The Eagles’ Options At Cornerback

One of the Eagles’ biggest offseason tasks will be rebuilding a broken secondary that failed to meet expectations in each of the past two years.

The first step of that process is evaluating the current personnel – most notably Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha.

Rodgers-Cromartie is an unrestricted free agent, and according to Geoff Mosher of, the Eagles will not use the franchise tag on him. The one-year designation would cost the Eagles about $10.7 million. And the two-week window to use the franchise tag starts today.

At 26, Rodgers-Cromartie has plenty of things going for him. He’s young, has tremendous athletic ability, has flashed a Pro Bowl ceiling and appears to be a good teammate. New Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis coached Rodgers-Cromartie when he earned the Pro Bowl berth in 2009.

On the flip side, his tape fails to match up to his talent level. Rodgers-Cromartie lacks physicality, is a terrible tackler and gives up too many big plays. If the Eagles want him back, they could try to work out a long-term deal before Rodgers-Cromartie is able to test the market on March 12. If he’s not signed by that time, chances are another team will swoop in.

Asomugha, meanwhile, turns 32 in July. His current contract calls for a $15 million base salary in 2013. That’s not happening. The Eagles can either re-structure Asomugha’s deal or release him, which would cost $4 million. Given his struggles, my guess is they’ll let Asomugha walk. But as always, the decision depends on the market.

We’ll have more in-depth breakdowns of the free-agent options as March 12 nears, but Rotoworld has a good list up for now. Aqib Talib has had off-the-field issues, but started for the Patriots last year. Atlanta’s Brent Grimes is recovering from an Achilles’ injury and might sign a one-year deal before trying to cash in next offseason, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Sean Smith, 25, has started 56 games the last four seasons, but he could be tagged by the Dolphins. Detroit’s Chris Houston (28) has 78 career starts under his belt.

Jacksonville’s Derek Cox (26), Baltimore’s Cary Williams (28) and Tampa’s E.J. Biggers (25) are all scheduled to be free agents.

As for the draft, some project Alabama’s Dee Milliner to the Eagles at No. 4, but as Mike Mayock of NFL Network pointed out, he’ll need to prove he’s got the speed worthy of such a high pick at the Combine. The Eagles could certainly look to add a corner in the first three rounds like Mississippi State’s Johnthan Banks, Washington’s Desmond Trufant, Florida State’s Xavier Rhodes or Oregon State’s Jordan Poyer.

The team’s final option would be to promote from within. Brandon Boykin (5-9) played well last year, and while he saw some time on the outside, he was used primarily in the slot. He could be given an opportunity for more playing time in 2013, although if Chip Kelly favors length on defense, Boykin will probably stay put.

Curtis Marsh, a third-round pick in 2011, could get a look too, although he’s pretty much an unknown, having played just 62 snaps last season, per Pro Football Focus.

As moves continue to be made around the league, we should have a pretty good idea of what the Eagles’ options are when free agency starts three weeks from now.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at
Become a fan of Birds 24/7 on Facebook.

Eagles Wake-Up Call: Chip Kelly’s Offseason To-Do List

With the conclusion of last night’s Super Bowl, we now have about seven months until we get to watch another NFL game.

That’s a depressing thought.

But the good news is the offseason officially begins today. And for the Eagles, the next few months will go a long way in determining the direction of the franchise. The man in focus is new head coach Chip Kelly.

Keeping that in mind, here’s a simple to-do list with what’s coming up between now and the draft.

Finalize the coaching staff – Many, but not all, of the pieces are in place. Most notably, defensive coordinator appears to be up in the air. Has Kelly targeted 49ers defensive backs coach Ed Donatell? Ravens linebackers coach Ted Monachino? Is he pulling someone from the college ranks, but waiting for National Signing Day (Feb. 6)? All those options appear to be in play. Kelly still needs to name an offensive line coach too. The guess would be that these hires are finalized sometime this week.

Evaluate current personnel/free agents – The following Eagles are scheduled to be free agents: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Colt Anderson, Darryl Tapp, King Dunlap, Jon DorenbosJake Scott, Derek Landri and Akeem Jordan. The priority name there is Rodgers-Cromartie. If Kelly wants him back, Howie Roseman can begin contract negotiations before Rodgers-Cromartie officially becomes a free agent and can test the market (of course, that’s assuming he wants to return). As for the other seven players, the Eagles would be wise to bring Anderson back as a special-teams ace and backup safety. There are players under contract like Nnamdi Asomugha and Michael Vick that Kelly will have to decide on as well.

Devise a plan for the QB position – I get the sense Kelly is going to watch every throw Nick Foles and Vick made last year before forming his opinion. My guess is that Vick will be released, although according to reports, there is not the same rush to make a move as was previously thought. The free-agent pool is thin, but the Eagles could explore a trade for someone like Alex Smith. With other teams like the Browns and Chiefs in the market for a QB, there could be a healthy market for Smith, which would play into the Niners’ hands in terms of compensation.

Prepare for free agency and the draft – The process here has already begun. Kelly, Roseman, scouts and assistants were down in Mobile, Ala. for the Senior Bowl. The next big event is the combine in Indy on Feb. 20. After that, the Eagles will host players for official visits before the draft on April 25.

As for free agency, players are allowed to start signing with new teams on March 12 at 4 p.m. By that time, the Eagles will have made decisions on some of their own players (Vick, Asomugha, Rodgers-Cromartie, etc.) and will have their targets ready. A key here could be if the Eagles switch to a 3-4. Either way, though, they’ll need to add key pieces on defense.


Did the Eagles make a play for Alex Smith last year?

DeSean Jackson says Kelly is going to have defensive coordinators going crazy.

The Eagles won’t be going back to kelly green any time soon. McManus explains why.

What kind of player can the Eagles expect with the No. 4 pick? A look at the last 10.


Chad Hall, who finished the season with the 49ers, doesn’t think the Eagles treated him fairly. From

“I felt that they weren’t as honest as they could have been,” he says, walking past the Famous Door club, where a cover band is playing “Born to Run.” “They didn’t give me a chance in the returner role. The special teams coach said, ‘We like you. We know what you can do.’ But that’s the business side. They tell you one thing, and then …

“I felt that I had to get other eyes on me.”

Over at, Tommy Lawlor offers his thoughts on Asomugha’s future:

I’m sure Nnamdi would be willing to take a pay cut so he could stay here.  I just don’t think Chip Kelly will want him.  He’s not getting a top player.  He’s not getting a leader.  If anything, Nnamdi has a sense of entitlement from his career.  No one disputes that he was a top CB in Oakland.  The problem is that things have changed.  The talent is gone, but Nnamdi still acts as if he’s an elite player.  You can get away with certain things when you’re a star.  You can’t do that when you start to fade.  As of December 2012, Nnamdi hadn’t realized this.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at
Become a fan of Birds 24/7 on Facebook.

Eagles Wake-Up Call: Nnamdi Willing To Cut His Pay?

Philadelphia Eagles CB Nnamdi Asomugha.Nnamdi Asomugha was asked on Wednesday how important it is to him that he stays in Eagles green beyond this season. The question was tied to his sizable contract, and the reality that changes surely are ahead.

“I think really important. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else,” said Asomugha.

So you would make decisions potentially coming from that stance? If sacrifices were asked to be made?

“Yeah, I mean all I can say right now is I really wouldn’t want to be anywhere else,” he replied. “I definitely want to be back here.”

And with that, we have our first indicator that Asomugha could be open to restructuring his deal.

The 31-year-old defensive back inked a five-year, $60 million contract prior to the 2011 season. He is scheduled to make $15 million next year, $4 million of which is guaranteed. A paycheck that fat may have made sense when he was billed as one of the very best cover corners in the league, but it is out of whack after two seasons of unmet expectations. It is difficult to envision any team paying him that much.

While Asomugha is under contract, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will be an unrestricted free agent. Keep neither? One? Both?  The Eagles are facing some big decisions when it comes to the cornerback position.

Many have wondered whether Asomugha wants  to be in Philadelphia. He was under less scrutiny in Oakland, after all, and fully admitted that coming here from the West Coast was quite the adjustment. But Asomugha says he wants to stay put, holding onto the belief that progress is being made both in his game and as a defense overall.

“I think the comfort level has always gotten better and gotten better,” he said. “What we’re doing now has kind of helped everyone’s comfort level, especially mine from what we were doing once the bye week ended. I think we finally jelled over the last two, three weeks on defense.”

We have seen improved play in the secondary since the Eagles moved on from Jim Washburn and his Wide-9 scheme. In six weeks with Bowles as defensive coordinator and Washburn as defensive line coach, the Eagles allowed opponents to complete 76 percent of their passes. In the past two weeks minus Washburn, that number is 44 percent. The opposing quarterbacks (Andy Dalton, Josh Freeman) have not been as potent of late, granted, but that’s a dramatic change regardless.

One thing that some of these veterans will have to come to terms with is that a good deal of the hard work will be undone as a result of a new coaching staff coming in.

“I haven’t really thought about that much, just because you never know what is going to happen. We’ve made some good strides, though, with what we’ve been doing, so that’s always good to build off of,” said Asomugha. “But when it all changes around you’re kind of starting all over.”

As it stands right now, Asomugha sounds like he wants to remain in Philadelphia regardless.


Scratch David Shaw off your wish list. He is staying at Stanford.

Nate Allen‘s demotion is just another hurdle for the 2010 draft class.

Andy Reid explains his reasoning in starting LeSean McCoy Sunday.

Just how in demand is the Eagles’ head coaching job?

Sheil explains why the offseason plans should not center around Nick Foles.


Ian Rappaport of says that Michael Vick has eyes for Chip Kelly:

Sources who have spoken to Michael Vick say the veteran quarterback believes he has another four years left in the NFL and wants to be a starter with whatever team signs him in the event he is released by the Philadelphia Eagles.

Those sources also said Vick would not want to join the New York Jets if Mark Sanchez still is the starter, but he would consider signing with the Jets if he were paid more than Sanchez, making it clear that Vick was the No. 1 quarterback on the depth chart.

Aside from the Jets, the Buffalo Bills, Arizona Cardinals and Cleveland Browns are mentioned as possibilities.

The sources close to Vick said he might wait to see if Oregon coach Chip Kelly decides to take an NFL coaching job in the offseason, adding that Vick already has imagined himself playing in Kelly’s fast-paced spread offense.

Mike Shanahan told the Philadelphia media that RGIII practiced at “full speed” Wednesday. Barring a setback, it looks like he’ll get the nod on Sunday. Those who watched practice said the rookie “looked smooth.”


Eagles continue to get ready for the Redskins. Marty Mornhinweg and Todd Bowles will address the media.

Five Eagles Numbers That Matter

With two games left, here are five Eagles numbers that matter.

109 – The number of solo tackles by DeMeco Ryans, according to team stats tracked by Eagles coaches. During Andy Reid’s 14-year tenure, only two players have had more in a single season: Quintin Mikell (2008) and Brian Dawkins (2006). Both safeties had 111 solo tackles. Barring injury, Ryans is pretty much a lock to set a new mark in the final two games. He has 15 tackles for loss, which is already the most of any player under Reid. The Eagles have gotten several moves wrong in the past two seasons. Acquiring Ryans from the Texans was not one of them. When he first arrived, the question was: Is Ryans a three-down player? The answer has been a resounding yes as he’s stayed on the field for 99.7 percent of the team’s snaps, according to Pro Football Focus. When discussing the Eagles’ building blocks going forward, don’t forget to include Ryans. He’s only 28 and appears to have plenty of good years left.

5.5 – The number of sacks by Fletcher Cox. According to, only three defensive tackles have more – Cincinnati’s Geno Atkins (10.5), Detroit’s Ndamukong Suh (6.5) and Chicago’s Henry Melton (6.0). Cox is tied for the team lead in sacks and leads all Eagles defensive linemen with 62 tackles (44 solo). It’s not even that close either – Trent Cole is second with 52 (30). Cox has already shown that he can be a high-quality 4-3 defensive tackle. If the Eagles switch to a 3-4 in the offseason, he’d likely get a chance to play defensive end. Granted, it’s only his rookie season, but it’s clear Cox has a Pro Bowl ceiling.

121 – The number of times Reid has walked onto the field at either the Vet or the Linc as the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles (playoffs included). As Tim pointed out this morning, barring a monumental upset, Reid will coach his final home game here Sunday afternoon when the Birds host the Redskins. For weeks now, fans have been lectured by the national media about how it’s going to miss Reid when he’s gone. Many paint the picture of an angry, unreasonable fan base forcing Reid out of town.

I don’t think that’s really fair. Here’s the point everyone seems to constantly miss: You can appreciate what Reid has accomplished in his career here while still believing it’s time to move on. As someone who hears from fans through several different mediums – e-mail, social media, our comments section, Birds 24/7 Radio – I really believe that’s how the majority of people feel. They remember what things were like under Rich Kotite, Ray Rhodes and others. They enjoyed several great moments in the last 14 years that included five trips to the NFC title game and one Super Bowl berth.

But they also see a franchise that is 12-18 since the start of the 2011 season. One that has missed out on the playoffs in four of the last eight seasons. One that will have gone four years without a playoff win and has just three in the last eight seasons. It’s been a good run, but unless Jeffrey Lurie plans on letting Reid coach for as long as he wants, now is the time to part ways.

72 – The number of of turnovers the Eagles have committed since the start of the 2011 season. That’s the most in the NFL. Think about that – 2.4 turnovers per game over a 30-game span. We kept wondering whether things would level out a bit, and they never did – 38 giveaways last year, 34 in 14 games this season. The defense hasn’t done its part either. The Eagles’ 12 takeaways are tied for 31st. Overall, the numbers translate to a -22 turnover differential, which explains why this team has struggled so badly.

11 – The number of penalties committed by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie this season, according to Pro Football Focus. That ranks tied for first among NFL cornerbacks. We’ve written about Rodgers-Cromartie in this space quite a bit. After quarterback, he’s probably going to be the Eagles’ toughest evaluation this offseason. I was looking at some cornerback contracts handed out last offseason. Lardarius Webb got a six-year deal for $52.7M ($10M guaranteed) from the Ravens. Brandon Carr got five years, $50.1M ($25.5M guaranteed) from the Cowboys. Cortland Finnegan got five years, $50M ($27M guaranteed) from the Rams. And Carlos Rogers got $29.3M over four years from the 49ers. Rogers was the only one in that group who was 30 or older. Rodgers-Cromartie is only 26. And despite his flaws, he’s likely to get a sweet deal if he tests free agency.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at
Become a fan of Birds 24/7 on Facebook.

Five Leftovers From Eagles-Bengals

Here are five leftovers from the locker room after the Eagles lost to the Bengals last night, 34-13.

1. As we’ve discussed on multiple occasions, this team has some major decisions to make in the secondary this offseason. Nnamdi Asomugha, who would be owed $4M if released, was asked if he thinks some of the players (presumably on defense) have shown in the past two weeks that they deserve to be back.

“Here’s the thing that I know. Everybody wants to be back,” Asomugha said. “We don’t know how it’s going to shake out, but I can tell you everybody believes in this team and knows the direction that we’re going. We think it’s up. So I know everybody wants to be back.”

I understand what Asomugha was saying. He’s pointing out that the defense has improved the past two weeks. And I know the players in the locker room have to try to stay confident. But to say the direction is pointing up after the ninth loss in 10 games just seems a little off to me.

2. The other starting corner, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, is a free agent after the season. He shadowed A.J. Green all game and won his share of battles. Green finished with six catches for 57 yards and a touchdown on 10 targets. After the game, Rodgers-Cromartie was asked about playing for a contract.

“I ain’t playing for money. That’s going to come. I’m not worried about that. My main thing is I’m just trying to go out and finish strong,” he said.

“I know what I have in me. I know what kind of player I am. If nobody can see it, then that’s just them.”

Evaluating Rodgers-Cromartie is going to be one of the most difficult things this front office has to do. He’s got talent, he plays well in stretches and by all accounts is a good teammate. He holds himself accountable and is only 26. There’s no question that Rodgers-Cromartie has a (multiple) Pro Bowl ceiling.

But there’s a reason why he could be on his third different team before he turns 27. He’s incredibly inconsistent, often shies away from contact and is a terrible tackler. That’s why whoever’s coaching this team in 2013 has to be the one who decides whether or not Rodgers-Cromartie is worth keeping around.

3. And then there’s the guy coaching Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie: Todd Bowles. If there’s one person who has a lot to gain from the final two games, it’s him. Remember, this is someone who was considered to be on a path towards being an NFL head coach before the season. In six weeks with Bowles as defensive coordinator and Jim Washburn as defensive line coach, the Eagles allowed opponents to complete 76.3 percent of their passes. In the past two weeks, without Washburn, that number is 44.3 percent.

With a strong finish, it’ll be pretty easy to sell the Washburn was the problem narrative. Of course, there’s no telling where he’ll be coaching next. Bowles’ name has been mentioned in connection with the Temple head coaching job.

“It was good. It’s my alma mater.,” Bowles said of his conversation with the Owls. “We had a good talk. We had a good conversation. … We’ll see how it goes.”

4. I still need to re-watch the game, but Andy Reid and Nick Foles seemed to offer different explanations for the third-quarter interception.

“He’s got a real strong arm,” Reid said. “You can put his arm up against anybody in this league. You just have to make sure that he’s taking time to look people off, and you have to make sure you don’t spend too much time doing that. You have to make sure you get your feet around and that you have enough momentum to get your body and legs into the throw.”

Reid’s explanation makes sense. He also indicated the issue was one of mechanics. Foles had an issue of staring down receivers in his first couple of starts. We pointed out last week how he did a better job of looking safeties off against Tampa.

But Foles seemed to just think he threw a bad ball.

“I just made a horrible throw,” he said. “The ball came out bad and it had a little bit of wobble to it. You really have to cut it and I didn’t do that. I just have to spin it and it started fluttering towards the end. I underthrew Jeremy and the guy came back and made a play. So it’s a bad throw. It’s one that I can’t have. But it happened, and I just have to, next time it happens, just really throw it out there.”

According to STATS, Inc., Foles is just 3-for-16 on balls that have traveled more than 20 yards from the line of scrimmage. That’s certainly one area for improvement.

5. As for some of the other mistakes, Reid said Marvin McNutt was where he was supposed to be on the punt block. Ryan Rau was supposed to be in, but Clay Harbor made a heads-up play and filled in for him. That had nothing to do with the block though. McNutt just got manhandled.

Cedric Thornton took responsibility for the fumbled kickoff return. It’s funny. I remember at training camp watching some of the offensive linemen and defensive linemen fielding kicks and wondering: Why are they wasting their time with this? Now, I understand.

“Definitely should have been a fair catch,” Thornton said. “That was my fault. I was running, looking to make a big play and should have fair caught it. That was my fault. Next time I will be more focused and I will call a fair catch.”

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at
Become a fan of Birds 24/7 on Facebook.

Cheat Sheet: 15 Things About Eagles-Bengals

Eagles quarterback Nick Foles.The Thursday night game has us off our regular schedule this week, so we’ll combine the two cheat sheets into one. Here are 15 things to know about how the Eagles match up with the Bengals.

1. If the season ended today, the Eagles would pick fourth. It seems highly unlikely that the Birds will catch either the Chiefs or Jaguars, who have two wins apiece. The Raiders have three wins and host the Chiefs. The Titans (four wins) host the Jets on Monday Night Football. The Panthers (four wins) travel to San Diego to take on the Chargers. And the Lions and Cardinals (both four-win teams) face each other. In other words, there’s going to be a lot to sort out next week. As for odds, the Eagles have a 0.1 percent chance of landing the top pick, according to Football Outsiders. But they have a 17.1 percent chance of landing a top-three selection.

2. Offensively, the Eagles are tied for 27th in scoring offense, averaging 18.5 points per game. Football Outsiders has them ranked 24th – 24th in passing and 23rd in rushing. The Birds are coming off their first win in nine games and are averaging 26 points per game in their last three. The Bengals, meanwhile, are 15th in scoring defense, allowing 21.5 points per game. Football Outsiders has them ranked 20th – 12th against the pass and 26th against the run. Cincinnati has allowed 20 points or fewer in five straight games.

3. For Eagles fans, all eyes will be on Nick Foles. The rookie quarterback completed 32 of 51 passes for 381 yards and a pair of touchdowns last week. He also ran for a score. In the last two games, Foles has completed 63.5 percent of his passes, averaged 7.4 yards per attempt and tossed three touchdowns with no interceptions. Opponents are completing 63.7 percent of their passes against the Bengals (26th) and averaging 6.8 yards per attempt (11th).

4. Foles and the Eagles’ offensive line will face a stiff test against the Bengals’ pass-rush. Cincinnati leads the NFL with 42 sacks. The one player to keep an eye on is No. 97, defensive tackle Geno Atkins. The third-year player is tied for sixth in the league with 10.5 sacks. He’s the only DT who ranks in the top-38. The next closest is Detroit’s Ndamukong Suh, who has 5.5. Atkins is a physical force, who will test the interior of the Eagles’ line in Jake Scott, Dallas Reynolds and Evan Mathis. Mathis has an ankle injury, but is listed as probable. He’s playing the best football of his career. Scott had been playing well, but had issues last week vs. Tampa. Reynolds too struggled against the Bucs. King Dunlap could have his hands full with right defensive end Michael Johnson (questionable – toe), who is second on the team with 8.5 sacks. And Dennis Kelly, who had a disastrous performance last week, will match up with talented defensive end Carlos Dunlap.

5. The Eagles couldn’t get anything going on the ground last week against Tampa’s strong run defense. Bryce Brown had just 6 yards on 12 carries, after piling up 347 yards and averaging 8.1 yards per carry in the previous two games. He’ll have more room than last week, going up against a Bengals defense that’s allowing 4.2 yards per carry (14th). The Bengals go with fourth-year player Rey Maualuga at middle linebacker, undrafted free agent Vontaze Burfict on the weak side and veteran Manny Lawson on the strong side. DeMarco Murray averaged just 2.5 yards per carry on 21 attempts against the Bengals last week.

6. Foles completed passes to eight different receivers last week. He was 9-for-13 for 104 yards on attempts to Jeremy Maclin and 7-for-10 for 133 yards on throws to Jason Avant. Clay Harbor gets the start in place of Brent Celek, who suffered a concussion last week. Harbor caught all six balls thrown his way for 52 yards against Tampa. The Bengals are 28th in the league against opposing tight ends, per Football Outsiders. Their starting corners are Leon Hall and Terence Newman. Newman’s in his first season with the Bengals after having spent nine with the Cowboys. Hall, a first-round pick back in 2007, is in his sixth season with the Bengals. Adam Jones will be on the field in nickel. Cincinnati’s safeties are Chris Crocker and Reggie Nelson.

7. Defensively, the Eagles are coming off of their best performance since Todd Bowles took over. They forced Tampa to punt on seven straight possessions to start the game and nine of 12 overall. The defense allowed two scoring drives of 77 and 75 yards in the second half, but got a stop in the fourth quarter to give the offense the ball back. Overall, the Eagle are 25th in scoring defense, allowing 26.2 points per game. Football Outsiders has them ranked 25th – 31st against the pass and 11th against the run. The Bengals, meanwhile, are 11th in scoring offense, averaging 24.7 points per game. Football Outsiders has them ranked 14th – 15th in passing and 12th in rushing.

8. In his second season, Andy Dalton’s numbers are up across the board. He’s completing 63.4 percent of his passes (11th), averaging 7.16 yards per attempt (16th) and has thrown 25 touchdowns (tied for 5th), compared to 14 interceptions (tied for 6th-most). Dalton doesn’t throw downfield a ton – 11.4 percent of his attempts have traveled 20 yards or more downfield, per Pro Football Focus. In Bowles’ first six games as defensive coordinator, opponents completed 76.3 percent of their passes against the Eagles. But Josh Freeman completed just 41.2 percent of his attempts last week.

9. The Eagles will have to deal with one of the best receivers in the game in A.J. Green. The second-year player is sixth with 1,151 yards and eighth with 79 receptions. He’s first among wide receivers with 10 touchdowns and tied for 11th with 14 catches of 20+ yards. According to Football Outsiders, the Eagles rank 31st in the league against opposing No. 1 receivers. Nnamdi Asomugha fought through an injury last week, but did not play well. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had been struggling, but turned in one of his best games of the season. Safety Nate Allen feels less pressure to account for both stopping the run and defending play-action with the changes up front. And Colt Anderson will get his second straight start in place of Kurt Coleman.

10. Behind Green, the Bengals don’t have a lot of firepower in the passing game. Tight end Jermaine Gresham has 55 catches for 636 yards and five touchdowns. Jamar Chaney took over at the SAM spot last week and played well. The Eagles rank 17th at covering opposing tight ends, according to Football Outsiders. Brandon Boykin will have to deal with slot receiver Andrew Hawkins, who has caught 45 of the 69 balls thrown his way.

11. Dalton’s been sacked 32 times on the season, tied for third-most behind Aaron Rodgers and Philip Rivers. The Eagles have scrapped Jim Washburn’s system for the most part. They didn’t get much pressure on Freeman last week, although Fletcher Cox and Cullen Jenkins both notched sacks. With Mike Patterson out, the Eagles will go to a four-man rotation at DT – Cox, Jenkins, Derek Landri and Cedric Thornton. Brandon Graham and Trent Cole will start at defensive end. Phillip Hunt, Vinny Curry and Darryl Tapp will also mix in.

12. A quick sidebar on the Patterson issue. This quote from Jim Washburn during training camp stuck in my mind:

“He doesn’t have to come to these rookie meetings at night, in the afternoon. He doesn’t have to be there. I said ‘Mike, you don’t have to be there.’ He said, ‘Well I like to be there.’ He likes football. He’s a good one, god dangit, we miss him now.”

And this one from Patterson, when asked why he didn’t just decide to retire:

“I just think it has to do with my personality. I just love this game so much. It’s just real fun to me, I enjoy it. When it first happened, people would say ‘no [don’t go back],’ but when everything’s all said and done, the doctor said I was able to play still.”

We know football’s a business, but it’s tough to defend the Eagles over $150,000 on this one.

13. Back to tonight. The Bengals run the ball with BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who is 26 yards away from reaching the 1,000-yard mark for the second time in his career. Green-Ellis is averaging 4.1 yards per carry and has six runs of 20+ yards. The Eagles tightened up their alignment up front last week, but Doug Martin still had 128 yards and averaged 4.6 yards per carry. Keep an eye on Mychal Kendricks. The rookie linebacker was moved to WILL last week and turned in one of his best games of the season.

14. Special teams once again let the Eagles down last week as Damaris Johnson’s muffed punt led to a Bucs touchdown. Overall, Football Outsiders has the Birds’ special teams ranked 21st. On average, the offense has started drives at its own 24.5 yard line (28th). Opponents have started drives at their own 30.48 yard line (31st), although part of that is obviously due to turnovers on offense. Alex Henery boomed a 58-yard attempt last week, but it hit the post. He also missed from 31 yards away. The Bengals, meanwhile, are eighth in FO’s special-teams rankings. They’re starting drives at their own 30.28 yard line (2nd), and opponents are starting at their own 25.22 (5th).

15. Leftovers: The Eagles are seventh in red-zone defense, allowing opponents to score touchdowns 48.84 percent of the time. The Bengals are 11th in red-zone offense, scoring touchdowns 56.25 percent of the time. …The Eagles are 27th in red-zone offense, scoring touchdowns 46.34 percent of the time. The Bengals are 17th in red-zone defense, allowing opponents to score 52.94 percent of the time. …The Eagles are -19 in turnover differential. Only the Chiefs are worse. The Bengals are dead-even with 21 takeaways and 21 giveaways on the year.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at
Become a fan of Birds 24/7 on Facebook.

All-22: What the ‘D’ Looked Like Without Washburn

From Mychal Kendricks to Fletcher Cox to Colt Anderson, here’s an All-22 look at what the Eagles’ defense looked like Sunday against the Bucs.

Play 1: Here’s what Jamar Chaney told Tim yesterday about the changes on the defensive line.

“It’s better for the linebackers. If you ask any linebacker what scheme or how they would want to do it, they would want the linemen to hold up the blocks and they go make the plays.”

And here, we see why Chaney said that. First, let’s take a look at the pre-snap alignment.

The Wide-9 lines the defensive end up outside the tight end. Here, you can see that’s not the case with Brandon Graham. Take a look at a photo of Jason Babin from a game earlier this season against the Giants to see the difference.

To be fair, the Eagles had not been lining up in the Wide-9 on every play, even with Jim Washburn still here. And it doesn’t appear to be completely dead, as you’ll see below.

On this play, you can see Chaney has no offensive linemen to deal with as he makes his way towards Doug Martin. Same for DeMeco Ryans.

Chaney does a good job finishing, as he and Nnamdi Asomugha tackle Martin after a 1-yard gain.

It should be noted that the Eagles were not getting gashed against the run this year. They were 13th in the league, allowing 4.1 yards per carry, going into this game. Martin ran for 128 yards in this game, averaging 4.6 yards per carry, although I thought the run defense held up pretty well.

The effect goes beyond the numbers though. The Eagles had been horrible in coverage the previous six games. Blown assignments, safeties with run responsibilities biting on play-action, etc. We’ll see if the change up front improves the pass defense in the final few games.

Play 2: Nice job here by the Eagles’ two second-round picks. Mychal Kendricks was moved to the WILL spot, and Vinny Curry got reps at right defensive end.

Kendricks blows up the play and helps force Martin back inside, while Curry hustles from the back side.

Curry finishes, dropping Martin for a 1-yard loss on 3rd-and-1.

Play 3: A couple things to note on this third-down play in the second. One, the Wide-9 is not completely dead. Look at where Trent Cole is lined up.

And two, there’s been a lot of discussion about what the Eagles’ secondary is going to look like in 2013. One question that needs to be answered: Can Brandon Boykin play outside? The rookie’s been mostly used inside this season. But against Tampa, the Eagles kept Asomugha (and Curtis Marsh when Asomugha was injured) on Vincent Jackson when Jackson moved to the slot.

Boykin fared well on this play (and in this game). A lot of teams are moving their No. 1 receivers inside at times to gain an advantage. We saw it with Calvin Johnson earlier this season. In the offseason, the Eagles have to decide whether Boykin is an every-down player who can play outside, or just a nickel corner.

Overall, the Eagles were much better in coverage, limiting Josh Freeman to 41.2 completions. In the previous six games, opposing quarterbacks were completing 76.3 percent of their passes against the Birds.

Play 4: Fletcher Cox can thank Marsh, Kendricks and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie for his second-quarter sack. Cox and Cole ran a stunt up front.

It didn’t result in immediate pressure on Freeman. Here you can see he’s got a pretty nice pocket actually.

But the Eagles’ coverage on the back end was outstanding.

And Cox did away with left tackle Donald Penn.

Play 5: Many of you have asked about Colt Anderson. In coverage, the Eagles parked him deep on many passing plays and didn’t ask him to do too much. Against the run, when he avoided blockers, he showed could make plays at or behind the line of scrimmage. But if an offensive player gets a hand on him, he has to prove he can still be effective.

For example, in the fourth, Anderson made a nice read on a Martin run.

Cullen Jenkins did a nice job disrupting the play, and you’ll notice Graham is not caught upfield. Anderson flies in and stops Martin for no gain.

But later in the game, on Martin’s touchdown run, Jackson gets to Anderson and provides a key block for the score.

Kurt Coleman is unlikely to play Thursday night so Anderson should get another shot.

Other notes:

* Kendricks really played well. He was active throughout, totaling seven tackles (according to team stats) and playing well in coverage too.

* Rodgers-Cromartie played one of his best games in a long time.

* Credit to Asomugha for fighting through the injury, but he gave up too many plays in coverage.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at
Become a fan of Birds 24/7 on Facebook.

Instant Observations: Eagles 23, Bucs 21

Here are my instant observations from the Eagles’ 23-21 win over the Bucs.


* Nick Foles is going to win some people over with this performance. With 2:44 left in the fourth quarter, Foles drove the Eagles 64 yards and threw the game-winning score to Jeremy Maclin from 1 yard out. It was the Birds’ first win in nine games. The Eagles faced a 4th-and-5 on the drive, and Foles hit Jason Avant for 22 yards. The offense rushed to the line of scrimmage and spiked the ball with two seconds left before the touchdown. Foles also hit Maclin for 23 yards on a 3rd-and-14 on the drive.

* Overall, Foles went 32-for-51 for 381 yards and three touchdowns (one rushing). Avant had seven catches for 133 yards. Maclin had nine receptions for 104 yards.

* Foles was sacked six times. He had only been sacked twice in the previous two games. The offensive line had trouble with Tampa’s stunts up front. King Dunlap struggled. It looked like he was responsible for two of the sacks. Dennis Kelly gave up a sack to Michael Bennett on the Eagles’ final drive.

* Foles made a beautiful throw to Maclin for 22 yards in the fourth. And he did a great job of escaping pressure and finding Avant for 39 yards down the right sideline late in the first half. On his first touchdown pass in the fourth, Foles scrambled to his right and threw on-target to Clay Harbor from 11 yards out.

* Bryce Brown couldn’t get anything going on the ground. He tried to get outside all game long and had no success, finishing with 6 yards on 12 carries. Brown had averaged 8.1 yards per carry in the previous two games.

* Avant made one of the best catches you’ll see all year, leaping into the air and coming down with a one-handed grab near the sideline to beat the blitz in the second.

* Foles appeared to have Marvin McNutt open deep in the first quarter, but he overthrew him. Former Eagles third-round pick Daniel Te’o-Nesheim pressured Foles on the play. Te’o-Nesheim later had a sack.

* Brent Celek was knocked out of the game with a concussion on the Eagles’ first offensive play from scrimmage.

* Alex Henery crushed a 58-yard field goal at the end of the first half, but it hit the left post and was no good. In the second half, he missed a 31-yarder.

* Special teams was unkind to the Eagles once again. Damaris Johnson muffed a third-quarter punt, leading to the Bucs’ first touchdown. They also gave up a 30-yard punt return.

* Maclin fumbled a WR screen in the third, but the refs blew the whistle early and ruled it incomplete.


* It was a tale of two halves for the defense. In the first, the Eagles shut the Bucs out and limited Josh Freeman to 5-for-16 on 61 yards. The defense gave up just 79 yards through two quarters. They were handed horrible field position (the 5-yard-line) in the third, but then allowed touchdown drives of 77 and 75 yards, respectively. Freeman finished 14-for-34 for 189 yards and a pair of scores. Opposing quarterbacks had been completing 76.3 percent of their passes against the Eagles in the previous six games, but Freeman completed just 41.2 percent of his attempts.

* Doug Martin ran 28 times for 128 yards, averaging 4.6 yards per carry.

* The Eagles switched up their starting linebackers. Jamar Chaney got the start at SAM, and Mychal Kendricks moved over to WILL, replacing Akeem Jordan. Kendricks had a tackle for loss after a completion behind the line of scrimmage in the first. And he nearly had a couple interceptions. Chaney had an early tackle against the run and broke up a pass intended for the tight end.

* The Eagles gave up a 13-yard touchdown to Vincent Jackson in the fourth. Horrible tackling attempt by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on the play. Rodgers-Cromartie otherwise played one of his best games of the season.

* Nnamdi Asomugha did not play well. He got beaten by Mike Williams for a 1-yard touchdown in the first and later gave up a completions of 28 and 40 yards, respectively. Asomugha made a nice play breaking up a pass intended for Dallas Clark in the first half, but landed hard and was slow to get up. He went to the locker room and was replaced by Curtis Marsh before returning.

* Did you notice Dick Stockton twice saying that Gangnam Style had taken the world by storm as the camera showed a kid doing the Dougie? That was my favorite part of the first half – by far.

* Fletcher Cox dropped Martin for a 6-yard loss on a screen in the second quarter. Cox sacked Freeman late in the first half. He also had another tackle for loss and a QB hit.

* Nice play by Marsh, breaking up a deep ball for Williams down the far sideline late in the first half.

* John Lynch called out Rodgers-Cromartie and Asomugha for their lack of effort last week against the Cowboys.

* Ryan Rau was active and made a tackle in kickoff coverage in the second.

* Cullen Jenkins had a sack late in the first half after Brandon Graham pressured Freeman.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at
Become a fan of Birds 24/7 on Facebook.

Cheat Sheet: Eagles’ Defense Vs. Bucs’ Offense

Philadelphia Eagles LB DeMeco Ryans.Here are 10 things to know about how the Eagles’ defense matches up with the Bucs’ offense.

1. As always, we start with what’s important: draft positioning. If the season ended today, the Eagles would have the fourth overall pick. The teams ahead of them are the Raiders, Jaguars and Chiefs. Oakland already lost Thursday night and is 3-10 going into the final three. Kansas City is at Cleveland, and Jacksonville hosts the Jets. Those are the two early games to keep an eye on (as you chat with us during Eagles-Bucs, of course). According to Football Outsiders, the Eagles have an 8.6 percent chance at getting the top pick and a 48 percent chance of landing a top-three selection.

2. The Bucs enter Sunday’s game fourth in the NFL, averaging 27.8 points per game. Football Outsiders has them 10th in overall offense – 11th in passing and eighth in rushing. Tampa is coming off back-to-back losses to the Falcons and Broncos. The Eagles, meanwhile, have lost eight in a row and are coming off a 38-33 loss to the Cowboys. They are 26th in scoring defense, allowing 26.7 points per game. Football Outsiders has the Eagles ranked 25th defensively – 31st against the pass and eighth against the run. According to their numbers, only the Raiders have been worse against the pass this season.

3. Tampa’s offense starts with rookie running back Doug Martin, who is third in the NFL with 1,106 yards. Only Adrian Peterson (17) and C.J. Spiller (11) have more runs of 20+ yards than Martin (9). According to Pro Football Focus, Martin has broken 47 tackles, tied with Peterson for most in the league. Only Arian Foster and Marshawn Lynch have carried the ball more than him (236 attempts). Martin’s coming off a pair of sub-par outings against the Falcons and Broncos, where he averaged just 2.7 yards per carry on 39 attempts. Opponents are averaging 4.1 yards per carry (13th) against the Eagles.

4. Most of Martin’s runs (67.4 percent) have come out of two-back sets, according to STATS, Inc. He’s averaged 5.6 yards per carry on those attempts. That means the Eagles will be in their base personnel for much of the game. DeMeco Ryans has shown up every week, but he didn’t play particularly well against the Cowboys. Akeem Jordan played poorly. And Mychal Kendricks was up-and-down. The Eagles will be without Mike Patterson (illness). Asked if the defense will still rotate defensive linemen, coordinator Todd Bowles said, “They’ll rotate. You still have to let Coach [Tommy] Brasher get comfortable with the guys and then we kind of react and go from there as he gets more comfortable with them at the end of the week, seeing what they can and can’t do from his own eyes. I’d like to give him a fresh perspective on that.”

5. Josh Freeman ranks 31st in the NFL, completing just 55.9 percent of his passes. But he’s in luck because opponents are completing 76.3 percent of their passes against the Eagles since Bowles took over. Freeman’s averaging 7.74 yards per attempt (sixth). He’s tossed 23 touchdowns (sixth) and just eight interceptions. In the last six games, the Eagles have given up 16 touchdown passes and come up with no interceptions. On the season, opponents are completing 62.2 percent of their passes against the Eagles (17th) and averaging 7.8 yards per attempt (26th). Only four defenses have allowed more touchdown passes than the Birds (23).

6. Vincent Jackson is one of the league’s premier vertical threats. He’s got 50 catches for 1,014 yards in his first season with Tampa and is averaging 20.3 yards per reception, which is tops in the NFL. Only Calvin Johnson, Demaryius Thomas and Reggie Wayne have more catches of 20+ yards than Jackson (19). While the Bucs like to run the ball, they’ll take plenty of shots downfield. According to Pro Football Focus, 15.9 percent of Freeman’s attempts have traveled 20 yards or more downfield. That is third in the league, behind only Joe Flacco and Andrew Luck. Eagles safeties Kurt Coleman and Nate Allen have played poorly all season. Coleman’s out with a chest injury, and Colt Anderson will get the start. The Eagles will try to avoid complete breakdowns in the secondary for the first time in weeks.

7. Third-year receiver Mike Williams has also been productive with 43 catches for 718 yards (16.7 yards per reception) and six touchdowns. As for the Eagles, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie seems to be getting worse every week.

“As I look at film just from a personal standpoint, in my head I have a whole lot of wows,” he told Tim last week. “Like, ‘Wow, what are you doing?’ At some point, I think as the season keeps going bad, bad, you try to fight so hard and don’t want to do wrong until you end up just doing wrong and you don’t allow yourself to just go out and be [yourself].”

Not only is Rodgers-Cromartie giving up too many big plays, but he continues to consistently shy away from contact. And according to Pro Football Focus, Rodgers-Cromartie leads all cornerbacks with 11 penalties.

8. Up front, left tackle Donald Penn has started every game for Tampa since the start of the 2008 season, and he made the Pro Bowl in 2010. He’ll go up against Trent Cole, who was not a factor last week against the Cowboys and has just two sacks on the season. Vinny Curry played just 19 snaps last week. That number needs to increase. Tampa is without All-Pro guard Carl Nicks. The Eagles’ pass-rush was non-existent in the second half of last week’s loss to the Cowboys. Fletcher Cox, Curry, Phillip Hunt, Cullen Jenkins, Derek Landri, Darryl Tapp and Cedric Thornton combined for no sacks and no hurries. Brandon Graham had 1.5 sacks, four hurries and eight tackles – the most by any Eagles defensive end in a single game all season. Freeman has been sacked just 17 times all season.

9. The Eagles have just 10 takeaways through 12 games. That’s the second-fewest total in the league, ahead of only the Colts. The Bucs, meanwhile, have just 12 giveaways. In the NFC, only the Redskins have fewer.  Overall, the Eagles are minus-18 in turnover differential. Only the Chiefs (-21) are worse.

10. Leftovers: According to Football Outsiders, opponents are starting drives at the 30.28 yard line against the Eagles, the second-worst mark in the league. …The Eagles are sixth in red-zone defense, allowing opponents to score touchdowns 45 percent of the time. The Bucs are the second-best red-zone offense in the league, scoring touchdowns 66.7 percent of the time. …Tampa is converting on 34 percent of its third-down chances (26th). The Eagles are 21st in third-down defense, allowing conversions 39.7 percent of the time.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at
Become a fan of Birds 24/7 on Facebook.

All-22: More Breakdowns From the Eagles’ Defense

An All-22 look at what we saw from the Eagles’ defense last week against the Cowboys.

Play 1: DeMarco Murray had not touched the ball in seven weeks. But on his first carry against the Eagles, he picked up 14 yards.

Trent Cole is upfield and gets blocked by Tyron Smith. Akeem Jordan gets manhandled by the fullback. Nnamdi Asomugha (not pictured), who actually was pretty active in run support, couldn’t get off of Dez Bryant’s block as Murray bounced it outside.

Play 2: On a day when Tony Romo went 22-for-27 for 303 yards and three touchdowns, he couldn’t have left any big plays on the field, right? Wrong. I have no idea why Romo didn’t pull the trigger on this pass to Jason Witten (red circle), who appeared to be wide open in the first.

Not positive, but it looks like Kurt Coleman needs to drop back deeper in coverage there. Romo scrambled and ended up dumping it off to Murray for a 1-yard loss. The Cowboys missed out on a big play here (although there were obviously opportunities for several more, as you’ll see below).

Play 3: DeMeco Ryans did not have his best game, but here, he puts on a clinic on how to play middle linebacker.

Ryans moves swiftly and decisively towards Murray, who takes the toss left. Ryans doesn’t need to worry about getting off a block, since he doesn’t allow the center to even get a hand on him.

And when he gets to Murray, Ryans executes the tackle flawlessly.

The result? His 15th tackle-for-loss this season, the most of any Eagles defender during the Andy Reid era. Ryans shows up every week.

Play 4: The call from Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth on this play was classic. They couldn’t believe the Eagles would leave Witten so wide open.

Coleman turns his back to the middle of the field and heads towards Dez Bryant on the outside, while Asomugha bails deep. That leaves Witten all alone.

As easy a 28-yard gain as you’ll see all season.

Play 5: I would love to be in the room when a play like Bryant’s 28-yard touchdown is shown to defensive players. It’s one thing to give up the completion, but another to fail in such an epic manner in bringing Bryant down.

Bryant is in a crowd of five defenders around the 8-yard-line. There’s no way he’s scoring here, right?

Wrong. Allen somehow runs right past Bryant, while Coleman and Jordan do the same from the other side. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie doesn’t make much of an effort to get to Bryant, and Mychal Kendricks overruns him too.

Play 6: If you want to identify players who are still hustling and giving full effort, start with Brandon Graham. He’s at his usual spot at left defensive end to start this play.

It’s a handoff to the opposite side, but Graham hustles around Doug Free and chases the ballcarrier.

Look who ends up making the tackle for no gain.

Really nice effort from Graham here.

Play 7: Another bad play for Allen on the 27-yard touchdown to Miles Austin. The Eagles set up in Cover-3, as Asomugha, Allen and Rodgers-Cromartie divide the deep part of the field into thirds.

Allen’s in good position to pop Austin as soon as he catches the ball.

But the wide receiver makes a subtle move, and Allen goes flying by. Rodgers-Cromartie delivered a little swat around the 5-yard-line as Austin scampered into the end zone.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at
Become a fan of Birds 24/7 on Facebook.

« Older Posts  |  Newer Posts »