A good trip to London for the Birds
It was a record-breaking day for the NFL in London. Over 85,000 fans were in attendance and most of that is thanks to Eagles fans. StubHub shared earlier in the week that this was the most purchased NFL London ticket yet, and 41% of those tickets were sold in Pennsylvania. Let’s also not forget that the Eagles have a hefty fanbase in the UK already.
This was a must-win game for the Philadelphia Eagles and that was no secret. I mentioned last week that the Eagles had problems, but the Jaguars had PROBLEMS. If the Eagles played their game the way they should, they could easily take advantage of the Jags issues and get back to .500. The Eagles played a decent game. Here are a few things to love and hate after today’s game.
Thing to hate #1: LaRoy Reynolds and DJ Alexander
Let’s start with the things to hate just to get them out of the way first. I don’t want to harp too much on the negative because at the end of the day we still got the win and that’s all I care about today.
First, Reynolds and Alexander. We are only seeing these guys play on special teams and even that is too much. Of the 13 special teams penalties this year, Alexander and Reynolds account for four of them. On top of that, for some reason, they are in there on every play talking trash and pushing and shoving as well. It seems like on every special teams play one of those guys is being grabbed by a teammate trying to avoid another stupid penalty. I can’t stand it and I know I can’t be the only one.
Thing to hate #2: Why does it seem like Duce Staley and Doug Pederson aren’t communicating as much?
Last year, Mike Groh handled the passing game, Duce Staley was in charge of the running backs rotation, Doug Pederson called the plays, and Frank Reich was the voice of reason within the whole offensive operation. It seems like Staley is not communicating with Pederson when it comes to the running back rotation. The Eagles have been running back by committee for the last two years. This year, obviously, the Eagles are a little depleted at the running back position. However, when it comes to playing the right backs in the right situations, there should be no reason for errors there.
For example, when the Eagles run an outside zone play, it always seems to be Josh Adams running the ball. He’s 6’2″ and 225 pounds. That play just doesn’t fit his style of running. He’s a bigger back that’s better suited for running downhill than on the edges. Those types of plays should be a role for Corey Clement. Granted, Clement has been struggling a little bit out of the backfield this season. Adams was also the hot hand for the day.
Thing to hate #3: Two players who I don’t want to see on the field anymore: Josh Perkins and Dexter McDougle
Yikes. These two. I love the aggressiveness not shying away from Jalen Ramsey. However, when you’re in the red zone and Ramsey is covering Perkins of all people?! 10/10 times I am NOT throwing that ball. That’s terrible. Please don’t ever put Perkins on the field in the red zone ever again unless it’s solely for blocking purposes. And even then it’s still questionable. Granted, Wentz does sometimes have a tendency to hold the ball too long and try to force plays, but still. Never to Perkins.
And freakin’ McDougle. I get that the secondary is depleted. And it gets worse with Jalen Mills getting hurt. I don’t understand last week without Sidney Jones why Mills wasn’t moved inside and Rasul Douglas was played on the outside. But that was last week. Today? McDougle was just horrendous all over the field. I really hope Jones is healthy for next week. Or maybe the Eagles trade for Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Whichever really.
Thing to LOVE #1: There were blitzes!
Let’s move on to some positives from a much-needed win!
Somewhere pigs are flying! Maybe there is something different in the water in London. Who knows. But, I finally saw Jim Schwartz be aggressive and make some adjustments during the game. There were a few plays where we all wanted to pull out our hair for sure. But there were changes made. The defense rushed more than four players which were lovely to see. They didn’t spend the entire game playing prevent defense. Not only that, but Schwartz also made in-game adjustments in the fourth quarter. After the Jags converted a 4th & 1 by a Blake Bortles scramble, on the next fourth down play, that ended the game, Schwartz had Jordan Hicks stay in the middle, spying on Bortles to avoid that same mistake.
THIS was the Schwartz that helped the Eagles win a Super Bowl.
Thing to love #2: Wendell Smallwood deserves a lot of credit
Smallwood has stepped up in a big way this year. He really has taken advantage of his opportunities on the field and made them count, especially today in London. Today Smallwood had 24 yards on eight carries. While that doesn’t sound like much, he fought hard for the extra yardage in a few crucial situations. He also had two receptions for 42 yards and a touchdown.
Wendell Smallwood puts it away and the Eagles get back to .500 at 4-4. pic.twitter.com/oLSHte7vyX
— The Bitter Birds (@AdrianFedkiw) October 28, 2018
He’s not great at pass-blocking, but when the ball is in his hands, he’s been extremely productive.
Thing to love #3: Keeping with the running backs – the Eagles struck gold AGAIN with an undrafted RB
Adams had a great game today. He ran hard and finished his runs well. On the ground, Adams had nine rushes for 61 yards. Same as Smallwood, some of those came in hugely crucial situations to get first downs and keep the offense rolling. The chatter has been that the Eagles couldn’t strike gold twice, lightning doesn’t strike twice, blah blah blah. If Adams builds from this and continues running the same way, the Eagles got a good one. And it’s always awesome when the player is a hometown kid too.
Josh Adams keeping the legs churning pic.twitter.com/L24xx5VBs4
— The Bitter Birds (@AdrianFedkiw) October 21, 2018
Thing to love #4: Jordan Matthews belongs in an Eagles jersey catching passes from Carson Wentz
JMatt had a big day for the Birds today. He pulled in four catches for 93 yards, a few of them coming on crucial third down plays. They really are starting to get that chemistry back and Matthews isn’t drawing as much attention as Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor. Signing Matthews was a really good idea and is playing out well for the Eagles.
Fantastic play by Wentz of stepping up in the pocket on 3rd-and-14 and hitting Jordan Matthews in stride for 31 yards pic.twitter.com/bNPMbzZFnz
— The Bitter Birds (@AdrianFedkiw) October 28, 2018
Thing to love #5: The Eagles actually completed the big plays today
First of all, I love seeing Carson Wentz out there running again. Every time someone gets near him I hold my breath, but one of the best things about Wentz is his aggressiveness. Not only was Wentz ducking out of sacks, avoiding defenders, and extending plays with his legs, but the Eagles completed five plays of 30+ yards. Coming into this game, the Jaguars had been the best defense against the big plays. The Eagles were able to take advantage of their struggling defense, depleted secondary, and unpaid bar tabs.
The season is NOT over yet
This was a must-win game for the Eagles to get some momentum going into the bye week. They needed to come home from London with a win. Now, they can take some time to really get some guys healthy. Hopefully, those guys include Darren Sproles, Mills, and Jones. There is still a lot of football left, including five games in the division. The Eagles need to come out of the bye locked in, continuing to play their high powered level of offense and aggressive defense.
For now, let’s enjoy today’s win and look forward to the trade deadline. There were some ugly things about today’s game, but the Eagles still came out with the win. That’s all that matters. They’re back to .500 and have control of their own destiny from here. The division is still wide open. There are still some things that need to be cleaned up and now is the perfect time.
The trip to London was a success. Next up, Dallas.
Stats from NFLpenalties.com, NFL.com