Eagles-Patriots Game Review: The Defense

Here’s what we saw from the Eagles’ defense during Friday night’s preseason game against the Patriots. We’ll go position-by-position, identifying performances that stood out one way or another.

DEFENSIVE LINE

* The biggest surprise of the night was the play of Vinny Curry. He’d been quiet all summer long, but showed up in a big way against New England. Curry showed some versatility, playing defensive end in three-man fronts and lining up both inside and outside in four-man fronts. In the second quarter, he set up at left defensive tackle (nickel) and shot right past the offensive lineman, getting a hit on Ryan Mallett. Later, he showed an impressive inside move, getting past the right tackle and combining for a sack with Jake Knott on Tim Tebow. Curry’s effort showed up throughout. On the last play of the first half, the Patriots ran a screen, and he was blocked on the ground near the 38-yard-line.

Vinny CurryBut Curry got up, hustled to the ball and ended up making the tackle 15 yards downfield.

Vinny Curry

We’ll see this week if Curry gets bumped up the depth chart.

* On the flip side of Curry was Fletcher Cox. Don’t want to put too much stock into one preseason game, but offensive tackle Nate Solder threw Cox to the ground on the 62-yard run in the first quarter. Don’t remember seeing a lineman do that to him at all last year. Cox was blocked on the next play too, an 8-yard scamper. And the Patriots blew him off the line of scrimmage with a double-team on a 3rd-and-1 carry during that drive. Cox bounced back on the next possession, hitting Tom Brady and forcing his only incompletion. No need to overreact yet, but he did not play well.

* Undrafted free agent Damion Square had some nice moments. He rotated between nose tackle and defensive end with Bennie Logan on the second team. Square did a good job on Shane Vereen’s 3-yard run in the first and showed some pass-rushing chops too. Square and Emmanuel Acho combined to hit Mallett in the second. He lined up at RDT and looped outside on the play. Later, he was one of three defenders to land a hit on Tim Tebow. Square looks like he has a good shot to make the team.

* Logan flashed as well. He stopped Vereen after a 3-yard run in the second and showed great hustle to chase Vereen down from behind on a screen later in the game. Logan was really good on one possession in the third. He got some penetration, dropping LeGarrette Blount after a 2-yard run. On the next play, he tackled Blount again after a gain of 2. And finally, he and Chris McCoy combined for a sack. Nice debut for the third-round pick.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS

* Trent Cole did not look comfortable. He was caught upfield and blocked easily by rookie tight end Zach Sudfeld on the two runs to start the game. Derek Sarley of Iggles Blog has a good breakdown up of the first two plays. According to Pro Football Focus, Cole played 16 snaps. Eight were run plays, eight were pass plays. On the eight pass plays, he dropped back in coverage only once. A sign perhaps of how the Eagles plan to use him?

* Credit Brandon Graham for making a good special-teams tackle to start the game off. He came in for Connor Barwin at left outside linebacker and also lined up at left defensive end in nickel looks. Graham twisted inside behind Curry and hit Mallett to force an incompletion in the second. He looked bad, as many of you saw, on Blount’s 51-yard touchdown run where he reversed field. Graham was on the field for 21 pass plays, per PFF. He rushed 17 times and dropped four times.

* Connor Barwin did a nice job early on against the run. He lined up both standing up and in a three-point stance on nickel downs.

* Chris McCoy has quietly had a nice summer. He did a nice job with his pass rush from the RDE spot in the second and funneled Blount back inside on the 51-yard run. McCoy pressured Tebow near the end of the first half and combined with Logan for a sack in the third. If roster cuts were today, I think I’d have him on the team.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS

* DeMeco Ryans did not look good. He got caught out of his gap on the 62-yard run to open the game and couldn’t get off the block of the pulling guard on the next play, an 8-yard run. Ryans was outstanding, specifically against the run, last season. So no need to panic yet.

Mychal Kendricks had issues against the run too. He got handled by the tight end on Blount’s 8-yard carry. Later, on third down, Kendricks met Blount head-on but couldn’t make the play. His coverage on the Vereen touchdown was good. Tom Brady just made a perfect throw.

* Jamar Chaney (shoulder) and Casey Matthews (knee) left the game with injuries. Chaney did not look good, missing a tackle on Sudfeld’s 22-yard catch and run. Matthews had some nice moments. Both are squarely on the roster bubble.

* Another undrafted free agent who showed up was Jake Knott. He batted down a Mallett pass at the line of scrimmage in the second and did a nice job as a blitzer. Knott combined with Curry for a sack in the second and tackled Tebow behind the line of scrimmage in the third. He has been quiet at camp, but played well during the game. Knott has a chance to earn a backup spot.

CORNERBACKS

* If you’re a glass half-full kind of person, at least Bradley Fletcher hustled downfield and brought Ridley down on the 62-yard run. That might have been a touchdown with last year’s corners. Fletcher made a tackle in run support on the next play too. He gave up a few completions, most notably a 6-yard catch on 3rd-and-4 and later a 23-yarder. But to be fair, it’s not like Fletcher was caught out of position or got beaten badly on either play. Let’s see how he does the rest of the preseason.

* Brandon Hughes got the surprise start at left corner. Chip Kelly said after the game that was Billy Davis’ decision. Hughes gave up a 7-yard slant and a 12-yard back-shoulder completion, but was OK.

* Boykin played nickel with the first team and then moved outside. He looked good, shadowing Aaron Dobson on a fade in the back of the end zone to force an incompletion.

* If you were looking for improvement from Nate Allen, you probably were disappointed. The 62-yard run would have been a 15-yard run had he been able to bring Ridley down in the open field. Allen later missed another tackle on Sudfeld’s 22-yard catch and run. Put Allen in the “believe it when I see it” camp for now.

* The good news on Patrick Chung is he looks like a sure tackler. The bad news is I’m not sure he can cover. Chung started at safety and then moved to nickel corner so the coaches could get a look at Boykin on the outside. He did a nice job blowing up a screen on third down in the second, but couldn’t keep up with Julian Edelman on a 22-yard completion near the end of the first half. Chung is still in line to be one of the team’s two starting safeties.

* Kenny Phillips made a nice play at the line of scrimmage, stopping Ridley after a 1-yard gain. He did not look good though on Blount’s 51-yard TD. Tough to evaluate him in coverage without the All-22.

* Earl Wolff was up and down. He missed a tackle on Tebow’s 12-yard run in the third, but played up in the box and had a tackle-for-loss in the third. Again, tough to evaluate in coverage. Overall, I’d say Chung is in line to be a starter, but the other job is up for grabs.

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  • Media Mike

    Spoke my mind on Kendricks yesterday, so no need to re-engage with the apologists / Brady fluffers today…………………………..
    I was excited to see Curry and Fletcher get the credit for hustling downfield to make the type of effort plays that competitive teams make. I’m also excited to see a full season of Barwin, I think we’re going to be seeing his number and nameplate in a ton of plays.
    Hopefully Trent Cole, Fletcher Cox, DeMeco Ryans will “get it” as the pre-season wares on.
    In general the Eagles are playing vs. an extremely simplistic team on Thursday night, so the D should look better. Cam Newton is very limited as a QB and the Panthers couldn’t put together a fully healthy RB if they used parts from all 3 of their top guys.

  • therealpistolp

    Nate said something about the tackle being in the open field and how that is a tough spot to be in,, then finished it off by saying no excuses.. Dude is weak sauce… Him and Coleman must go… Cox did look bad… Bennie Logan really stood out… And Square… Mccoy and acho both flashed too.. but mann,,What’s wrong with Andy’s second round picks on D?? Coach couldn’t pick a winner for

    • Media Mike

      We should have know considering the first 2nd rd pick Andy made on D was Barry Gardner…………….

    • DunedinEagle

      It wasnt just the second round. Defensive drafting failures going back to 2002 are the biggest reasons for this teams downfall. You would think changing that would have been priority number one back in April. Too bad there wasn’t one defensive player available in the entire US of A that was better than Johnson, Ertz or Barkley when their names were called….It’s gonna be a fun year watching the innovative offense come along only to be out scored week to week.

      • Media Mike

        I don’t see us building Rome in a day, but Lane Johnson, Zach Ertz, and Matt Barkley were 100% correct picks when they were taken. If Cyprien was still there when we picked Ertz (thanks for that Jacksonville, you have doomed Cyprien to a career of anonymity and horrible team results!), I think you’d be making a good point.

        • Token

          Barkley was a bad pick. You can say value pick or whatever.

          But they were in no position to take another long shot QB with a top 4 pick. You really need to get contributing players at those spots. Not guys who will be holding clip boards.

        • DunedinEagle

          All do respect…100% correct? Come on man!

        • GiveMeABreak

          1st exhibition game and you’re going there? I don’t think so.

    • LeClaw

      Kendricks and Curry look good!! but these are from the first Howie centered draft….people may want to start giving him props

  • ftotheyu

    Key for an effective 3-4 defense is for the D-line to occupy blockers and the Eagles D-line didn’t do any of that in this game.

  • Token

    I know in the offseason sometimes people talk themselves into believing that we have talent before the actual games start.

    But simply, we dont have much talent. Its going to take years to build a defense worth a damn. Almost every position needs upgraded.

    And that task only gets harder if we have to find a franchise QB at the same time.

  • Explorer51

    By mid-season, Jake Knott will be in the mix for lots of playing time; on Friday night, he made some nice instinctive plays…granted they were against mostly scrubinis but I think he’ll continue to be around the ball whenever he gets in the game. I know this doesn’t seem to make sense but he “quietly popped out” when you look at replays.

  • Joethomas215

    I believe last preseason everyone thought Demeco looked horrible and was a bad trade. That chatter ended after game 1. I wouldn’t be concerned with him. Curry looked great. Kendricks still missing tackles. Boykin may force the coaches hand to move him outside. Excited for September

  • Nathaniel

    Am I right or Wrong

  • Bird of Prey

    Well, I still think it will be at least a season until we can get enough of the right personel for this defense and some good secondary and LB picks an FA’s will be critical. It’ll be an interesting year in the mean time.

  • G_WallyHunter

    you have 62-yard-line up in the Paragraph about Fletcher Cox getting thrown to the ground :)

  • Mr. Wu

    Did Poyer even play? I didn’t notice him or read anything about him in tthe game.;

  • 1972

    trent cole ,barwin, kendricks, and ryans played badly.. I can give every one of them a pass besides trent. Hes a shot fighter,Weve seen this last year. Over running run plays, getting blocked by TE’s its over,, trade him for a safety or receiver please

  • Media Mike

    I said this topic was over. I discussed the zero sum nature of individual plays yesterday. I think Kendricks is a fine player, but when a TD is scored I don’t do any tipping of my cap to “perfect” plays by the other team.

  • Media Mike

    I think you’re correct and I don’t think they have a lot of two gap players. 4-3 under makes more sense with the roster as currently constituted. I think Davis will make the needed adjustments.

  • Token

    Demeco is in a different system now though.

    Curry looked great yes…. But many forget he was going up against a UDFA lineman during that game. So lets not go nuts yet. And Hughes started over Boykin outside. Either Davis really just wanted to see Hughes, or he wants to do anything he can to keep Boykin out of that spot.

  • Media Mike

    I see everything you’re saying as worst case scenario. The odds all of those are true are minimal. Some of your statements may be 100% truth, but not all.
    We won’t play a team as complicated as New England every week. I dare say, with the exception of Denver, the Patriots are better than anybody on our schedule this season. This isn’t going to be anything close to a shutdown D, but they’ll be improved from last year. The offense will score points, but some weeks it won’t be enough.

  • Media Mike

    DeMeco was fine at ILB in Houston, but was traded due to salary considerations an the team having other perceived leaders.

  • Jerry Pomroy

    Agreed. The pieces just aren’t there to make the full transition to a 3-4. I think this will also benefit the likes of Cole/Graham whom so far don’t look to be able to match up to the 3-4 responsibilities. I think they, along with the FS spot are my biggest concerns at this point on D. I’m curious if Kelly/Davis would possibly take a look at Fletcher at FS, with Boykin on the outside opposite Williams. If Friday night is any indication of Fletcher’s play, I see 2 corners that’ll have tight coverage, but give up the catch & make the tackle immediately in Williams & Fletcher. Boykin has been excellent in coverage & also challenging the catch & breaking it up. You then have a FS in Fletcher that can cover AND tackle. Then the only question is who plays the nickel & can Fletcher play FS.

  • illadelphia21

    Wrong! They look a whole lot more intimidating than the D we put out there against the pats!!!

  • DunedinEagle

    It’s not our job to know. It’s the front offices job and they have failed miserably drafting on D for over 10 years running.

  • All In Eagles

    I’m not ready to start bashing everyone on the team but I do agree they didnt’ look good on D at all. That being said, everyone’s tune will change dramatically if they put up a much improved performance over the next 3 games and then into the regular season.

  • Token

    I would expect them to look better against the likes of the Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars. Its really a disaster if they dont.