For the first time in Doug Pederson's tenure as head coach here in Philadelphia, the Eagles are 0-1 to start the season. They did so in disappointing fashion, as they jumped out to a 17-0 lead with the offense humming to start the game. It was for naught, however, as the team gave up 27 straight points with three turnovers and eight sacks, with missed opportunities abound, as they begin this unique 2020 campaign with a loss.
In this piece, I will look at some of those negative plays, the same as the team will early this week as they look to correct issues before their Week 2 matchup with Los Angeles. But we'll also look at the bright spots as well, because after looking at the film there were more positive takeaways than first glance while watching on television. Before we get to those, the big story is obviously the sacks. Wentz was sacked a career-high eight times against Washington, and it's tough to win when you allow that many negative plays on offense. That included a sack-fumble in the fourth quarter to go along with a pair of interceptions. Here are the negative plays, and how they unfolded in the game.
The big takeaway for me when watching all 10 of those plays?
These are all correctable issues.
The timing was not great on the interceptions, particularly on the second one in the direction of Hightower. On those sacks, there were some missed assignments, some bad luck, and some great plays made by the defense. Could Wentz have thrown a couple of those away or into the dirt? You could make that argument. That's easy for me to say watching from the studio live or from 1,000 feet up watching the All-22, but I've always said that I'd rather have the aggressive quarterback who needs to be reined in over the tentative quarterback who you need to light a fire under. The big thing is that these are all correctable issues across the board, and the Eagles will put the work in to get them fixed for Week 2.
We knew that there was potential for sloppy play early on. Washington was able to capitalize on these mistakes and make the most of them. Those negative plays are extremely tough to overcome, not only over the course of a game, but also from drive to drive. The Eagles began the game 4-of-5 on third down, and only converted once more after that because they were behind the sticks way too often.
No. | Situation | Result | Note
1 | 3rd-and-5 | Gain of 5 | Wentz draws Washington offsides
2 | 3rd-and-7 | Gain of 5, Penalty | Wentz draws Washington offsides
3 | 3rd-and-2 | Gain of 7, First Down | Ertz reception
4 | 3rd-and-22 | Gain of 44, First Down | Reagor catch
5 | 3rd-and-5 | Punt | Sack
6 | 3rd-and-8 | Gain of 11, First Down | Ward catch
7 | 3rd-and-20 | Punt | Scott catch
8 | 3rd-and-7 | Gain of 10, First Down | Ward catch
9 | 3rd-and-17 | Gain of 12, Punt | Scott catch
10 | 3rd-and-10 | Punt | Deep shot incomplete to DeSean Jackson
11 | 3rd-and-15 | Gain of 13 | Draw Play by Scott
12 | 3rd-and-7 | Sack | Missed FG
13 | 3rd-and-7 | Gain of 5, Penalty | Wentz draws Washington offsides
14 | 3rd-and-2 | Gain of 2, First Down | Wentz QB Sneak
15 | 3rd-and-4 | Punt | Incomplete Pass to Ward
16 | 3rd-and-26 | Punt | Deep shot incomplete to Jackson
17 | 3rd-and-3 | Punt | Deep shot incomplete to Jackson
That's a lot of third-and-long situations there. Too many. When the Eagles had the issues running the ball that they did, paired with the problems they had in protection, there were too many bad plays early in drives that set the offense back and they struggled to recover.
One guy who showed up a couple of times on that chart is Greg Ward. I thought he had a sneaky good game. I know the final stat line isn't jaw-dropping, but he showed up a couple of times on third down in the way that you want a reliable slot receiver to show up.
One of the players who I was most excited to watch the film of this morning was Jalen Reagor. How would the rookie first-round pick look in his first NFL game? We all saw the deep bomb for 55 yards. Here's what I saw on the play, and what Reagor can improve on moving forward.
Reagor's vertical route running was one of the things I loved about him at TCU (which I talked about in my Rookie Film Room segment from back in the summer). Seeing him not only create that separation, but then run away from the speedy Ronald Darby and track the ball the way that he did over the shoulder for the big play? That was a thing of beauty. That got me excited. To paint the full picture, he sure has some things to work on as well. The timing was off with Wentz on a couple of throws in the deep and intermediate areas of the field, and he missed a block on a bubble screen to the left side as well, but I thought it was a really nice showing.
One other rookie stood out to me on film. I thought Jack Driscoll really had a solid debut. Is he going to wow anyone with his physical tools? No. Did he have a mental breakdown or two? Yes. We saw that on the first sack of the game in the clip above. But Driscoll saw several reps against Chase Young and Ryan Kerrigan and more than held his own. It wasn't perfect, but I thought it was a really impressive debut for the rookie fourth-round pick.
Schematically, there were a bunch of things that I really liked from this game, and it started from the opening drive. Obviously with no Miles Sanders, who is one of the most diverse playmakers in the offense, the Eagles had to find the most creative ways to get their top eligible receivers on the field. With that in mind, we saw a handful of snaps of 02 personnel (0 running backs, 2 tight ends – and three receivers).
In this package, the Eagles spread the defense out in an empty set, forcing them to declare the coverage.
What does that mean? It means that they basically had to show their cards pre-snap. If you have a tight end lined up all the way outside and a receiver in the slot, and you match to that with a cornerback over the tight end and a linebacker over the receiver? That's a tell-tale sign that you're playing zone. Likewise, if you have that linebacker out over the tight end and a cornerback in the slot against the receiver, that's a giveaway that you're playing man coverage.
This is one of the big benefits of empty formations. Yes, you leave yourself vulnerable in protection, but since you are vulnerable in protection, the ball is likely to come out quickly. Since the ball comes out quickly, the defense doesn't have time to disguise things before the snap, hence the "declaration" of its coverage.
We saw this 02 personnel on a couple of key plays for the Eagles, once on a third-down conversion to Zach Ertz, and again on a deep touchdown pass from Wentz to Dallas Goedert. Will this package continue when Sanders returns to the lineup? We'll have to wait and find out, but I love the use of an exotic personnel grouping out of an empty set to exploit matchups and make decisions easy for the quarterback.
Early in the game, the Eagles did similar things out of their staple 12 personnel look, which they ran an NFL-high 57 percent of the time on Sunday (tip of the cap to Sheil Kapadia on that number). Here's how the Eagles came out of the gate attacking the Washington defense.
This drive was a thing of beauty, as they were able to move the ball down the field with a heavy dose of 12 personnel, utilizing tight formations and various receiver distributions to dictate to the defense. By lining up different backs and tight ends around the formation, the Eagles were able to get answers to Wentz pre-snap (much in the same way the empty set does) and the tight formations (with everyone lined up inside the numbers) forced the defense to back off in coverage while also running a safety low to the line to help against a potential run. This was a well-scripted opening to the game, and it ended with an awesome red zone concept to get into the end zone. That's what this offense should look like more often than not!
On the defensive side, I thought there were a lot of really good things. The defensive line only turned in a couple of sacks, but I thought the pressure was consistent. All of Washington's scoring drives started in the Eagles' end of the field. The Eagles forced a few three-and-outs. Coverage was tight for most of the game. The Eagles kept Washington to 2.2 yards per carry on the ground, and the defensive line was able to get after quarterback Dwayne Haskins. To no one's surprise, Fletcher Cox and Malik Jackson were the most dominant up front.
Both Cox and Jackson won with power, strength, technique, and effort. Their impact was felt in a number of ways. Seeing them both healthy on the field at the same time was a sight to see, and I can't wait to see what this group looks like when Javon Hargrave returns to the fold as well.
Another guy who stood out to me was defensive end Josh Sweat, who was able to get home for a sack-fumble and was excellent against the run all day as well.
Last, but certainly not least, was Darius Slay. As expected, Big Play Slay was matched up one-on-one with Terry McLaurin throughout the day. The results? One catch for 21 yards, that's what McLaurin got when matched up with Slay one-on-one in man coverage. That's what the Eagles were looking for when they made that trade this offseason.
This was certainly a disappointing start to the season, coughing up a game that was well within their grasp early on. That being said, these are all problems that can be fixed, but it will require better communication and execution on Sunday against a tough opponent in the Los Angeles Rams.
Fran Duffy is the producer of the Emmy-nominatedEagles Game Planshow which can be seen every gameday during the season on NBC10 in Philadelphia. He is also the host of two Eagles-related podcasts,Eagle Eye in the Sky, which examines the team from an X's and O's angle each and every week as well as theJourney to the Draft podcast, which covers college football and the NFL Draft all year round. Fran also authors the Eagle Eye in the Sky column, which runs four times a week during the football season to serve as a recap for the previous game and to preview the upcoming matchup. Prior to joining the Eagles in 2011, Duffy was the head video coordinator for the Temple University football team under former head coach Al Golden. In that role, he spent thousands of hours shooting, logging, and assisting with the breakdown of the All-22 film from the team's games, practices, and opponents.