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Making the Grade: Eagles vs. Colts

The Eagles returned home and escaped the Colts on Sunday, holding on for a 20-16 win. It was an uneven performance, but the Birds made the big plays when necessary and did just enough to get the win. Now it’s time for our weekly grading of each position.

Quarterback: B

It’s tempting to give an “A” here, but we have to keep our emotions and excitement in check.

Yes, Carson Wentz returned to the field and looked like himself. There was some rust and a few throws he would like to have back. However, on multiple occasions he showed his ability to evade pressure, extend plays, and make things happen. He looked fine moving around on his legs, and there were no signs of trouble throwing the ball. That is the biggest takeaway of the day.

However, there were two glaring mistakes, and they almost cost the Eagles the game. Wentz made a poor decision on a throw to Ertz that was intercepted, and he had a ball knocked from his hand that led to a Colts recovery. Both turnovers happened deep in Eagles territory and could have been the difference in the game if not for a late stand from the defense.

Again, this is not to rain on the parade. Wentz completed 25 of 37 passes for 255 yards and a touchdown. He ran three times for 10 yards and smartly avoided unnecessary contact. The Eagles won and the offense moved the ball, and Wentz looked healthy. All things considered, it was a very solid performance from Wentz. Welcome back, Carson.

Running Backs: A

The backs stepped up in a big way in the absence of Jay Ajayi and Darren Sproles. They combined for 142 yards and a touchdown with Wendell Smallwood carrying 10 times for 56 yards, Corey Clement adding 16 carries for 56, and Josh Adams chipping in six for 30. The backs also combined for six catches for 54 yards. Excellent work from a group that was under some pressure to perform.

Wide Receivers: F

It pains me to be so tough on this group, but it is what it is. Nelson Agholor has been fantastic this season as the only real threat at the wide receiver position, and he had a nice catch and run for a huge third down conversion. But the group tallied just six catches for 45 yards. That is not enough, and it needs to be addressed. So far, the talent at other positions has been able to hide the lack of production from this group, but it feels like it will catch up with the Birds at some point if something doesn’t change.

Tight Ends: A+

The tight ends stepped up in a big way, helping offset the struggles of their teammates on the outside. Dallas Goedert had a breakout game with Wentz back in the mix, leading the Eagles with seven catches for 73 yards and a touchdown. It was the kind of performance Eagles fans have been waiting to see from Goedert and is incredibly encouraging.

Meanwhile, Zach Ertz added five catches for 73 yards and Josh Perkins had one catch for 10 yards. It was a very productive day for this unit, and they showed the kind of effect they can have on games.

Offensive Line: C+

The big guys up front did an excellent job in the running game, paving the way for 152 rushing yards. In addition, their body language and intensity, in particular from Lane Johnson, was great to see. However, Wentz was sacked five times, and that is too many for a unit that is considered one of the best in the NFL. I expect that will get cleaned up as the unit regains chemistry with Wentz, so for now there’s no major concern going forward.

Defensive Line: A+

This unit is exerting its dominance, and it is fun to watch. The Colts rushed for 68 yards for a 5.2 average, but that number is skewed by Andrew Luck’s 33-yard scramble. Take that away and the Colts managed just 35 yards for a 2.9 average.

The D-line racked up 14 tackles, two sacks, 4.5 tackles for loss, four QB hits and a pass defended. Most importantly, Derek Barnett’s sack sealed the win for the Birds late in the game.

Linebackers: A

A very solid day from this unit as they supported in both running and passing situations. They combined for 11 tackles and two passes defended. Colts tight end Eric Ebron was basically invisible until a few meaningless catches on the Colts’ desperation drive to close out the game. We mentioned Indianapolis’ struggles running the ball, and the running backs were held in check in the passing game as well. An excellent job by the linebackers playing their role on Sunday.

Secondary: A

The secondary bounced back from a rough outing in Tampa in a big way. The Colts managed just 164 yards through the air. Even more encouraging, the longest completion the Eagles allowed was 29 yards after giving up two of 75 yards against the Bucs.

The unit piled up 17 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, and six passes defensed.

Sunday was an excellent response from a unit that took its lumps in Week 2. The Colts got very little going offensively on Sunday, and the secondary played an important role in that.

Special Teams: C

The Birds again got very little from the return game, and Corey Clement struggled fielding punts cleanly, with one mishap nearly leading to a turnover.

Jake Elliot again missed a field goal, although he also made two. He knocked both extra point attempts through the uprights.

Cameron Johnston had his quietest day of the season, punting three times for an average of 42.7 yards. None of the three kicks were downed inside the 20.

Coaching: B+

Going uptempo on the opening drive was an excellent call from Doug Pederson, helping Carson Wentz and the offense generate some rhythm early. In addition, the offense was incredibly balanced with 37 passes and 35 rushes. A solid job by Pederson and company.

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