Eagles' Offense Only Scores Poor Grades

Grading the Eagles' 6-0 loss Sunday afternoon over the Dallas Cowboys at Lincoln Financial Field (see breakdown):

QUARTERBACKS
Nick Foles: 4/11, 39 YDS, 1 INT

Foles wasn't quite as bad as the numbers suggest. His incompletions include a drop, being hit as he threw, a throwaway and a receiver falling down, none of which were the quarterback's fault. That being said, Foles fled a clean pocket then woefully underthrew his target on the pick and even fundamental actions like catching a shotgun snap cleanly continue to give the sixth-year veteran trouble. Not the confidence-builder the Eagles had hoped for. Nate Sudfeld actually outperformed Foles - though not by much - completing 18 of 22 for 128 yards, a 22-yard scramble and three sacks. It was nothing that will warrant inevitable talk of a quarterback controversy.

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Grade: C

RUNNING BACKS
LeGarrette Blount: 9 ATT, 37 YDS

It's true what they say about volume backs - they get better as the game wears on. Blount got off to a slow start, as he has in recent weeks. Yet as the carries piled up, so too did his effectiveness. After carrying five times for 11 yards in the first quarter, he finished with 26 yards on his next four carries, plus an 11-yard reception. Wendell Smallwood carried four times for six yards and had three receptions for 24 yards in his first action since November.

Grade: B

WIDE RECEIVERS
Nelson Agholor: 3 TAR, 3 REC, 11 YDS

One might wonder how Foles' day might've turned out had Torrey Smith made a simple catch to convert on 3rd-and-7 on the Eagles' opening possession. Smith's drop caused a good-looking drive to stall at the Cowboys' 39-yard line, and the first-team offense never regained its rhythm. The good news is Alshon Jeffery caught a pass this week, going for eight yards. Mack Hollins and Marcus Johnson saw the bulk of the action after Jeffery and Co. exited, each catching three passes for 48 yards.

Grade: C+

TIGHT ENDS
Zach Ertz: 2 TAR, 2 REC, 24 YDS

At least Foles can reliably find Ertz, and the Pro Bowl tight end generally hangs on to the football. Brent Celek was targeted four times, finishing with three receptions for 13 yards.

Grade: B

OFFENSIVE LINE
Can't blame the guys up front for the offense's inability to consistently move the football (see Roob's observations). Whether it was the starters or the backups, there were running lanes, and there was protection. Eagles running backs averaged 2.7 per carry, though that is a bit deceiving, and at least three of the seven hits on the quarterbacks were a product of holding on to the football too long. An illegal block by Jason Kelce and a holding against Halapoulivaati Vaitai were drive killers, but solid-albeit-unspectacular work otherwise from this unit.

Grade: B

DEFENSIVE LINE
Steven Means: 1 TKL, 1.0 SK, 2 QBH

Tons of credit to the defense, beginning with the guys up front. Brandon Graham, Tim Jernigan and Derek Barnett were all inactive, and Fletcher Cox only played the first series. Despite being without four regulars, the Eagles limited Ezekiel Elliott to 3.8 yards per carry. That begins up front. Chris Long led the charge with six tackles, as he and Vinny Curry played pretty much the entire game along with Means. This was very impressive under the circumstances.

Grade: A-

LINEBACKERS
Najee Goode: 5 TKL, 2 TFL

Nice job by the linebackers, particularly Goode, who was all over the place. Dannell Ellerbe and Kamu Grugier-Hill each had four tackles as well, and rookie Nate Gerry nearly came up with an interception. Nothing particularly impactful, but with Nigel Bradham left inactive and Mychal Kendricks playing only sparingly, the unit got the job done.

Grade: A-

DEFENSIVE BACKS
Sidney Jones: 2 TKL

Rough day for Rasul Douglas. The Cowboys really went after Douglas in the second half, finally beating the rookie corner for a 20-yard touchdown pass after he left the offense go down the field. Ronald Darby and Patrick Robinson each broke up a pass, and Jaylen Watkins racked up seven tackles. As for Jones' debut, he was OK. The second-round draft pick lost contain on a first-down run by Elliott and should've been burned for a long touchdown on a double move, but was bailed out by an overthrow. Otherwise, he did not look out of place at all in his first NFL game. As a unit, the secondary limited the Cowboys to a 56.7 completion percentage and 5.5 yards per attempt.

Grade: A-

SPECIAL TEAMS
Donnie Jones: 7 PUNTS, 42.7 AVG, 3 IN20

If you like punts, this game featured plenty of them. Jones was the Eagles' most valuable player. In what could not have been easy kicking conditions, he repeatedly kept the Cowboys in modest field position. Coverage units played were strong as well, and tested often on a cold day when Jake Elliott wasn't booming touchbacks. The lone issue was a muffed punt by Kenjon Barner, which he recovered, but at his own 3-yard line.

Grade: A-

COACHING
Eagles' record: 13-3

A bit curious Doug Pederson would insist on playing the first-team offense, only to pull them after one quarter of bad football. Then again, one would imagine there wasn't a whole lot of preparation for a meaningless Week 17 game, so maybe there was no point to let Foles and Co. keep banging their heads against the wall. Anyway, since this basically amounted to a preseason game for the Eagles, there really isn't anything to grade the coaching staff on. The key players all emerged from the contest healthy, which is all that matters.

Grade: N/A

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