drive. He had coverage on tight end Virgil Green on a 5-yard catch in the second. But Barwin hardly got into the backfield as a pass rusher.

Trent Cole, too, had little opportunity to get to the quick-throwing Manning. He did make plays against the run. He busted up a Ronnie Hillman run in the second that DeMeco Ryans cleaned up. He fought off a block and dropped Moreno in the second after a 3-yard gain. And Cole tackled Hillman after no gain in the fourth.

Brandon Graham played 20 snaps on little note. In the third, he blitzed from the slot and Manning threw over him to Demaryius Thomas on a screen pass the wide receiver took 15 yards into the end zone. Graham failed to wrap up backup quarterback Brock Osweiler in the pocket in the fourth.

Casey Matthews had 14 snaps and was victimized by a screen pass to Eric Decker in the second. Moreno ran 17 yards in the third right at Matthews, who was pushed back.

Inside linebackers – D

DeMeco Ryans was decent against the run, but overmatched in coverage. He stood up Moreno in the second and had a tackle for loss on Hillman later in the quarter. But he jumped offsides, missed tackling Welker and couldn’t cover Hillman out of the backfield in the third.

Manning completed a 13-yard pass to Julius Thomas in the first, but no player was near the tight end. He appeared to be Mychal Kendricks’ responsibility. Moreno had a 13-yard catch out of the backfield in the third, but Kendricks oddly gave him ten yards of space in coverage. He rushed Manning in the second, but slipped off the quarterback. There was a large gap in between Cox and Cole that Kendricks appeared to be responsible for filling. He had trouble fighting off blocks from offensive linemen much of the game. He did stop Hillman for a short gain in the second.

Jake Knott filled in for Kendricks for two plays and ran Hillman out of bounds for no gain after Barwin bumped him outside. Najee Goode played late.

Cornerbacks – D

Cary Williams bit on a Decker double move in the first, but Manning overthrew his receiver. Decker and Manning hooked up for a 52-yard pass before the half, but Kelly explained that Williams didn’t receive the necessary inside help from safety Earl Wolff. Williams played soft on a Demaryius Thomas short catch in the second, but he was stiff armed and the receiver picked up 14 yards. Williams looked like he jumped a route and left his zone when Manning hit Thomas for 15 yards in the third. He missed two tackles, as well. Williams did have Thomas wrapped up after a 4-yard catch in the second.

Bradley Fletcher broke up a pass to Thomas on the Broncos first drive. He had Andre Caldwell blanketed on an errant Manning throw out of the end zone in the first. Fletcher was called for pass interference in the end zone in the third. He didn’t appear to hold Thomas. Manning threw a perfect fade pass to Thomas on the next play for a 1-yard touchdown. Fletcher was legitimately called for pass interference again in the fourth when he dragged Decker to the ground.

Brandon Boykin had a difficult assignment guarding Welker out of the slot. The receiver caught three passes for 22 yards and a touchdown against Boykin. Boykin blitzed from the slot several times and never applied pressure to Manning. The Broncos ran at him when he lined up in the slot against two-tight end sets. Boykin, understandably, was pushed back on 16- and 3-yard carries by Moreno in the second.

Roc Carmichael played nine late snaps.

Safeties – C-

Nate Allen was the Eagles’ most consistent tackler in the secondary. He was late to react to several passes, though, including a 14-yard receiver screen to Demaryius Thomas in the third. Allen came up and made tackles on a short Thomas catch in the second and a 5-yard Hillman run in the third.

Earl Wolff, predictably, had a rough first start. The rookie was likely responsible for Welker when Boykin blitzed out the slot and the receiver caught an easy 4-yard touchdown. It might not have been a good time to blitz, though. He did bounce back a series later and dropped Caldwell after a short catch. He missed his assignment on the Decker bomb, was late to react after another Boykin blitz and took a bad line and missed a tackle on Julius Thomas in the third.

Colt Anderson and Kurt Coleman played a late nine snaps.

SPECIAL TEAMS – F

Dave Fipp’s units were terrible and had two breakdowns. Trindon Holliday returned a first quarter kick 105 yards when Goode apparently did not stay in his gap assignment. Steven Johnson blocked and returned a Donnie Jones punt for a touchdown in the fourth when Graham apparently rushed upfield rather than stay into block his man. Alex Henery missed a 46-yard field goal way wide right. Jones booted a punt into the end zone after Kelly elected not to go for it on fourth down late in the second. Damaris Johnson had a 21-yard punt return.

About this blog
Birds' Eye View is the Inquirer's blog covering all things Philadelphia Eagles and the NFL.

Jeff McLane Inquirer Staff Writer
Zach Berman Inquirer Staff Writer
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