Philadelphia marched into Miami and dropped 38 points on the Dolphins defense. Eagles defenders garnered two sacks and four turnovers. Best of all, they got through their third game without a significant injury to a starting player. In Philadelphia, fans are in full panic mode.
For every positive point, a concerning counterpoint raised its ugly head. Miami’s defense caused three fumbles (one lost) and grabbed two interceptions. The lone sack doesn’t reflect the pressure placed on Eagles quarterbacks. Starting quarterback Carson Wentz was hit, bent, and forced to dodge pressure on 64% of his pass attempts (according to Pro Football Focus).
With that kind of pressure, the Eagles’ concerns about backup Nick Foles’ sore arm are mounting. He did not suit up for this game, leaving Matt McGloin (who led a touchdown drive against the Dolphins’ first team defense) and Dane Evans to run the offense.
Philly’s defense gave up 31 points, including 24 in the first-half with the starters on the field. Special teams did well overall but allowed over 25 yards per kickoff return.
What did we learn?
Philadelphia’s alleged strong points might not be as strong as proclaimed. Expected to have one of the strongest offensive lines in the league, the Eagles can’t explain how all three opponents got pressure on their quarterbacks. The running game managed to average four yards per carry, but what if LeGarrette Blount’s underwhelming performance is related to the line issues, too?
Coaches claim there has been no game planning specific to opponents’ weaknesses thus far. They expect such planning to show results in the regular season.
Carson Wentz had a solid game under duress. His best play was almost a disaster. He got tripped by his own lineman, picked himself up, spun away from a defender and hit Zach Ertz for a solid gain. He also broke away from a would-be sacker and showed an ability to get off good throws while evading pressure.
He found Torrey Smith wide open for a 50-yard touchdown. Alshon Jeffery also had a touchdown among his two catches and 35 yards. Zach Ertz reminded the new receivers he is part of the equation with three catches and 44 yards.
Meanwhile, Wendell Smallwood didn’t make LeGarrette Blount’s interview questions any easier. Blount rattled off a nice 16-yard run but finished with only three more yards on three carries. Smallwood put up seven yards per carry on the night.
Carson Wentz did nothing to quiet predictions of a 2017 breakout. By hitting each of his new wide receivers for touchdowns, he has Eagles fans looking for something special. Expectations are that Philadelphia’s offensive line will get straightened out, making Wentz’ job easier. If the pressure continues, Wentz’ star could fade as the season progresses… again.
Wentz is getting drafted at a 12th round ADP of QB18. Division rivals Eli Manning and Dak Prescott are being drafted just ahead of him. Philadelphia’s passer may be worth reaching over those two as your backup QB.
Blount and the Philadelphia coaches continue to say they are not worried about his slow development in Philly’s run game. The same can not be said for some Eagles fans. If Blount does not get off to a quick start, Wendell Smallwood could quickly see a bigger role.
None of the Eagles runners are getting much respect on the draft board. At first glance, Blount’s role as the workhorse back seems to warrant a higher ADP than his current 5th round RB27. But checking the board, I can’t confidently predict he will finish stronger than anyone ahead of him.
Smallwood is being drafted in round 13 at the RB61 slot. That is one spot ahead of teammate Darren Sproles. I have Sproles on my board at 40 coming off an RB30 finish a year ago. If Blount continues to falter once the regular season starts, both of his teammates could be tremendous bargains. Their upsides warrant them coming off the board earlier than the 13th round.
Alshon Jeffery is currently drafting as the WR18 (fourth round), well ahead of last season’s 40th-ranked per game average. Torrey Smith is not showing up on my top 72, which is consistent with his WR80 finish of last season. Whether Carson Wentz and the Philadelphia offense can elevate Jefferey back to top-20 status is the big question.
Nelson Agholor was being touted as a much-improved receiver and possible deep sleeper. However, in 23 snaps with Wentz at quarterback, Agholor has only been targeted once. He should not be on your draft board.
Those other fantasy guys
Zach Ertz finished 2016 as the eighth-ranked tight end in standard fantasy points. If he could cross the goal line a few more times, he has a chance to top that position this season. His ADP so far is TE11, just behind Hunter Henry in the 9th round.
Caleb Sturgis quietly registered the fourth highest fantasy point total for kickers last season. I see no indication that he could not repeat that feat this year, yet he does not crack the top 16 on kicker ADP. This could be a sneaky-good pick if you can’t get Tucker or Bryant.
Philadelphia’s defense finished in the top ten last season and spent their first three draft picks to get better. They rely on turnovers and sacks to score points and it seems to work for them. There are safer picks, but their current ADP of DST11 is about where I have them.
So, that’s that.
Philadelphia is predicted to finish anywhere from first to fourth in the NFC East this season. Wentz looks good. Blount seemed like a nice pickup. The wide receivers are upgraded. The defense got younger.
Whether that turns into a lot of fantasy points remains to be seen. Their running back situation needs to be watched. They could be the source of good replacement players if the starters get jumbled or it could become a disastrous running back-by-committee.
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