Eagles-Redskins: Roob's 10 Observations

LANDOVER, Md. -- A crushing performance by the defensive front seven, a shaky performance by the offensive line, more strange Doug Pederson play calling, some superb special teams and lots of Zach Ertz, Carson Wentz and Nelson Agholor and much more in our season-opening Roob's 10 observations off the Eagles' 30-17 win over the Redskins at FedEx Field Sunday.
Bring on the Chiefs!
1. This was a win for the Eagles' defensive front, which absolutely dominated the Redskins Sunday. The Skins' running backs ran 13 times for 34 yards (2.6 per carry), and the front seven racked up four sacks and pounded Kirk Cousins into his worst game ever against the Eagles. Then the Eagles finished the 'Skins off with a Brandon Graham sack, a Cousins fumble and fumble return TD for Fletcher Cox in the final minutes. Nice exclamation point. Total domination. Cousins started the day with the fifth-highest passer rating ever against the Eagles, but he and the 'Skins' offense were just overmatched. The Eagles held the 'Skins' offense to 10 points and 264 yards in their own stadium, the fewest yards the 'Skins have had against the Eagles in nine years. And thanks in large part to that front seven, the Eagles ended that ugly five-game losing streak to their division opponents down I-95. All in all, a monster performance for Graham, Cox, Jordan Hicks and Co.
2. There is work to do on the offensive line. This was just a shaky, inconsistent effort up front, and I know fans like to pick on Jason Kelce, but the breakdowns were across the board up front. It's a good thing Wentz is so good at making something out of nothing, like he did on the 58-yard TD pass to Agholor and that 23-yarder down the left sideline to Ertz, but the O-line has to be better and more consistent and has to be able to give Wentz time in the pocket. Wentz has the ability to stand in there and make plays when things are breaking down around him, and he did a lot of that Sunday, but over the long haul? This effort from the offensive line was simply unacceptable.
3. Very tough to see Ronald Darby go down with what is believed to be a long-term injury just 18 ½ minutes into his Eagles career. Rookie third-round pick Rasul Douglas, who was inactive Sunday, will likely move into a significant role, quite possibly as a starting outside corner with Jalen Mills, with Patrick Robinson staying in the slot. Now, if the Eagles felt Douglas was ready to start and play at a high level, they wouldn't have traded Jordan Matthews and a third-round pick to the Bills for Darby. But this is the hand they've been dealt. The Eagles were one of the NFL's healthiest teams last year, and those sorts of things have a tendency to even out over time. Regression to the mean and all that. There are a few other ways the Eagles could go. They could activate Dexter McDougle and play him in the slot and move Robinson outside. Or play Mills in the slot with Robinson and Douglas or McDougle outside. However they line up, this is a huge blow for this Eagles secondary.
4. Speaking of Mills, he really built on his strong preseason with a terrific game Sunday. The Redskins were targetting him much of the game, with Terrell Pryor in particular, but Pryor -- a 1,000-yard receiver with the Browns a year ago -- was really a non-factor with four catches for 34 yards and nothing longer than 12 yards. Kirk Cousins kept trying to challenge Mills deep with Pryor but Mills won those battles, and when he didn't, Cousins just missed him. Mills hung in against Jamison Crowder as well when matched up with him. Mills then made a potential game-saving interception in the end zone -- the first of his career -- in the fourth quarter. Mills isn't a rookie, but he's a 23-year-old making his first career opening-day start, and it was a very good one.
5. I liked the concept of the Eagles' offense early. First quarter, the Eagles had seven running plays and nine passing plays. Nice balance. LeGarrette Blount had a little head of steam going. Then Doug Pederson did what Doug Pederson often does and forgot about the running game. Over the next two quarters, the Eagles ran 33 plays -- 27 pass plays, six runs. Not surprisingly, the Eagles struggled to get into a rhythm offensively during that span, and that 13-0 lead gradually disappeared. In the fourth quarter, nursing a two-point lead, the Eagles had to try to run the ball and they had four carries for no yards. When you don't run the ball for a long period of time, it's not easy to dial it up and have success. This has to change.
6. Wentz I thought played very well considering the chaos that was happening around him. He rarely had a clean pocket but still managed to complete 67 percent of his passes (26-for-39) for 307 yards with two TDs and the one INT on a tipped ball. He repeatedly turned pocket breakdowns into positive plays, and made something out of nothing. He played better than his numbers. And his numbers weren't bad at all.
7. For all the talk about Agholor, nobody really knew what to expect once the games meant something. But Agholor indeed looked like a different guy Sunday. You could just sense his confidence, and it all started on the broken play just 3 ½ minutes into the game, when he found open space on a scramble drill and settled under a Wentz throw on one of those he-just-made-it-up plays, caught the football naturally and easily and then ran into the end zone for a 58-yard touchdown, the longest of his career. Agholor had surpassed his career high in receiving yards by the middle of the second quarter and finished with six catches for 86 yards. Agholor has looked like a different guy since OTAs and I have to give him a ton of credit for finding his way and reinventing himself after going through some pretty heavy stuff and openly discussing his self-doubt last year. Everybody has their own path, and on Day 1 of Year 3, Agholor showed he can play this game.
8. The two new receivers, Torrey Smith and Alshon Jeffery, combined for four catches for 68 yards (and a two-point conversion), and that's not terrible but it's probably not what the Eagles were hoping for. But it's not all that unexpected. This group played very little football together during the preseason, so it's not surprising that the Eagles' three leading receivers -- Zach Ertz (8-for-93), Agholor (6-for-86) and Darren Sproles (5-for-43) -- are all guys Wentz was with last year. Smith and Jeffery both came very close to making some big plays, and you have to hope that with more time together those plays will be made.
9. Special teams had another terrific day Sunday, with a turnover in the punting game that led to the Eagles' second touchdown and then a punt downed at the 1-yard-line by Jaylen Watkins with seven minutes left in the game that gave the Redskins -- down by two -- an impossibly long field. I know this -- Eagles special teams will always be elite as long as Dave Fipp is running the show.
10. It was great to see Ertz begin a season with a big performance. Much has been made about how Ertz always starts slowly and finishes strong, but he was huge Sunday, with big catch after big catch and no drops. Ertz's 93 yards are the most he's ever had in any game the first seven weeks of the season. I'm on the record as saying Ertz will catch 100 passes this year. He's ahead of that pace. I think huge things are in store this year for the fifth-year tight end.

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