Eagles Wake-Up Call: Matthews Breaks Out

Photo Credit: Eric Hartline - USA Today

Photo Credit: Eric Hartline – USA Today

While talking about Jordan Matthews at his postgame press conference Monday night, Mark Sanchez joked that he didn’t want too pump up the rookie too much because “he’ll get a big head and his hat won’t fit.”

There were no signs of an inflated ego as Matthews faced the large crowd of reporters surrounding his locker stall, though, and his green Eagles cap with the black brim seemed to fit just fine. He had just busted out on Monday Night Football, snaring seven balls for 138 yards and a pair of touchdowns to help his team improve to 7-2. How did it feel?

“I felt like I was Jeremy Maclin,” said Matthews, drawing a big smile out of No. 18 a couple stalls down. “At the same time, you have to put it behind you. Like I said, I have a bunch of great guys ahead of me who show me how to be a professional. If you take too much time looking at the stats and drinking the Kool-Aid, you lose your appetite. I just try to put it behind me and move forward.” Read more »

All-22: Babin’s Last Game In Green

Brandon Graham said Tuesday’s release of Jason Babin made him realize that in the NFL, “just when you think you’re safe, you’re gone.”

Babin hit the pillow Monday night as the team leader in sacks, and woke up (temporarily) unemployed.

Did his performance against the Panthers weigh into the Eagles’ decision to let him go? We took a look at the All-22 tape to figure it out.

One thing you can’t knock the 32-year old for is his effort. On Wednesday his old teammates talked about how Babin would always bust it, and the following play from the second quarter Monday is a good example. Cam Newton pitches to Jonathan Stewart, who takes off to his left. Babin is lined up wide on the other side of the field.

But it’s Babin who tracks Stewart down.

Babin was able to generate some pressure in this one. He played 40 snaps against the Panthers and finished with a sack and a pair of quarterback hits. On the play below he shakes free and is able to get a shot on Cam Newton. The quarterback is unable to follow through, and his pass intended for Steve Smith falls incomplete. (Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie can be credited with his solid coverage on Smith as well.)

Now onto the not-so-good.

The following play is a good example of the burden Jim Washburn‘s Wide-9 can put on the rest of defense, particularly the linebackers. Here the Panthers run a draw to DeAngelo Williams.

Babin’s positioning and aggressive approach has opened up a gaping hole. It is up to Mychal Kendricks to read the play properly, avoid big ‘ol number 61, and make an open-field tackle. Fortunately for the Eagles, he did.

Next up you will see Babin rushing off the edge as Newton surveys the field.

In his quest to get to the quarterback, he continues to push his way inside. In the process he loses the edge, and the fleet-footed Newton scrambles loose.

With nothing but daylight, Newton is able to pick up the first down.

Finally, take a look at this third-down play with two minutes remaining in the game. Carolina has an eight-point lead and is already in field goal range, but this is the defense’s last chance to try and get the ball back in the offense’s hands. The pass rush starts off well for the Eagles, as both Cullen Jenkins and Babin spring free.

Babin will attack a little too sharply to the inside, however. In the next frame, you can actually see him push off Jenkins as Newton rolls out beyond the pressure.

Haven broken the contain, Newton flicks one to Mike Tolbert for an 11-yard gain and a first down. After the play, Babin slaps his chest twice as if to suggest, “My bad.”

That was his last meaningful play in an Eagles uniform, as Newton took a couple knees to run the clock out.

Overall, you can’t call it a poor performance from Babin. He made a few plays, got some pressure. He was also out of position a few times, though that has some to do with Washburn’s design as well. The decision to release him couldn’t have been made off this game, in other words. This was a big-picture move, and a sign that a philosophy shift is right around the corner.

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