We went through the offense yesterday. Here’s a position-by-position look at where the Eagles’ defense stands going into the final five games.
The guys up front have been the key to the defensive improvement. Cedric Thornton leads all the team’s linemen with 58 tackles and has looked like a natural in the two-gap scheme since Week 1. He’s versatile, powerful and has been perhaps the Eagles’ most consistent defensive player all season long.
Fletcher Cox has really come on and has 13 tackles the past two weeks. He has three sacks and leads the team with 19 hurries; no other player has more than eight. Bennie Logan has been a huge upgrade over Isaac Sopoaga at nose tackle. He’s got 15 tackles in the last three games. That’s just three fewer than Sopoaga had in the first eight games.
Vinny Curry, Clifton Geathers and Damion Square round out the rotation. Curry has been the team’s most productive pass-rusher and is tied for the team lead with four sacks. Read more »
As Connor Barwin finished up with the media last Sunday and got ready to head for the showers, he noticed his teammate Trent Cole had a crowd of reporters around him.
“Hey Trent, say the Bearcats played really good today,” Barwin yelled to a grinning Cole, his fellow Cincinnati alum. “Say that. Tell ‘em how the Bearcats showed up.”
Against the Redskins, Barwin and Cole both set season-highs in tackles. They combined for 21 total, along with three sacks, a batted pass and a forced fumble. All in all, a pretty good day at the office for the Eagles’ starting outside linebackers. Read more »
Welcome to a special bye-week edition of Three-And-Out. Tim and Sheil make their predictions for the final five games.
McManus: LeSean McCoy
As we wrote about this week and discussed on our show Thursday night, McCoy has needed every ounce of his elite talent to keep the ground game up and running over the last several games. The open space that he enjoyed early on when Michael Vick was healthy has been filled with swarming defenders that are selling out to shut McCoy down. No longer concerned about the quarterback keeping the ball on the read option, the defense is able to flow towards McCoy without hesitation.
Recently, the 25-year-old has relied largely on his video-game like shiftiness to get his yards. With a lesser back, this offense might be in a little trouble.
McCoy put a scare into this organization when he grabbed for the back of his leg against Washington. The Eagles need him to stay healthy and fresh. He is on pace for 309 carries this season. His previous high was 273, set back in 2011. Read more »
Ask Howie Roseman about some of his young guys, and he’ll offer you this stat: The Eagles have 36 players on the active roster under the age of 26.
“That’s a lot,” the Eagles general manager said.
The Eagles, according to our friend Jimmy Kempski’s tabulations, began the season as the 10th youngest team in the NFL with an average age of 25.74. To break it down further, 15 of the 53 players on the roster (28 percent) right now are 23 or younger. It’s no secret what the Eagles plan is: go young, build through the draft and supplement the roster with veterans that can provide some guidance.
Read more »
If you missed the game review of the offense, click here. Now, onto 10 observations of the Eagles’ defense after having re-watched the game.
1. The Eagles’ defense shut out the Redskins for three-plus quarters, but let’s start in the fourth where things got a little dicey. Trent Cole was trailing Darrel Young in coverage, and Patrick Chung was closing in from his deep safety spot down the left sideline. Robert Griffin III escaped pressure and lofted one to Young. Cole went flying at him, and Chung did the same from the opposite direction. They both whiffed and collided into one another as Young got free for the 62-yard score. Then on the 2-point conversion, the Redskins set up with a bunch formation to the right, and Chung completely lost track of Nick Williams.
2. Roc Carmichael had a rough fourth quarter. But his coverage wasn’t bad on the 41-yard TD to Aldrick Robinson. Griffin underthrew the ball, and Robinson made a great adjustment. I asked Carmichael last week when he’s taught to turn and find the football. He said he watches the receiver’s eyes and hands. Obviously he could have done a better job on that play. Carmichael also gave up completions of 19, 9, 28 and 7 in the fourth quarter. The most concerning of those was the 28-yarder. The Eagles had the Redskins with a 3rd-and-25, but they were able to extend their drive with a completion to Santana Moss. Carmichael might have been expecting more safety help, but the safeties are going to play particularly deep in that spot, focused on keeping everything in front of them. Read more »
When asked to describe Connor Barwin, second-year player Vinny Curry pointed to the impact his teammate has made during the week.
“He’s definitely brought a lot of different things to this team,” Curry said. “He’s a leader in so many different ways. He’s all about team camaraderie. We all get together and do dinner every week. The front, the D-Line, the inside linebackers and the outside linebackers. And that’s something he brought to the team. And just look at us now, guys out there making plays. Everybody’s happy, everybody’s jumping around, compared to last year. See what I’m saying? It’s just fun to be a part of.”
If having weekly dinners together led directly to defensive success, every unit in the league would be lining up for unlimited soup, salad and breadsticks. But there’s no denying that the Eagles had a toxic mix of personalities in the locker room last year, specifically on the defensive side of the ball.
Juan Castillo and Jim Washburn were fired in-season. Jason Babin was sent packing. And the defensive backs spent most weeks pointing fingers at one another.
“I think what we honestly lacked a lot on defense last year was leadership,” said center Jason Kelce, who played with Barwin at Cincinnati. “And I think that wasn’t DeMeco [Ryans’] fault. A lot of that was the defensive line and the DBs that we had in there were kind of very selfish groups, and that rubbed off on the ‘backers and everything else. Read more »
There is a portion of Chip Kelly‘s practice called “Clutch Period.”
The music gets turned up as loud as it can go, x-amount of time is put up on the clock, and the first team offense is pitted against the first-team defense. Kelly’s group is trying to score before time expires. Billy Davis‘ unit is trying to get off the field.
It was a familiar feeling, then, when the defense was called on with 3:26 remaining and given the task of keeping RGIII and the Redskins out of the end zone.
“Honestly, Coach Kelly puts us in situations like that every day,” said Vinny Curry. “We’ve been prepared for situations like that, and that’s why you never see anyone on the defense panicking.” Read more »
Bennie Logan was checking his Twitter feed and kept getting messages that read something to the effect of: “Now is your time.” That’s when he knew something was going on.
Veteran nose guard Isaac Sopoaga had been shipped to New England at the trade deadline, thrusting the third-round pick out of LSU into a starting role.
“It caught me by surprise,” said Logan. “I looked up to Isaac. He was a great influence on me, a great leader. But the next day, once I came here [to the NovaCare facility], I was like, ‘It’s time for me to step up and go forward. Can’t look back. He’s not here anymore. It’s just all on me now.’ ” Read more »
Through nine games, the Eagles’ pass-rush remains a work-in-progress.
Last week against Oakland, Billy Davis’ unit took advantage of a QB in Terrelle Pryor who was anxious to escape the pocket all game long.
Overall, the Eagles rank 22nd in Football Outsiders’ adjusted sack rate, which takes into account pass-rushing opportunities.
Granted, numbers don’t tell the whole story, but here’s a look at pass-rushing production from a statistical standpoint. Sacks and hurries are tracked by Eagles coaches.
Pass-rushing opportunities are courtesy of Pro Football Focus. And I calculated pressure percentage, which is sacks/hurries per opportunity. Read more »
Editor’s Note: This feature will post every Friday. We’ll bring you nuggets from the locker room, scouting reports on the upcoming game, reader e-mail and more.
LeSean McCoy took heavy breaths in between sentences, his forehead glistening with sweat from extra conditioning work after practice.
On the surface, everything is good for the 25-year-old running back. At the halfway point of the season, he’s the NFL’s leading rusher (733 yards). He’s carrying the ball more than ever (19.5 times per game). And he’s averaging a healthy 4.7 yards per carry.
Yet McCoy is in the midst of a mental tug of war in his fifth NFL season. In the past four games, he’s averaging 3.4 yards per carry. The Eagles’ offense has scored just three points the last two weeks, failing to hit on explosive plays and finding difficulty in sustaining drives.
“Just more attention to really try and contain the backs, keep everything in front of them,” McCoy said when asked this week about opposing defenses. “The backers are way more into the line than usual. And everything just seems so cluttered, seems so packed. That’s probably the biggest difference I’ve noticed. Even on some of the fakes, if it’s a half-fake or an average fake, they’re all on it. So that’s probably the biggest difference I’ve noticed from just early in the season to the last couple weeks.”
Defenses game-plan for the Eagles and make No. 25 their first priority. With a shaky QB situation and one true dangerous threat in the passing game in DeSean Jackson, it’s really a no-brainer. But that has led to tough times for McCoy, who has been critical of himself after each of the last two games. Read more »