Eagles Wake-Up Call: Midterm Grades (Defense)

barwin_400_103013We went over the offense on Tuesday. Now here’s a look at how the defense grades out through the first half of the season.

Defensive line: B-

This group has shown more improvement than any other on the team from Week 1 to Week 8. And defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro deserves credit for that.

Cedric Thornton is playing lights-out on a weekly basis and leads all Eagles D-Linemen with 45 tackles. Fletcher Cox has really come on as of late and has three sacks to go along with a team-high 15 hurries (no other Eagle has more than seven). Isaac Sopoaga was a non-factor, but players like Clifton Geathers on the second team are starting to show flashes.

Opponents are averaging 3.7 YPC vs. the Eagles. Only five teams have posted a lower number.

Outside linebacker: C

Connor Barwin has three sacks and a team-high 4.5 tackles for loss. He’s been great against the run and had some good moments as a pass-rusher.

Trent Cole has done his best to embrace his new role, but he has no sacks and five hurries on the season. Cole plays with great effort, but in the 3-4, the Eagles need more pass-rushing production from their outside linebackers.

Brandon Graham has been a rotational player and has one sack and three hurries. He clearly looked more comfortable as a pass-rusher in last year’s 4-3.

Inside linebacker: C-

DeMeco Ryans has been very good against the run and leads the team with 94 tackles. He’s notched a pair of sacks and an interception too. Ryans, however, has had issues in coverage.

Mychal Kendricks has not made the second-year leap and has lacked consistency, although he played well last week vs. the Giants. He has the athletic skills to be a great cover linebacker, but has yet to put it all together.

The Eagles are 23rd in the league at covering opposing tight ends, per Football Outsiders.

Cornerbacks: C

Bradley Fletcher has been targeted quite a bit and is second in the NFL with 12 passes defensed, according to STATS, Inc. That’s not to say he’s been perfect. Fletcher has given up his share of completions, but he keeps receivers in front of him and competes.

Cary Williams has been up and down. He’s not a shut-down corner, but is physical and a sure tackler. Williams had probably his best game of the season last week against the Giants. 

Brandon Boykin has been solid as the nickel.

Safety: D

This is an overall grade, and early on the safeties were a disaster, but they’ve definitely improved. Nate Allen is playing a lot better than he was at the beginning of the season. Earl Wolff has been up and down. He’s willing to get physical and has had some nice moments in man coverage, but still gets lost at times.

The safeties are instructed to keep everything in front of them. That has led to issues with slants and other underneath routes. But they’ve done a good job limiting damage from the deep ball.

WHAT YOU MISSED

An All-22 look at what’s going on with the Eagles’ offense right now.

An animated Chip Kelly offered up some interesting thoughts about why he’s not focused on the future at quarterback.

One national writer wonders whether Kelly could be fired after one year. Really.

T-Mac tackles a variety of issues in his Twitter Mailbag.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Chris Burke of SI.com has the Eagles 28th in his power rankings:

Movie: Re-Animator

IMDB plot summary: “A dedicated student at a medical college and his girlfriend become involved in bizarre experiments centering around the re-animation of dead tissue when an odd new student arrives on campus.”

Why it fits: Bizarre experiments! Odd new student! There was no other choice for Year 1 of the Chip Kelly saga.

Tommy Lawlor of IgglesBlitz.com weighs in on Jason Peters in his game review:

A bad omen on Sunday happened on the 2nd play of the game. Peters pulled to the inside and went to block the MLB. Jon Beason knocked Peters back. When 240 beats 340…not a good sign. Beason then tackled Shady and only gave up a yard. A better block and Shady gets at least 5 yds. Failed to get good block on JPP on 3rd Qtr run to his side. Let JPP go inside and that limited Brown to a yard. Peters did a good job in pass pro.

COMING UP

Another day of practice at NovaCare. We’ll have you covered. And it’s Birds 24/7 on 97.5 The Fanatic tonight from 6 to 7. Stop by Smiths in Center City and say hello.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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