Unquestionably, stock is pointing up for a Philadelphia team that thoroughly trounced the Cardinals for four quarters. But in the wake of the resounding win, and with our eyes turned to Carolina on Sunday, which Eagles are on the rise and the fall?
Stefen Wisniewski, LG: I think Wiz could hop out onto the field blindfolded, juggling flaming torches, and throw a flea-flicker to himself for a 90-yard touchdown, and Pederson would still employ a rotation at the position.
What else do you want from Wisniewski at this point? The protection for Carson was rock-solid through the opening 3 drives, on which 21 points were scored. And then–because you all know that maxim about fixing things that are definitely NOT BROKEN–Pederson swapped Stefen Wisniewski for Chance Warmack. Warmack saw an A-gap blitz, went straight deer-in-the-headlights, and the Eagles punted for the first time all game.
The numbers aren’t out just yet, but coming in to the matchup, the Eagles were averaging about twice as many yards/play with Wisniewski on the line. I can guarantee you that number didn’t change much against Arizona. Pederson has said Wisniewski has earned an uptick of playing time, so at least that encourages–but if this coaching staff is looking to develop Warmack with game reps, why isn’t Isaac Seumalo getting any looks? LG remains an enigma with an obvious solution in Stefen Wisniewski.
Vinny Curry, DE: Much-maligned Vinny Curry has successfully staved off Chris Long and Derek Barnett all season long–why? Because he’s playing some doggone good football. And Long and Barnett have performed well–specifically Long has impressed–but Vinny Curry has really shored up his run defense.
Vinny’s always been a gap-shooter. He neither likes to, nor excels at locking up with an offensive tackle and setting a defensive edge. He’d rather explode off the line, penetrate upfield, and disrupt thereby. That’s a risky style of defensive play–it can lead to some splash TFLs (think stopping the Giants on 4th and goal), and it can lead to some big runs busted open (think KC rushing TD to go up 20-13).
His off-ball explosiveness this year is as great as ever, but he’s doing very well to pick his spots and still play with some discipline. He’ll never be the greatest run defender on that line, but with the other bodies there, it isn’t too much of an issue–and the pass rush success that he’s seen helps mitigate some of those run game losses. Barnett, Long, and Curry have all played quite well–but given how much a liability Curry has been over the years, it’s great to see him kick it up a notch.
Halapoulivaati Vaitai, OT: You heard me ri–err, read me right! Big V played some solid ball in the second half, having stepped in for RT Lane Johnson. Johnson missed those last two quarters due to a head injury that seemed entirely unnoticed by the broadcast or sideline doctors. Bad look for an NFL focused on head safety.
Philly faces Carolina come Thursday, and it’s unlikely Johnson can work his way through the concussion protocol in that time frame. After so many comments regarding how different this season may be, with Lane Johnson by Carson’s side for 16 games, it looks like Big V is starting against the Panthers.
But the second-year pro, up-and-down as a rookie, seemed a bit more up this past Sunday. He’ll never be the most mobile dude, which is a big shift from the dancing bear that is Lane Johnson, but he’s exceptionally powerful and really paves the way in the run game. With starting experience under his belt, hopefully the stage won’t overwhelm him either. Cautious optimism on Big V moving into Thursday.
Rasul Douglas, CB: ‘Sul didn’t play bad, in my opinion–at least, he didn’t regress from his on-field product of the past two weeks. That’s what makes this “Stock Down” designation all the trickier. Douglas got a big vote of confidence from the coaching staff coming in to the contest on Sunday, as they emphatically declared him the starter despite Jaylen Watkins, originally over Douglas in the depth chart, returning to health.
Douglas saw the start, played his typically aggressive game, and saw dividends. He made a great tackle in a short-yardage situation on Jermaine Gresham in the flat, and had an excellent PBU after pausing for a second, thinking to jump a route, and then recovering with great burst and excellent length. He also gave up a long completion on Philly’s side of the 50 in deep off-man coverage, where he simply didn’t have the foot speed to close on J.J. Nelson as he broke off a dig right before Douglas’s eyes.
In the second half, Douglas found the bench in favor of Patrick Robinson. While it has more to do with PRob’s excellent play over the past few weeks, it speaks to how the coaching staff views Rasul. He simply can’t consistently win in off-man coverage–he isn’t agile enough. This stock down is less about Rasul’s performance and more about his window–with Darby’s return on the horizon, and Sidney Jones waiting in the wings, Douglas needs to stay on the field for every snap he can to prove his potential as a starter. This week against Carolina’s slower, but bigger WRs is right in his wheelhouse. He better feast.
Alshon Jeffery, WR: I’m running low on excuses for Alshon. I don’t have numbers yet, but a quick eye test on the broadcast verifies: Patrick Peterson didn’t track Alshon for the entirety of the game. And it’s not as if the Cardinals have any other lockdown players–no, they were comfortable with Jeffery seeing reps against non-PP players.
And while Jeffery had a good rep against Peterson on 3rd down, his day was pretty quiet–as most of his days with Philly have been. He only has one game with more than 60 yards, and has seen his targets/game steadily decrease since Week 2. Averaging 4 receptions and 50 yards per game? That’s not $14M/year production.
Will Pederson’s offense and Carson’s arm ever bear the weight of a true, dominant, target-hogging WR1? I don’t think so, frankly–why would we think so? Don’t let last week’s game skew your perspective: This offense isn’t predicated on the deep ball. Carson doesn’t need jump-ball winners, he needs separators; he doesn’t need catch-radius guys, but YAC guys. There’s value in both, don’t get me wrong–I’m just not sure Jeffery will be worth the money he demands come March.
Wendell Smallwood, RB: No Smallwood? No problem. Smallwood will have every opportunity to break this rotation and declare himself as a valuable offensive asset this year, but his stint on the bench hurt him in more than just missed playing time. While Blount saw his typical load and success, Corey Clement and Kenjon Barner proving their versatility really lowered Smallwood’s stock.
Clement struggled to get rolling on the ground (7 for 17), but he had an excellent game in pass protection and even took a little screen pass for 22 yards; Kenjon proved more special teams value than Smallwood ever has in a 76-yard punt return, adding 5 carries for 23 yards as well. The humming Eagles rushing attack–and offense as a whole–lost not a beat in Smallwood’s absence.
There’s no reason to cut Smallwood, nor am I advocating that. But this front office has invested very little in the RB position, with Pumphrey and Smallwood at the top of that poor list. It’s very conceivable that Blount, Sproles, Clement, and Barner all aren’t members of the Eagles’ roster to kickoff the 2018 season. For every game in which Smallwood’s value is diminished by the performance of these more expendable pieces, the less this front office will feel the need to retain him.
Matchups to watch in Cleveland
On today’s Locked On Eagles:
A look at the key matchups for Sunday’s matchup with the Cleveland Browns.
How will the Eagles defend the Nick Chubb-Kareem Hunt backfield?
Is this the game Doug Pederson and Carson Wentz finally get things right?
Wentz Wednesday: Week 11
On today’s Locked On Eagles:
Carson Wentz went from looking like Jameis Winston all year to Sam Bradford on Sunday
Evaluating the inconsistencies in Wentz’s throwing mechanics that were apparent against New York
Wentz deserves blame without always steering the attention to Doug Pederson and Howie Roseman
Doug and Howie on the hot seat?
On today’s Locked On Eagles:
Even in a first place position…..it is time to think big picture with the Eagles
Are Doug Pederson and Howie Roseman safe beyond 2020?
Should Jeffery Lurie continue to be patient or is a shake-up needed?