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 Fletcher-DeSean 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 »

Zone Read: Eagles-Washington, the Day After

Photo Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Photo Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

LANDOVER, Md. – Chip Kelly had been in this room before, but the circumstances were different the last time.

It was September of 2013. Kelly’s squad had just put the NFL on notice that his up-tempo attack could be effective at the professional level as the Eagles defeated Washington on Monday Night football in his debut as Andy Reid’s successor.

Kelly answered questions from a roomful of reporters about the Birds’ pace, Michael Vick’s performance and other topics. Before exiting the room to make the trip back to Philadelphia, Kelly stopped to say hello to some media members who had made the trip from Oregon.

Where his first season began was essentially the same place that his second season ended. Kelly’s squad was clinging to its playoffs aspirations Saturday afternoon at FedEx Field. The hope was that the Eagles would take care of business against an inferior opponent and perhaps get a little help in the final two weeks to sneak into the postseason.

Instead, the Eagles suffered a meltdown. Issues that have been prevalent all year long resurfaced, and the result was a 27-24 loss. Read more »

Wake-Up Call: Eagles Can’t Sleep on RGIII

Courtesy of USA Today

Courtesy of USA Today

You won’t find many pundits backing Washington this week. The Eagles have too much to play for and the Redskins are too much of a mess to not lean towards Philly in this one. That sentiment is reflected in the line, with Vegas making the Eagles 7 ½ -point road favorites.

If there is one variable that has the best chance of knocking this game off course, it’s quarterback play. That is, if Robert Griffin III shines and Mark Sanchez falters, the Eagles could leave FedEx Field with their playoff hopes all but crushed. Read more »

Lost Season For Boykin?

Photo Credit: Jeff Fusco

Photo Credit: Jeff Fusco

The calls for more Brandon Boykin have quieted down as the year has gone along, partly because people have come to realize those efforts are fruitless, and partly because Boykin hasn’t been flashing with the same brightness compared to last season.

That six-interception campaign seems a world away now, doesn’t it? The talk this offseason was all about how to get the young corner’s snaps up from 50 percent. Instead, his playing time has gone south (he’s played 42 percent of the defensive snaps, per Pro Football Focus) and it feels like Boykin has been pushed further to the fringe by Billy Davis and Chip Kelly despite the coaches’ claims that he is viewed as a starter. 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 »

Smith’s Development “Stifled” By Switch

Photo Credit: Jeff Fusco

Photo Credit: Jeff Fusco

It was out of necessity that Marcus Smith II was shuffled from outside linebacker to inside linebacker earlier this year, and it is out of necessity that he is now being shuffled back to his original position.

Trent Cole broke his hand against Dallas and is expected to be sidelined for at least one week. That means Brandon Graham steps into the starter’s role while Smith figures to be the next man in.

“I expect to get some snaps. I’m not sure how many snaps I’ll get but I’m sure to get action,” said Smith. “Hopefully go out there, run around and just make a play.”

Smith is currently practicing at the Predator position, so he’ll likely rotate in for Graham at times. Bryan Braman is the other option at outside linebacker.

Smith was moved inside back in September after Mychal Kendricks and Najee Goode went down with injuries. He was already having a difficult time acclimating to the pro level, and now had to do so while learning a new position. The results haven’t been good. Smith has appeared in six games and has played just 74 snaps, totaling one tackle and one quarterback hurry.

“We set him back by moving him inside, but we needed that because of all the injuries we had at inside,” said Billy Davis. Read more »

Zone Read: Eagles-Cowboys, the Day After

Photo Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Photo Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Billy Davis usually sets up shop at the exact same spot in the middle of the Eagles locker room after home games.

He always speaks in the same calm, measured tone. You can never tell by his face whether his defense just played well or played poorly, whether the Eagles won or lost.

Players seem to appreciate that about him. And so does Chip Kelly. Davis believes in the process, and having coached in the NFL for more than 20 years, he’s been on the wrong side of plenty of bad losses, contests where the game plan left room for second-guessing and where the coaches didn’t put the players in positions to succeed.

Sunday’s 38-27 loss to the Cowboys was one of those games. Read more »

Wake-Up Call: Will Eagles See a Different Romo?

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys

Tony Romo did not play a clean game on Thanksgiving as the Eagles handed the Cowboys a 33-10 loss.

He went 18-for-29 for 199 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. But most notably, he went down on a couple occasions when pressure was near, something that has been rare for him throughout his career.

“Oh, we’ll see a different offense,” said Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis. “We’ll see a healthier Tony Romo. We’ll see a healthier team, a team that’s got plenty of time to prepare for us, including a game with us under our belt. But we also have that time. It will be a little different. Tony Romo will look completely different against us than he did against Chicago. He looked a lot healthier in Chicago, and now 10 more days of recovery, I think we are going to get more of the healthy Tony Romo.”

Maybe Davis just wanted to make it clear to his players that taking the Cowboys lightly would be a mistake. Maybe he wanted to drive home the message that the performance in the first game will have no impact on this one.

Or  perhaps he was saying how he really felt. Read more »

All-22: The Good And Bad Of the Eagles’ Defense

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Eagles defensive players – well, most of them anyway – know by now not to make excuses.

The offense wants to play fast every week, regardless of opponent, situation or anything else. The defense’s job is always to get off the field and give the offense another chance to score. Since Chip Kelly took over, that formula has worked pretty well. But there are games, like Sunday’s, when the offense is stagnant. And that puts the defensive players in a bind.

For example, to start the game, the defense gave up a 10-play, 43-yard drive that took 6:35 off the clock. The offense went three-and-out in 25 seconds. And Billy Davis’ guys were right back out there.

That is just how it is. It’s why the Eagles train the way they do. And it’s why in a perfect world, they’d like to rotate players on defense even more.

“I think they are fine,” Kelly said Monday. “I don’t think it had anything to do with the fourth quarter. I just think that they are built for it. They are in great condition. They train at a really high level. They practice against us. They understand what it takes. We didn’t come out of it with any injuries or anything like that. I would imagine they will all be ready to go.” Read more »

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