All-22: Inside the Eagles’ Defensive Success

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

As the Eagles jogged off Lincoln Financial Field for halftime on Sunday, their fans showered them in boos.

The offense ran just 16 plays for 21 yards in the first half. DeMarco Murray rushed the ball five times for one yard, and Sam Bradford’s longest first-half completion traveled a single yard past the line of scrimmage.

Somehow, the Eagles only trailed the Cowboys 6-0.

Although Chip Kelly’s offense was expected to carry the defense this season, it has been the other way around. While the offense has struggled six out of the eight quarters so far this year, the defense—particularly against the Cowboys—has given the Eagles a chance to win both games.

“Our defense played outstanding today,” Kelly said on Sunday after losing to Dallas. “I don’t think the offense did anything, especially in the run game, where we could complement what our defense was doing. We let a really good defensive effort go for naught because we didn’t do what we needed to do offensively.” Read more »

All-22: Opponents Picking Up On Eagles’ Tendencies

Photo courtesy of USA Today

Photo courtesy of USA Today

There were times, Josh Huff says, when Dallas’ defense knew what was coming.

“I know a couple of times this past game when I was on the Dallas sideline lined up, I would hear them call out our plays,” he said. “Not saying they were doing any SpyGate or anything like that, just saying with our tendencies that comes about where teams really focus in and hone in on how our tight ends are lined up or how we’re lined up or what the splits are.”

Lane Johnson agrees that the Cowboys had a bead on what the Eagles were trying to do offensively.

“Yeah, I think so,” said Johnson, when asked if he believed Dallas had a feel for their tendencies. “I think moving forward we have to mix it up a little bit, create some more variety of plays and try to get some confusion for the defense.”

There is no singular reason for the offense’s struggles through two weeks. The 0-line has been spotty at best; Sam Bradford has been inconsistent; the wide receivers have several drops and are not gaining separation with any regularity. The list goes on.

According to Chip Kelly, it all boils down to execution. That’s largely true, but there is something else at play here.
Read more »

All-22: Why the Eagles Abandoned the Run

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports.

Their success was essentially a foregone conclusion. Yes, they lost a two-time Pro Bowler and a second starter, but the Eagles’ offensive line still had a lot of talent. Their new pair of guards transitioned smoothly in the preseason, so expectations for the unit were relatively high.

Then Monday night happened.

The Eagles scored only three points in the first half, largely because the offensive line failed to open up holes in the running game. Their ineffectiveness led to not only three-and-outs, but drives in which the Eagles didn’t gain a single yard (and one that resulted in a loss of eight yards). Read more »

All-22: Inside the Eagles’ Secondary Struggles

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports.

It didn’t take long for the concerns to start creeping in. On one play, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan delivered a quick pass to Julio Jones, who picked up 17 yards. On another, Ryan found Roddy White wide open for a 25-yard gain.

And that was only Atlanta’s first two passing plays.

The Falcons’ receivers torched the Eagles’ secondary for 23 catches, 298 yards and two touchdowns in Monday night’s matchup. After giving up the second-most passing yards in the NFL last year, Philadelphia focused on fixing their secondary in the offseason. They signed free agent cornerback Byron Maxwell to six-year, $63 million deal and traded up in the draft to select defensive back Eric Rowe with the No. 47 overall pick.

After signs of progress in the preseason, their moves appeared to work. Although few expected the Eagles to make the jump to an above-average secondary, many expected the unit to at least rank among the middle of the pack.

In their first test of the season, however, the defensive backs came up short. Read more »

All-22: What To Expect From Sam Bradford

Sam Bradford. Photo courtesy of USA Today.

Sam Bradford. Photo courtesy of USA Today.

Before Sam Bradford had fielded the first question, he smiled, looked around and offered up an observation.

“It’s already more people than in St. Louis,” he said to a roomful of reporters at the NovaCare Complex.

When a quarterback is taken with the No. 1 overall pick, the expectation is that he’ll make it to the second contract with the team that drafted him. But that expectation does not always become reality. Bradford started 49 games in five seasons with the Rams. He’s been on the field for just seven games in the past two seasons, and the last time Bradford took a meaningful snap was 17 months ago.

But two ACL injuries did not dissuade Chip Kelly from making a move for the former Heisman Trophy winner.

“I think we had some inside information because [offensive coordinator] Pat Shurmur had the opportunity to coach the kid for a year [in St. Louis], so he knows what he’s like in the meeting room, and he knows what he is like on a daily basis. He knows the consistency that comes with him, and he understands his work ethic. He’s an unbelievable competitor. Read more »

All-22: What the Eagles Would Get In McCourty

Devin McCourty. Matt Kartozian / USA TODAY

Devin McCourty. Matt Kartozian / USA TODAY

On the fourth play from scrimmage in the divisional round matchup between the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens, Joe Flacco dropped back and found Torrey Smith downfield for a 22-yard completion.

Smith ran an over route, starting on Flacco’s right side before gradually crossing the middle of the field. Devin McCourty was set up at free safety on the play. He saw the ball was going to Smith, accelerated forward and delivered a big hit, but the wide receiver held on. Read more »

All-22: Why CB Davon House Would Be a Fit

Davon House and Julio Jones. Jeff Hanisch / USA TODAY

Davon House and Julio Jones. Jeff Hanisch / USA TODAY

Davon House has been clear about what he wants from the next phase of his career: a starting gig.

“I know I can play,” he said, per the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “I truly believe the film says I can play in this league. If my film doesn’t show it, I don’t mind playing special teams. But I think my film shows I’m a starter.” Read more »

All-22: Why the Eagles Will Target Byron Maxwell

Mark J. Rebilas / USA Today

Mark J. Rebilas / USA Today

Following the Eagles’ 24-14 loss to the Seahawks in December, Chip Kelly was asked about why his offense converted just two of 11 third-down opportunities on the day.

He pointed to a few different factors, one of which was the inability of the Eagles’ wide receivers to separate from Seattle’s defensive backs.

“Some were runaways where you’re hoping they beat the man‑to‑man coverage and [uncover] a little bit quicker and separated the way we need to separate and run away from them a little bit,” he said.

On four occasions, it came down to a one-on-one matchup against a specific cornerback: Byron Maxwell. Time and again, Eagles receivers ended up on the losing end of that battle.

With free agency rapidly approaching, Maxwell’s name has been discussed quite a bit around these parts, and for good reason. Read more »

All-22: Defensive Decisions Burn Eagles

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The way Billy Davis tells it, the Eagles fully understood going into last week’s game that the Bradley FletcherDeSean Jackson matchup was one that favored the opponent.

“The whole game plan was either to pressure and have the post-safety stay over the top of DeSean, unless somebody else was in a more stressful situation, or split the safeties and double,” Davis said. “So we moved in and out of that the whole game.”

Chip Kelly and company were adamant in the offseason that Jackson didn’t affect how defenses played the Eagles. But apparently, as an opponent, he was someone they felt they had to focus on with their game plan.

The speedy receiver got loose for four catches for 126 yards. He had two grabs of 50+ yards and also drew a pass interference penalty that set up a Washington touchdown.

Fletcher had been left on an island against the Packers earlier this season, and Jordy Nelson went off on him. In Week 15 against the Cowboys, it was the same story; only the name changed. It was Dez Bryant this time.

Yet in an absolute must-win spot, there it was again: Fletcher on an island against an opponent he couldn’t handle. It wasn’t every play, but it happened enough to where the mismatch was glaring. It got to the point where Davis finally made a switch, pulling Fletcher for Nolan Carroll II in the fourth quarter.

Too little, too late. Read more »

All-22: Defensive Failures Against Dallas

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In the days leading up to the Eagles’ rematch with the Cowboys, Billy Davis made it clear that he was expecting to see a different Tony Romo.

On Thanksgiving, the Birds’ defense applied consistent pressure on Romo, and the Cowboys’ quarterback struggled to connect with open receivers when he did have opportunities.

Sunday night was a different story, and Davis ended up being right. Despite a mostly ineffective run game, Romo picked the Eagles apart, completing 22 of 31 passes for 265 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.

“I think the biggest difference in the two games that we had… was the play of Tony Romo and the throws,” Davis said this week. “The throws on Thanksgiving were under-thrown and bad, and we were coming back and making plays. The throws the other night were on the money, and they were right where they needed to be.”

Romo certainly deserves credit for playing well in a big spot. But Dez Bryant scored three touchdowns one-on-one against Bradley Fletcher. Was the Eagles’ game plan sound? Was it just a matter of the more talented unit winning? We explore those issues with the All-22. Read more »

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