It’s time to run to the mailbox and steal the report card before Mom and Pops get their hands on it.
OK, fine. Apparently, that’s not how things work nowadays. But you get the idea. We’re a quarter of the way into the season, so it’s time to give out some grades. We’ll do the defense today (position-by-position) and deal with the offense in a future post.
Important note: These grades are based in large part on expectations, given the talent on the roster. It's not simply overall level of performance.
DEFENSIVE LINE: D
This one might seem harsh, but I really thought the Eagles' defensive line had a chance to be a strength. Fletcher Cox leads the team with five hurries (per coaches' stats) and has two sacks. So it's not like he's been invisible. But as a rookie, he was showing Pro Bowl potential, and we just haven't seen that in 2013, partly because of the scheme.
Cedric Thornton has played pretty well. But the Eagles are getting nothing from the rest of their rotation. Isaac Sopoaga, Bennie Logan and Clifton Geathers have combined for no sacks and two hurries. Yes, there's a lot of two-gapping going on, but the Eagles have also shown some four-man fronts in nickel. The run defense has been middle-of-the-pack, and the pass-rush has been non-existent.
The coaches seem to view Vinny Curry as a one-dimensional player, and they apparently don't value his pass-rushing ability enough to get him on the field.
OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS: B-
Going into the season, there was a chance that this group would be a complete disaster. And that hasn't been the case. As Trent Cole explained to T-Mac yesterday, he has had to essentially learn two positions. I wouldn't say he's been stellar at either, but his pass-rush has been better than the numbers (no sacks, two hurries) indicate. Cole has been up and down against the run, but has forced two fumbles. He also gives full effort on every snap and hasn't complained about his new role(s).
Connor Barwin sets the edge well against the run, has some versatility and is tied for the team lead with two sacks. He also has a couple hurries and has batted two balls down at the line of scrimmage. Barwin doesn't look like a Pro Bowler, but he appears to be a nice building block at outside linebacker for the next several years.
INSIDE LINEBACKERS: D+
Is "D+" even a grade? I'm not sure, but let's go with it.
DeMeco Ryans has been OK. He's been in on a team-high 54 tackles (35 solo), according to the coaches' stats. No other player has more than 35. Ryans will have occasional issues against the run, but is generally solid there. He's not great in coverage, but I wouldn't go as far as to say he's a liability either. Last year's scheme seemed to allow him to make more plays at or behind the line of scrimmage, even though the Eagles used the Wide-9 up front.
Mychal Kendricks has been a disappointment. Coaches have basically admitted as much. He needs to improve his tackling, get better in coverage (specifically in zone) and show more consistency. The athletic tools are there, but Kendricks has not lived up to expectations through the first four games.
This is where the whole expectations thing comes in. I was expecting this unit to be below average-to-average, and that's pretty much what we've gotten.
Cary Williams has had two good games (Washington, Kansas City) and two not-so-good ones (San Diego, Denver). Bradley Fletcher has been OK. And Brandon Boykin, when he's not being asked to match up with offensive tackles as a pass-rusher, has been fine as well.
The issue here has been more about talent than guys not playing up to their expectations. So even though the Eagles are giving up 325 passing yards per game (second-most), I can't be too harsh on the corners.
I would be a push-over as a teacher. Just can't get myself to hand out an F. And the expectations thing is a factor here as well. Was anyone projecting these guys to be adequate before the season started?
The safety play has been terrible. Nate Allen looked a little better against Denver, but was a disaster in the loss to the Chargers. Earl Wolff seems to have a great attitude and impressive physical skills, but he's making a lot of mistakes and has yet to put it all together. Patrick Chung is solid in run support, but is below-average as a cover guy.
Once again, this is an area that will need to be addressed in the offseason.
WHAT YOU MISSED
Speaking of the defense, good piece here by T-Mac on Billy Davis and the commitment to the 3-4.
Game review: Position-by-position look at the Eagles' D vs. the Broncos.
McManus examines the Eagles' red-zone woes on offense.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
Howie Roseman talked to Les Bowen of the Daily News about Cox's transition:
"When you've been doing something your whole life, and you're playing in a certain scheme your whole life, and now you have to transition, it takes time to do that effectively," Roseman said. "He's got tremendous passion for the game of football, he's got tremendous ability, he's an incredibly explosive player in terms of power and athletic ability . . . It doesn't come automatically for players in the National Football League. You see that all around the league; guys aren't just coming off from college and just dominating over [their first] 20 games, but you see enough flashes to know what kind of a player he can be."
Tommy Lawlor of IgglesBlitz.com reviews the play of Lane Johnson vs. Denver:
Sloppy game. Opened the 3rd series by sliding over the the left side as an extra OL. Failed to cleanly block a DT and that player helped to blow up a run play. Sloppy technique. Lane was off balance and didn’t make good contact with the defender. Called for holding on RZ run. Had a tough reach block to make on DT. Lane didn’t have his feet under him and got off balance. Very strange play in the early 3rd. DE took hard inside slant. Lane blocked him, then seemed to look outside, but there was no one to take the DE. Guy pressured Vick into scrambling. Cleanly beaten by Phillips speed rush in the 3rd Qtr. Pressured Vick, led to incomplete pass. Got beaten by Phillips for sack on 3rd/9 late in the 3rd Qtr. Just a good speed rush. Lane failed to get his hands on Phillips in time.
We'll have some All-22 pieces and start looking ahead to this weekend's game vs. the Giants.