Self-Scouting: Taking Stock Of the Defense

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Tampa Bay BuccaneersWe went through the offense yesterday. Here’s a position-by-position look at where the Eagles’ defense stands going into the final five games.

DEFENSIVE LINE

The guys up front have been the key to the defensive improvement. Cedric Thornton leads all the team’s linemen with 58 tackles and has looked like a natural in the two-gap scheme since Week 1. He’s versatile, powerful and has been perhaps the Eagles’ most consistent defensive player all season long.




Fletcher Cox has really come on and has 13 tackles the past two weeks. He has three sacks and leads the team with 19 hurries; no other player has more than eight. Bennie Logan has been a huge upgrade over Isaac Sopoaga at nose tackle. He's got 15 tackles in the last three games. That's just three fewer than Sopoaga had in the first eight games.

Vinny Curry, Clifton Geathers and Damion Square round out the rotation. Curry has been the team's most productive pass-rusher and is tied for the team lead with four sacks.

I don't anticipate a lot of change with this group. Curry's playing time has increased, and there's been steady improvement throughout. That should continue through the final five games.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS

Connor Barwin has been solid all season long. He's tied for the team lead with four sacks, has been outstanding against the run and has broken up nine passes (either at the line of scrimmage or in coverage). According to Pro Football Focus, Barwin has played 827 snaps - that's 103 more than any other 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL. Billy Davis would like to spell him more, but Barwin's versatility makes it tough to remove him.

Trent Cole has done everything the coaches have asked of him in transitioning to a new position. Overall, there have been ups and downs. But he's probably playing his best football of the season right now. In the last three games, Cole has 23 tackles, three sacks and a pair of hurries.

Against Washington, Barwin and Cole combined for 21 tackles and three sacks. Overall, they've combined for seven sacks and 15 hurries.

Brandon Graham has played 26 percent of the snaps and hasn't been much of a factor with a sack and four hurries.

The Eagles need more pass-rush from this spot, but that will likely have to wait for the offseason. For now, the coaching staff has done a good job of maximizing the talent here.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS

DeMeco Ryans is seventh in the NFL with 96 tackles and has been the anchor of the Eagles' defense. He's been great against the run and never comes off the field. According to PFF, Ryans has played 858 snaps, the most of any defensive player in the NFL. Ryans is 29. It's worth monitoring whether he wears down at all during the stretch run.

Mychal Kendricks had 29 tackles (per team stats) in two games prior to going down with an injury against the Packers. He hasn't quite made the second-year leap many expected and has had some issues in coverage. Kendricks is a key down the stretch. If the coaches can get him to consistently play at a high level, he's got the talent to provide a boost for the defense.

Najee Goode looked capable in a fill-in role for Kendricks.

CORNERBACKS

Cary Williams has been about what most expected. He's not a shutdown corner, but does a good job for the most part of keeping plays in front of him. He has not been as sure of a tackler (10 missed per PFF) as he was in Baltimore.

Bradley Fletcher has been a little better than anticipated, but missed the last two games with a pec injury. He's expected to start Sunday vs. Arizona.

The coaches have been reluctant to use Brandon Boykin in anything other than a nickel role. Because of that, he's played 56 percent of the defensive snaps. Boykin has added a playmaking element to the secondary, coming up with four interceptions (tied for fourth-most in the league).

Roc Carmichael was up-and-down filling in for Fletcher.

The good news is this group is healthy. But the Eagles have gotten some help going up against Terrelle Pryor, Scott Tolzien and a shaky Robert Griffin III in recent weeks. Carson Palmer has been hot. The Eagles will face Matthew Stafford, Jay Cutler and Tony Romo in the weeks ahead.

SAFETIES

Nate Allen has shown improvement and is playing the best football of his career. Of specific note is the way Allen has improved his tackling. That had been a major issue for him in the past, but the former second-round pick has only missed two tackles all season, per PFF.

Patrick Chung has taken over a starting spot once again, but has been up and down. Earl Wolff is dealing with a knee injury, and his return is unknown. Once he's healthy, the Eagles will likely go with a rotation.

Overall, same deal as with the cornerbacks - the safeties figure to be challenged in the weeks ahead.

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  • Tim Tebow

    I’m not sure how much of a safety rotation will be used when Wolfe is healthy. I think Chung is clearly the worst out of Allen and Wolfe because he is a major coverage liability and makes too many boneheaded mistakes.

    • GEAGLE

      We will use some 3 safety looks just to give offenses something else to think about

  • GEAGLE

    It’s been so long since I enjoyed an Eagles defense, this season is an absolute treat for me..I knew we would hAve a nasty front 7, but the safety play is what is really a surprise for me. safeties were a major lability against the Cheifs and Chargers, but after the Denver game they settled down! and started showing weekly improvements

    This Arizona game is going to be a battle. I’m optimistic about our defense this week because we will play mostly Nickle on Sunday, which will give Boykin more opportunities to make plays. The cardinals Oline is suspect, and our front 7 should have a big game..the Oline was so bad that they used a top 10 pick on a OG, and then lost him for the year. when you get to Carson and put a lick on him! he starts to unravel and present us with opportunities to capitalize on. We will shut down the cardinals run game, so if Nick can get us a lead, rev up the tempo, and then force Carson to play from behind, we can pin our ears back, unleash curry and get after it!!!

    Shouldn’t be difficult to shut down their run game, but they have some dangerous pass catching weapons. the emergence of Floyd makes Fitzgerald even more dangerous..TE Housler can make some sneaky plays, and their RB is a good pass catcher..

    This game is HUGE for our team development. people like to scoff at the quality of opposition that we have beaten, but that was a very big step for us. We PROVED that we will beat the teams that we are supposed to beat(which hasn’t always been the case). That’s a very important accomplishment in your development as a team..this week is a chance to take that NEXT step and beat a serious team while really taking our house back(the Linc)..

    We play against a very dangerous defense that matches up fairly well with us.
    #2 ranked run defense vs, our #1 ranked run offense..We need to be closer to our average of 150yards per game rushing, then allowing them to had us to their average of only giving up 85yards per game on the ground. SHady and the Oline have to take this as a challenge and have a BIGTIME showing. We have to win the battle of the run game.

    Darnell Dockett, Caleus Cambell, Daryl Washington!John Abraham, dansby…this is a dangerous front 7…it’s imperative that we move the chains, get into a flow so that we can rev up the tempo and start to wear down a very stout front 7
    ..
    Todd Bowles and Billy Davis are both gong to dial up a ton of blitzes this week? FOles needs to handle it better than Carson does. You know they will blitz the Honeybadger….hopefully we make them pay!!!

    • jabostick

      I’m much happier playing them at home as opposed to their place. I think the Cards are a different team at home

      • GEAGLE

        Absolutely!!!! They are strong at home, and they struggle on the road.
        ..
        They have the better defense, but we have the better offense..I think we are the more balanced team at this point in the season. They rely heavily on their defense to win games, lately we are getting a more balanced contribution from offense, defense and ST who have all had a hand in our recent wins…

        I’m confident that our offense can have more success against their defense, then their offense can have against our defense.

        We match up good against this team because their offense will allow us to play Nickle for most of the game, which will get our playmaker Boy-King more opportunities then he got against the skins and packers.
        ..
        Like I said. Both DC’s are going to blitz a ton this week. I like FOles chances of handling it better than Palmer does…

        The start of the game is crucial for us. Move the chains on your first drive, get into a flow so we can give their tough defense a heavy does of TEMPO!! gotta slow down docket!Cambell! and Abrahams old ass.

        cardinals boast some of the best CBs in the league, so I suspect that we will need our TEs and Shady(pass catcher) to do some damage in the center of the field…

        And if they decide to play Patterson on offense, knock him I out the damn game!!!!

      • G_WallyHunter

        hopefully they’re also a much different (worse) team in the frigid link sunday. Please lord

        • GEAGLE

          Both at home, and on the road they have been playing in warm weather all year,..this is the first Time they will play in 40degree whether all year….hopefully it helps

          • Andy124

            Forecast is still for upper 40’s, not really that bad unfortunately.

  • Justin

    We oughta consider fielding trade offers for Graham this offseason.

    • G_WallyHunter

      Maybe the Giants will take him to replace that oft-injured JPP (Oh, the Irony)

      • Adam

        Eagles wouldn’t trade him within the division. If he was old and they wanted to send him out to pasture then maybe, but they know what he’s capable of in the right system and you try your best not to directly improve a team you play twice a year.

        • G_WallyHunter

          ya agreed, more just playing on the BG/JPP relation, and JPPs recent troubles, and BGs health streak. Would hate to see him go anywhere in the division especially those Ginas, hopefully he goes out of the conference, definitely a 4-3 team that would need him.

    • BQNinja

      I agree. It’s clear to me that he would be a perfect 4-3 end. He’s obviously a liability in coverage. Hopefully a 4-3 team will see his value in their defense and give us something good for him.

      I wanted him to be a great Eagle, but I also want him to succeed, and I don’t think he can do that as an OLB.

      • GEAGLE

        You aren’t going to get a high pick for him…The best Howie can probably do, would be to look for a 4-3 team that has a 3-4 player that isn’t a good fit, and do a player for player swap….you have a better chance at getting value that way, then giving him up for a 5th rounder(if you are lucky)…
        ….
        Graham for Damontre Moore?
        Graham to Seatle
        Cincinatti would probably lose a really good pass rusher because they can’t pay everyone..maybe they would be interested in Graham

        • Justin

          Too bad Dion Jordan is only a rookie.

  • nicksaenz1

    Sheil….Demeco is 28, not 29. Those years mean more the older they get.

    • DirtyWaters

      7/28/1984

      • nicksaenz1

        Damn Wikipedia!

        Sorry, Sheil.

        • DirtyWaters

          NFL.com

      • GEAGLE

        Yeah he was born the exact day as my brother

    • cliff henny

      nfl isnt Logan’s run, the Sandmen arent coming for Ryans at 30 on the dot

      • Andy124

        Automatic up-vote for all Logan’s Run refernces.

      • DirtyWaters

        Check his Palm Flower.

      • BlindChow

      • nicksaenz1

        They are, too. It’s the magic age for the magical sandman to get him.

  • DirtyWaters

    Nice to see Ryans is a Top 7 tackler.

    • G_WallyHunter

      Hopefully he isn’t setting personal goals to be top 5

      • DirtyWaters

        Top 5 is a very round number.

        • G_WallyHunter

          Maybe he should go with top 26

          • DirtyWaters

            As far as I’m concerned, that will always be funny/

  • 1972

    LOve they way the D looks lately. I hope Billy D doesn’t burn out Barwin AND Ryans. They play way too many snaps a game. Our depth at Lb and Safety is pretty bad

    • cliff henny

      way Goode played, maybe he can spell Ryans in the more obvious passing downs.
      .
      glass half full, least it’s only depth now, yr ago the starters and backups both equally stunk

      • 1972

        Tbh goode has played better than kendricks. Although it is a shorter number of games. I’d like to see more

        • GEAGLE

          Goode has NOT played better than Mykal lol, that’s just absurd..his play Sunday was better then a few of Mykals games, but even that statement is crap because Goode didn’t have half the responsibility Davis puts on Mykal…..the kid had 28 tackles in two game, sorry, as good as Goode played, he didn’t have a 17 tackle day like Mykal…Goode was used a lot like we used Trotter….Davis puts a ton of responsibility on Mykal…I get it, in 11 games, Mykal hasn’t settled into his new role as well as some other guys,and Goode played unexpectedly well….but to say he played better than Mykal is a bit much…

  • Jerry Pomroy

    I think the D has come a long way from the start of the season. 2 positions being upgraded would go a long way. A stud pass rushing ROLB is a must as we’ve all agreed already! Either the CB or S need an upgrade. While I like our corners, I think they’re both good, not anything great. I particularly like Fletcher more than Williams, but Cary seems less injury prone. We need a 1 if we didn’t address safety, because both these guys are 2s. However a playmaking safety would make those two look much better & to me, that’s an easier/quicker fix if they could land say Byrd. That would give them playmakers at all levels of the defense.

    While Davis states that sacks are a little overrated, I’m not buying that. Sacks help create TOs, especially from the blind side.

  • reb

    As an Arizona resident, all I can say is “Go Eagles! Beat those freaking Cardinals!”

  • Scott J

    Next draft we should target a wideout early, then draft heavy for defense.

  • Dominik

    “Billy Davis would like to spell him more, but Barwin’s versatility makes it tough to remove him.”

    Nothing against Barwin, but the amount of snaps he sees definitely has something to do with him being the only OLB on the roster who can drop into coverage besides Matthews. And you don’t want to have Matthews on the field on the Defense, absolutely not.

    If Barwin would go down due to injury, I don’t think we could replace him. Not even a little bit.