Here’s a position-by-position review of how the Eagles’ defense performed against the Patriots, after having re-watched the game.
* The most active starter among this group was Cedric Thornton. He pushed a lineman back on a run play early, paving the way for Mychal Kendricks’ tackle for loss. He stopped Stevan Ridley after a 2-yard run in the first and was in on another tackle. Early on, Thornton put himself in great position, got into the backfield, but missed a tackle on Ridley’s 6-yard run. He also got tripped up and ended up on the ground on an 11-yard Ridley run. Overall, though, active and consistent.
* Fletcher Cox had a couple tackles against the run. Bennie Logan looked like someone who had not practiced or played a lot this summer (which is understandable).
* The best thing I can say about Vinny Curry is that you always notice when he’s on the field. His hustle and effort jump off the screen. Chip Kelly pointed out the way Curry blocked for Cary Williams on the pick six, but there are other examples too. He blew up a run play that gained 3 in the second and then made a tackle on a 2-yard carry. In the second quarter, he started out as a down lineman, rushed the passer, realized it was a WR screen, hustled downfield and leaped on the ball-carrier. Later, Curry fought through a double team and nearly got to the QB. I understand why he’s not an ideal fit for a two-gap 3-4. He should be on the field though in all passing situations once the regular season begins.
* Beau Allen showed some pass-rushing chops for the second week in a row. He won his matchup, forced the QB to flee and helped force an incompletion.
* Ups and downs for Taylor Hart. He battled through a double team and helped stop Ridley after a 2-yard run in the second. Later, Hart got a good pass-rush on third down and forced the QB out of the pocket. It looked like he was blocked to the ground on a 13-yard run to the right side in the third. And Hart missed a tackle on a cutback run that got called back.
* Joe Kruger had a tackle against the run in the third and was later called for illegal hands to the face.
* Brandon Bair continues to be active against the run. He stopped a run after a 1-yard gain and later shed his block before making another tackle.
* Connor Barwin had a couple decent pass-rushes. On one, he got around the edge, but couldn’t finish. On another, he nearly swiped Tom Brady’s arm. If Marcus Smith II can’t get on the field, though, Barwin’s role is unlikely to change from a year ago.
* Speaking of Smith, Billy Davis was pretty clear that the rookie’s head was spinning vs. New England. I’ve said I think Smith can help the Eagles as a first-year player, but I might have to re-think that stance. The pass-rush looks to be very much a work in progress. And Smith didn’t flash in other areas either this week. Davis said Smith is playing slow because there’s so much going on in his head right now, and that shows. There was a third-quarter run where he couldn’t get off a wide receiver’s block on a run play. Later, he had a chance for a stop behind the line of scrimmage, but couldn’t get off the TE’s block. And Smith was at fault for some cutback runs to his side. I still like him as a prospect, but Smith could be a ways away from contributing. Let’s see how he does against Pittsburgh this week.
* Davis liked what he saw out of Travis Long. What I learned about Long that I didn’t know before: He looks like he can hold up well against the run. Long was in on a tackle on a 4-yard carry in the first. Later, he set up with his hand on the ground and made a stop after a 2-yard run. Coverage is tough to gauge off TV tape, but either he or Emmanuel Acho seemed to be at fault for the third touchdown pass. As a pass-rusher, Long got a hit on the QB in the second, but was otherwise quiet.
* Brandon Graham didn’t play defense in the first half. He got pinned inside on the third-quarter TD run. Later, he came unblocked for a sack.
* DeMeco Ryans was stout, as usual, against the run. There appeared to be some confusion between him and Brandon Boykin on the first third-down conversion.
* Mychal Kendricks has been very active in the preseason. He burst through the line of scrimmage for a TFL early. He hustled downfield to block for Williams on his pick six. He avoided an offensive lineman, got low and made a tackle on a 1-yard run. And later, Kendricks got into the backfield and disrupted a 2-yard run. In coverage, either Kendricks or Boykin was responsible for Danny Amendola on a third-down conversion in the first. Overall, though, strong game.
* I’m not seeing a whole lot from the backups. Najee Goode figures to be third inside linebacker. He was OK. Neither Jason Phillips nor Emmanuel Acho did a lot to impress.
* Williams’ INT was one of the lone bright spots for the defense. I didn’t see Bradley Fletcher get targeted.
* We know Curtis Marsh had a nightmarish game. He was called for an illegal contact penalty (which looked bogus, for the record), was hit with a 26-yard pass interference flag and got beaten for three touchdowns. Rough outing, to say the least.
* This wasn’t Brandon Boykin’s best showing. He got called for illegal contact in the first and later did a poor job of setting the edge on an 18-yard run.
* Nate Allen got matched up with Amendola one-on-one on a couple occasions. His coverage was OK in the first, but a better throw from Brady would have resulted in a big gain. Later, Allen was beaten for a 12-yard completion. The one area where he’s made the most strides since two years ago is his tackling.
* Earl Wolff’s athleticism showed in the first half. He came on a blitz in the second, got to the QB in a hurry, leaped and batted a pass down. Wolff flashed against the run too. He made a stop after a 2-yard run in the red zone and stripped Ridley in the second quarter.