Let’s agree the first half of Sunday’s game was actually the Eagles’ preseason. The boys needed to shake off the rust and figure out how to play in synch.
So they were down 17-0 to Washington before some fans even settled into their seats. Those paying customers — rightly — throatily expressed their shock and displeasure.
Ah, but then came the third quarter and the real 2019 Eagles showed up. At least we hope that’s the real Eagles. The Birds scored on all four second-half drives and held the ball for more than 21 minutes. Ignore Washington’s garbage-time TD and it was as lopsided a half as we’ve ever seen.
Anyway, with a tough matchup coming at Atlanta next Sunday night, here are four quick observations on the opener and the season ahead:
1) Carson Wentz is headed for an MVP year. The QB — who takes too much heat around these parts — was outstanding Sunday. My eyes tell me that. The stats back it up.
The most amazing number from this game: Wentz overthrew his first third-down attempt, and then went 12-for-12 for 197 yards and three TDs. Both bombs to DeSean Jackson came on 3rd-and-10. By the way, those passes should quell for a while the snark that says Wentz can’t throw the deep ball.
In 2017, Wentz was outstanding on third down and in the red zone. Last year, not so much. With all the weapons at his disposal now, he’s primed to put up extraordinary stats — and wins.
2) Doug Pederson has the biggest onions in the league. The coach twice went for it on fourth down Sunday — once from his own 34. He passed up a prospective 46-yard Jake Elliott field goal early and then bypassed Elliott again by dialing up a successful two-pointer while ahead by seven in the fourth quarter.
Fans always want the coach to go for it — at least those who don’t own Elliott in fantasy football. Doug’s one of the few who actually has the guts to do it. For a guy who says his favorite ice cream flavor is vanilla, he sure doesn’t act like it.
3) The Eagles flaw right now is the pass rush. Well, that and some extraordinarily weak tackling in the secondary, where Ronald Darby moonlights as a matador.
Case Keenum attempted 45 passes Sunday and the Eagles sacked him just once. That came from Tim Jernigan who, along with Fletcher Cox and Malik Jackson, gives the Birds a solid triumvirate of defensive tackles — although Jackson left the game late with a possible foot injury.
But the defensive ends are another story. Much more pressure has to come from Derek Barnett and Brandon Graham when this team faces QBs superior to Keenum. That starts next Sunday with Matt Ryan.
Oh, and it wouldn’t hurt if defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz dialed up a blitz every once in a while.
4) The run still matters. Many analysts insist that establishing the run is a relic of the Lombardi Era, but Pederson himself said after Sunday’s game that sticking to the ground game opened things up for Wentz and his receivers.
The Eagles ran 31 times Sunday – and that doesn’t count the Miles Sanders TD run that was called back for holding. Curiously, Pederson decided to feature Darren Sproles with nine carries (plus three receptions), perhaps because he trusts the veteran Sproles more than this year’s additions.
Personally, I’d like to see more of newcomer Jordan Howard, who had 44 yards on just six carries. I suspect we will as the season progresses.
So the Eagles survived, and in the second half, they thrived. It’s going to be a thrill ride of a season.