Here are some observations and notes after re-watching the Eagles’ 31-6 loss to the Redskins on Sunday:
ON SECOND THOUGHT
Nick Foles entered Sunday’s game as the Eagles’ greatest hope at saving this season. In the end, those expectations were far too unrealistic and Foles performed as you expect a rookie quarterback playing on the road behind a leaky offensive line in his first NFL start.
Two things were learned from Foles’ debut as a starter: 1. He needs a lot of work. 2. Michael Vick was not the primary reason for the Eagles’ woes on offense this season. He was just one of the many problems created by Andy Reid’s decisions, Marty Mornhinweg play-calling and Howie Roseman’s evaluations.
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Whether Vick returns from his concussion for Monday night’s game against the Panthers, Foles will be heard from again this season.
“He’s a young guy, a rookie, so there were a couple of rookie mistakes,” Reid said Monday. “But there were some positive things, too.”
The mistakes were plentiful, although Foles did not get much help from his teammates. Brent Celek dropped two passes, the first, of course, was tipped and turned into an interception. Tight end Clay Harbor had a drop, as did wide receiver Jeremy Maclin.
But too many of Foles’ throws were off target for his performance to be labeled anything but poor. His second interception, as detailed below, was not all his fault. But he should have just taken the sack rather than throw off his back foot into no man’s land. Later in the second quarter, on third down at the Redskins 23, Foles had plenty of time in the pocket but inexplicably chucked the ball out of bounds.
On the next drive, Foles had Harbor wide open when he rolled out after a play fake, but his throw was too high. There were a number of other missed opportunities, some not of his doing. In the third quarter, the Eagles drove to the Redskins 14 and could have cut the margin to 17-10. But on third down, LeSean McCoy stayed in to block Ryan Kerrigan and he couldn’t and the defensive end stripped Foles.
Foles did have a few bright spots, as Reid mentioned. There was a strong 15-yard throw to Riley Cooper on the run. There was an on-the-button 21-yard toss to Damaris Johnson over the middle on third down and 17. All of his throws to Celek were on target. And as simple as it may seem, he throws a mean screen pass. On both of McCoy’s 20-yard-plus catches, Foles did a nice job of drawing pass rushers before he dumped off to the tailback.
REWIND THE TAPE
Foles’ second interception came in the first quarter with the Eagles into Redskins territory. The Eagles faced third down and 21, though. Washington blitzed linebackers Perry Riley and Keenan Robinson up the A gap. Robinson ran a stunt and McCoy picked it up, but he couldn’t hold his block for long. Center Dallas Reynolds was run over by Riley. With pressure in his face from both linebackers, Foles aired a pass to DeSean Jackson, who was double covered. The throw sailed and safety Brandon Meriweather made the easy pick.
IN THE SPOTLIGHT
1. Fletcher Cox has 14 more tackles than the next closest defensive linemen – Trent Cole and Cullen Jenkins. He led the Eagles with eight tackles against the Redskins and recorded one of the team’s two sacks. Aside from DeMeco Ryans, Cox has been the Eagles’ most consistent producer on defense this season. The rookie defensive tackle did a fine job of keeping the Redskins’ Robert Griffin III in check when he tried to run inside. Cox cut Griffin down three times near the line. One of his tackles on the quarterback came 20 yards downfield after Nnamdi Asomugha and Mychal Kendricks took bad angles and knocked each other over.
2. If McCoy can’t recover from his concussion, Bryce Brown could start Monday night. He has been steady despite his relative inexperience. He ran five times for 35 yards against the Redskins and had two rushes called back on holding penalties. On his first carry, Brown could have been dropped for a loss when an unblocked DeAngelo Hall raced into the backfield. But the rookie stepped out of a tackle and managed to gain five yards. Brown also returned kicks for the first time and averaged 22-yards a return.
3. The move from right guard back to his natural position at right tackle only helped Dennis Kelly marginally, but there was improvement. First, the good: He had a strong block when Brown ran 13 yards in the second. He held off Kerrigan nicely when Foles stepped up and hit Johnson for 21 yards. Now the bad: He completely missed a block on a screen pass to Jackson in the first. He was called for holding, negating a 13-yard Brown run also in the first.
All season we’ve chronicled how Vick has done against the blitz. So how did Foles do against the Redskins? Not great. He completed 9 of 19 passes for 93 yards with an interception when blitzed. He was also sacked once.
THIS AND THAT
-- The Eagles ran that old bomb play they burned the Redskins on two seasons ago on the opening play and it couldn’t have gone any worse. Washington blitzed Hall and Harbor, probably not anticipating a blitz because the Eagles probably didn’t imagine the Redskins would do so early, was late to react. Foles was hurried and thus had to throw the ball away.
-- Todd Bowles unveiled his “cinco” look with five down linemen when the Redskins faced second and goal at the Eagles 6. The defensive coordinator was anticipating run, as was safety Nate Allen, who also had run-gap responsibilities. But -- guess what! -- Griffin dropped back and hit an uncovered Darrel Young for the Redskins’ first touchdown.
-- I can’t seem to figure out what Brandon Graham was thinking when he rushed Griffin and had a straight path to the quarterback in the first quarter. Rather than pursue Griffin, Graham ran straight to the blocker a few yards in front. The defensive end, of course, was blocked, and Griffin scrambled for nine yards.
-- Harbor had a rough day blocking. His worst effort came when the Eagles had to settle for their first goal. On second down, a screen pass to Jackson was called, but Harbor whiffed in trying to stop Kerrigan.
-- After Foles’ second interception, Redskins linebacker Lorenzo Alexander took a cheap shot at Maclin’s head on the return.
-- Defensive end Jason Babin had his best game in weeks. He recorded a sack, and had several hurries, but impressed most when he stopped Alfred Morris on fourth down and 1.
-- Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie should have made a better effort to intercept an errant pass by Griffin in the second quarter. Rather than give himself up, the cornerback merely batted the ball to the ground for Griffin’s lone incomplete of the game. The Eagles trailed, 14-3, at the time. A turnover there before the break could have been a momentum changer.
How bad must Danny Watkins be that Jake Scott, six days after the Eagles signed him, would start ahead of him at right guard? Reid said that he was worried about Watkins’ ankle, but why was he active and why did he play on two special teams plays?