Eagles Wake-Up Call: Quarterly Grades On ‘D’

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It’s time to run to the mailbox and steal the report card before Mom and Pops get their hands on it.

OK, fine. Apparently, that’s not how things work nowadays. But you get the idea. We’re a quarter of the way into the season, so it’s time to give out some grades. We’ll do the defense today (position-by-position) and deal with the offense in a future post. Read more »

Cheat Sheet: Eagles Defense Vs. Broncos Offense

If you missed the first cheat sheet, click here.

Now, 10 things you need to know about how the Eagles’ defense matches up with the Broncos’ offense.

1. I guess we need to start with Peyton Manning, huh? Don’t know how much I can add that hasn’t already been said. He leads the NFL in completion percentage (73.0), yards-per-attempt (9.4), touchdowns (12) and passer rating (134.7). A year ago at this time, the Broncos were 1-2, and many questioned the future Hall of Famer’s arm strength. But with a new stable of weapons, Manning looks as good as ever. The Broncos are the top-ranked offense in the NFL, per Football Outsiders – first in passing and fifth in rushing. Denver is averaging 42.3 points per game. No other team is averaging more than 32.

Read more »

Cheat Sheet: Eagles Defense Vs. Chiefs Offense

Billy DavisIf you missed the first cheat sheet, click here.

Now, 10 things to know about how the Eagles’ defense matches up with the Chiefs’ offense.

1. Billy Davis and company used an effective blitz-heavy package to slow down Robert Griffin III and the Redskins in Week 1. But the Eagles’ D looked much more like the unit everyone was expecting going into the season last week against the Chargers. Philip Rivers completed 36 of 47 passes for 419 yards and three touchdowns. He was sacked once, and the Chargers were 10-for-15 on third down, effectively keeping the Eagles’ offense off the field. Through two games, the Eagles’ defense ranks 29th, according to Football Outsiders. The Chiefs have been efficient, though not spectacular. Kansas City scored 17 points in a win against Dallas last week, and Andy Reid’s offense ranks 12th overall, per FO.

2. The Chargers’ game-plan was pretty simple: Get Rivers to the line of scrimmage early, force the defense to show its hand, audible into a play that works, and move the football.

“They’d get up, take a look, then come back, sometimes they checked, we checked, and then they checked again,” Chip Kelly explained. “I think when you’re playing a quarterback like Philip Rivers, I think basically they put the game in his hands and he was making a lot of checks at the line of scrimmage depending on the looks we were presenting. That’s what you get when you’re going against someone as talented as him. You’ve got to get lined up and you’ve got to play because you just can’t say they’re not going to run a play here. When they’re ready to run a play, you’ve got to be lined up ready to run a play.”

Davis believes strongly in disguising looks and confusing opposing quarterbacks. But the Chargers’ offense controlled the game by lining up early and dictating when the ball was snapped.

“There were times they checked, we checked, and then tried to give them a different look, and then he came back with a play,” Kelly continued. “You know, it becomes a‑cat‑and‑mouse‑game and you get going, but they’ve got to snap the ball at a certain point in time, and we’ve got to be lined up and ready to go. …We have to be prepared with a defense when he gets up on the ball, and then we’ve got to do a job of trying to give them a disguise and make sure that it’s not totally something that he’s going to see, and then we can rotate into some things.  But sometimes your disguise ends up being a liability because you’re not close enough in coverage when you’re that far off.”

3. The crew at NBC’s NFL Turning Point did a great job of catching wide receiver Eddie Royal talking to coaches about a specific look the Eagles were showing. It came late in the third quarter. Royal noticed that safety Nate Allen was stationed about 11 yards directly behind Patrick Chung, who was playing slot corner. He raised his hand as if to say, “Chung’s blitzing here. You got me.”

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That’s exactly what happened, but Trent Cole manhandled the left guard and forced Rivers to roll to his right where he dumped the ball off to Ronnie Brown. If Rivers had time, he would have had Royal open in the middle of the field.

chung1a_091813

But with 3:11 left in the game, on the Chargers’ final touchdown of the day, they got the same look.

royal1_091913

The safety’s lined up directly behind the slot corner, who is going to blitz.

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As soon as he gets the snap, Rivers knows it’s coming and unloads to Royal behind the line of scrimmage. You can see how far away Allen is. King Dunlap takes care of Allen, Royal jukes DeMeco Ryans, and the Chargers have a 15-yard score.

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Davis wants the Eagles to be unpredictable on defense, but that didn’t happen last week.

4. So far in Reid’s offense, Alex Smith is completing 60 percent of his passes, but averaging just 5.7 yards per attempt. That ranks 29th among starting quarterbacks. Last week, the Eagles wanted to guard against the big play. But this week, there’s far less need to play their safeties deep. Per Pro Football Focus, just 4.3 percent of Smith’s throws have traveled 20 yards or more from the line of scrimmage. That’s 31st among starting quarterbacks. Smith will look to be efficient and control the tempo of the game, while keeping the Eagles’ offense off the field.

5. Up front, from left to right, the Chiefs have: Branden Albert, Jeff Allen, Rodney Hudson, Jon Asamoah and No. 1 overall pick Eric Fisher. Albert will often get matched up against Trent Cole, who has exceeded expectations early on. Cole only dropped back into coverage three times last week, per PFF. Fletcher Cox leads the team with three QB hurries (coaches stats), but has been quiet overall. Isaac SopoagaDamion Square and Bennie Logan have been unimpressive at nose tackle. Same goes for Clifton Geathers at LDE. And Cedric Thornton has been OK. A lot of questions about Vinny Curry. My take? The Eagles don’t think he fits, and he won’t see the field unless someone is injured. We’ll find out about 90 minutes prior to kickoff (when inactives are announced) whether I’m right or not.

6. The Eagles have been blitz-heavy in each of the first two weeks. Against San Diego, Davis sent five or more pass-rushers at the QB 53.8 percent of the time. Rivers completed 76 percent of his attempts and averaged 8.4 yards per attempt against the blitz. But it must be noted that his numbers were even better when the Eagles didn’t send pressure (77.3 percent, 9.5 YPA). Alex Smith was not blitzed much through the first two games. He’s 9-for-11 for 73 yards against extra pressure and has been sacked twice, per Stats, Inc. While the Chiefs rely on a short-to-intermediate passing game, Smith doesn’t get rid of the ball as quickly as you might think. Per PFF, it takes him on average 2.76 seconds to make a decision (attempt a pass, run or get sacked). That ranks 20th in the NFL.

7. On the ground, the Chiefs feature Jamaal Charles. Ready for a stat that will blow your mind? Since 1920, among running backs who have had at least 300 carries, Charles has the highest yards-per-attempt average at 5.72, per Pro Football Reference. And last year, he piled up 1,509 yards while averaging 5.3 YPC. I know what you’re thinking: Good thing Andy won’t give him the ball! Charles is averaging 16 rushing attempts per game, 12th-most in the NFL and down slightly from last year’s mark (17.8).

8. Charles has also caught 11 balls, more than any other Chiefs player. The Eagles were a mess in coverage last week. Mychal Kendricks got worked over by Antonio Gates all game long. In the secondary, Cary Williams was called for three pass interference penalties. This week, the Eagles will get Bradley Fletcher back from a concussion. Fletcher played well in Week 1 against Washington. Brandon Boykin will go back to the slot full-time. The Chiefs’ top wide receiver is Dwayne Bowe. He’s got eight catches for 86 yards and a score through two games. Among Kansas City’s six players who have at least four catches, none has a yards-per-reception higher than 12.3.

9. At safety, the Eagles will once again go with Chung and Allen, but expect rookie Earl Wolff to once again rotate in. Last week, the Chargers killed the Eagles with in-breaking routes, and the safeties were slow to react and failed to provide adequate help all game long. There’s no need to be conservative against Kansas City. The Chiefs will also line up in the Pistol. It’s worth noting that the Pistol is not what Kelly and the Eagles run. It’s a formation where the quarterback sets up in shotgun, but is closer to the line of scrimmage (usually 4 yards). And the running back lines up directly behind the quarterback, instead of to one side or the other. Kansas City has hired Chris Ault as a consultant. Ault is credited as the creator of the Pistol from his time at Nevada. Matt Bowen has a good breakdown here of some of the new concepts the Chiefs are showing under Reid.

10. Brandon Graham has played just 21.6 percent of the Eagles’ defensive snaps through the first two games. …Casey Matthews saw some time at outside linebacker, backing up Connor Barwin vs. San Diego. …Derek Sarley has an excellent All-22 breakdown of the Eagles’ defensive woes on Philly.com. Also check out Tommy Lawlor’s always-informative detailed game review on IgglesBlitz.com.

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Eagles Wake-Up Call: Checking In On Fletcher Cox

Fletcher CoxWhen the Eagles drafted Fletcher Cox in 2012, then-defensive line coach Jim Washburn was ecstatic.

“When God made him, he made him to be in this system right here,” Washburn said at the time.

He was of course talking about the Wide-9. Cox’s job last year was to pin his ears back and get into the backfield on every snap. On a defense that was a disaster, Cox was one of the few bright spots, finishing the year with 5.5 sacks, 24 hurries and seven tackles-for-loss.

But with the offseason changes came a new defensive scheme that now calls for Eagles defensive linemen to two-gap (All-22 explanation here) and play with discipline, rather than just attack.

“I think I’ve been doing a good job at it,” Cox said. “A lot of room for improvement. Just a lot of little things that I’m not doing right. At the end, once I get rolling, I think it’ll all come together.”

When the Eagles drafted Cox, they liked his versatility and felt he could play in a variety of schemes. While he’s been relatively quiet through the first two games, it’s not as if he’s been invisible. According to stats kept by Eagles coaches, Cox leads the team with three hurries and is one of four defenders who’s notched a sack. He also has been in on 10 tackles.

Asked if the scheme limits his ability to make plays behind the line of scrimmage, Cox said: “There are no times where I feel like I can’t be in the backfield. I feel I can be in the backfield every play.

“That right there always comes down to want-to. You never let things like schemes and all that get to you. I mean, you’ve gotta have the want-to to go make the plays no matter what kind of position they put you in.”

When the Eagles are in their sub packages, Cox turns into an interior pass-rusher. Sometimes the Eagles go with three down linemen in those situations, and other times it’s four. Cox often lines up at right defensive end in base, but has been moved over to the left side as well.

The 23-year-old figures to be one of the players the Eagles build their defense around, and he sounds confident he’ll find his way as the season goes on.

But asked if he prefers playing in a one-gap scheme to a two-gap scheme, Cox said: “Of course. Everybody wants to be in the backfield.”

WHAT YOU MISSED

T-Mac takes a look at Earl Wolff, Nate Allen and the continuity question.

Chip Kelly explains what he tells Michael Vick through the headset during games.

The second part of our game review goes position-by-position on the Eagles’ defense.

The stars are aligning for DeSean Jackson, writes McManus.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Jimmy Kempski of Philly.com looks ahead to Thursday night’s Eagles-Chiefs matchup:

The Chiefs have a pair of good CBs in Brandon Flowers and Sean Smith. However, both players are at a matchup disadvantage against DeSean Jackson. Flowers has gotten every little bit out of his less than impressive measurables, but the bottom line is that he is simply not a fast player.

Tommy Lawlor of IgglesBlitz.com weighs in on the Colin Kaepernick/Russell Wilson rumors:

The part about focusing on Russell Wilson in the 3rd round is utterly ridiculous to me. If the Eagles made draft plans around Wilson, they would have taken him with pick 59, which they got when they moved down from 51 in a deal with the Packers. You don’t build a draft plan around a 3rd round player. If you like someone that much, you take them in the 1st or 2nd round, especially as a QB. I have a hard time believing this report as stated.

COMING UP

We’ll look ahead to Eagles-Chiefs and break out the All-22.

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Game Review: Eagles Defense Vs. Chargers Offense

Fletcher CoxIf you missed the game review on the Eagles’ offense, click here.

Here’s what we saw from the ‘D’ after having re-watched Sunday’s contest.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN

* The Eagles used three-down fronts and four-down fronts. They blitzed, and they dropped eight into coverage. Nothing worked. Philip Rivers carved them up, completing 36 of 47 passes for 419 yards and three touchdowns.

* In last year’s scheme, Fletcher Cox looked like he had a Pro Bowl ceiling. So far in this year’s scheme, he’s been pretty quiet, although Cox did have some moments in the second half. He stopped Danny Woodhead for no gain in the third. He got some pressure on Rivers on third down in the fourth and hit Rivers on the final drive. But through two games in the Eagles’ two-gap 3-4, Cox has not been a difference-maker.

* There were stretches on Sunday where the Eagles just got pushed around up front. Isaac Sopoaga has been a non-factor. He was double-teamed to the ground on Woodhead’s 4-yard run in the second. His backup, Damion Square, was no better. Square got double-teamed to the ground on Ryan Mathews’ 6-yard run in the second and again on the very next play. He was blocked easily on Ronnie Brown’s 8-yard run in the third.

* Cedric Thornton had a couple good moments. He dropped Brown after a 3-yard run in the third and tackled Mathews after a 1-yard run in the fourth. Didn’t see anything from him as a pass-rusher though.

* Rookie Bennie Logan had a strong preseason, but has been quiet so far. He was caught upfield on a delayed handoff in the second that gained 6 yards. Logan made a nice play against the run in the fourth, tackling Woodhead after a 4-yard pickup. He played 27 snaps and didn’t do much as a pass-rusher.

* Clifton Geathers played 14 snaps and didn’t do much. He was blocked on Woodhead’s 8-yard run in the fourth.

* I charted the number of pass-rushers Billy Davis used throughout the game:

Number Of Rushers
Number Of Plays
Completions
Attempts
Yards
353533
4191417175
5151113119
61271181
711111

As you can see, nothing really worked. When the Eagles rushed three or four, Rivers was 17-for-22 for 208 yards (77.3 completion percentage, 9.5 YPA) with one scramble and one pass interference penalty.

When they blitzed with five or more, Rivers was 19-for-25 for 211 yards (76 percent, 8.4 YPA) with two defensive penalties and one sack.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS

* Connor Barwin played pretty well, with a few exceptions. He caught rookie right tackle D.J. Fluker off-balance, bull-rushed him and picked up the Eagles’ only sack in the first. He had a good edge rush on third down in the second and hit Rivers as he completed a pass to Woodhead. Against the run, Barwin did a poor job of setting the edge on a 10-yard Mathews run in the first. He did a much better job the rest of the game and dropped Mathews for a 2-yard loss in the first. In coverage, Barwin got beat by Woodhead on a 3rd-and-4 completion on the final drive. Had he forced an incompletion there, it would have been a 54-yard field goal attempt.

* Trent Cole was one of the Eagles’ more active defenders. He rushed off the right edge in the second and hit Rivers. He pressured Rivers in the second, but Cary Williams was called for pass interference. Great hustle in the third, pressuring Rivers and then assisting on a tackle after the QB dumped the ball off to Brown. In the fourth, Cole hit Rivers from behind and forced an incompletion. Against the run, Cole stopped Mathews after a 4-yard gain. He tripped Mathews up after a 3-yard run in the second and drew a holding penalty on the next play. Down in the red zone, Cole forced a fumble for the second straight week. On 41 passing downs, Cole only dropped in coverage twice, per Pro Football Focus. He lined up at right outside linebacker, right defensive end and a couple other spots.

* Casey Matthews came in and played four snaps at outside linebacker behind Barwin.

* Update: As a sign of just how small Brandon Graham’s role is in this defense, I’ll admit I didn’t have a single note on him from this game. Graham played 16 snaps and was a non-factor. Per PFF, on 11 passing downs, he dropped twice and rushed nine times. Given that Cole and Barwin are two of the defenders playing well, I’m not sure Graham is going to see a bump any time soon.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS

* DeMeco Ryans was active, finishing with nine tackles (six solo). Great effort on a second-quarter play. Ryans blitzed, didn’t get home and then pursued Woodhead, tackling him after a 2-yard reception. He got juked badly on Eddie Royal’s 15-yard touchdown in the fourth, running right past the wide receiver. The Eagles sent Ryans on inside blitzes all game long (19 times, per PFF), and he never got home. That was an issue throughout.

* Mychal Kendricks had a day to forget. Tight end Antonio Gates took the second-year player to school. Kendricks got beaten by Gates and missed a tackle on a 21-yard catch and run in the first. Same story on a 14-yard gain in the second. On a big 3rd-and-4 in the third, Gates beat Kendricks for a 7-yard gain. And Gates caught a 6-yarder on 3rd-and-3 against Kendricks in the fourth. Kendricks is the Eagles’ best cover linebacker, but he had issues all game long. Against the run, he was up and down. Kendricks got blocked on Mathews’ 7-yard run in the first. It looked like he tripped on Mathews’ 20-yard run in the first. And he got blocked on an 8-yard Woodhead run in the fourth.

There were some good moments. He got off his block and tackled Woodhead after a 2-yard run in the first. He stopped Mathews after a 3-yard run in the third and dropped him after a 1-yard run. Overall, though, Kendricks struggled.

CORNERBACKS

* Cary Williams also had a day to forget. Three pass interferences – an 18-yarder, a 9-yarder and another that was declined because it was an 18-yard completion anyway. That last one came on 3rd-and-6 in the third. Have to check the All-22, but I believe the 24-yard TD to Royal was on Williams. The Eagles appeared to be in quarters coverage, and because Rivers held on to the ball so long, Williams cheated over to a receiver towards the middle of the field.

* Brandon Boykin wasn’t perfect, but he competed throughout. The second-year corner was targeted all game long and gave up at least four completions. In the second, Royal beat him on a wheel route for 21 yards on 3rd-and-7. And in the fourth, Boykin gave up a 16-yard completion on 3rd-and-7. He broke up a pass down the right sideline in the second and broke up a third-down pass in the third. Boykin also made a great hustle play, chasing Gates down and forcing a fumble in the red zone in the first half.

* Brandon Hughes played 22 snaps and suffered a hamstring injury. I actually only noticed him get targeted once – a 31-yarder to Malcom Floyd down the sideline in the second.

* Eagles safeties continued to struggle. Patrick Chung was called for a huge defensive holding penalty on 3rd-and-4 in the third. The Chargers would have had to punt, but instead, their drive was extended and they took 8:55 off the clock before kicking a field goal. On that same drive, Chung got matched up with Royal and gave up a 12-yard completion on 3rd-and-6. He tried to strip the ball instead of making the tackle and gave up extra yardage. Chung had a couple good plays against the run, including a stop in the third after a 2-yard Mathews run.

* Yet another day to forget for Nate Allen. Where to begin? The Chargers crossed their receivers, and he lost Royal on an 11-yard touchdown in the first half. Allen was blocked/tackled by King Dunlap on the 15-yard screen TD to Royal in the fourth. He got stiff-armed and was called for a face-mask penalty on a Mathews run in the first. He was slow to react on a 19-yard completion to Floyd in the first. Woodhead beat him for a 5-yard completion on 3rd-and-3 in the first. Gates got him for a 15-yard completion on the final drive. And Allen missed a tackle on Gates on a 21-yard catch and run on the very next play. At this point, it’s a matter of when, not if, Allen is yanked from the starting lineup.

* The problem is the coaches don’t feel Earl Wolff is ready. He too was late coming up on a 17-yard completion to Floyd in the second. Gates caught a ball down the seam in front of him for 16 yards. Wolff got matched up with Gates and allowed a 24-yard catch.

But when reviewing the game, I noticed Wolff had some good moments. He assisted in run support, helping to take Mathews down for a 2-yard loss in the first. He dropped Mathews after a 4-yard run in the third. He cleaned up on Royal after Chung missed a tackle in the fourth. And he broke up a pass intended for Gates in the end zone in the fourth. From the outside looking in, the move would seem to be to throw Wolff out there and let him take his lumps. But obviously, the coaches see him every day. He played 49 snaps.

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Week 2: Eagles Snap Count Analysis

Here’s a look at Eagles snap counts Sunday against the Chargers.

 
Overall Snaps
Snap %
LeSean McCoy5085%
Bryce Brown915%

LeSean McCoy played 85 percent of the snaps, but the total was just 50 since the Eagles ran far fewer plays than in Week 1. He had 16 total touches for 167 yards.

Bryce Brown played nine snaps and had three carries for 13 yards. Chris Polk played special-teams only. He has not played an offensive snap  yet.

 
Overall Snaps
Snap %
Riley Cooper5695%
Brent Celek5492%
DeSean Jackson5492%
Jason Avant4881%
Zach Ertz1220%
James Casey58%
Damaris Johnson47%
Jeff Maehl35%

Riley Cooper played the most snaps among this group for the second week in a row. He had two catches for 25 yards and a touchdown.

DeSean Jackson played all but five snaps, finishing with nine catches for 193 yards on 15 targets. As we mentioned, to say he could have easily had 300 yards receiving is no stretch.

The Eagles were in ’11′ personnel with one RB, one TE and three WRs quite a bit for the second straight week. Jason Avant played 81 percent of the snaps and had four catches for 39 yards. It doesn’t appear that Damaris Johnson will have much of a role in this offense when everyone else is healthy. He played just four snaps. And Jeff Maehl got on the field for three snaps.

At tight end, Brent Celek played all but five snaps and was shut out (one target). Rookie Zach Ertz played 12 snaps, but made the most of them, catching two balls for 58 yards. James Casey only played five snaps and dropped a potential touchdown pass early from Michael Vick.

 
Overall Snaps
Snap %
Fletcher Cox6477%
Cedric Thornton5769%
Isaac Sopoaga2834%
Bennie Logan2733%
Clifton Geathers1417%
Damion Square1214%

Not too much to note here. Fletcher Cox played the most snaps (64), followed by Cedric Thornton (57). Isaac Sopoaga played 34 percent of the snaps. And the second team was Bennie Logan (33 percent), Clifton Geathers (17 percent) and Damion Square (14 percent). For the second straight week, Vinny Curry was inactive.

 
Overall Snaps
Snap %
DeMeco Ryans83100%
Mychal Kendricks83100%
Connor Barwin7995%
Trent Cole6781%
Brandon Graham1619%
Casey Matthews45%

DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks played every single snap. Still have to re-watch, but Kendricks seemed to struggle throughout.

Connor Barwin was the only defensive player to notch a sack, and Trent Cole seemed to be active.

Casey Matthews backed up Barwin at left outside linebacker and played four snaps. And Brandon Graham played 16 snaps behind Cole at right outside linebacker.

 
Overall Snaps
Snap %
Cary Williams83100%
Patrick Chung8299%
Brandon Boykin8096%
Nate Allen6376%
Earl Wolff4959%
Brandon Hughes2227%

The secondary was a mess. Cary Williams played every snap and was called for three pass interference penalties. Brandon Boykin played all but three snaps. He started off on the outside, but moved inside at times.

Brandon Hughes played 22 snaps on the outside, but suffered a hamstring injury.

Patrick Chung played all but one snap – both at safety and at nickel.

Nate Allen (76 percent) and Earl Wolff (59 percent) both saw significant action, but neither played well.

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Game Review: Eagles Defense Vs. Redskins Offense

Mychal Kendricks 1If you missed the offense, click here. Below is the position-by-position review of the Eagles’ defensive performance against the Redskins, after having re-watched the game.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN

* The starting defensive line from left to right was Cedric Thornton, Isaac Sopoaga and Fletcher Cox. Cox moved around a bit in nickel, sometimes playing left defensive end. A big hole opened up between him and Trent Cole in the first as Alfred Morris picked up 15. But Cox gave great effort on the play and eventually chased him down. He didn’t do much as a pass-rusher until late. Cox got free on a big blitz in the fourth and crushed Robert Griffin III. He later sacked Griffin when the Eagles used just a three-man rush.

* Thornton had a good second half too. He hustled from the back side, dropping Morris for a 2-yard loss and later charged through a double-team on the play where DeMeco Ryans sacked Griffin. Thornton also used his length, batting down a pass at the line of scrimmage. He missed a tackle on a 3rd-and-1 in the fourth, but otherwise played well.

* Tough to grade Sopoaga without the All-22 (not released yet). But he drew a holding penalty on a run play in the third and chased Griffin to the sideline on an incompletion later in the quarter.

* The backups from left to right were Clifton Geathers, Damion Square and Bennie Logan. Geathers got good pressure on two occasions, once fighting a double team and forcing Griffin to scramble. Logan blew up a stretch play in the third as Mychal Kendricks finished the tackle after a 1-yard run. Logan also played some nose tackle and drew a holding penalty in the third.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS

* In case you were wondering, Trent Cole was still a beast upon re-watch. The Eagles’ right outside linebacker owned the first half. He flew in from the back side and forced a Morris fumble early on. He jumped on Morris in the end zone to notch a safety. He dropped Morris for no gain on a zone-read play. He came flying in at Griffin and hit him as a pass-rusher. He slipped past the fullback and dropped Morris for no gain. And he tackled Griffin after a scramble on third down, forcing a punt. That was all in the first half.

* Cole dropped 23.8 percent of the time on pass plays, per Pro Football Focus. His best option in coverage might be to drill the opposing receiver. That’s what he did on one play in the third, forcing the receiver to the ground within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage. Cole hit Griffin on a play-action pass in the third and closed in on the play where Cox got a sack. Cole gets this week’s award for “player who most exceeded expectations.”

* Connor Barwin also played really well. The Eagles’ primary goal was to limit the Redskins’ ground game early on. Barwin forced Morris out of bounds for a 3-yard loss in the first. He stood up over the center and rushed the QB on the Brandon Boykin interception. He hustled to bring down Pierre Garcon after a 5-yard gain on a screen. And Barwin pressured Griffin on at least four occasions. Really strong debut.

* Brandon Graham played 19 snaps. On 14 passing plays, he never dropped back. Looked a lot more like a nickel pass-rusher than a 3-4 outside linebacker to me. We’ll wee if that continues. Graham set the edge on a Morris run that was dropped for a 2-yard loss and pressured Griffin on two occasions.

* Casey Matthews mixed in for three snaps, and it looked like he was actually playing outside linebacker.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS

* Mychal Kendricks was everywhere. All signs point to a big second-year leap out of him. He flew to the ball and knocked Morris out of bounds for a 3-yard loss early on. Kendricks did a great job to avoid blockers and tackle Morris on a first-quarter screen. His versatility was on full display. Kendricks blitzed seven times, per PFF. He rushed unblocked in the second and crushed Griffin, forcing him into an intentional grounding. And Kendricks leveled Griffin again in the third. On the Cary Williams interception, Kendricks dropped back as a safety. Outstanding performance overall.

* DeMeco Ryans was solid too. He blitzed and knocked over the left guard on a play-action pass in the third and sacked Griffin later in the quarter.

* Jake Knott mixed in a little as well. It looked like Kendricks might have had an equipment issue at one point.

DEFENSIVE BACKS

* It’s difficult to gauge their play based on TV tape. But I didn’t see either Williams or Bradley Fletcher give up a completion in man coverage. There were a few times when they were dropping in zone and allowed receptions in front of them. But that seemed to be the design of the defense. Definitely did not see that performance coming from the starting corners.

* Williams came flying in on a corner blitz and sacked Griffin in the second. He made a fantastic interception near the sideline in the third and broke up a deep fourth-down pass late. Great performance from Employee 26.

* Fletcher was really good too. He made two good plays on the ball, forcing incompletions and once had a little luck on his side as the receiver dropped the ball. Fletcher suffered a concussion, and his status for this weekend is up in the air.

* Brandon Boykin got picked on quite a bit. No one’s confirming, but he may been a little banged-up. Boykin blitzed five times, the most of any defensive back. He played the slot, but then moved outside when Williams and Fletcher got dinged-up in the second half. Boykin would likely play the outside if Fletcher can’t go this week.

* Rookie Jordan Poyer played 17 snaps in the slot and got picked on. It looked like the 10-yard Leonard Hankerson TD was on him, and Poyer also allowed a 5-yard completion on 3rd-and-2. He had trouble getting off his block on a screen to Pierre Garcon that picked up 17.

* Safety is impossible to assess off TV tape, but the Eagles did not give up a completion that traveled more than 20 yards from the line of scrimmage until the Redskins’ final drive. The game-plan once they got the lead seemed to be to blitz and keep all receptions in front of them.

* Overall, Billy Davis dialed up a lot of blitzes. Per Stats, Inc., the Eagles blitzed Griffin 29 times on 56 dropbacks, or 51.8 percent of the time. On those plays, he was 13-for-26 (50 percent) for 121 yards (4.7 YPA). Griffin was sacked twice and took off once.

* Patrick Chung seemed to hold up fine until that fourth-quarter touchdown. “Needs to have better ball skills than that,” said Jon Gruden on the play. Earl Wolff played seven snaps, but mostly, it’s going to be Chung and Nate Allen early on.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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Ten Takeaways From Howie Roseman

Vinny CurryYesterday, we took a look at what Howie Roseman had to say about Danny Watkins. But the Eagles’ GM touched on a variety of other topics during a session with reporters at the NovaCare Complex.

Here are 10 items that stood out.

1. The Eagles only have three outside linebackers on the roster: Connor Barwin, Trent Cole and Brandon Graham. Barwin is the only true 3-4 OLB among that group. Chip Kelly and Roseman parted ways with Chris McCoy, Everette Brown and Travis Long. When asked for his thoughts on the Eagles’ depth at that spot, Roseman provided an interesting response.

“We look at a guy like Vinny Curry, and you talk about a guy who can rush the passer,” Roseman said. “If he stood up, he can set the edge. He can do some of the things that the outside linebacker does.”

Curry bulked up in the offseason and has been practicing all summer at defensive end.

“And then when you talk about a Casey Matthews possibly if you got in a bind in a game, he could play outside,” Roseman said. “When Chip talked about the versatility of the back of the roster, we didn’t want to duplicate a lot of skills. So that’s what made some of the choices at the back of the roster, maybe some guys who played well in the preseason but maybe they were duplicating the skills that some of the guys we had. Did it make sense to keep them or try to find guys that did some different things?”

The guess here is that the Eagles will be looking for outside linebacker help from other teams.

2. I mentioned Cole above. Roseman might have offered a hint about how the veteran will be used in the regular season.

“A lot of times, what you see in preseason is working on not only the things they do well, but also the weaknesses to get a sense of what guys can really do,” he said. “As you know, things change during the regular season.”

According to Pro Football Focus, Cole was on the field for 41 passing downs in the preseason, and he dropped back into coverage 39 percent of the time. Given that he didn’t exactly look comfortable doing so, perhaps Roseman is suggesting Cole will be more of a pass-rusher in the regular season. We’ll find out shortly.

3. As for the roster overall, expect the team to be active in the next few days.

“We’ll continue to look for ways to upgrade this team,” Roseman said. “So, as we sit here, it’s a constant evaluation. It’s a constant evaluation of the back of the roster. If we have opportunities to continue to add some young players that we think will help our team, if we get that opportunity, we’re gonna look at it.

“We’re prepared. We have a draft board set up. We’ve spent an inordinate amount of time on guys that we thought would be on the bubble. And so we’ve just gotta see who’s really out there.”

4. One area to keep an eye on is cornerback. The Eagles went heavy with six: Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher, Brandon Boykin, Curtis Marsh, Brandon Hughes and Jordan Poyer.

“You want to put your coach in position to win games here in the early part of the year,” Roseman said. “You’ve got a couple guys who are coming back from some injuries and haven’t played in a little bit. And then you talked about Poyer. And Poyer was affected by not having the offseason. You saw that he kept coming on, not only in games, but in practice. He’s instinctive, he’s tough, he’s physical, he’s got size to him. So we just felt like he was a guy we wanted to grow with and have here. Obviously, you look at the numbers there and you see six corners and there’s some uncertainty just because you’ve got to have availability at that spot.”

Marsh and Hughes both suffered hand injuries in the preseason, but Roseman said they’re “not long-term injuries at all.” He indicated that the team expects both guys back “shortly.”

5. The Eagles have nine players on the roster left from the 2010 and 2011 drafts: Curtis Marsh, Casey Matthews, Alex Henery, Julian Vandervelde, Jason Kelce, Brandon Graham, Nate Allen, Riley Cooper and Kurt Coleman.

The projected starters from that group are Kelce, possibly Allen and Cooper, who is only filling in because Jeremy Maclin went down.

Asked if those two drafts set the franchise back, Roseman said: “I think that’s probably a fair question. When you have drafts that don’t work out, you’ve gotta find those players somewhere else. Like I said when we started this, the big part taking from that is that we are forced to look and figure out the ways to do things and the way we have done things over a long period of time, and then where our team was and evolve from that. And I think that’s the positive to be taken out of it.”

6. The Eagles provided a bit of a surprise at wide receiver, cutting Russell Shepard and Greg Salas, while keeping Jeff Maehl.

“Tough decisions at the wide receiver spot,” Roseman said. “When we traded for Jeff, we knew that he was a guy who could play inside or out. He was a safety in high school when Coach recruited him. And so you knew that he would bring something to special teams as well.

“And then when you talk about the roster, I think it’s an evolving process too. How it looks today, to tell you that it’s gonna look like that in Week 10, we’re gonna be constantly on the lookout. We’re trying to build this team, and we’re trying to get players that we think can be here for a long time. We’re open to things that we think could make us better.”

Translation: Maehl might not be here in a few days. The Eagles could add a back-of-the-roster wide receiver from another team.

7. While there was plenty of talk about the 2010 and 2011 drafts, Roseman did suggest that he thinks the Eagles found some good core players in 2012, specifically on the defensive side of the ball.

“When you talk about Fletcher Cox and Mychal Kendricks, I don’t see any reason why those guys shouldn’t be big-time players in this league,” he said. “Between what’s in their body, physically, you’re talking about guys who have the traits to do it. And then they work really hard. And then there’s nothing I’ve seen out here or on the field during games that says they shouldn’t take this step from first- or second-year guys to really be core members of our defense for a long time.”

8. The Eagles have three undrafted free agents from this class on the roster: offensive lineman Matt Tobin, defensive lineman Damion Square and linebacker Jake Knott.

Roseman said it was evident as soon as the pads went on that Square was a violent technician who had a good chance to stick.

He also praised Tobin’s versatility.

“He’s probably a four-position backup if you put him on gameday active,” Roseman said. “And I’m not so sure that he couldn’t play center too.”

He added that Knott would have definitely been drafted if not for the shoulder problems.

“You go through the draft-day decisions and Jake was a guy that we were really considering taking in all three of those seventh-round picks,” Roseman said. “We feel very fortunate to get him. His character and football intelligence, he’s a good player.”

9. The Eagles went with Emil Igwenagu over Clay Harbor for the final tight end spot. The reason?

“We were looking for different skill sets in the back of the roster,” Roseman said. “So some of the conversations we had about the fourth outside linebacker applies at this moment to the tight end spot. And we didn’t feel like there was another guy on the roster who was as good as a point of attack blocker. He’s a physical guy. We also felt like those other three guys were good receiving threats.”

10. Roseman made a good point about why it’s tough to trade near the cut-down deadline.

“The problem is it’s very rare to find someone to offer you a player and to not think that player’s gonna get cut,” he said. “When you’re in March and April, you know that there’s a long time so people are gonna hang on to them and maybe they’re telling the truth: ‘Hey, I’ll hang on to him if I don’t get what I’m looking for.’ But this time of the year, everyone’s basically calling each other’s bluff.”

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