Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson and franchise quarterback Carson Wentz love them some season openers. Like last year, the duo started the year with a victory, this time a 30-17 win over the Washington Redskins.
In typical Philly fashion, however, the Eagles might have managed to both lose and win at the same time. How? Take a look at our winners and losers from the season opener.
Loser: Fans With Weak Stomachs
Philadelphia’s cornerback situation was so bad during the preseason that de facto GM, Howie Roseman, traded a 3rd round pick to Buffalo for Ronald Darby. The presence of the third year defensive back calmed the fears of Eagles fans since Darby is a legitimate NFL starter. That lasted less than one half.
Darby suffered an ankle injury that looked bad right off the bat. When a player’s foot is going the wrong way, that’s a problem. While the team is saying that the injury is an ankle dislocation and not a break, it seems likely that he’s gone for a while. Whether he’s done for the year or not won’t be known until an MRI can be done.
Winner: Carson Wentz
The second year signal caller started the year with a highlight that fans will see a lot during the season. Under heavy pressure on the team’s first drive, Wentz dodged a bevy of pass rushers and lofted a 58-yard touchdown pass to Nelson Agholor.
The Eagles franchise quarterback completed 66.7 percent of his passes (26-39) and added a second touchdown toss to LeGarrette Blount. He also threw a pick-6 on a tipped ball, but that was about the only blemish.
Loser: Eagles Offensive Line
Coming into the season, some experts thought that Philadelphia might have one of the league’s best lines. They sure didn’t look like that in the season opener. Wentz was only sacked twice, but he was under pressure on a regular basis.
The Eagles also couldn’t get their running game going. Blount led the team with a paltry 46 yards, and averaged just 3.3 yards per carry doing it. That was the highlight. As a team, Philadelphia managed only 2.2 yards per carry.
Even better, the Eagles were without All-Pro tackle Jason Peters in the second half after he suffered a groin injury. Backup tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai handled things better this time around when he was thrust into action. Still, any extended absence by Peters is a big problem.
Winner: Nelson Agholor
After Jordan Matthews was traded in the Darby deal, observers were cautiously optimistic that Agholor could manage to take over at least some of Matthews’ production.
The third year wideout from USC proved that his offseason improvement wasn’t a mirage, finishing with six catches for 86 yards. Both totals were good for second on the team, behind Wentz’s security blanket, Zach Ertz.
Loser: Alshon Jeffery
The Eagles came into the game wanting to get the ball into the hands of Jeffery. Their biggest name free agent was brought in specifically to give Wentz a true number one receiver to work with.
Jeffery finished with three catches, on seven targets, for just 38 yards. He did catch a meaningless 2-point conversion to finish off Philadelphia’s scoring, but the Eagles will need more going forward.
Winner: Jalen Mills
Mills, the second-year defensive back, was the “other” corner heading into the game. After Darby left the game, the pressure was on Mills to lock down his side of the field. The LSU product didn’t flinch.
Mills made perhaps the defensive play of the game when he picked off Kirk Cousins in the red zone as the Redskins were driving for the go-ahead score. While it’s not optimal to have a DB lead the team in tackles, Mills did rack up a team leading nine takedowns.
Winner: Brandon Graham
Mills came up with his interception thanks to the pressure that Graham put on Cousins. He proved once again that he is the best defensive end on the Eagles.
Graham had two sacks and sealed the game by knocking the ball away from Cousins during the final two minutes, leading to Fletcher Cox‘s return for a touchdown. Sure, replays pretty clearly showed that Cousins’ arm was moving forward, but that’s beside the point. Graham was a monster in the opener.
Loser: Eagles Defensive Ends Not Named Graham
Graham was awesome, but his fellow defensive ends did not fare anywhere near as well. Vinny Curry, the starter on the other side, is under pressure because his contract suggests an impact that he’s never managed. If his play doesn’t improve, he better hope that he’s been saving a good bit from that hefty contract.
First round draft pick Derek Barnett learned that there’s a big difference between the preseason and the regular season. In fairness to the rookie, there was one play where he was blatantly held without getting the call. Free agent signee Chris Long looked a lot like the player Bill Belichick stopped playing during the New England Patriots Super Bowl run. The Eagles have to have someone besides Graham step up.
Winner: Eagles Defensive Tackles
The defensive line as a whole looked good thanks to the play of the starting tackles, Cox and Timmy Jernigan. The pair made life miserable for the interior of the Washington offensive line. Their play was a big part of Philadelphia limiting the Redskins to just 64 yards rushing. While that still topped what the Eagles managed, it was notable because Washington totaled over 200 yards on the ground when the teams met in Landover last season.
Besides scoring the touchdown that sealed the game, Cox also forced Cousins into another fumble on the Redskins second possession. Not to be outdone, Jernigan also notched his first sack in an Eagles uniform. If they can play like that on a consistent basis, Jim Schwartz’s defense has a chance to hum.
Loser: Howie Roseman
After drafting a pair of offensive linemen in the 2016 draft (Vaitai and starting left guard Isaac Seumalo), Roseman elected to ignore the position during this year’s draft. The team kept only eight offensive linemen on the roster and that could become a major talking point if the 35-year-old Peters has to miss much time.
Similarly, Roseman talked up the running back crop prior to the last draft and then waited to take one. The Eagles finally selected Donnel Pumphrey, who barely made the team, in the fourth round. With the performance of non-first round rookie runners Kareem Hunt and Tarik Cohen, the Eagles lack-of-a running game is glaring.
While Roseman did try hard to work out the team’s cornerback conundrum, it’s still an issue. Having neither of his draft picks at the position, Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas, ready to play makes Darby’s injury sting that much more.
Winner: Free Agent Kickers
Eagles kicker Caleb Sturgis reportedly suffered a hip flexor early in the game but continued to kick. While he missed an extra point, he did hit all three of his field goal attempts. By the end of the game, though, he was clearly in pain, which necessitated the team going for two after their final touchdown.
If Sturgis can’t kick, Philadelphia will have to bring someone in for at least a week to handle those duties. One would imagine that kicking rejects like Josh Lambo and Roberto Aguayo are anxiously checking their cell phones right now.