The Birds’ trip to Tampa Bay didn’t go as expected, as they fell victim to ‘Fitzmagic’ in suffering a disappointing loss to the Buccaneers. Here we’ll go through the performance unit by unit and hand out some grades.
Sunday’s loss was not on Nick Foles. Foles completed 35/48 attempts for 334 yards and a touchdown. He didn’t throw an interception but did lose a fumble. A parade of first quarter flags disrupted the offensive rhythm, negating several positive plays. The flow of the game dictated a pass-heavy offense from the Eagles, and Foles responded well.
Running Backs: B
The running backs performed serviceably in difficult circumstances. The Eagles were without Darren Sproles, and Jay Ajayi missed a chunk of the game after being shaken up early. When all was said and done, the Eagles had rushed for 91 yards and two touchdowns.
Corey Clement showed flashes of his electric ability, going for 85 all purpose yards on 11 touches and adding a touchdown run. Wendell Smallwood ran seven times for 28 yards, while Ajayi had seven carries for 23 yards and a score. The final rushing total and per carry average were hurt by some good plays getting negated by flags. The running game wasn’t dominant, but it did enough.
Wide Receivers: B-
The Eagles are sorely missing Alshon Jeffery, but there was improvement from this unit in Week 2.
The wide receivers caught 72% of their targets totaling 13 catches. The group was able to get more vertical than they did against the Falcons, as Nelson Agholor averaged 11 yards per catch and Kamar Aiken averaged 7.8. Agholor was able to find the end zone as well. The fact that only two wide receivers recorded a reception remains concerning. Considering Jeffery’s absence and the fact that Mike Wallace left with an injury after his first reception as an Eagle (which was, of course, negated by a penalty), this unit did okay.
Tight Ends: A
In Week 1, we had hoped/expected that the tight ends, and in particular Zach Ertz, would step up to help the depleted wideouts. On Sunday, Ertz did just that, piling up 11 catches for 94 yards. In addition, Josh Perkins added four catches for 57 yards. You can’t ask for much more than that.
Offensive Line: C
It wasn’t a disastrous day for the guys up front, especially considering Jason Peters missed time. They paved the way for 91 rushing yards. But they struggled in pass protection, as Foles was under duress throughout the day. He was sacked three times and was hit an additional 12 times. For stretches, it felt as though Foles was spending more time on the ground than he was upright. It was far from the dominance we have come to expect from what is considered one of the best lines in the NFL.
Defensive Line: B
Unlike in Week 1, where the defense exceled and carried the game, the defense left much to be desired on Sunday. However, the line was easily the best unit on the defense on Sunday.
The defensive line notched a sack, three tackles for losses, and seven QB hits. They held the Bucs to just 43 rushing yards and a paltry 1.9 yards per carry, despite the fact that the Bucs played much of the game with a lead. The defense struggled as a whole, but the line held up their end of the bargain.
The linebackers piled up tackles, and did their part assisting in run defense. Jordan Hicks and Nigel Bradham combined for 17 tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack and a fumble recovery. However, Hicks got beat on O.J. Howard’s 75-yard touchdown, one of two big plays that proved to be the difference in the game. There just weren’t enough impact plays from this unit, especially with the secondary struggling.
There’s just no pretty way to assess the secondary on Sunday; they got toasted. Ryan Fitzpatrick completed 27/33 passes for 402 yards and four touchdowns. Ronald Darby came up with an interception and Malcom Jenkins forced a big fumble to give the Birds a chance at a comeback, but Fitzpatrick and the Bucs’ receivers basically had a field day.
The tone was set on the first play from scrimmage, a 75-yard touchdown to DeSean Jackson. Jackson terrorized his former team, going for four catches for 132 yards and a touchdown. He had another long catch to set up Evans’ touchdown, and a backbreaking reception on 2nd and 13 as the Eagles were fighting to get the ball back late in the game. Mike Evans hauled in 10 catches for 83 yards and a touchdown and could have had more if not for an uncharacteristic drop. Evans also put the final nail in the coffin with a 3rd down reception with just over two minutes to go. Jalen Mills was on the coverage on both the Jackson and Evans receptions late. Chris Godwin chipped in five receptions for 56 yards and a touchdown. O.J. Howard turned three catches into 96 yards and a touchdown.
It felt as though regardless of what the defense called, the Bucs had the answer. It doesn’t matter who you are, if you give up 400 yards and 4 touchdowns through the air you’re going to have a difficult time winning the game. It was not a good day for the secondary.
Special Teams: C
The Eagles got nothing out the of the return game, erasing the best return of the day with a penalty.
Jake Elliott missed his lone field goal attempt.
Cameron Johnson continued to be a bright spot, averaging 56 yards per punt and placing three inside the 20.
Doug Pederson likes to be aggressive, but five fourth down attempts is a lot. Part of that was forced due to the way the game played out, but had Elliott made is first attempt, the Eagles may have opted to go for three points on a couple of those fourth downs as the scoreboard would have looked a little different.
A pair of big plays in the first half forced Doug Pederson to alter the play calling a bit, and all things considered he did well. Several successful plays were wiped out by penalties and hurt the Eagles. The offense got a bit more vertical than it was in Week 1, and that’s a positive.
However, Jim Schwartz had no answer for the Bucs’ humming offense and did little to help his struggling secondary.