Kelly, Roseman Offer Hints On Asomugha, Ryans

Philadelphia Eagles CB Nnamdi Asomugha.Chip Kelly was asked back-to-back questions Thursday afternoon about a pair of Eagles veterans.

In his first response, he offered up what seemed to be a ringing endorsement. But his second response failed to strike the same tone.

Kelly said he’s watched film from every game last season and was asked for his thoughts on linebacker DeMeco Ryans.

“Physical player, the leader of the defense in terms of getting guys lined up,” he said. “He really plays the game the way you want it to be played. And I think from listening to the people in the building, there’s a quality about him that you want to be around him.

“He’s another guy I spoke to briefly on the phone. He’s still not in the Philly area. When he gets in, I can’t wait to sit down and talk to him and get to know him a little bit better.”

In 2012, Ryans had more tackles for loss and more solo tackles than any defensive player during Andy Reid’s 14-year tenure as the Eagles’ head coach. He’s due a reported $6.6 million next season, but is only 28-years-old. Ryans would seemingly be the type of veteran that Kelly would value going forward.

And then there’s Nnamdi Asomugha.

The veteran corner turns 32 in July and is coming off a year in which he gave up too many big plays, missed too many tackles and struggled to the point that defensive coordinator Todd Bowles finally benched him in the season finale against the Giants.

Kelly was asked if, based on what he saw on film, Asomugha was a $15.5 million cornerback.

“I’m not a money guy, so I don’t look at guys… when I watch film, I’m just trying to look at what they can do, what schemes they’re in, trying to understand that,” Kelly said. “I don’t have the play-call sheet, so when they called something, what was the exact thing to do? But I’m looking at: Can a guy transition? Can he get in and out of breaks? Can he make plays on the ball? Can he tackle? When I look at guys, I don’t say: Is he worth this much or worth that much? I’m just trying to watch film.”

You might notice that nowhere in that response did Kelly say what he thought of Asomugha one way or another. So he was asked a follow-up.

“I’m just watching plays, so I’m not watching an entire game,” Kelly said. “So how many times was the ball thrown at him at the point of attack. It’s not where I’ve watched the game from start to finish and here’s the game. It’s just individual cut-ups of players. I may go back to watch one-on-ones from preseason camp just to try to get an idea of what players can do and can’t do. I don’t have his group of plays of how he played in game one to the last game of the season and kind of look at it that way. It’s very segmented.”

Well, what did he see in the individual cut-ups?

“I think Nnamdi has a skill set… that can play football,” Kelly said.

That’s it. Not exactly a ringing endorsement, if you ask me.

The Eagles are likely going to have to make decisions on players before Kelly even has a chance to coach them. Given Asomugha’s salary, the Eagles can decide to either re-structure his deal and keep him around, or cut him and be on the hook for $4 million.

General manager Howie Roseman, who was part of the group responsible for bringing Asomugha to Philadelphia, was asked what he saw from the cornerback in 2012 and whether he sees him being part of the team’s future.

“What we do during the 2012 season as a personnel staff and with the coaches is we evaluate weekly. So we’re grading every game as a personnel staff,” Roseman said. “We’re discussing with our coaches. And then at the end of the year, we’re writing up our team.

“We felt like we had a good sense of our defensive players and what they were contributing and what they could do going forward, depending on the scheme and what we were going to go with. And those are conversations that we have. We don’t tell our coaches what we think of our players when they come in new until they tell us what they think of them, because we don’t want to affect that. No matter what you do in this business, if someone tells you something about someone, it sticks in your head, so we want to make them have a fresh sense of it and get their impressions and then have a discussion.”

Once again, you might notice that Roseman didn’t say much of anything about Asomugha or his skill set.

Maybe it will turn out that the Eagles don’t see a bunch of other options they like at cornerback and they’ll eventually bring Asomugha back. But as of right now, the guess here is that he’s unlikely to be a part of the 2013 Eagles.

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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 CSNPhilly.com, 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.

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Eagles Wake-Up Call: On DRC And Secondary Questions

There is a host of pressing issues when it comes to the Eagles’ secondary, but you’ll have to excuse new defensive backs coach John Lovett if he doesn’t yet have all the answers.

“I don’t know how long everyone else has been here but I walked into the office today for the first time,” said the 62-year-old Lovett on Monday. “In fact I rode over here with [inside linebackers] Coach [Rick] Minter just so I can figure out how to drive over here and not get lost. We had a full staff meeting and a defensive staff meeting, then the phone guy comes in and a guy comes in to put a computer in. It’s been that kind of a day. Everyone is still kind of rolling around.”

That is the reality of the situation. The new staff has had little to no time to study tape of the Eagles from last season. That is Lovett’s goal this week — he will look at last year’s secondary, then will begin evaluating potential free agents.

“I think what I have to do is take a look at those guys and see what kind of impact they had, and talk to them also,” said Lovett, who coached DBs at Texas Tech last season. “Then meet with Coach [Kelly] and Billy [Davis], and find out what they want to do. Chip and Howie [Roseman], they’ll make the decision on how all this is going to go down, all I can do is give input and my piece on what I see.”

There are critical decisions to be made at each position in the secondary. Nnamdi Asomugha is scheduled to make $15 million. Do you cut him and eat the guaranteed $4 million? Try to restructure? Do you try and sign Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent? How do you proceed at safety?

Rodgers-Cromartie is particularly interesting, as Davis was the defensive coordinator in Arizona when he went to the Pro Bowl. Do the Eagles want to keep him?

“That I can’t answer because I am new in the building, and  Coach Kelly and Howie will make those decisions ” said Davis. “I know DRC, we drafted him. As a young guy he went to a Pro Bowl [in 2009]. He made a lot of plays. We had some success in Arizona with pressure packages that got a lot of turnovers and we created some defensive scores, and Dominique was part of that.”

Because of how new the Kelly operation is, opinions on current personnel are not fully formed. But big picture, the staff knows what type of players they are looking for. Lovett said ideally his corners will be big and physical. The safeties need to be able to run stride-for-stride with a slot receiver one minute, and “sit people on the ground” the next. No wonder a good safety is getting harder and harder to come by.

The perfect players probably aren’t on this roster. The process begins now to figure out which ones will be good enough to hold onto.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Sheil looks at the new offensive and defensive line coaches, and the “old-school toughness” they bring.

Michael Vick  believes he can run Kelly’s system effectively.

What does Vick’s return mean for Nick Foles? Kapadia takes a look.

Davis addressed the Philly media for the first time.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Behold, the 2013 NFL free agent list.

Are the Eagles still in the market for a QB after restructuring Vick’s deal? If so, they’ll likely be able to get a look at the top draft prospects  at next week’s combine. From PFT:

According to Gil Brandt of NFL.com, [Geno] Smith will “do a full workout,” in Indianapolis, giving scouts a chance to see how he stacks up rather than making them wait for a pro day.

As Brandt points out, having Smith throw and do all the drills sets a bar for the other quarterbacks, and more will likely follow suit.

There’s a chance to not look as polished when throwing to unfamiliar receivers (unlike pro days on college campuses with guys you know, when 57-of-59 passing is more the norm), but taking that chance also speaks to competitiveness.

After Smith and Southern Cal’s Matt Barkley skipped the Senior Bowl, there wasn’t much to look at among the quarterbacks who played, but Smith’s going to give everyone something to talk about.

Marcus Hayes dissects Kelly’s performance at the podium:

Chip Kelly on Monday continued the construction of his image in Philadelphia. He explained, and sometimes defended, the hiring of 19 new assistant coaches and the retention of two from Reid’s staff.

As advertised, Kelly was, at times, informative; at times, glib; at times, abrasive. Several times, he bit his barbed tongue in deference to better judgment.

Sometimes, he spoke at length and said nothing at all . . . which, of course, was what Reid did nearly all the time.

Given time, polish and a great deal of self-restraint, Chip Kelly could be a legend of the lectern.

Or, if he submits to his baser instincts, he could alienate the public and the press, like his predecessors.

COMING UP

We’ll continue to feed you more from our conversations with the new coaching staff.

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.

WHAT YOU MISSED

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.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Ian Rappaport of NFL.com 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.”

COMING UP

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

Asomugha Takes Exception As Bengals Pass Late

Philadelphia Eagles CB Nnamdi Asomugha.The Bengals’ decision to pass on fourth down late in the game Thursday night rubbed some Eagles the wrong way.

Up 34-13 and facing a 4th-and-5 from the Eagles’ six-yard line with about four minutes to play, Cincinnati opted not to kick a field goal and instead dialed up a passing play. Andy Dalton‘s toss intended for Jermaine Gresham fell incomplete.

“We were really pissed off about that,” said Nnamdi Asomugha. “To go for it on fourth down and throw the ball…We were jawing back and forth, our players with their players. We were wondering where that came from with the game being over like that.”

The Bengals threw one more pass in the game to convert on third down before Dalton took a knee to run out the clock.

Asomugha added that he noticed similar behavior out of the Bengals in another game while studying film this week.

Andy Reid was asked about the sequence at his day-after press conference Friday.

“I figured [Marvin Lewis] wasn’t going to kick the ball. I figured he was going to do something safe and at the same time not allow us to have an interception or a fumble there ,” said Reid. “I thought it was a safe play for them, that’s the way I looked at it.”

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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.”

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Washburn’s Dismissal Connected To Defense’s Improvement?

Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Trent ColeSome of the Eagles defensive players were hesitant to admit it in the locker room after the game.

But at some point, you just can’t argue with the numbers.

Through six games with Todd Bowles as defensive coordinator and Jim Washburn as defensive line coach, the Eagles were allowing quarterbacks to complete 76.3 percent of their passes – a historically bad number.

But in the last two games, since Andy Reid fired Washburn and added Tommy Brasher, the Eagles’ defense appears to be much-improved, limiting Josh Freeman and Andy Dalton to just 44.3 percent completions. Against the Bengals, they did not allow a single completion of more than 19 yards.

To point the finger squarely at Washburn would be unfair. And to simply blame the Wide-9 would not be accurate. Eagles defensive ends still line up way out there on occasion. But there’s no arguing that the change up front to a read-and-react system has taken stress off of the back end and helped the defense as a whole.

“You probably have to talk to Todd. I think he’s been able to do a few more things. He’s been calling some creative things in the back end that we kind of hadn’t had before,” said cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha. “The D-Line is playing a little differently, so the safeties aren’t as focused on the run as much as they’ve been in the past, so they’re able to stay back a little bit more. It helps us to get our hands on footballs, which we’ve done the last two weeks, and the D-Line’s playing great too.”

Eagles defensive linemen accounted for 20 sacks through the first 13 games. In one game against the Bengals, they had six. Brandon Graham had 2.5; Fletcher Cox had 1.5; Trent Cole and Cullen Jenkins added one apiece.

“I think it’s helped a lot, doing the reading and react stuff,” Cole said. “I think it’s helped a lot. It’s tough. When you’re losing games, you’ve got to have everybody. It takes a team to win a game. You can’t go out there and try to win with the turnovers, the mistakes, you just can’t win with them.”

The box score will show that the Eagles allowed 34 points, suggesting a disastrous defensive performance. But that was not the case. All five of the Bengals’ scoring drives started in Eagles’ territory: at the 44, the 11, the 40, the 13 and on the 33. The Bengals’ other touchdown came on defense – the result of a fumble between Nick Foles and Bryce Brown.

The improvement on defense is nice, but with the Eagles at 4-10, it’s obviously too little, too late. The truth is many of the players currently on the field aren’t going to be here next year. And the same can almost certainly be said for the coaches. With two games left, the defense will continue to try and build towards something.

“We saw progress in certain areas,” Bowles said. “But not enough to win the ballgame, so we’ve got to keep working.”

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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 skapadia@phillymag.com.
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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 skapadia@phillymag.com.
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Nnamdi Injured Maclin During Celebration

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Jeremy MaclinJeremy Maclin popped up on the injury report with a groin strain following Sunday’s dramatic win over the Bucs. Turns out, it happened after the final whistle had blown.

Maclin was slow to come out with it. Here’s how the exchange went with reporters:

Did you injure yourself on that game-winning touchdown?

“My groin is a little sore. I’ll be alright, though.”

Was that the play?

“That is kind of what did it.”

Was it sliding or running back out to midfield?

“No, it was actually when the guy jumped on top of me, hit me.”

Have you given whatever teammate jumped on you a hard time?

“It was Nnamdi [Asomugha], and I already gave him a hard time.”

There you go. The jokes have already started in earnest.

Andy Reid said Maclin should be able to play on Thursday against the Bengals, which — assuming he is not limited — would make this nothing more than an ironic footnote. For the rest of the injury situation, click here.

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