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October 06, 2019

Final observations: Eagles 31, Jets 6

Eagles NFL
100619-ZachErtz-USAToday Bill Streicher/USA Today

Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz (86) reacts after his touchdown reception against the New York Jets during the second quarter at Lincoln Financial Field.

Behind a dominant performance from their defensive line, the Eagles took care of business and blew out the New York Jets on Sunday. The 31-6 victory takes them back over .500 and puts them in a good place heading into a brutal portion of their schedule.

Here's what I saw on Sunday.

The Good

• This is Carson Wentz at his absolute best:

Wentz's attempts to avoid sacks are not always to the benefit of himself and the team, as he can leave himself susceptible to getting stripped or hit on his blindside. But his elusiveness and his drive to turn nothing into something is what helps separate him from a lot of quarterbacks around the league, and the duck on this play is only memorable because he fired an absolute strike right afterward.

• Everyone take a moment to welcome Brandon Graham to the 2019 season. It was a coming-out party for the veteran defensive end against the Jets, albeit against a brutal opponent, but the Eagles will take dominance whenever they can get it. Entering the game with no sacks to his credit through four weeks, Graham came up with a hat trick in three quarters against the Jets, including a big one to get Philly rolling on the opening possession of the game.

When Graham left the field following Philadelphia's defeat to the Detroit Lions, he looked at a local news camera on the way to the locker room and promised they'd bounce back. It didn't look great at the time, with the Eagles staring down a date with the Packers on the road with just three days of rest.

But the Eagles have indeed responded to the early adversity, and on Sunday, Graham was one of the guys leading the way. The defensive line absolutely manhandled the Jets up front, and they're the biggest reason Philadelphia is back over .500 to start a tough October.

• I'm not sure who needs to hear this — Doug Pederson, Duce Staley, or a combination of coaches on staff — but Jordan Howard needs to continue getting more touches as the season rolls on. To date, he's shown just about a perfect blend of patience and decisiveness in the backfield, minimizing negative plays and almost always picking up chunks of yards when he's handed the ball. 

Miles Sanders has been a bit more erratic toting the rock, but he has really begun to come on in the passing game recently, offering a great contrast to Howard's no-nonsense style between the tackles. Wentz connected with him on a beautiful throw down the sideline in the first half, and the more comfortable he gets in the offense, the more I'd consider using him in a gadget role.

At this point, it honestly feels like the Eagles should shorten the running back rotation to the aformentioned duo and let them go to work. Darren Sproles hit a great milestone Sunday, moving into the top five all-time in all-purpose yards, but he's not offering much they can't get elsewhere.

• I'm not sure we have talked about the season Brandon Brooks is having enough. Brooks suffered a devastating Achilles injury in January, the sort of setback that can end careers for much lighter guys, let alone an offensive lineman.

Brooks hasn't just gotten himself back on the field, he has willed his way back into form as arguably the best member of the offensive line this season. The trend continued against the Jets, as you saw him at the heart of a good play over and over again.

(Unfortunately, he was one of the only guys on the offensive line who had a decent afternoon.)

• Orlando Scandrick wasn't employed a week ago. Against the Jets on Sunday, he came up with multiple sacks, including one where he just straight-up ripped the ball from Luke Falk's hands and took it to the house for the touchdown that sealed the game for Philly.

While the game wasn't particularly close prior to Scandrick's play, the Jets had finally started to get something rolling on offense and weirder things have happened than a defensive collapse for these Eagles. Scandrick shut the door with authority, putting an end to the threat.

• As a guy who was a big booster for Daeshon Hall to get more playing time entering the season, I have to admit Josh Sweat has really started to reward the Eagles for placing so much trust in him. It has never been a mystery why they like him — he's an athletic freak who could be quite a weapon if he bulks up and hones his technique over time. We just haven't seen him turn those tools into production most of the time.

Against the Jets, Sweat had the first game I can remember of his where you really felt his presence throughout the afternoon. Picking up a sack is always good, but Sweat was productive across the board against New York. 

• Whenever you can get your franchise QB some rest at the end of the game and protect him from harm, it has been a good day. The Eagles were not at their best on the offensive side of the ball, and it's comforting to know they can play below their ability level and still stomp bad teams. They all count the same in the win column. 

The Bad

• Absolutely no issue with Pederson deciding to go for it on fourth-and-short in Jets' territory early in the second half. But the play call on the previous down is absolutely worth scrutiny. The Eagles were getting decent push on run plays all afternoon, but Pederson opted to throw instead and Dallas Goedert was unable to win a one-on-one battle, setting up the fourth down Philly failed to convert.

I'm generally on the side of playing aggressive and throwing the football, but the Eagles shied away from the run at strange times on Sunday.

• There's no need to go at him too hard at Carson Wentz on a Sunday where the Eagles won, especially because some potential big plays were erased by contact from the Jets in the secondary. If Agholor isn't interfered with on the deep shot Wentz took in the first half, that one play changes the complexion of his afternoon.

That said, the Eagles need Wentz to play better than he did as competition heats up over the next month. He was not helped by his offensive line, but Wentz was not at his sharpest. There were even some throws he completed that were behind receivers and potentially could have gone for some extra yardage with better precision.

• I'll have to wait and see what the snap count says because it's not always easy to track everyone on the field, but you could have put Sidney Jones on a milk carton Sunday afternoon. As far as I can tell, he was completely absent from the gameplan.

Jones was questionable for the game for most of this past week, so it's possible the Eagles figured they could get away with sitting him against a horrific Jets team, and that would be fair enough. Let's hope that's all this really means, because it would be a bad sign otherwise if he's getting bumped down the chart on a depleted unit.

The Ugly

• We didn't get a conclusive look on replay of Corey Clement's punt return mistake, so it's hard to say if it came off another Eagle on the way to the punt returner. If it did, it's unfortunate for Clement and he was just trying to make the best of a bad situation.

If it didn't, what a mind-numbing decision it was to try to pluck the ball out of mid-air. The Eagles were up 24-0 and absolutely cruising, and that play was enough to give the Jets a little bit of life and end Philly's shutout bid. I can imagine the defense isn't too happy about that regardless of what happened on the play.


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