Ten Eagles On the Roster Bubble

Danny WatkinsBy 6 p.m. Saturday, the Eagles have to cut 22 players and get their roster down to 53. Many of the bubble guys will get a chance to make one final impression Thursday night, as Chip Kelly acknowledged there’s still “a lot up in the air.”

New offensive scheme, new defensive scheme, new coaching staff and new personnel. Kelly’s moves this weekend will tell us a lot about his roster-building philosophy. Keeping that in mind, here are 10 players whose future with the franchise hangs in the balance as we approach cut-down day.

1. Danny Watkins, OG – The 2011 first-round pick got a fresh start with new offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland, but it doesn’t seem like he’s made a strong impression. Watkins is currently a backup guard and has been passed on the depth chart by veteran Allen Barbre. Kelly wants versatility in his backups, but so far, Watkins has only played guard. As T-Mac reported yesterday, Watkins is due $1.1M in guaranteed money. But with Barbre looking like a keeper and the team needing a backup center, Watkins, who turns 29 in November, could still be out of a spot.

2. Michael Bamiro, OT – The Eagles had to compete with other teams to sign Bamiro earlier this summer. Some reports suggested he would have been a mid-round pick had he entered the draft. The question the Birds have to weigh is whether or not they’d be safe stashing Bamiro on the practice squad. The Eagles have some tackle depth. Barbre can play out there, and Todd Herremans could slide over in a pinch. The team also expects Dennis Kelly to return from back surgery at some point. Bamiro might be a nice option for the bottom of the roster. He would likely be a weekly inactive, but has plenty of upside for down the road.

3. Julian Vandervelde, G/C – It’s been a bumpy journey for the 2011 fifth-round pick. He spent his rookie season on the active roster, was cut last summer, spent a couple days with the Tampa Bay Bucs and then returned to the Eagles. He entered the league as a guard, but has been learning the center position the past two years. If the preseason is any indication, he has a good shot of sticking around as Jason Kelce’s backup. The Eagles’ other options for that spot are Dallas Reynolds and Matt Tennant.

4. Greg Salas, WR - The Eagles didn’t make any moves to add receivers after Jeremy Maclin and Arrelious Benn went down with season-ending ACL injuries. Salas had an excellent camp and flashed during the first two preseason games. He could be competing with Russell Shepard for the fifth receiver spot. Or the Eagles could decide to keep them both.

5. Russell Shepard, WR – He showed some good YAC ability during last week’s game, catching two balls for 38 yards. With Shepard, there is once again the practice squad question. There’s no doubt that the Eagles like his talent, but he went undrafted and could probably use some seasoning before he’s ready to contribute. Special teams is a factor here too. Shepard looks like a willing contributor and made a nice tackle in coverage against Carolina.

6. Clay Harbor, TE/WR - Kelly has been trying to find a spot for the fourth-year tight end. He’s been getting reps at wide receiver and has played there each of the last two preseason games. The truth is, when then Eagles spread it out in Kelly’s offense, there’s often not much of a difference between a wide receiver and a tight end. Kelly prides himself on being prepared for every situation. Harbor’s versatility could be enough to make him stick.

7. Chris McCoy, OLB – The CFL product started off the preseason well, but was not good last week against the Jaguars. The Eagles are somewhat thin at the position. Kelly said ideally, the team would keep four outside linebackers. They’ve got Connor Barwin, Trent Cole and Brandon Graham as virtual locks. This one will likely come down to who else is available. McCoy could be an initial keeper, but if the Eagles see an outside linebacker they like cut from another team, he could be released.

8. Casey Matthews, ILB – Kelly said he’d like to keep four inside linebackers also. The starters are in place with DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks. Matthews, Jake Knott and Emmanuel Acho are competing for spots. Knott is probably the favorite among that group. What we wrote about McCoy could apply here too. The Eagles could add an inside linebacker from another team’s cut list. But Matthews’ special-teams production (14 tackles last year) could help him earn a spot.

9. Clifton Geathers/Damion Square, DL – I cheated a bit here and included these two together. And really, they could both end up making it. The plan for the Eagles on gamedays seems to be to rotate six players on the defensive line. Right now, the five most likely are: Fletcher Cox, Isaac Sopoaga, Cedric Thornton, Bennie Logan and Vinny Curry. The sixth could be either Geathers or Square, with the other as a potential inactive. Square drew praise early in the preseason, but did not play well last week. Geathers had his best performance against Jacksonville. Both have played nose tackle, along with defensive end.

10. Kurt Coleman, S – The fourth-year player’s chances of making the roster increased when the Eagles released Kenny Phillips. But he’s still no lock to make it. Coleman hasn’t rotated in with the starters much, and the decision on whether to keep him or not will likely depend on if Kelly is comfortable keeping five safeties. Patrick Chung, Nate Allen and rookie Earl Wolff seem like locks. Colt Anderson has an excellent shot of sticking because of his special-teams ability. That means Coleman could be the odd man out.

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Eagles Lose LB Jason Phillips, Add Travis Long

Eagles linebacker Jason Phillips went down today with a torn ACL in his right knee and will miss the 2013 season.

The 27-year-old was added as a free agent this offseason, in large part for his special-teams prowess. Phillips led the Carolina Panthers last year with 16 special-teams tackles. Today’s injury occurred during a kickoff coverage drill.

Phillips figured to add depth behind DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks, but the Eagles will now have to look elsewhere for that.

The options on the roster are: Jamar Chaney, Casey MatthewsEmmanuel Acho and Jake Knott.

Matthews had 14 special-teams tackles last year and played for Kelly at Oregon. Chaney has experience (23 starts), but he’s squarely on the roster bubble.

Acho was acquired from the Browns in the Dion Lewis trade. He’s mixed in with the twos a little bit this week.

And Knott is a sleeper to watch. An undrafted free agent out of Iowa State, he has a legitimate shot of making the team with a strong camp and preseason.

Update: The Eagles have placed Phillips on injured reserve and added outside linebacker Travis Long. Long (6-4, 245) is an undrafted free agent out of Washington State.

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Eagles Depth Chart Outlook: Inside Linebackers

Philadelphia Eagles LB Mychal KendricksThis is the third in a series. Throughout the next week or two, we’ll take a position-by-position look at the Eagles’ roster. Click here for yesterday’s piece on the cornerbacks and here for a breakdown of the safeties.

Mike Triplett of the New Orleans Times Picayune provided a league-wide breakdown earlier this offseason to see how many teams used a 3-4 in 2012.

He found there were a total of 14 that ran a 3-4 or some kind of hybrid.

With the Eagles making the switch in 2013, it’s worth looking at the way those 3-4 teams constructed their rosters. And in the case of today’s post, how many linebackers they kept.

I took a look at all 14 rosters after initial cuts last summer and found that, on average, 3-4 teams kept 8.1 linebackers. The numbers ranged from as few as six (more “hybrid” teams) to as many as 10.

Today, we’ll tackle the Eagles’ inside linebackers and we’ll examine the outside LBs in the next post.

DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks should hold down the starting jobs. But there are certainly depth spots up for grabs.

The team signed Jason Phillips in free agency. They also traded for Emmanuel Acho and have Jamar Chaney and Casey Matthews returning from last year’s squad. The Eagles didn’t use a draft pick on an inside linebacker, but they did sign undrafted free agent Jake Knott out of Iowa State.

Here’s a look at the inside linebackers on the roster:

 
Height
Weight
Age
Years/Starts
Emmanuel Acho6-2240221/0
Jamar Chaney6-0242263/23
Mychal Kendricks6-0240221/14
Jake Knott6-2243220/0
Casey Matthews6-1240242/4
Jason Phillips6-1240274/2
DeMeco Ryans6-1247287/102

Pencil ‘em in: Ryans, Kendricks.

In 2012, the secondary was a mess, and the defensive line never got its act together. But Ryans quietly had a very productive year and brought stability to the middle of the Eagles’ defense. According to team stats, he finished with 115 solo tackles and 16 tackles for loss. No Eagles player under Andy Reid (14 years) had a higher total in either category.

Ryans wasn’t perfect. He had some issues in coverage, and even against the run later in the year. But overall, he was really good, playing 1,014 out of a possible 1,015 snaps in the Eagles’ final 15 games, according to Pro Football Focus. There are questions about how Ryans fits in a 3-4, but as I wrote earlier this offseason, I think he’s going to be just fine.

Kendricks isn’t the biggest guy and at times has trouble getting off blocks. But my guess is Chip Kelly and Billy Davis will appreciate what they have in him. The second-year player has a versatile skill set, with the ability to play the run and, more importantly, cover. In other words, he’s not someone you have to worry about taking off the field in sub packages, giving the Eagles an advantage when opposing offenses push tempo. The new scheme could play to Kendricks’ strength and allow him to run free and attack the ball-carrier.

Barring injury, it would be a slight upset if Ryans and Kendricks aren’t the team’s starting inside linebackers to start the season.

Fighting for spots: Phillips, Matthews, Chaney, Knott, Acho.

There are plenty of things to take into consideration here: depth, upside and special teams.

Phillips is a player the Eagles targeted and signed in free agency. He led the Panthers with 16 special-teams tackles last year. There’s still plenty of time between now and the start of the season, but he would seem to have a good shot of making the 53-man roster.

Matthews obviously has a history with Kelly from his days at Oregon, but more importantly, he showed some special-teams chops last year. Matthews finished fourth on the team in special-teams points, behind Colt Anderson, Alex Henery and Akeem Jordan. His 14 special-teams tackles were second to only Jordan. However, he hasn’t shown much as a backup linebacker on defense.

Chaney has the most experience on defense out of this group. He provides versatility, but has not been productive. He’ll have to find some way to impress the coaches this offseason to earn a spot.

Knott is a player to watch. He has good size (6-2, 243) and was a productive college player, earning All-Big 12 honors as a senior. He has dealt with a shoulder injury, but played special teams in college and has a chance to stick.

Not a lot to go by with Acho. He didn’t see any game action last year, and the Eagles acquired him from Cleveland in the Dion Lewis trade.

We don’t know how many inside linebackers the Eagles plan on keeping. If the number is four, the five players in this group will be fighting for two spots. And it’s not out of the question that the Eagles add a player or two in the coming months. Either way, there will be plenty of competition and jobs to be won or lost between now and the start of the season.

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Eagles Wake-Up Call: Casey Matthews Feeling Chipper

Casey Matthews cut off his locks and is sporting a fresh new look. Time to change things up, he said.

That has pretty much been the mantra of the Eagles this offseason. The organization — the city — is dizzy with all the alterations Chip Kelly is making. What is foreign to most, though, feels quite familiar to the former Duck linebacker.

“Practices are the exact same from college. Up-tempo, fast, music playing,” said Matthews. “Meetings — pretty much everything — all the way to nutrition, and coming off and getting the smoothies and snacks. It worked for him there, so why can’t it work here?”

Matthews didn’t have any inside scoop on the Kelly hire despite his Oregon ties. ESPN was on in the background while he was working out back on January 16 (which happens to be his birthday) when the news broke. He got a call from Kelly that weekend. The coach told him that he would be running things similarly to the way he did at Oregon, and that he was bringing the up-tempo pace with him.

“I thought he was going to have to adjust just a little bit, just because you are dealing with NFL players who are older, but he has a specific way he wants things done,” said Matthews. “He put a lot of research behind everything he does. He has the sleep monitors to tell us how long we have been asleep. We’ve got the heart-rate monitors, too, just stuff like that.”

Matthews added that the defensive scheme has been “tweaked” but there seems to be some similarities to what he played in at Oregon.

His teammates have had plenty of questions for him, anxious to know about Kelly and his unique style.

“Shady has been asking me the most,” Matthews noted with a smile.

For a player facing an uncertain future in Philadelphia, this is probably the best-case scenario. Matthews gets his old coach, and knows what to expect where others do not. But that will only take him so far.

“I’m sure it can’t hurt having your college coach but you have to put in the work and learn the scheme,” he said. “He’s not going to play favorites.”

WHAT YOU MISSED

Sheil breaks down the 2013 Eagles schedule. He has the Birds going 14-2.

LeSean McCoy says Kelly’s offense “is like a freaking track meet.”

In the latest Twitter Mailbag, we talk Dion Jordan, tackles and trade scenarios.

Kapadia checks in on the state of the offensive line.

A hungry Vinny Curry gets a shot at defensive end.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah has released his top 50 prospects in this year’s draft. His top five, in order: Luke Joeckel, Eric Fisher, Sharrif Floyd, Star Lotulelei and Jordan. On Lotulelei:

 Lotulelei seems to have been given a clean bill of health following a scare at the NFL Scouting Combine. Many have compared him to Haloti Ngata, but I actually think he is a poor man’s Ndamukong Suh. He can play in either scheme, but he’s best suited to play DE in the 3-4.

Jason La Canfora doesn’t seem to have the same tackle ranking as most.

There is going to be an early run on tackles — Joeckel, Fisher and rising tackle D.J. Fluker, who I continue to hear the Cardinals are high on — are all likely to go in the first seven picks. While some teams are down on Oklahoma offensive tackle Lane Johnson, enough feel he is relatively safe that I expect him to go in the first half of the first round.

This is what one agent told LaCanfora:

“This is the weirdest draft I’ve ever been a part of. We looked at those initial grades and seven of the top 10 grades went to linemen. There were literally no skill players. I’ve never seen anything like it. We have no idea how it will play out next week. I don’t think anyone does.”

COMING UP

EJ Manuel checks in with his latest draft diary entry, plus much more draft coverage.

What’s Left From the McNabb And Kolb Trades?

As recently as last offseason, it looked like the assets acquired in the Donovan McNabb and Kevin Kolb trades would play a major role in re-shaping the Eagles’ defense.

But looking ahead to 2013, that probably won’t end up being the case.

It was three years ago on Easter Sunday that the Birds shipped McNabb to the Redskins in exchange for a second-round pick in 2010, along with a conditional third- or fourth-rounder in 2011.

With the second-round pick (37th overall), the Eagles selected safety Nate Allen, who has been a disappointment in his first three seasons. At the end of last year, Allen was benched in favor of Kurt Coleman and Colt Anderson. The Eagles added Patrick Chung and Kenny Phillips in the offseason. And they very well could draft a safety later this month, meaning Allen will be competing for a roster spot.

The other pick from the McNabb trade ended up being a fourth-rounder (No. 104 overall) in 2011. But the Eagles traded that selection to the Bucs (who took tight end Luke Stocker). In exchange, the Birds moved down 12 spots and selected linebacker Casey Matthews. They also received a fourth-round draft choice in 2012 from Tampa.

The Eagles started Matthews at middle linebacker as a rookie, moved him to SAM, benched him and then got him back into the rotation at the end of the year. In 2012, he was a complete non-factor on defense, playing 45 total snaps, per Pro Football Focus. Matthews did have 14 special-teams tackles (second on the team). He too will be fighting for a roster spot.

As for the 2012 fourth-rounder from Tampa, the Eagles used that pick as part of the package to land DeMeco Ryans. The two teams also swapped third-round picks (Nos. 76 and 88).

So overall, the Eagles used compensation from the McNabb trade for Allen, Matthews and to a large degree, Ryans.

Kolb, meanwhile, recently signed a two-year, $13 million deal with the Bills, his third team in four seasons. When the Eagles dealt him to the Cardinals, they got cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a second-round pick in return. Rodgers-Cromartie is gone after two disappointing seasons, having signed with the Broncos as a free agent.

The Eagles ended up trading the second-round pick from the Kolb deal, moving down eight spots and selecting Vinny Curry. They also got a fourth-rounder from the Packers and took Brandon Boykin. Curry barely played in 2012 (89 snaps), and the Eagles will have to figure out where he fits in Billy Davis’ new defense.

Boykin looks like he’ll be a solid option as a nickel corner, and there’s a chance he could get a shot to play outside.

So overall for Kolb, they landed Rodgers-Cromartie, Curry and Boykin.

The question now is: Which of the players the Eagles landed for the two QBs figure into the team’s plans going forward?

As we mentioned above, Allen and Matthews will be fighting for roster spots. Curry is an unknown, given his limited action as a rookie and scheme fit. Ryans is a key piece, who played really well in 2012. And Boykin figures to be a solid contributor as well.

In other words, the Eagles basically got two starters on defense (when you consider how much they play nickel) for the two quarterbacks.

No one would argue that the Birds got the short end of either of the two trades – especially when you consider that McNabb threw 18 touchdowns and 17 interceptions in his post-Eagles career, while Kolb started just 14 games for the Cardinals.

We won’t know the true results from the deals until we see if Curry, Allen and Matthews can contribute in the coming seasons. But clearly, Andy Reid, Howie Roseman and company could have done more with the compensation the team received in return.

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Eagles Snap Counts: Washburn’s Final Rotation

Here’s a look at Eagles snap counts from Sunday night’s loss to the Cowboys. We’ll go position-by-position.

 
Overall Snaps
Snap %
Bryce Brown5689%
Stanley Havili58%
Dion Lewis58%

There’s no easing Bryce Brown in at running back. Andy Reid is taking advantage of those fresh legs as the rookie played 89 percent of the team’s offensive snaps. Of course, Brown’s costly fumble came in the fourth quarter, and Reid said focusing on ball security becomes more difficult when a player is tired.

Even with LeSean McCoy out, Dion Lewis only played five snaps. And the Eagles ran mostly out of single-back sets as Stanley Havili also played five snaps.

 
Overall Snaps
Snap %
Jeremy Maclin6197%
Riley Cooper6298%
Jason Avant5181%
Damaris Johnson58%
Brent Celek5587%
Clay Harbor1524%

Riley Cooper got the start and played all but one snap. He made a great play on a 15-yard touchdown and also caught a slant for 16 yards early on.

Clay Harbor played 15 snaps and was a non-factor. Damaris Johnson played just five snaps on offense, but had the 98-yard punt return for a touchdown.

 
Overall Snaps
Snap %
Trent Cole4468%
Cullen Jenkins3757%
Mike Patterson3655%
Brandon Graham3148%
Cedric Thornton2945%
Derek Landri2843%
Darryl Tapp2437%
Fletcher Cox2031%
Vinny Curry1929%
Phillip Hunt812%

When Jim Washburn was hired, we heard all about the rotation he liked to utilize. Four men in, four men out throughout the game to keep fresh bodies going after the quarterback. With the Eagles often going with nine or 10 defensive linemen on gamedays, the rotation grew. Even though Brandon Graham got the start, he played just 48 percent of the team’s snaps. Graham produced with 1.5 sacks and four quarterback hits. Vinny Curry played 19 snaps. That number should increase down the stretch.

With Washburn out, it’ll be interesting to see if the Eagles continue to rotate linemen or just play their best guys more. Players like Graham, Fletcher Cox and Curry could surely benefit from more playing time in the final four games.

 
Overall Snaps
Snap %
DeMeco Ryans6498%
Mychal Kendricks6397%
Akeem Jordan2945%
Casey Matthews812%

Nothing really noteworthy at linebacker. Casey Matthews saw some snaps when DeMeco Ryans went down briefly and was also on the field in goal-line and short-yardage situations.

 
Overall Snaps
Snap %
Nnamdi Asomugha6092%
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie5686%
Brandon Boykin2742%
Curtis Marsh46%
Nate Allen6498%
Kurt Coleman5585%

This group continues to be a complete disaster. As I mentioned last week, we’re looking at a complete overhaul in 2013. Reid was asked if the backups deserve a shot at this point, but the truth is, the Eagles don’t have a lot of talented young players at either cornerback or safety. Curtis Marsh could maybe see some added snaps, but beyond that? Who’s he going to play? David Sims?

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‘We’re Not Going To Be Predictable Anymore’

Philadelphia Eagles secondary coach Todd Bowles.There were varying degrees of willingness to talk about the Todd Bowles/Juan Castillo shake-up in the Eagles’ locker room Monday. Jason Babin, for example, has never been more skittish about a subject in his two years in Philadelphia. Others forced you to read between the lines.

There were a few revealing moments, however.

The biggest one came from backup linebacker Casey Matthews, who relayed Bowles’ message to the defense upon taking the reins.

“The biggest thing he said is, ‘We’re not going to predictable anymore.’ That’s what Coach said,” Matthews revealed, the obvious implication being that the ‘D’ was predictable under Castillo.

“We’re basically still running the same stuff. A couple tweaks. Coach Bowles said he’s not here to revamp the defense. We’re running the same stuff he just wants us to play together.”

That was the common thought from player to player: that Bowles would not be overhauling the defense; just some minor alterations to the scheme.

There was no evidence of any player being outraged by Castillo’s firing, and some are feeling reinvigorated.

“It’s a whole new season for us,” said Kurt Coleman. “We have 10 games to really prove ourselves and prove our worth to ourselves and these fans, and to the whole NFL. We’re not achieving our full potential, I feel like. We look at the last two years and we haven’t been able to do it, whether that be because of closing out games or what not. But we have 10 games to really prove ourselves and that starts this week.”

One concern is that Bowles, while having a wealth of coaching experience on the defensive side of the ball, has never called a game. Or has he?

“In the grand scheme of things, I think he was helping make play calls throughout this year,” said Coleman.

“I have all the confidence in him. He’s a smart coach, he really is. He’s going to do his due diligence in understanding the game as far as how the offense is going to attack us. And you have to be able to adjust throughout the game, and I think he is going to do a great job with that.”

Several players expressed sympathy for Castillo, whom they had grown to respect as a man. But all seem to feel that Bowles is ready for the role of defensive coordinator.

“He’s well respected,” said Matthews. “He’s been on the defensive side for a while and Juan came over from the offense. A lot of people, especially vets, you don’t know if they’re qualified and stuff like that. But I think Todd will get it done.”

All-22: What We Saw From the Eagles’ Defense

Here’s what we saw from the Eagles’ defense after having reviewed the All-22 tape.

Play 1: I mentioned yesterday how Brandon Graham led the team with five hurries, even though he only had 11 chances to rush the passer. Here’s one of them. He gets double-teamed by two Steelers offensive linemen.


But he fights through them as Fletcher Cox twists behind him.


And Graham hits Ben Roethlisberger as he throws the ball away.


Nice job all around by him.

Play 2: After re-watching the game, it became clear that the Steelers designed plays to help Roethlisberger get rid of the ball quickly. According to Pro Football Focus, 23 of his 32 passes were thrown within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. And he was just 2-for-9 on passes that traveled more than 10 yards from the line of scrimmage. If you take into account Roethlisberger’s ability to escape pressure, along with the Steelers’ game-plan, I don’t think it’s time to panic about the Eagles’ pass-rush. The defensive line did not play great, but I think Jim Washburn’s group will be fine. Also remember, pressure doesn’t always lead to sacks. Check out this play near the end of the first half. It looks like Brown is past Boykin, and there’s no safety deep.


But because of pressure by Cullen Jenkins, Roethlisberger is forced to scramble.


Even if he’d seen Brown and got him the football, Willie Colon was called for holding on Jenkins. The defensive line clearly had an impact here that didn’t show up in the stat sheet.

Play 3: Another example of pressure impacting a play. Here, Roethlisberger is forced to step up and gets hit by Trent Cole.


He has nowhere to go with the ball and throws incomplete in Brown’s direction. It was a third down, and the Steelers were forced to punt.

Play 4: Many have questioned why the Eagles didn’t blitz more in the second half. One theory: Because on the few occasions when they sent extra pressure in the first half, they got burned. On this play, they blitz Ryans and Mychal Kendricks, creating a six-man rush.


The Steelers pick it up, and Roethlisberger gets rid of the ball quickly to Brown, who has Nnamdi Asomugha one-on-one. It’s only a 4-yard pass, but Asomugha doesn’t take a good angle to the ball, and Brown makes a nice move, turning it into an 18-yard gain.

Play 5: Not a good performance against the run. Here, Derek Landri and Jamar Chaney get blocked, leaving Kurt Coleman as the only defender in the way of Rashard Mendenhall and a big run.


Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders does enough to get in Coleman’s way, and Mendenhall picks up 17.

By the way, be sure to check out this Iggles Blog All-22 post with more details on the run defense in the second half.

Play 6: Asomugha’s taken a lot of heat this week. Roethlisberger clearly was not afraid to throw in his direction. But on some plays, you just have to give the other team credit. For example, look at Asomugha’s coverage here on a third down in the third.


You simply cannot have a receiver blanketed any better. Keep in mind, this image is from the moment when Roethlisberger releases the ball. The throw was perfect, to Brown’s outside shoulder, and so was the timing. The result was a 6-yard completion and a first down that extended the Steelers’ drive. Later in the game, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was on Mike Wallace on an almost identical play, but Wallace dropped the ball.

Play 7: This looked to me like some great improvisation by Roethlisberger in the third. Wallace runs a shallow crossing route, and Rodgers-Cromartie has him locked up.


But Roethlisberger gets pressured and steps up in the pocket. He presumably sees that there is all kinds of room behind Wallace and lofts one downfield, allowing the receiver to try and make a play, even though I don’t believe that’s where the route was originally intended to go.


Wallace gets a hand on the ball, but can’t come up with the catch. As you can see, the Eagles dodged a bullet. A reception here is almost certainly a 54-yard touchdown. Instead, the Steelers are forced to punt.

Play 8: The Eagles dodged another bullet in the fourth on a well-designed play by the Steelers. If I’m reading it correctly, this is disguised as a wide receiver screen to Brown.


It looks like Heath Miller is going to block Asomugha. That gets Casey Matthews to bite. But instead, Miller runs right past Asomugha and into his route.


Miller is open as Matthews tries to recover, but Roethlisberger’s throw is off-target, and the result is an incompletion. It helped here that pressure from Babin forced Roethlisberger to drift to his left as he made the throw. The Steelers had to settle for a field goal.

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An Opening For Casey Matthews?

Andy Reid on Wednesday said that, assuming health, Akeem Jordan is his starting weakside linebacker. Jordan missed the last two games with a hamstring injury but is expected to be a go against Detroit this Sunday.

What is Plan B?

“We’ll just see. We have a variety of choices there because all those guys play all the positions, depending on that situation,” Reid said.

Jamar Chaney started at  WILL in Jordan’s absence with mixed results. Reid did not commit to Chaney being the backup there this week. That leaves open the possibility that Casey Matthews is in the mix.

Matthews played three snaps against the Steelers when Mychal Kendricks left briefly with a sprained ankle. He made two tackles in his brief appearance.

“I went to WILL so it was a little different. But they made it pretty simple,” said Matthews. “I was just fortunate to make a couple plays.

“I don’t know what it means going forward. Hopefully it meant something. It’s hard to tell.”

Matthews anticipates that he’ll continue to take reps as the backup middle linebacker behind DeMeco Ryans and that Chaney will remain the second option at weakside linebacker, though he hadn’t been told the plan as of Wednesday morning.

“It’s whatever the coaches want,” said Matthews. “I can only go out and take advantage of whatever limited opportunities I have.”

Matthews has settled in after a turbulent rookie season that saw him move from the middle to the outside and then ultimately, the bench. Now out of the starting lineup and the spotlight, the Oregon product has his feet more firmly under him and is hoping for another shot.

“Things have been coming easier in practice, rep wise, understanding what my responsibilities and why I have them,” said Matthews. “Last year was a little different. I understand why people are going to certain spots, things like that. Another year in the system just makes it that much easier, makes you more comfortable . And when you’re comfortable, things slow down.”

LB Review: Eagles’ Run Defense Falters

Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Jamar ChaneyHere’s a player-by-player review of the Eagles linebackers after having re-watched Sunday’s game.

DeMeco Ryans – The coaches credited him with a season-high 12 tackles, and while Ryans had some good moments, this was not his best outing. Steelers fullback Will Johnson got the best of Ryans on a few occasions. One was the Rashard Mendenhall 24-yard run that was called back for an illegal formation penalty. Another was his 17-yard run. And a third was Mendenhall’s 9-yard run. We’ll get a better look at Ryans in coverage once the All-22 comes out, but it looked like he got beat by tight end Heath Miller on a 15-yard completion near the end of the first half. According to Pro Football Focus, Ryans blitzed five times. He delivered a big hit on Ben Roethlisberger as he let go of the ball in the second. Steelers offensive linemen didn’t like the gesture and got in Ryans’ face after the play. Ryans hit Roethlisberger again on the 3rd-and-4 completion on the final drive.

Mychal Kendricks – Up and down game for Kendricks, who left the game briefly in the second half after suffering an ankle injury. Early on, he combined with Cullen Jenkins to stop Mendenhall for no gain. And Kendricks had good coverage on Emmanuel Sanders on a first-quarter incompletion. He also brought Isaac Redman down after a gain of 1 in the first. But not a good series in the second. He fell for the Roethlisberger fake lateral on a 9-yard run. And later on the drive, Kendricks had a chance to bring down Mendenhall one-on-one, but couldn’t make the play, as he ran in for a 13-yard touchdown. Later, he got taken down by guard Ramon Foster on Mendenhall’s 9-yard run. Kendricks blitzed three times. He had a chance to sack Roethlisberger in the second but couldn’t bring him down. And in coverage, it looked like he lost track of Jerricho Cotchery on the 7-yard red-zone completion in the second.

Jamar Chaney – Not a good game for Chaney, who started at WILL and was on the field for 36 snaps. The coaching staff did not credit him with a tackle. He was blocked by center Maurkice Pouncey, allowing Mendenhall to pick up 17 yards in the third. He couldn’t get off his block on Mendenhall’s 9-yard run and was blocked again on Redman’s 13-yard run. Chaney probably got away with a hold on Mike Wallace in coverage in the third. There were some good moments. He got in the backfield to help stop Redman for no gain in the third. And Chaney made a good read to help break up a screen to Mendenhall in the third.

Casey Matthews – He only played three snaps, filling in for Kendricks, but Matthews had two tackles. He brought Redman down for no gain in the third. And again after a 4-yard gain on the next play. In coverage, it looked like Matthews might have lost track of Miller, but Roethlisberger’s throw was off-target on third down in the red zone in the fourth.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.

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