McLane's Game Review: Grading the Eagles vs. Chargers
Position-by-position grading of the Eagles following their 33-30 loss to the Chargers on Sunday:
Quarterback – Grade: A-
Michael Vick set a career mark with 428 yards passing and completed 24 of 37 (64.9 percent) attempts in a performance that was both excellent and poised. He tossed two touchdown passes and would have had four if not for a drop and a penalty. Vick also ran for fourth quarter 2-yard touchdown that gave the Eagles their only lead in the game. He wasn't perfect, but he didn't turn the ball over once and was virtually everything Chip Kelly should want out of his quarterback. Vick failed to hook up with DeSean Jackson on three long passes in which the wide receiver beat his man, but an argument could be made in each case that he wasn't 100 percent at fault. On the first throw, the pass was slightly awry, but Jackson drifted out of the bounds. With the second, Vick was crushed by Chargers linebacker Dwight Freeney just after he released a pass that overshot Jackson. And on the third, the ball was slight overthrown, but it hit Jackson's fingertips and he bobbled it to the ground.
The pair finally hooked up in the third quarter when Vick heaved a perfectly-placed pass that Jackson took for a 61-yard score. Vick had many other great throws. He displayed nice touch on the short flick to running back LeSean McCoy that he took 70 yards. His second-quarter touchdown pass to Riley Cooper was thrown just behind the receiver where the defender had no chance to deflect it. He made a good read on a corner blitz in the fourth, dumping a pass to McCoy, who ran 11 yards for a first down. He zipped fourth quarter passes to Jason Avant and Jackson over the middle. He effectively used his legs on drive that culminated in his run into the end zone, darting eight and nine yards in the read option.
Vick still had moments when he didn't appear to be making the correct read in the zone read as he's "riding the running back." He fumbled the ball out of bounds when he tried to hold back a pass. And he had several misfires. Nick Foles jumped in for Vick after he took a crunching blow late in the fourth and was forced to sit out a play. He lofted a fade pass to Jackson that was out of bounds.
Running back – A-
McCoy finished with only 11 carries for 53 yards, but he caught 5 passes for 114 yards. He continued to elude tacklers and showed power running, as well. On a third down and four in the first, McCoy lowered his head and picked up the first down with little room to run. He gained nine yards later in the quarter when he danced past a Charger that had slipped away from a Brent Celek block. McCoy faked out three defenders and picked up as many yards backed up against the goal line in the second. He picked up a short third down later in the drive and wisely picked up the ball and handed it back to the official to help keep the up-tempo offense moving. McCoy skipped out of one would-be tackle during his 70-yard catch. He fared well when asked to stay in block as he did during a Vick-to-Jackson 17-yard completion in the fourth. And he sealed safety Eric Weddle when Vick jogged untouched into the end zone. Bryce Brown played nine snaps on offense, rushed three times for 13 yards and was called for a fourth quarter false start.
Wide receiver – A-
Jackson had one of the best games of his career catching nine passes for 193 yards. He caught deep passes, intermediate ones on crossing patters and short screens. He gained 72 of his yards after the catch including a large chunk on a 41-yard grab over the middle. Cornerback Shareece Wright had no answers for Jackson, especially on fly routes. He also blocked well, helping tight end Zach Ertz on a 27-yard reception in the fourth. Jackson's one mistake was costly. He took a personal foul for unsportsmanlike conduct after Vick's touchdown.
Cooper played more snaps than Jackson (56 to 54), but was targeted only three times. He caught two passes for 23 yards, including his score. Cooper showed impressive body control on the red zone touchdown. He had a decent downfield block on McCoy's 70-yard catch. Avant tallied four receptions for 39 yards and reeled in a tough five-yard catch for a key third down conversion in the third. Damaris Johnson had four snaps and Jeff Maehl had three. Neither was targeted.
Tight end – B-
Celek was on the field more than any other tight end as the Eagles mostly employed "11" personnel (1 RB, 1 TE and 3 WRs). His only target came on the Birds' last drive. He was an inconsistent blocker, not helping Jackson much on a bubble screen and missing linebacker Larry English, which forced Vick to throw one away in the third.
Ertz played only 12 snaps but he made the best of them, pulling in two catches for 58 yards. James Casey earned three more snaps than last week's two, but dropped an apparent touchdown on the Eagles' second possession of the game. Kelly didn't challenge what was close to being a completion.
Offensive line – B+
The Eagles o-line had a few issues early, and rookie Lane Johnson took one very costly penalty, but the unit had another strong game. Left tackle Jason Peters also got off to a slow start. He couldn't contain Freeney, who hit Vick and forced a short throw on the opening drive, and he missed Weddle with a second level block that netted Brown only one yard on the ground. Peters and Johnson were side-by-side in unbalanced line formation we saw last week for two plays. It worked the first time on a short third down, but the Chargers snuffed out the second when defensive end Cory Liuget bowled over Johnson. Peters was virtually flawless the rest of the way.
Left guard Evan Mathis had a good game and made only one apparent error – when he missed Weddle and McCoy had to shake out of three tackle attempts backed up. Mathis had a strong lead block, along with center Jason Kelce on a screen pass that McCoy took 21 yards before the half. Kelce had a good pull block on linebacker Donald Butler that sprung McCoy on a 17-yard run. He also anchored against 330-pound defensive tackle Cam Thomas when Vick hit Ertz for 31 yards in the third.
Todd Herremans struggled. The right guard was driven back five yards by defensive end Jarius Wynn, who recorded the Chargers' only sack of the day. He was beat by linebacker Bront Bird when he pulled in the second and McCoy gained only a yard. Herremans had trouble with English, who ran a stunt and got in Vick's face on his final errant throw to Avant. Johnson continued to improve, but his illegal formation penalty brought back a 37-yard touchdown from Jackson in the third. The Eagles settled for a field goal. And he struggled against one of the best when Freeney bull rushed and pushed Johnson into Vick and the linebacker later put a spin move on the right tackle.
Defensive line – D
The Eagles defensive line was ineffective. The down linemen rarely got into the backfield on pass downs and didn't take on enough blockers to free up the linebackers. They didn't get much push up front against the run either. Defensive end Fletcher Cox had a few moments in the second half. He dropped Danny Woodhead for no gain in the third and forced the running back outside and into the arms of linebacker Mychal Kendricks later in the quarter. Cox also pressured quarterback Phillip Rivers up the middle and forced a short throw underneath on third down and ten. Cox and Rivers got into it after the play and Cox threw him to the ground. When Rivers tried to grab the end's hand to help him up, though, Cox jerked his hand back as if to say, "I'm no gentlemen out here."
Cedric Thornton was very quiet. The end aided outside linebacker Connor Barwin on a short Ronnie Brown rush in the third and dropped running back Ryan Mathews after a one-yard gain. But Thornton did little else in 57 snaps. Nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga isn't playing a glamour position either, but he got pushed around on short downs even when singled up against Nick Harwick. Twice the center drove Sopoaga to the ground, including when Mathews converted a third down and 1 in the fourth.
The second unit line got pushed around. Bennie Logan played a few snaps with the starters and notched a tackle of Mathews. But Clifton Geathers and Damion Square were nearly invisible.
Outside linebackers – B-
Barwin started strong but seemed to fizzle late. His first quarter sack of Rivers came when he blew up rookie tackle D.J. Fluker. He also shed a block and dropped Mathews in the backfield for a 2-yard loss in the first. Barwin forced Rivers to throw a pass away on the Chargers' game-winning drive. But he failed to come up with a big third down stop when Woodhead caught a pass out of the flat and spun forward for a first down.
Trent Cole had some fine moments, but didn't get to Rivers as often as perhaps he should have faced up against former Eagles tackle King Dunlap. His finest moment came when he beat Dunlap around the edge and forced a Mathews fumble inside the ten just before the half. He drew a holding call at one point and deflected a Rivers throw when he chopped his arm in the fourth.
Brandon Graham played 16 silent snaps. Casey Matthews took four snaps and recovered a Brandon Boykin forced fumble in the second.
Inside linebackers – C
DeMeco Ryans had another solid effort, but was unproductive in the blitz. He missed two tackles – one on Woodhead during the first drive and an open field one on receiver Eddie Royal when he scored a 15-yard touchdown in the fourth. Ryans knocked out receiver Malcolm Floyd, who had been giving the Eagles secondary fits, with a body blow at the start of the second half. He was credited with nine tackles.
Mychal Kendricks drifted back to earth after a strong opener. He missed a total of three tackles and was beat in coverage a few times. He also failed to get into the backfield on blitzes. He lost Antonio Gates on a short circle route in the first in which the tight end went for 21 yards. He missed Gates later when he overran the future Hall of Famer. Kendricks did have good coverage on receiver Vincent Brown during a third down early in the fourth.
Cornerbacks – C-
With Bradley Fletcher out with the concussion, Brandon Boykin took his place and played the best of the defensive backs. He broke up two long passes to Brown and swatted Gates from behind just before he crossed the goal line in the second. He also had Brown blanketed on successive throws in the third. Boykin gave up a few completions – a 19-yard catch by Floyd and a 16-yard grab by receiver Keenan Allen -- but his coverage was usually tight.
Cary Williams was as bad as he was good last week against the Redskins. He was called for three pass interference penalties and each one seemed legit with Williams grabbing the receiver's jersey. Williams also appeared to blow his quarter zone assignment when Rivers hit a wide open Royal for a 24-yard touchdown in the third. He came up and made a few strong tackles on short throws, but also missed two early ones on Woodhead and Mathews.
Brandon Hughes played outside when Boykin went in the slot and was beat by Floyd for 31 yards in man coverage in the second. He left with a hamstring injury.
Safeties – D-
Patrick Chung came up and made a few stops, but he also missed two tackles and was called for holding on a key third down in the third when he, too, held a jersey. He also bit on play action in the second when Gates caught a 16-yard pass in the second.
Nate Allen had a forgetful day. He led the Eagles in tackles with ten, but most came after significant damage had been done. He got off to a bad start when Mathews ran him over for 10 yards despite his grabbing the back's face mask. He hurt himself late when he whiffed on Gates and ran into Chung. He allowed himself to get taken out when a receiver ran a pick and Royal took a short pass and ran 11 yards for a touchdown. He was clobbered by Dunlap on Royal's 15-yard score. And he couldn't cover Gates on back-to-back catches – 15 and 21 yards -- to open the Chargers' game-winning drive.
Rookie Earl Wolff played 49 snaps a week after playing only eight and will start ahead of Allen in no time. He, too, made his share of errors. He took poor routes to tackle Gates on 24-yard and 21-yard catches and ran into Williams when Woodhead dropped a pass. He did come up and make two strong tackles against the run and had decent coverage when Gates couldn't hold onto a pass in the end zone in the fourth.
SPECIAL TEAMS – B
Alex Henery was wide right on a 46-yard field goal before the half, but made three others, including a 48-yarder. Colt Anderson made a number of stops on cover teams and forced Fozzy Whitaker to fumble the kickoff return after Vick's touchdown run. Henery had the best shot at the loose ball, but couldn't come up with it. Damaris Johnson had seven kick returns for a respectable 26.6-yard average. Punter Donnie Jones had three punts for 44.7 yards.