Game Review: Eagles Defense Vs. Steelers

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Here’s what we saw out of the Eagles’ defense after having re-watched Thursday night’s game against the Steelers.

DEFENSIVE LINE




* Cedric Thornton continues to be the Eagles' most productive player up front. He helped blow up a 2-yard run in the first and later played with good discipline and technique, spinning off his defender and making a tackle in the run game. Excellent hustle to get downfield and make a tackle on a screen that netted 7 yards. Thornton disrupted a 3-yard LeGarrette Blount run in the first. On one first-quarter play, he lost his leverage and got blocked to the ground. Overall, though, strong performance.

* Fletcher Cox flashed more than he had previously in the preseason. He drove the right tackle to the ground and pressured Ben Roethlisberger on a third-down incompletion in the second. Cox tackled Blount on a 6-yard run in the second. Good effort on the very next play, making a tackle after a 3-yard run.

* Brandon Bair continues to make a strong case for a roster spot. Nice pass-rush in the first, beating his man and pressuring Roethlisberger into an incompletion. Later, he looped outside and batted down a pass. Bair has been strong against the run all preseason. He drew a holding penalty in the second and blew up a third-quarter run play that lost 5 yards.

* Beau Allen rotated in at nose tackle with the first team. Good effort getting to the ball on a 3-yard Blount run in the first. It appeared that Allen didn't control the gap to his left on a 7-yard run. Bennie Logan started. He was not credited with any tackles, hurries or sacks. Damion Square made a nice play on a 4-yard run in the second.

* Vinny Curry notched another sack, taking Roethlisberger down as he tried to step up in the pocket in the third. He was also in on a tackle after a 4-yard run in the third.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS

* Connor Barwin started and set the edge nicely before making a tackle on a 2-yard run in the first. Trent Cole got close with his pass-rush on one play in the second. He later leveled Antonio Brown within the 5-yard window to help cause an incompletion.

* Plain and simple: The Steelers could not block Brandon Graham. He walked the left tackle into Roethlisberger's lap and forced him to flee the pocket in the second. Graham had a sack/forced fumble on the very next play with a straight bull-rush. In the third, his pressure off the edge led to Curry's sack. And Graham had a tackle for loss against the run in the third.

* I asked Chip Kelly about Marcus Smith II today.

"I think Marcus was a lot more comfortable," he said. "Got lined up a lot better and did a better job, I think. It seems like things are slowing down for him. He's settling in, and I thought he set the edge a couple times really well in the run game when they were running the ball at him and he held the tight end up at the line of scrimmage. I just think he was a lot more comfortable in what we were doing in Game 3 than he was in game 2."

Smith got off the TE's block and had a TFL in the third. Later, he did the same thing and stopped a Le'Veon Bell run after a 3-yard gain. In coverage, Smith actually did a decent job sticking with Brown on a wheel route down the sideline, but couldn't find the ball and gave up an 18-yard completion. He showed good discipline, forcing Bruce Gradkowski to slide after a 3-yard run in the third. Smith was whistled for a neutral zone infraction in the third. Overall, though, better performance than the previous week.

* Travis Long cross-trained at inside linebacker.

"Travis did a really nice job," Kelly said. "He’s played a little bit of it. They did a 3-3 stack when he was in college and has played the second level linebacker. But, again, making that transition from outside to inside is a difficult thing. I thought for first extended time playing in a game like that, we felt like he did a decent job. So he will be another guy to really watch this week in terms of where we can get him on the field against the Jets both inside and outside."

Long tackled Blount after a 4-yard run in the third. He later came on a blitz and beat the RB, but couldn't get a hand on Roethlisberger, who escaped and threw a TD.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS

* DeMeco Ryans made a nice play on a 2-yard Bell run early. He was later called for a personal foul for unloading on a receiver running a slant over the middle on third down. Ryans came off the field in the Eagles' dime package.

* Mychal Kendricks was all over the place. He came flying in on an A-Gap blitz and pressured Roethlisberger into an incompletion. Later, his speed was on full display, as Kendricks chased Dri Archer on a crosser and made the tackle after a 2-yard gain. Kendricks blew past the left guard and forced Roethlisberger out of the pocket on the Nolan Carroll II interception. On the next series, he came around the left edge and hit Roethlisberger as he threw incomplete. Tremendous job on a screen, making a tackle after a 3-yard gain. Kendricks later made the tackle on a 4-yard screen in the second. He was the only inside LB on the field in the Eagles' dime package. He sure looks to me like a player who's ready to make the leap.

* Najee Goode made a nice tackle short of the first-down marker while in coverage. Emmanuel Acho made a tackle after a 2-yard completion in the third.

CORNERBACKS

* Bradley Fletcher and Carroll started on the outside with Cary Williams sidelined. Fletcher was called for illegal contact on a pair of occasions and seems to be struggling with the way the game's being called downfield. He had good coverage on a deep ball down the sideline on third down, forcing an incompletion.

* When the Eagles went to dime, Carroll moved inside. He got matched up in man coverage against Heath Miller on an early third down. Carroll's coverage was good, but the throw was perfect, and he allowed an 8-yard completion. Great job on the interception of getting his hands underneath the ball. Carroll will be heard from at some point; it's just a matter of when.

* Jaylen Watkins played inside also in the dime package. He got beaten on a 10-yard completion on third down in the third, but otherwise was not targeted. Roc Carmichael played outside in dime with the first team. In the second, he had good coverage, but couldn't break up a slant that gained a first down. Curtis Marsh got beaten on a 14-yard slant and was later called for illegal contact.

SAFETIES

* Tough to evaluate these guys off TV, but Nate Allen did a good job in run support on a 5-yard carry in the first. Kelly seems to be happy with him, and he's going to start in Week 1.

* Malcolm Jenkins made a great play on the ball, swatting a pass down in front of Brown to force a punt in the second. He was also in on a tackle after a 4-yard screen in the second. Jenkins was called for unsportsmanlike conduct for swatting the ball out of Brown's hands after a first-down catch.

* Kelly's response to whether Earl Wolff would play vs. the Jets:

"I see Earl Wolf playing, definitely. I don't think Nate will play, but that depends on the depth at that position. ...Earl needs a lot more reps."

Wolff showed good range, getting to the sideline to break up a pass in the fourth.

* Chris Maragos got beaten on the TD downfield to Miller.

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  • Jerry Pomroy

    “Kelly’s response to whether Earl Wolff would play vs. the Steelers:”

    Shouldn’t that read vs. the Jets?

    • sdk152

      Yes sir! Fixed, thanks. -SK

  • Jerry Pomroy

    Hopefully we will see Kendricks used this way throughout the season. With additions like Jenkins, Smith, etc. there should be no reason why we can’t take his leash off and allow him to attack the backfield from all over, knowing we’ve got other guys that can take his place in coverage. This is also similar to the way I feel we could utilize Smith to allow him to make some plays with his athleticism by getting creative with him.

    • https://twitter.com/richcolton RichC, brings duck to cockfigh

      Damn right Jerry. He’s our only full time play-maker on D. We need him to play like one consistently.

    • MediaMike

      I’d much rather see him attacking than allowing TEs on career worst years to have huge games.

  • 1977

    We’ll never be consider a great defense as long as Nate Allen is one of our starting safeties. I dont care what anyone says, the guys average at best

    • juaniflaco

      says who? those in the know say he’s been great this preseason. Certainly the coaches know better than us fans.

      • OverreacSean Jackson, #culture

        I think that at this point people just hear/read one another saying “Nate Allen sucks” and accept it as truth.

        • John E. Zang

          People love blaming players when a lot of times it’s the team/situation they’re in. Not everyone and every position can transcend bad circumstances off talent alone. I like to look at all the variables before I decide a player just can’t play. Nates not one of them. He’s obviously a talent and has showed flashes before the crap hit the fan with Andy’s delusional personnel moves.

    • JBShakes

      Strong taek, bro.

    • MediaMike

      We don’t need to be great. We need to be no worse than 16th in pass yards, rush yards, 3rd down %, red zone %, and takeaways. Allen can be functional on an average D.

    • John E. Zang

      Don’t know how you can gather that when he was considered by many as a talent coming out of the draft and was stuck on Andy’s mess of a team for his whole career. Can you recall anyone who played well on that squad? He played well until he got injured under McDermott (a real defensive coordinator) don’t forget. I’m rooting for him to have a pro bowl season and prove all the couch qb’s wrong.

      • MediaMike

        McDermott sucked. Worst red zone D in 30+ years of the NFL. He was good with the D-back position group, but has no clue how to coordinate. He’s lucky he gets to hide in Carolina behind Ron Rivera’s D talents.

  • Rockedupeaglesfan

    Anyone else think Maragos is a total liability in coverage. He better be on hell of a ST ace, because he stinks on defense. I’m kind of glad they gave him #42, it’s like Coleman never left.

    • https://twitter.com/richcolton RichC, brings duck to cockfigh

      He’s purely there for special teams. If he’s ever out there for extended action, we’ve got serious trouble.

      • southy

        Colt Anderson 2.0

    • Eagles4Life

      And Braman to that list of terrible defenders…these guys had better be all stars on special teams lol

  • Rockedupeaglesfan

    Graham’s performance made all the speculation that he could be cut seem a bit premature. And it seems like Long can be the “swing” LB instead of Matthews. My guess is that made Knott and Matthews expendable.

    • MediaMike

      Please get Casey Matthews out of here.

      • midddletownwatch

        agreed… fredo Matthews STINKS

        • MediaMike

          good dumb brother reference!

      • John E. Zang

        See that awesome tackle he had on the wind force created by the ball carrier? It was textbook.

  • NickS, Combine Warrior

    Thought Fletch got kind of screwed on the first illegal contact with the WR running into him, but, agree it doesn’t look good for him. I wonder how tired Sheil is of typing that Marsh got beat. Seems like this theme has dominated discussion of the preseason. NC2 looks like he might be a great signing…. Kendricks, dude looked like it finally clicked. If this is the case this season, we should all feel A LOT better about the D this season. He played like a man possessed. Seems like Davis is a kid on Christmas in how he’s going to get to use him…. Love our DL. Even with Cox a square peg as a 3-4 DE he’s still a force. Thornton is a stud. Beau might take Logan’s job. And we’re stacked with depth. I feel great about this positionsal group…. The ILBs/OLBs are what they are. Good, not great. They get the job done, though…. Jenkins looks okay so far, a noticable upgrade from Chung. I’ll be fine with Allen back there getting some continuity in scheme and not playing next to Chung. That makes anyone look bad.

    • wee2424

      You dont seem to be high on Jenkins. I think he is playing better then ok.

      • NickS, Combine Warrior

        He’s made a couple of nice plays in preseason but he’s also missed a couple of tackles, which was his M.O. in New Orleans, where he wasn’t that good. So, thus far, he’s played okay.

  • southy

    Beau Allen – 10 bucks says when we get into the regular season, John Gruden “loves this guy.”

    • http://www.youtube.com/user/RipperEagle96?feature=mhee RJ

      We won’t have to wait long, only week two when we’re on MNF in Indy!

  • MediaMike

    I still don’t understand why Jenkins was called for a flag for slapping the ball away from Brown who also should have been flagged (or jumped) for celebrating a first down by making a demonstration with the football.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/RipperEagle96?feature=mhee RJ

    I like the intrigue that this team can bring with the young D-line, and how Curry and Graham fit into things. I hope neither gets traded just because they “don’t fit into the system” as I can see some big things from both this year. I’m also interested to see how they use Williams/Fletcher/Carroll on the corners, if Davis decides to alternate someone out of the starting role during the game and let Carroll move outside to cover someone who might be a better matchup for him.

    The sky is the limit. Can’t be worse than 32nd against the pass again, unless LA gets an expansion team before the season begins.

    • MediaMike

      ha ha, the NFL isn’t going to expand. They’ll use the stadium situations in Oakland and San Diego to move one of those teams to LA.

      • http://www.youtube.com/user/RipperEagle96?feature=mhee RJ

        Yeah it was meant as a sarcastic point that we couldn’t possibly be worse than in 2013 against the pass Mike.

        • MediaMike

          No doubt, but at least Chung isn’t coming back.

          • http://www.youtube.com/user/RipperEagle96?feature=mhee RJ

            That’s clearly the best definition of addition by subtraction one could ever come up with.

          • wee2424

            I have the 2nd best…..releasing Mathews.

          • http://www.youtube.com/user/RipperEagle96?feature=mhee RJ

            See here is where the theory of Chip and his Ducks will come into play. As if it wasn’t bad enough Casey seemingly got a free ride under Andy’s watch, now he might because he was a Duck AND of the bloodlines of Clay Sr/Bruce/Clay Jr/Jake?

  • wee2424

    I think i have figured out our LB theory. Anytime a Texans LB becomes a free agent or goes to the trading block we aquire them. Anyone know when Cushing becomes a FA? We have three so far. Cant end it on an odd number.

    • MediaMike

      no more roid heads please.

    • Rellihcs

      I’ll take 3/5/7/9… consecutive Eagles SB wins and then no title the following year = CAN end in an odd number.

      Have a nice day sir.

  • cliff h-MOAR white goons

    where’s the around the NFC east Sunday morning article? watched ‘allas…and am loaded for bear! holy smokes, not 1 guy above MEH on ‘efense. i dont think any team would trade for 1 of their starters. it’s really bad.
    .
    and then you have RG3-10, what a trainwreck! Oh, Eli, eli eli eli, 27 Ints might have been a warm up. Eagles 2nd team OL is better than their 1st.
    .
    anything less than 5-1 in division is an embarrasment for Eags. i’ll allow 1 road hiccup.

    • MediaMike

      RG3&out isn’t even the best QB on his team. He is a poor fit for the system being installed by Gruden.
      Eli is also garbage and that line just took another injury.
      I agree completely with 5-1.

      • cliff h-MOAR white goons

        i fear for Shady’s hamstrings against ‘allas. he is going to run wild. Miami could walk the ball forward 4yds every play. dead honest. coaches simply stopped calling runplays cause it was a waste. Miami shot themselves in the foot 4 times, like a t[fr]ucker type no contact fumble, in the 1st half. was hot knife going thru butter. and offense wasnt much more impressive. somehow allas fans turned Miami’s DL into a top5 in the league (not sure, i dont watch Miami, but hard to believe that) and that way Romo was getting drilled every other play. unfortunately, Dez is really good. but was watching a ‘allas feed, and he looks unbelievably annoying and unhinged on sidelines. they spun it as energetic, to me looked like a ticking time bomb if they get off to 1-5 start.

        • John E. Zang

          And don’t forget the contract situation and all the buttheads like Dion and Irvin pumping him up telling him he’s so great.

          • cliff h-MOAR white goons

            yup, Irvin was on broadcaste. actually had Dez on sidelines talking to him in the booth. Dez is really good, no denying that. but he does not seem like a guy i’d want to hand 5 yrs 65m too. and ‘Allas will, cause they cant let him walk.

          • anon

            That’s crazy $$ but he’s one of the best in the league. Mental is a little crazy but i think that’s gotten better. I’d pay him $10/yr and put him into our system. But then it wouldn’t be fair.

          • cliff h-MOAR white goons

            no choice, it’s like Romo. they let extension go little too long, now Dez is seeing huge money whether he signs ext or rides out tags. will end up over paying and having to go too long with guaranteed money.

          • John E. Zang

            I saw the same thing last preseason. Irvin had him on the sidelines doing an interview and just basically gushing about him for ten minutes while the game was still going on. Truly get more of an appreciation for our fans and media when you watch ‘allas broadcasts and hear what morons they all sound like. As for Dez yes he’s talented but he seems to cry a lot like TO and he’s never around when it counts because he’s probably upset. Big babies with mommy issues don’t make good pros.

    • NickS, Combine Warrior

      Let’s hope. 5-1 in division, 2-2 against NFCW (prob best case), 2-2 against AFCS (prob the worst case), and split against CAR/GB and we’re at 10-6. Tend to think we go 3-1 in AFCS with the L coming against IND or HOU. And IND did not look good last night. NO D was having their way with that line.

      • MediaMike

        I’m starting to get geared up for some of those big games. I really want wins vs. San Fran and Carolina due to my hatred of those scramble bums they have at QB. Scam Newton and Kaepernitwin getting beaten by our Eagles would be awesome.

        • John E. Zang

          Couldn’t agree more. Kaepernick is dirt on and off the field and I’m so grateful Andy never pulled the trigger on that trade. Imagine how many more years of the same old we’d have?

      • cliff h-MOAR white goons

        right, went 1-3 against AFCwest, say 1-3 agains NFCW (see about Bardford knee, SEA is the trappiest of trap games ever…and having Reid for 14 yrs, we know what trap games look like). CAR stinks. GB looks solid, but losing BJ Raji gotta be helpful for Eags rungame. AFCsouth looks like 3-1 worst case. 10-6, no way are the other 3 teams getting more than 8 wins. division is really bad. hey, i’ll take it. New England hasnt given back any division, champ game appearances, SB games and lombardies for kicking the teeth in of division and getting easy road deep into playoffs for the last 12 yrs

        • NickS, Combine Warrior

          Yeah, the only advantages that they have over us is not playing against the Packers or Panthers, who, as you noted, don’t look good.

          • cliff h-MOAR white goons

            not sure who they play, but neither of those 3 teams will ever be a road favorite. Know ‘allas gets NO at home. the only bad team that 1 of 3 would be a favorite against in NFCN/NFCS is Tampa, and that’s only if that happens to be home game.

          • NickS, Combine Warrior

            Dallas has NO and CHI, that’s two L’s for them. Redskins have TB and MIN, that’s 1 win at best for them. Giants have Lions and Falcons, and they’ll def pull out one of those games.

          • cliff h-MOAR white goons

            giants and definitely should not be in same sentence. agree, that’s 2-4 at best, 0-6 at worst. Eagls arent SB ready, but division is shockingly bad.

          • MediaMike

            Giants fans are “definitely” the most fun to see get punched in their face in the parking lot, stands, and/or the bar.

    • Token

      I cant believe what has become of RG3.

      • MediaMike

        Why not? He never learned how to become a real QB and was doing things with smoke and mirrors though all of the running / scrambling trash play.
        He’s a dead end player in terms of style.

        • Token

          Coming in, RG3 was a pretty good pocket passer IMO. He looked like he did that pretty well at Baylor. Smart kid. I thought his potential was immense.

          But man, right now he looks confused, scared….i dunno. Hes brain dead out there often. Taking hits in these preseason games near the sideline instead of throwing it away. His ability to read the field seems to have diminished. Just dont know whats going on there.

          But to act like he was just a bum prospect or Mike Vick 2 coming out just isnt true. This kid could throw the football. He seems to want to run around more since getting to the pros.

          • MediaMike

            “He seems to want to run around more since getting to the pros.”
            That’s the exact reason why I think he’s cooked.

          • John E. Zang

            Look at it from a behavioral stand point. He’s been a superior athlete all his life getting rewarded for playing that way up until this point. Trying to trust what’s being taught and change now is very difficult. He has to almost completely reinvent himself as a qb and not a “playmaker”.

          • http://www.corcommunity.com/ Kelce’s Beard

            having watched him pretty close thanks to awful DC proximity, it seems pretty mental. The whole Gilbert/Shanahan/Injury debacle last year may have lasting impacts.
            I feel sorry for him pesonally, seemed a great kid an all, but could not be any happier for the classless franchise Danny boy has been running down there for years. ’bout the same as the monster revenge karma is having on Jerruh this year

          • Will, Always Shady in CA

            I agree, I just think hes having trouble picking up the system. People are making it seem like he’s a running back who can throw occasionally. He’s a pocket passer with tremendous athletic ability.

      • cliff h-MOAR white goons

        wish i saw it. only read about it in Hoghaven. they were already building Cousin back up. that’s insane after seeing him last yr.

    • Explorer51

      Washington D looks improved, including sick pass rush; Hatcher was unstoppable against Ravens. According to much of DC press, RG3 is having trouble picking up Jay Gruden’s offense; if Kirk Cousins was playing half as well as Sanchez this preseason their message boards would be blowing up with something other than the idiotic comments about the name change debate. If mediocre QB play persists during season, I’m guessing there will be some tirades and pouting on the sidelines ala Dez.

  • TNA

    As Barwin has said, the key to this defense are the ILBs. The better Kendricks gets at reading offenses the better this defense gets. The way this defense and offense have the potential to play, opposing teams are going to have to pass early and often. If teams run the ball, they’re going to consistently be in 3rd and long situations. And the weakness of this scheme are the underneath routes. I think Curry and Graham should essentially be let loose in the second half of games and go kill the QB. This would also give DeMeco a breather. And give Carroll and BB a lot of oops to make plays.

    So long as the core players stay healthy and everybody keeps on showing systematic progress, no reason this team can’t dominate throughout the season.

    • MediaMike

      If they can find a safety (and I think they have that now) capable of covering TEs (and not letting guys having career worst years have the game of their season vs. the Eagles) and allow Kendricks to make plays otherwise, they’ll be better off.