It wasn’t pretty but the Eagles got it done. An early divisional loss at home would have been a terrifying start for a team with such lofty aspirations. Desean Jackson should help the team reach those heights, he certainly blew the top off Washington’s coverage consistently. For much of the first half though, the offensive gameplan was overly conservative, while nothing Jim Schwartz called came off. However, the coaches once again adjusted effectively at halftime, running rapid repairs to pull off the victory. Here’s how it looked like they got it done.
There’s a school of thought – perhaps one of those absurd ones which involves the kids running the school – that the Eagles slow play their running game. The frequency of lateral runs in the first half was galling, failing to generate positive yardage consistently. Washington have a solid interior, so perhaps, it was tailored to the Eagles’ opponent, but perimeter runs to Sproles simply weren’t working. Jordan Howard barely saw the field in the first half. Early in the third quarter however, Doug Pederson called three straight inside zones runs to spark the offense into life. Like a great baker, it was stretch the dough then pound it good. What they served up was real tasty.
Interestingly, we also saw some power looks from the shotgun, a new wrinkle to the Eagles versatile running game. Jordan Howard suits those kind of plays, where he can get downfield in a hurry and generate yards after contact. The sprint draw also remains a horrible play to defend. Sometimes they pull Jason Kelce frontside too, just in case the sight of Jason Peters sprinting downfield isn’t scary enough. It’s a great example of the coaching staff playing to their strengths; get Peters and Kelce in space, while using Seumalo to lock in at the line of scrimmage.
Jim Schwartz came out with a variety of coverages and complex looks early against Jay Gruden. He brought pressure as well as using a some man/zone mix coverages. It looked like an all-out blitz on Terry McLaurin’s long touchdown, countered perfectly by Washington’s play action max protect. Rasul Douglas was isolated on an island and Case Keenum made him pay. The defense also gave up a big third-down conversion while playing cover-6, struggling to contain Washington’s intermediate level routes.
In the second half, Schwartz used a ton more man to man and refrained from blitzing (even before the Eagles took a lead). He still occasionally used Nigel Bradham as an extra rusher, running five-man pressures, but he became more conservative in that regard. The defense also used more man coverage challenging Case Keenum to make tight window throws that are beyond him. Going forward, the stop unit will need to improve their spacing in zone, good teams will engineer favourable matchups against consistent man coverage.
- Desean’s glorious return
How we’ve missed the sight of Jackson tearing up the NFC East, well no more. An elite deep threat elevates this offense dramatically.
- Miles Sanders’ debut
Solid debut for the rookie. I was particularly impressed with the way he pressed the frontside on zone runs, even if he didn’t always make the right read. Pressing the frontside will open up backside runs down the line.
- Left sided dominance
Credit Jason Peters and Isaac Seumalo, their double teams are amongst the nastiest in the NFL. Seumalo compliments Peters nicely.
- Dime package disaster
Andrew Sendejo is a good special teamer no doubt, but he showed his limitations on defense, giving up the long Vernon Davis touchdown.
- Jackson quiet
Quite how good this defense ends up depends on Malik Jackson. He was fairly quiet in his opening game as an Eagle, also suffering an injury.