Week 1: Cleveland Browns vs. Philadelphia Eagles Recap

Final: Philadelphia 29, Cleveland 10

All eyes were on rookie quarterback Carson Wentz in this contest as he became the first rookie quarterback to start Week 1 for the Eagles since 1939.  Obviously the rook is going to be the focal point in this game, so let’s break down his play a bit later.  First, we’ll have a look at some other standout players and noteworthy plays.

Robert Griffin III finished 12/26 for 190 yards with no touchdowns and a pick on Sunday afternoon.
Robert Griffin III finished 12/26 for 190 yards with no touchdowns and a pick on Sunday afternoon.

For Cleveland, the game plan was to get the ball out of Robert Griffin III’s hand quickly to avoid pressure.  The plan worked well early on, however in the first quarter he took too many quick passes and was unable to make any yardage with them.  As the game wore on, he began taking deep shots down the field, connecting on a couple of them despite being underthrown.  The Eagles struggled to pressure the Baylor product early, but were able to completely stuff the run in the beginning.

Defensively for the Browns, they were picked apart and the cornerbacks were exposed a bit.  With that being said, there were many times where the defensive backs didn’t have bad coverage, but a perfect throw beat them.  Cleveland’s front seven did a great job stopping the run, outside of a couple of carries where Philly’s Kenjon Barner was able to break free along the edges.  Ryan Mathews was held to under four yards per carry and had a long of only seven on the day.  The player that shined the most for the Browns defensively was linebacker Christian Kirksey.  His statline may not show this but the young stud out of Iowa was flying around the field Sunday afternoon.

Connor Barwin in action on 9/11/16.
Connor Barwin in action on 9/11/16.

The Eagles finished the game with impressive stats on defense, but one thing to keep in mind is that Cleveland’s offense was only on the field for just over twenty minutes in this game.  Philly actually struggled to get pressure on the Brown’s quarterback early, but after they got a big lead, they were able to pin their ears back and go all in on pass defense.  After doing that they were able to force three sacks.  The Eagles did show weakness in the middle of the field and also had trouble locating the balls that were dropping down from the skies on the deep tosses from RGIII.  Rodney McLeod showed a lot of great range and hard hitting ability as he was the star for the birds’ defense.  He was also able to corral an interception off of a deflected pass.

On offense, the offensive line of Philadelphia was solid, but not spectacular.  They did just enough to slow the Cleveland pass rush so as not to harass the rookie Wentz too badly.  The Eagles suffered from three dropped passes, which was a headache for them last year.  However, Zach Ertz did not contribute to that blemish.  He made a jaw dropping one handed catch on the opening drive and converted a key fourth down in the third quarter in tight coverage.  He finished with six catches for 58 yards.  Nelson Agholor looked improved over a year ago.  He is becoming a more polished route runner.  Jordan Matthews is clearly Wentz’s go to receiver as he hauled in seven passes for 114 yards and a touchdown.  He did drop a couple of catchable balls in this game, however.

Carson Wentz communicates to his team at the line of scrimmage.
Carson Wentz communicates to his team at the line of scrimmage.

After seeing one game out of Carson Wentz, it is safe to say that the Eagles have plenty to be excited about.  The North Dakota State standout showed plenty of zip on the ball, and the ability to make quick decisions.  One of the knocks on him in college and in the preseason was his ability (or lack thereof) to throw the ball under pressure.  He did a fine job in this game with that.  He opted to stay in the pocket, but did not have to move all that much as he was getting the ball out very quickly.  This did result in a couple of tipped passes at the line of scrimmage, but luckily those did not cost hims.  He made a couple of nice pre-reads at the line as well which was very encouraging to see for Eagle fans.  He threw for 278 yards and two beautiful lob touchdowns to Matthews and Agholor in the first and third quarter respectively.  Accuracy was there, as was the decision making.  It will be interesting to see how he performs if his receivers cannot get open as easily as they did in this contest.

Cleveland has a lot to work on before they can become a relevant team.  They will absolutely need to find a running game to help the offense out.  Corey Coleman, who should be a good one, dropped an easy pass in this game but also came back and made a beautiful leaping grab of a pass in the early stages of the third quarter.  That said, he and the rest of the team will need to be more consistent if they hope to win any games this season.  For Philly, one game is in the books and there has to be a slight feeling of euphoria among the team and fan base because of their budding rookie.  However, not every game will turn out this successful.  It will be interesting to see how Carson Wentz responds to adversity as he develops in his first season as a pro.

Cleveland rookie WR Corey Coleman makes an amazing catch in Sunday's game.
WR Terrelle Pryor makes an amazing catch in Sunday’s game.

The Skinny:

  • Carson Wentz looked great in this game making plenty of timely and accurate throws.  He did suffer a couple of batted passes, but was able to make some perfect passes to defeat decent coverage.
  • The Browns’ offense was hit or miss on the day.  They had a couple of big offensive plays, but they had trouble putting drives together without them.
  • The Eagles did struggle to get pressure on Cleveland with just their front four early on.
  • Each team struggled in certain areas on defense.  The Browns were torched on the outside of the numbers whereas the Eagles did not look great on the inside.
  • The  Philly offense resembled that of what it did over the last few seasons with Chip Kelly except it was much more deliberate and the backs were more patient and able to seek out the running lanes.  The Eagles possessed the ball for 39:20, which was more than they had in any game under Kelly.
  • Wentz becomes the first Eagles quarterback to throw two touchdowns in his debut since 1960.
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