After looking closely at all of the blitzes the Eagles ran on Sunday morning against the Jacksonville Jaguars, it’s time to look at the offense's performance heading into the team’s bye week ... and maybe chat about the addition of a productive wide receiver to the unit as well. Before we get to that though, let’s discuss Sunday’s performance because there were a lot of interesting takeaways from the game. Sure, Carson Wentz had another big performance with three touchdown passes, Dallas Goedert had a huge play, and Nelson Agholor was active down the field. First, though, I want to look at the run game.
ALL OF THE VIDEO CLIPS FEATURE AUDIO ANALYSIS FROM FRAN DUFFY
For the first time this season, I walked away from this game thinking that the Eagles' offensive line dominated up front at the point of attack in ways similar to how it did a year ago. That's crazy to think. Why? Because not only did they have to mix and match combinations with players stepping in and out of the lineup due to injury, but they were also squaring off against one of the toughest defensive fronts in football. Brandon Brooks probably had his best game of the season. Isaac Seumalo was getting good movement up front. Jason Kelce did a great job on double teams. Halapoulivaati Vaitai worked well on the right and left sides.
The Eagles' run game hasn’t had the same feel as 2017 to this point. The injuries to Jay Ajayi and Darren Sproles are partly to blame for that. I don’t know if the coaches have felt as strongly in the run game as they did a year ago for that reason. A performance like the one on Sunday, however, I think bodes well for this squad moving forward. This was a really, really good sign in my opinion for the run game.
Now let’s transition to the passing game. The first thing that stood out to me was the Eagles' use of pre-snap motion on so many of their pivotal plays.
Using motion before the snap can help manipulate defenders or create matchups but they also help to serve as a quiz for the defense. Is it man or zone coverage? If you see a receiver go in motion and the defender runs with him, that typically signals man coverage. If the defenders stay put or just slide and pass the receiver off across the field, that usually indicates zone coverage. Look at all of those plays and see how the Eagles used that knowledge before the snap to give Wentz answers early in the down as he knew where to start his progression at the start of the play.
While many of those pre-snap motions happened in the quick game, the Eagles were also very active down the field in the vertical passing attack. This was the second week in a row that the Eagles took several shots, coming from a variety of looks and to different receivers. Agholor had a couple of targets downfield. Zach Ertz. Dallas Goedert. Jordan Matthews. And soon, add Golden Tate. I expect all of these guys to be threats downfield, and I didn’t even mention Alshon Jeffery, who was occupied with Jalen Ramsey in most of this game.
Wentz didn’t have his best day on Sunday, as there were a couple of plays I’m sure he’d like to have back. However, he made some BIG-TIME plays in this game. That first throw to Matthews on the backside dig route? That’s one of the best throws I’ve seen any quarterback make all year long. That’s a combination of poise, toughness, play strength, arm strength, and accuracy. Just an awesome display of that entire combination. Wentz made some great throws and helped put his team in great position to win this game against a tough, talented defense.
Then we get to Nelson Agholor. I know the numbers haven’t been great this year, but Agholor has had to do some different things in this offense and has honestly been their most versatile player. He can line up outside or in the slot (or in the backfield, as seen above), can make plays with the ball in his hands, can work vertical, can work over the middle, be used in the screen game or as a ballcarrier on gadget plays. I think that versatility will continue to shine with the addition of a guy like Tate to this offense.
Tate was a second-round pick of the Seahawks back in 2010. This is his ninth season in the league. He’s still got more juice than you’d think and the athleticism to win one-on-one against man coverage consistently. He’s a crisp, sharp route runner who can make guys look silly at the top of his stem. Tate is also very good on double moves, something to keep an eye on moving forward.
He’s very impressive at the catch point, regularly adjusting his body to make awkward catches both in traffic and out in space. In 2017, he was targeted 120 times and caught 92 passes (76.7 percent). He’s consistently one of the top "catch percentage" receivers in football. This is where, in my opinion, the best Golden Tate trait comes on display, and that’s his competitiveness. Tate is a soul-stealer with the ball in his hands, and is consistently one of the best "YAC" receivers (yards after catch) in the game. It doesn’t matter if he’s out in space, in a phone booth, out on the perimeter in the screen game, or as a ballcarrier on jets, reverses or handoffs, this guy is a beast after the catch.
Of the 20 receivers with at least 40 receptions this season, Tate (44 catches) ranks No. 1 in average YAC per reception (6.6). That’s better than Tyreek Hill (44 for 6.3), Odell Beckham Jr. (61 for 4.1), Antonio Brown (47 for 5.9), and Stefon Diggs (58 for 4.9).
I should also note that Agholor actually ranks fourth on this list with 41 catches, averaging 5.5 yards after the catch per reception, so the Eagles now have two of the four top high-volume YAC receivers in football on the roster, paired with two other high-impact pass catchers in Jeffery and Ertz as well as an emerging threat in Goedert.
Look at all of these Tate plays with the ball in his hands!
I can’t wait to see how he fits into the offense. Something tells me we’ll get a good taste next Sunday night vs. Dallas, a team Tate posted a season-high 132 yards and two touchdowns against on September 30.
Fran Duffy is the producer of the Emmy-nominated Eagles Game Plan show 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 the Journey 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.