It’s always good to start your football season with a win. It’s especially good when that win is a 13-point road victory against a divisional opponent you haven’t beaten in five straight matchups. Carson Wentz played like a future franchise quarterback, but he wasn’t the only reason the Philadelphia Eagles won. Here are five key takeaways from the Week 1 victory.
Carson Wentz showed impressive pocket poise and the ability to escape in the pocket.
Remember when Carson Wentz escaped a sack and threw a deep touchdown pass to Nelson Agholor? That’s why Howie Roseman traded up to grab Wentz in the 2016 draft. Wentz is big, strong, tough to bring down, and can move surprisingly well for a big man. He’s not always pinpoint accurate with his passes, but he plays like Brett Favre in that he’s not afraid to take chances. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it’s a poor choice (like Wentz’s decision to try to throw the ball left-handed). Still, Wentz finished with 307 yards and two touchdown passes. He threw a pick-six, but also added a successful two-point conversion attempt and took just two sacks for nine yards, despite the offense losing Jason Peters to injury early on.
Former first-round bust Nelson Agholor showed strong signs of life.
After two miserable NFL seasons, the Eagles believed in Nelson Agholor enough this offseason to trade away Jordan Matthews. Agholor rewarded them well today, catching a 58-yard touchdown in the first quarter and finishing with six catches for 86 yards and a touchdown on eight targets. That tied Agholor for the team lead in targets. It’s nice to see such a respectable performance from a player who had shown almost nothing in two years with the team.
The Wentz-to-Ertz connection is clicking.
With Jordan Matthews now in Buffalo, Zach Ertz is clearly Carson Wentz’s favorite target. How effective was the Wentz-to-Ertz connection? On eight passes to Ertz, Wentz threw for 93 yards. He completed all eight passes. The last time an Eagles player was targeted at least eight times and caught them all? Try Ertz against the New York Giants last year, when Wentz was 8-for-8 for 97 yards. The time before that? It was Ertz again, this time with Sam Bradford going 9-for-9 with 152 yards against the Giants.
Good luck to opposing offensive coordinators in trying to stop that front seven.
The Eagles’ defense registered four sacks, forced three fumbles, recovered two, scored a game-sealing touchdown, and held the Washington running game to just 64 scoreless ground yards. Fletcher Cox is an unblockable interior defensive lineman who is justifying his $100 million contract. He put the game away by returning Kirk Cousins’ fumble for a touchdown (was it a bad call by the refs? Yes. But don’t let it negate the kind of game by this Eagles’ front seven).
The real defensive MVP though was Brandon Graham, who was absolutely relentless all game. Graham had two sacks, forced a fumble, and was constantly a monster against both the pass and the run. New Eagle Timmy Jernigan had a sack. Jordan Hicks recovered a fumble. Mychal Kendricks was tough against the run. The Eagles’ next opponent, Andy Reid, drafted Graham and Kendricks, but even he will struggle to scheme to stop them.
The Eagles will miss cornerback Ronald Darby.
Howie Roseman pulled off an interesting trade last month to acquire third-year cornerback Ronald Darby, sending Jordan Matthews and a draft pick for Darby. That’s why it was so unfortunate to see Darby go down with what turned out to be a dislocated ankle in his first game with the Eagles. Fortunately, Jalen Mills stepped up with a huge turnover when the Eagles needed it. But this will force rookie third-rounder Rasul Douglas – who was inactive today – into a more prominent role, and he may not be ready. In a division that includes Odell Beckham, Jr. and Dez Bryant, that could spell trouble.