Unlike last year where I made the mistake of watching the game live – and saw myself bounced from Survivor and immediately proven wrong for doubting Kareem Hunt – I caught this one via the 40-minute edited version this morning. While last year’s was an exciting game, filled with reveals about the upcoming fantasy season, this was a punt and flag fest, with a lesser impact on player values. Still, there’s always something to take away from an NFL game – my observations are below:
• The Eagles defense is tough. They sacked Matt Ryan four times and hurried him a lot. They also induced an intentional grounding, basically a fifth sack and mostly stuffed the run.
• Ryan looked okay, but he badly needs a second receiver, and Calvin Ridley (zero targets), Mohamed Sanu (six targets for 18 yards) and Austin Hooper (four targets for 24 yards) didn’t look especially promising.
• How is Julio Jones always open? The Eagles are presumably double-covering the guy, and yet he’s always in space, a few yards from the nearest defender. He won’t get 19 targets in games when the Falcons are running more effectively, but Jones is clearly still in his prime – and, true to form, still didn’t find the end zone.
• Devonta Freeman saw only six carries, but had five targets. Freeman was actually effective (36 rushing yards), but a less effective Tevin Coleman had nine carries for 19 yards and two targets. Given Freeman’s concussion history, this might be a more equal timeshare than in years past even though Freeman is the better receiver and between-the-tackles runner. Coleman is faster and more explosive.
• Nick Foles had only 3.4 YPA and a pick that wasn’t his fault – it bounced right out of rookie Dallas Goedert’s hands. He did make a nice catch and run on a trick play, though. With Carson Wentz out several more weeks, Foles should get a few more starts.
• With Alshon Jeffery out, the Eagles passing-game tree seems to have narrowed quite substantially. Nelson Agholor and Zach Ertz saw 10 targets each, comprising 20 of Foles’ 34 attempts, and 35-year old Darren Sproles saw seven of the remaining 14. Put differently, only seven targets went to someone other than Agholor, Ertz and Sproles.
• Agholor looks like a nice PPR option early, but everything he caught was dink and dunk. Sproles had as many carries as Corey Clement (five) to go along with seven targets. He looks like a playable PPR option if he holds up.
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• Jay Ajayi was the star of the game – two TDs, a 2-point conversion and 62 yards on 15 carries. But he didn’t receive a single target.
• Mike Wallace had three targets for zero yards. I’d expect the Eagles to get him more involved before Jeffery returns, but it’s hard to make the case to keep him on your roster.
• Oddly the Falcons 2018 season started exactly where its 2017 ended – on the doorstep of the Philadelphia end zone, unable to convert.