Making Sense Of the Eagles’ Inactives

The following Eagles are inactive for today’s game against the Bucs: Kurt Coleman, LeSean McCoy, Michael Vick, Mike Patterson, Greg Salas, Chris Polk and Matt Kopa.

Coleman suffered a chest injury last week against Dallas. Colt Anderson will get the start in his place alongside Nate Allen.

McCoy continues to recover from a concussion he sustained Nov. 18 against the Redskins, and Vick is still recovering from a concussion sustained the week before (Nov. 11). Patterson was hospitalized during the week for pneumonia and will not play. Polk has been sidelined with a toe injury.

Salas was signed a few weeks ago, but has yet to dress on gameday. Kopa was signed earlier this week.

Bryce Brown will once again carry the load for McCoy. The rookie has averaged 8.1 yards per carry on 43 attempts the past two weeks.

The Eagles’ defensive tackle rotation will be reduced to four: Fletcher Cox, Cullen Jenkins, Derek Landri and Cedric Thornton.

Rookie wide receiver Marvin McNutt will be active for the first time. And linebacker Ryan Rau, who was just promoted from the practice squad yesterday, will dress also.

The Eagles’ backup offensive linemen are Danny Watkins, Matt Tennant and Demetress Bell.

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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.

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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.

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McCoy Could Sit For the Rest Of the Year

Philadelphia Eagles RB LeSean McCoy.LeSean McCoy will not return to practice today as he continues to recover from a concussion sustained in the final two minutes of the Eagles’ Nov. 18 loss to the Redskins.

Andy Reid said today that McCoy has not passed his concussion test and is still feeling symptoms. Asked if he’ll definitely return when he clears all the tests, Reid said, “There’s a chance. I’ll kind of cross that bridge as we get closer to him being healthy, and we’ll see how all that works.”

An argument could be made that there’s no reason to bring McCoy back this season. He’s 24 and will be an integral part of this team’s future going forward, regardless of who the coach is. Then again, if the Eagles exercise extreme caution and McCoy checks out, chances are he’ll want to play. And there is also the issue of putting out your best product for paying customers.

“We’ll see,” Reid said. “I’m just going to see how it goes with the doctors and go from there. We’ll take it day-by-day here and see how he’s doing.”

Meanwhile, Michael Vick will not return to practice either. He still needs to pass his ImPACT test. And even when he does return, it’ll be as the backup to Nick Foles.

The only other injured player is safety Kurt Coleman, who suffered a sternal contusion against Dallas Sunday night. Colt Anderson will get first-team reps in his place.

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Under Bowles, Eagles Secondary In Tatters

A sad and maybe symbolic scene unfolded in the Eagles locker room just before reporters were ushered out late Sunday night. A pained Kurt Coleman, who needed assistance getting his shirt off moments before, walked up to Nate Allen and humbly asked if he would be able to put his deodorant on for him, as he was unable to lift his arms to do it  himself. Allen sustained a shoulder injury in the game and was also limited. But using his good arm, he dutifully performed the task for his fellow safety.

Officially, Coleman was listed with a chest contusion. But he was hurting bad, and it wasn’t all physical.

“It’s a little bit of everything right now,” said Coleman, his voice unable to get above a whisper.

“This sucks. It just sucks. I can’t piece one thing…it just sucks right now…We knew what we were doing, we knew what they were doing. It’s inexcusable really. We’re trying as hard as we can but that’s not enough, we have to be able to execute all the time.”

Coleman and Allen have contributed to a secondary that has fallen apart since Todd Bowles took over as defensive coordinator for Juan Castillo back in mid-October. The numbers are disturbing: Through the first six games, the Eagles were holding opponents to 52.7 percent completions – the top mark in the league. In the following six games under Bowles, that number has shot up to 76.3 percent with 16 touchdowns and zero interceptions.

Tony Romo was 22-of-27 for 303 yards with three touchdowns, no interceptions and a 150.5 quarterback rating. He did not have a single incompletion in the second half.

Communication breakdowns. Missed tackles. Lost battles. It all contributed to yet another meltdown.

“As I look at film just from a personal standpoint, in my head I have a whole lot of wows,” said Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. “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].”

Rodgers-Cromartie appears to have gone backwards under Bowles as a cover corner. As a result, his deficiencies as a tackler stand out more. There were multiple occasions Sunday night when these vulnerabilities came to light, including on Dez Bryant‘s six-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter where the receiver bullied his way right past the former Pro Bowler.

“[Second]-and-goal, I’m playing off him and I read screen, and I just have to keep running my feet. I know he’s a big, strong guy but me going low on him does no justice, so I tried to wrap up, stay high and push him out of bounds,” said DRC.

“I can tackle. Aggressive like a safety? No. But I can tackle.”

The safeties have been having their own issues, to put it mildly. Coleman has been victimized by play-action far too much, and he and Nnamdi Asomugha continue to struggle to get onto the same page. Allen has not fared much better.

“Sometimes, some things are going to happen. It’s part of the game,” said Allen. “You just have to put yourself in the right position to make plays.”

But they haven’t been. They haven’t forced a turnover since November 5 against the Saints. That’s a month-long drought.

“It shouldn’t happen,” said Andy Reid. “I go back and it’s a combination of things. Coaching and playing. We’re all in this together.”

The losing, the ineffectivess, has taken its toll. Coleman stood by his locker after the game unable to undress himself and emotionally taxed. DeMeco Ryans called over to him, and Coleman just shook his head as tears began to well in his eyes. It is a team, a defense, in dire straits.

“This is a team that’s too good not to execute on all cylinders,” said Coleman, pain rolling through his voice. “But I trust my guys, I believe in them. I’m going to continue to push them, and them me, just because I know this team really is good. It just sucks that it hasn’t been able to play out that way.”

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Reid: ‘I Take It Personal’

Philadelphia Eagles Head Coach Andy Reid.Andy Reid is tired of answering the same question after every loss.

Does you expect to finish out the season as the Eagles’ head coach?

“I haven’t been told any different, so I’m going to keep going, but you can keep asking me because I appreciate those questions,” he said after the team’s 38-33 defeat to the Cowboys. “I’m sure you’ll be the first to know.”

The writing is on the wall and has been for weeks now. The Eagles lost their eighth straight and are 3-9 on the season with four games left. Offensively, they played better, and you can tell Reid looks at that as a positive. Still, he doesn’t know quite what to say as he endures the most difficult season of his career.

“I can’t stand here and tell you I’m proud of it,” Reid said, when asked if he was embarrassed. “We lost the game, so no matter how you cut it, we lost the game and I take it personal. It’s my responsibility, so I can’t tell you that I’m proud of it.”

As for injuries, safety Kurt Coleman suffered a chest contusion, but X-Rays were negative. He’ll have an MRI Monday, Reid said. And Brent Celek has an abdominal contusion, but he returned to the game.

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Cheat Sheet: Eagles’ Defense Vs. Cowboys’ Offense

Here are 10 things to know about how the Eagles’ defense matches up with the Cowboys’ offense.

1. Let’s start with what you really care about – draft positioning. The Eagles currently have the fifth pick in the first round. The teams ahead of them are the Chiefs (1-10), Jaguars (2-9), Raiders (3-8) and Browns (3-8). The Chiefs host the Panthers, the Jags travel to Buffalo, and the Raiders and Browns play each other (so one of them’s got to win). Along with your fantasy teams, now you know who to root for during a Sunday afternoon of football-viewing.

2. The numbers just keep getting worse for the Eagles’ defense. They are now allowing 25.6 points per game, which ranks 24th. Football Outsiders has the Eagles’ D at 23rd in the league – 27th against the pass and 10th against the run. The Cowboys are 18th in scoring offense, averaging 22 points per game. Football Outsiders has Dallas’ offense ranked 15th – 12th in passing and 20th in rushing. The Cowboys’ last game was a 38-31 loss to the Redskins on Thanksgiving. The Eagles lost their seventh straight to the Panthers (30-22) on Monday night.

3. Tony Romo is completing 66.2 percent of his passes (seventh). That’s the good news. But he’s been picked off 15 times – second-most in the league behind only Drew Brees (16). He’s been less turnover-prone recently with just two interceptions in the last four games. In the first meeting against the Eagles, Romo completed 19 of 26 passes for 209 yards and a pair of scores. He’ll likely be glad to see Todd Bowles’ defense in Dallas. The Eagles have just seven interceptions on the season (only five teams have fewer). And only the Colts (10) have fewer overall takeaways than the Birds (seven).

4. It’s been truly amazing to see how the Eagles’ pass defense has gone down the tubes since the Juan Castillo/Todd Bowles move. Through the first six games, the Eagles were holding opponents to 52.7 percent completions – the top mark in the league. In the last five, that number is a staggering 75.2 percent, which includes 13 touchdowns and no interceptions. This week, I asked safety Kurt Coleman whether not having Bowles spend as much time with the secondary has hurt the defense.

“He’s still working with the DBs, but obviously he has a more broader range now because he has to take care of all three different groups,” Coleman said. “His job role’s expanded. But he has a great eye, being a DB, and he’s always talking with us and allowing us to see things as he used to. He’s just not always hands-on because we still have Mike Zordich, and now we have Bobby April III to kind of help us out.”

5. The secondary will have to deal with Dez Bryant on Sunday night. The third-year receiver has really come on, averaging 80 yards per game, 10th-best in the league. Bryant has already set a career-high with 65 receptions, and he leads Dallas with six touchdowns. Miles Austin was limited in practice and is questionable with a hip injury. He leads the Cowboys with 12 catches of 20+ yards. Jason Witten has been targeted 114 times, the most of any Dallas receiver. He leads the team with 82 catches (710 yards). The Eagles have not been as good this season at covering opposing tight ends, ranking 17th, according to Football Outsiders.

6. Up front, the Eagles got rid of Jason Babin and will now get a better look at Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry. Bowles was asked this week how much input he had in that decision.

“Not much,” he said. “That’s something handled by management and the head coach. Jason’s a great player for us. He’s been a great player in this league.  I just wish him the best.”

The real question here is: Who is making personnel decisions the rest of the season? Andy Reid is still the head coach, but it’s no secret that he’ll be gone at the end of the season. The Eagles can’t really let him decide who to keep and who to get rid of at this point, can they? If Jeffrey Lurie has decided that Howie Roseman is going to be in his corner, ushering in the new era of Eagles football, my guess is Roseman will be the main decision-maker the rest of the way.

7. Curry had five tackles in his debut last week and was active. If he plays behind Trent Cole at right defensive end, he could match up with former first-round pick Tyron Smith, who is listed as questionable with an ankle injury. Smith got the better of Cole in the first matchup, limiting him to two hurries and no sacks. Graham has gotten to the quarterback with more frequency than any other Eagles defensive lineman this year, although he’s been quiet as of late. He’ll match up with right tackle Doug Free, who owned Babin in the first game, limiting him to one hurry and no sacks. Fletcher Cox had six hurries against Dallas the first time around, but he’s questionable. Cox suffered a tailbone injury last week and also is dealing with a death in the family. He did not participate in any of the team’s practices.

8. DeMarco Murray has been out since Week 6 with a foot injury, but could return Sunday night. He’s averaging 4.4  yards per carry on the season. Felix Jones had one of his better games of the season against the Eagles the first time around, rushing 16 times for 71 yards. He’s averaging 3.6 yards per carry on the season and is questionable with a knee injury. DeMeco Ryans leads the Eagles with 112 tackles (87 solo). He’s got 14 tackles for loss, the most of any Eagle since Reid became head coach. Jeremiah Trotter had 13 in 2005.

9. One rookie who we haven’t written much about lately is Brandon Boykin. The nickel corner has flashed potential, but been up-and-down this season.

“Playing the nickel as a first-time rookie, you’re going to see certain things during the year that you don’t encounter in training camp,” Bowles said. “Different guys play at different speeds and he gets to go against the quick guys, the big guys and the tall guys, and I think he’s handled it well.”

Boykin is probably the only member of the secondary likely to be a part of the next era.

10. Leftovers: The Cowboys are 26th in red-zone offense, scoring touchdowns 44.4 percent of the time. The Eagles are sixth in red-zone defense, allowing touchdowns 43.2 percent of the time. …Dallas is ninth in third-down offense, converting 41.4 percent of the time. The Eagles are 12th in third-down defense, allowing conversions 37.2 percent of the time. …In the first meeting, the Cowboys got touchdowns on defense and special teams.

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Offseason Makeover Likely For Eagles’ Secondary

Early on during today’s press conference, defensive coordinator Todd Bowles was asked about potentially making personnel changes in the Eagles’ secondary.

“We have possible lineup changes, and people compete everyday,” Bowles said. “There are no spots set in stone. We’re playing our best guys. If there was somebody that was stepping up to play better, they would be playing.”

Bowles didn’t mean it as a slight on the Eagles’ depth, but his comment spotlights the team’s lack of young talent at cornerback and safety.

You probably know the numbers by now, but just in case you need a refresher, opposing quarterbacks are completing 75.2 percent of their passes and averaging 9.7 yards per attempt against the Eagles in the last five games since Bowles took over. They’ve thrown for 13 touchdowns and no interceptions.

“There’s not one thing to point to,” said safety Kurt Coleman. “Sometimes it’s somebody just thinking somebody’s going to be there, and they’re not. We’re on two different pages. It’s inexcusable at this level.

“Bottom line is it’s players being able to do their job and relying and trusting other guys to be able to do their job. I think the trust factor’s there. It’s just, we’re on two different pages. You saw that in the Washington game and you saw it last week.”

In the summer of 2011, the Eagles looked like they were in good shape in the secondary. They still had Asante Samuel and added Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha. They had just spent a second-round pick on Jaiquawn Jarrett and still had Nate Allen.

But times have changed.

At cornerback, Samuel’s in Atlanta. Rodgers-Cromartie is only 26 and the most talented of any of the Eagles defensive backs. But we’ve seen in the past two seasons why the Cardinals were willing to part with him. To put it bluntly, he’s an inconsistent player and a poor tackler.

As for Asomugha, he’ll be 32 at the start of the 2013 season and has a reported cap hit of $15.3M. The Eagles could restructure his deal or lose $4M and cut him.

Brandon Boykin has been up and down, but he seems to project mostly as a nickel corner. And Curtis Marsh, a 2011 third-round pick, is a complete unknown. He’s played a total of 18 defensive snaps this season.

Safety is a giant question mark as well. In addition to Coleman and Allen, here are the safeties who have seen action the past two seasons: David Sims, Colt Anderson, Jarrett and Jarrad Page. In other words, it’s not like the Eagles have a bunch of young talent they are waiting to develop. Allen and Coleman could be backups in 2013, or they could be gone altogether.

Priority number one this offseason will be finding a coach to replace Andy Reid. Priority two will be deciding on a quarterback. And after that, the Eagles will have to figure out how to fix a secondary that appears to be broken.

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All-22: What’s Going On In Eagles’ Secondary?

Earlier this week, Todd Bowles talked about how the Eagles had problems executing a “high school cover-3” against the Panthers.

What did he mean? Let’s take a look at a few of the plays to see what exactly is going on with this defense right now.

Play 1: Last week, it was Nate Allen not maintaining his deep responsibility in Cover 3. This time around, it looked to be Kurt Coleman. Cover 3 means three defensive backs split the deep part of the field into thirds. The free safety (in this case, Coleman), is responsible for the middle, while Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie take the outside.

The Panthers only send three receivers into routes. The wide receiver at the top of the screen runs the SLUGGO or the slant-and-go. The two tight ends, who were lined up at the line of scrimmage, release into their routes.

A pump-fake by Cam Newton on the slant moves Coleman to that side of the field, which is a huge problem, because it leaves tight end Gary Barnidge wide-open.

Coleman tries to hustle back, but it’s too late. Newton fires to Barnidge for the 24-yard touchdown.

Play 2: Andy Reid explained what happened on the next touchdown during his Monday news conference.

“From the slot we’ve got people coming off both edges and it was only supposed to be off one edge. That allowed the guy to be free,” he said.

Let’s take a look. The Eagles appear to be going with quarters coverage – defensive backs splitting the deep part of the field into fourths. When the ball is snapped, Coleman blitzes, and Allen rolls over to that side to take his place.

Asomugha (bottom of your screen), Boykin, Allen and Rodgers-Cromartie (top of your screen) are in four-deep coverage. The only problem? Boykin blitzes when he’s not supposed to.

That leaves Brandon LaFell running down the seam all alone for the 43-yard touchdown. No one’s got the “quarter” between Asomugha and Allen.

Play 3: Let’s end on a positive note, shall we? I think Vinny Curry has a chance to become a fan favorite – assuming, of course, that he performs on the field. He got off to a good start in his debut Monday night.

Here, he makes a nice inside move from right defensive end spot and gets to Newton.

But Curry runs into a problem many defensive linemen have against Newton – finishing the job. He ends up on the ground as Newton scrambles away.

The key is what happens next. Curry bounces right back up and hustles to the ballcarrier. By my count, he covered more than 15 yards. And look who eventually makes the tackle 1 yard past the line of scrimmage.

It’s Curry. Good job by the rookie of making the most of his limited opportunities. He figures to be a regular part of the rotation the rest of the way.

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Bowles: ‘It’s a Messed-Up Situation’

Philadelphia Eagles secondary coach Todd Bowles.When answering a barrage of questions about what exactly is going on with the Eagles’ defense right now, Todd Bowles made it clear that his players are failing to properly execute the simplest of assignments.

“The first one was high school cover-3,” Bowles said after the team’s 30-22 loss to the Panthers. “The ball was thrown down the middle of the field. We gave up a touchdown. Inexcusable. The second one was inexcusable too.”

The first one he’s referring to was Cam Newton’s 24-yard touchdown to tight end Gary Barnidge. It looked like safety Kurt Coleman was caught out of position. Barnidge had three catches all season entering Monday night’s game. The score was his first career touchdown.

The second one was a 43-yarder to Brandon LaFell. The Eagles probably should have been aware of LaFell’s ability to make plays downfield. He led the Panthers with 12 catches of 20+ yards entering Monday night’s game. Yet there he was, streaking down the middle of the field, wide-open for the score.

“The second long one was a bust,” Bowles said. “It was inexcusable. Shouldn’t have happened. Everybody knew where they were supposed to be. They weren’t there.”

Why is that still happening at this point in the season?

“I wish I could tell you,” Bowles said.

“They can’t happen. Not at this level, not at this stage of the game, not after what we’ve been through. And everybody has to own up to their responsibility.

It’s tough to pinpoint exactly what’s led to a complete implosion by the Eagles’ defense. Through the first six games, with Bowles coaching the secondary and Juan Castillo serving as defensive coordinator, the Eagles led the league in opponents’ completion percentage (52.3). Here are the results since then:

Completion %
Matt Ryan222975.9%2629.030
Drew Brees212777.8%2398.920
Tony Romo192673.1%2098.020
Robert Griffin III141593.3%20013.340
Cam Newton182864.3%30610.920

Opponents are completing 75.2 percent of their passes against the Eagles in the five games since Bowles took over. They are averaging 9.7 yards per attempt with 13 touchdowns and no interceptions.

“Not much,” said safety Nate Allen when asked what’s changed under Bowles. “We haven’t changed much. Just put in a few things here and there.  Nothing we can’t handle though.”

Evidence would suggest otherwise.

Bowles’ comments indicate he thinks the players might not be good enough. But he held off from going that far when asked if he had the right personnel to work with.

“I believe we do,” he said. “Everybody’s got to do their own job. Everybody’s got to look at themselves in the mirror and try to get something done. I mean, if you can’t look at yourself in the mirror and take onus on what you did, then you’re not the guy you thought you were.”

Bowles said he might make changes in terms of personnel. But really, that’s not going to accomplish much at this point in the season. Maybe you try to see what you have with unknowns like cornerback Curtis Marsh and safety David Sims. But at 3-8, with the entire coaching staff likely to be gone in a matter of weeks, the Eagles’ season is past the point of no return.

Nnamdi Asomugha was asked if he thought Bowles had any other options besides changing personnel.

“You stick with those people or those groups and you coach them harder,” Asomugha said. “And those players obviously have to take it more – I don’t want to say seriously because they’re taking it seriously – but obviously have to be mentally focused a little bit more than they have been.

“Obviously what Todd has done, I’ve supported, we support. There’s some things that mentally we need to be sharper on.”

As for Bowles, this season has turned into a complete disaster. Thrust into the spotlight midseason as defensive coordinator, he had an opportunity to continue to build on an already strong reputation. Instead, he’s directed a defense that has completely collapsed in the last five games.

“It’s depressing,” he said. “It’s not about me. It’s about the team. We’re just trying to win ballgames. And for that not to happen and [for] us to lose as many games as we did in a row, that’s inexcusable. It’s unacceptable. It’s disheartening. And I feel like everybody else feels. It’s a messed-up situation.”

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