The Eagles offense looked the smoothest it has all season against the Rams. The offensive line dominated Aaron Donald, Alshon Jeffery dominated Aqib Talib, and Doug Pederson constructed a perfect game plan for Nick Foles to go out, sling it, and play loose.
With play action, run-pass option, and a strong offensive line giving Foles time, it was the perfect situation to target the Eagles best receiver in Jeffery down the field.
It was the first time since Wentz injured his back that the offense was able to take shots deep on a consistent basis.
Foles went 3-5 for 112 yards on 20+ yard throws including two “big time throws” per Pro Football Focus.
He was confident, playing loose, and deadly accurate.
While it has been a while since the offense showed their dangerous vertical threats in the passing game, this wasn’t the first time Foles or Wentz made plays on deep passes this season.
The popular belief is that Wentz was reliant on short passes to Zach Ertz all season. Wentz, Jeffery, and the offense actually made big plays more than they get credit for in 2018.
Early season connections
When Wentz came back from his ACL injury, he had a lot of success on plays 20+ yards down the field. Especially to Jeffery.
The real criticism of Wentz this year should be not giving Jeffery more chances in one on one coverage down the stretch. It wasn’t something he strayed from early on. However, these plays in Tennesee and against the Rams have been missing from the offense for the majority of the season.
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) December 17, 2018
Before the back injury, Wentz’s deep ball was fast and accurate.
There were plays to be had down the field that won’t show up on the stat sheet too. Drops like this perfect throw on the first play against the Titans to Nelson Agholor have been left out of the conversation.
While recently Wentz has over-relied on Ertz and quick passes over the middle of the field, a lot of that can be the result of a stress fracture in his back and a recovering torn ACL and LCL.
The back and leg are two of the most important body parts when it comes to throwing the ball deep.
Doug Pederson’s play calling looked like it went away from plays that got Wentz moving around, using vertical routes and play action where a lot of the Eagles big plays have come from this season.
Probably to avoid exposing Wentz to these kinds of hits Foles took last week.
Aaron Donald sent Nick Foles flying pic.twitter.com/PJjK1p3fLf
— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) December 17, 2018
— FOX Sports Radio (@FoxSportsRadio) December 17, 2018
Wentz had no issue connecting on home-run, highlight reel plays to Agholor, Jeffery, Ertz, and Torrey Smith in 2017 so to assume he suddenly has the aggression of Sam Bradford is irresponsible.
Just go through this highlight reel of Wentz throws from the first half of the season.
Even when he was injured Wentz made a few big plays with his arm.
It isn’t unfair to say the Eagles haven’t stretched the field very well as of late. Or to say they haven’t used all the weapons and areas of the field in the passing game.
Wentz needs to get that trust in his receivers back that he has with Ertz.
But to say he hasn’t made plays like Foles did on Sunday night isn’t true.
Foles and Pederson brought it back at the most important time in LA. Can’t take anything away from them.
But again, a positive take about Foles doesn’t always have to result in a negative take about Wentz.
Who could the Eagles target from 49ers?
It appears the Eagles could be cooking up another trade. This time with the San Francisco 49ers.
49ers have talked to the Eagles about a trade. All I got on that.
— Vincent Frank (@VincentFrankNFL) March 16, 2019
What could Howie Roseman be looking for from San Francisco? The Eagles have already taken care of their DT, WR, and LB needs in free agency by trading for DeSean Jackson, signing Malik Jackson, and L.J. Fort.
They locked up their offensive line core keeping Jason Peters and extending both Jason Kelce and Issac Seumalo.
They even added to the log jam that is the CB position by bringing back Ronald Darby on a one-year deal.
Here are some players the 49ers could be willing to deal to the Eagles that makes sense for Philadelphia.
RB Matt Breida
With the signing of RB Tevin Coleman, the 49ers could be looking to shop one of their running backs.
Breida makes the most sense of anyone on the 49ers for the Eagles to have interest in. At just 24, Breida is young, and on an inexpensive contract which are two things Roseman loves to deal for.
After Jerick McKinnon went down last season, Breida carried the 49ers backfield finishing with 814 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns.
He averaged 5.3 YPC and early on in the season, he was averaging over 7.0 YPC.
That fast start included a Week 2 showing against Detroit that resulted in 138 rushing yards on just 12 carries.
Breida is explosive in short areas, and has the receiving skills Doug Pederson’s offense loves to have in the backfield.
His receiving DVOA (@fboutsiders ) was 2nd in the league behind Kareem Hunt. 44.8% is outrageous.
— Gino Cammilleri (@Gino_LOE) March 16, 2019
The third year running back surpassed 1,000 yards from scrimmage and would be an all-around weapon the Eagles desperately need at RB.
RB Jerick McKinnon
If the 49ers decide to keep Breida as Coleman’s counter-part in the backfield, that could spell the end of Jerick McKinnon in San Francisco before it even got started.
The former Viking signed with the 49ers last offseason and was expected to be Kyle Shanahan’s new version of Coleman but he tore his ACL before the season started.
McKinnon still has three years left on his contract with a $5.7 million cap hit in 2019.
He is only 26 and like Breida, McKinnon can make defenses pay on the ground and through the air.
In 2017 after Dalvin Cook suffered a season-ending injury, McKinnon became an important piece to Minnesota’s offense finishing with 570 rushing yards and 421 receiving yards.
Between 2016 and 2017, McKinnon had 94 receptions. Much like in Shanahan’s offense, Pederson’s offense is better with that kind of RB.
DE Solomon Thomas
The former third overall pick in the 2017 draft hasn’t met that potential in his first two years with the 49ers.
Thomas has just four sacks in two seasons but he could be another young (24 years old), buy-low trade target Howie Roseman takes a chance on.
The 49ers would likely be more willing to deal Thomas after trading and extending DE Dee Ford. San Francisco also holds the second overall pick in a draft class that even Roseman labeled “historic” when it comes to pass rushers.
With Chris Long’s future up in the air, Thomas could be someone the Eagles bring in to compete with Josh Sweat and a rookie if Long doesn’t think more playing time is coming his way for the 2019 season.
If the Eagles do make a trade with the 49ers, San Francisco’s loaded backfield is likely where Philadelphia would like to grab a play-maker from. Expect a deal to involve a draft pick but don’t be surprised if someone like Jalen Mills is also involved.
The CB group is now six-deep after re-signing Darby. With four other young, promising corners to develop and Mills hitting free agency in 2020, it seems likely Philadelphia could look to get some value for him now.
The 49ers already have Richard Sherman and signed former Chargers CB Jason Verrett this offseason but Mills has the versatility to play outside, in the slot, or even at safety.
Mills or a late pick for McKinnon/Breida could make sense for both sides.
T.J. Yeldon fits in Philadelphia
It doesn’t appear the Eagles were in on big names at running back in free agency. Le’Veon Bell signed with the Jets. Tevin Coleman signed with the 49ers. Mark Ingram signed with the Ravens.
Seeing Ingram and Coleman’s deal both in the $5 million a year range has many scratching their heads about why the Eagles potentially didn’t pursue those two on inexpensive contracts.
While Philadelphia could have been in the hunt for both, a lack of interest would certainly concern fans that want to see the organization invest legitimate resources into the position. It is certainly something to keep a closer eye on.
Howie Roseman can be lackadaisical when it comes to RB including last year, failing to replace Jay Ajayi and Corey Clement. However, there is no need to panic just yet. The NFL Draft has talent across all seven rounds.
There are also some intriguing options still out there through trades and free agency that fit what the Eagles want to spend, and how they want to use their backs. Former Jacksonville Jaguars RB T.J. Yeldon is perhaps the most interesting option. And he would be a great fit in Doug Pederson’s offense.
An even cheaper option than Coleman and Ingram
It was a bit surprising seeing Coleman and Ingram get less than expected. If the Eagles weren’t players for either, it could be as a result of their serious interest in the draft class, or their plans to spend even less at the position.
Yeldon could be a cheaper option.
If Coleman and Ingram both got $5 million, it seems evident that Yeldon, a less proven player than the other two, would get less.
The Eagles have not spent significant dollars for a running back since Chip Kelly signed DeMarco Murray in 2015. They have targeted younger, cheaper players.
At 25 years old, Yeldon fits that mold.
The perfect complementary RB
If Yeldon and Corey Clement were the compliments to a rookie the front office invests in, it would be hard to do much better.
The former Alabama prospect has the receiving skills this Eagles offense has valued since the days of Brian Westbrook.
Yeldon has 135 catches in the last three seasons, with a career-high 55 receptions for 487 receiving yards and 4 touchdowns in 2018.
He can make some impressive plays with his hands.
The production is there but he isn’t built like other receiving-backs. At 6’2 218 pounds, Yeldon is a few inches taller, and only two pounds lighter than Jay Ajayi. The majority would agree that Ajayi’s label is that of a power runner.
That allows him to be an option in goal-line and short-yardage situations.
Chunk plays are abundant
Yeldon has the ability to turn a four-yard hole, or a three-yard check down into a 15-30 yard play. He is extremely explosive for his size and he isn’t easy to bring down when he is caught. At Alabama, Yeldon forced 54 tackles in his final collegiate season.
Having that kind of weapon with the five dangerous pass-catchers the Eagles already have could be deadly. Wendell Smallwood isn’t that weapon.
In 2018, Yeldon finished with eight receptions of 15+ yards. Four of which were above 20 yards. Tevin Coleman only had five receptions of 15+ yards.
Compared to Alvin Kamara, an elite pass-catching running back, Yeldon only had seven fewer receptions that went past 15 yards.
Moves the chains on third down
In short and long situations on third down, Yeldon was a focal point for the Jaguars.
Whether it was a passing play or a running play, he was effective in moving the chains.
Being capable of converting through the air and ground with just one running back helps make an offense less predictable.
The Eagles still have quality options if they want to add an RB before the draft. The Browns and Bears are actively shopping Duke Johnson and Jordan Howard. If the front office wants to keep their draft capital however, T.J. Yeldon could be their guy.
On today’s Locked on Eagles:
Analyzing the Eagles signing LB L.J. Fort
DeSean Jackson’s press conference was encouraging
The Giants continue their blueprint of not having a blueprint signing Golden Tate