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. When looking at the Cowboys’ offense, you’ll notice many of the same issues that have plagued the Eagles in the last year and a half. Dallas is sixth in yards per game (382.5), tied for eighth in yards per play (5.8), and Football Outsiders has them ranked 11th. Yet the Cowboys are averaging just 18.8 points per game, tied for 25th. The reasons? Turnovers and failures in the red zone. The Eagles, meanwhile, rank 19th in scoring defense, allowing 22.9 points per game. Football Outsiders has them ranked 14th – 13th against the pass and 11th against the run. The Eagles are coming off two bad defensive performances against the Saints and Falcons. The Cowboys are coming off a 13-point outing Sunday night against Atlanta.

2. Now, back to the turnovers. Dallas has given the ball away on 20.2 percent of its offensive drives (per Football Outsiders), second-most in the league to the Chiefs (28.7 percent) and slightly worse than the Eagles (20.0 percent). Tony Romo leads the NFL with 13 interceptions, which is three more than he had all of last year. When he’s not turning it over, Romo’s been pretty good. He’s completing 66.4 percent of his passes (seventh) and is averaging 7.5 yards per attempt (tied for ninth). Romo has 26 pass plays of 20+ yards (tied for 13th). The Eagles, meanwhile, have created just 10 turnovers all season (26th). The last two weeks have not been good, as Matt Ryan and Drew Brees completed 76.8 percent of their attempts against Todd Bowles’ unit. Overall, the Eagles rank seventh in opponents’ completion percentage (57.4) and tied for 10th in yards per attempt (6.8).

3. The run game hasn’t been much of a factor for the Cowboys. DeMarco Murray is out, meaning Felix Jones will carry the load. Jones is averaging just 3.6 yards per carry, and Dallas is averaging 3.6 yards per carry as a team, tied for 31st. They haven’t been trying to run the ball much with just 23.4 attempts per game. Last week, the Saints ran all over the Eagles (25 times for 140 yards, 5.6 YPC). The linebackers didn’t do a good enough job of getting off blocks, and missed tackles have been an issue all around.

4. Jason Witten leads the team in receptions (58) and targets (81). He’s averaging a career-best 7.3 catches per game. The Eagles have gotten worse at covering tight ends this year. In 2011, they ranked fourth, according to Football Outsiders. Through eight games this season, they rank 17th. Part of the reason is Nnamdi Asomugha hasn’t been used a lot on tight ends in 2012. He was a factor in keeping Witten in check (eight catches, 52 yards in two games) last season. We’ll see if he gets a shot at him on Sunday.

5. The Cowboys offensive line features Tyron Smith (LT), Nate Livings (LG), Ryan Cook (center), Mackenzy Bernadeau (RG) and Doug Free (RT). Smith, a 2011 first-round pick, will get matched up against Trent Cole. Cole’s had a disappointing season, but he was active against the Saints with three hurries and a season-high seven tackles. Jason Babin and Brandon Graham will line up opposite Free. Babin had one of his more active games vs. New Orleans, with a sack/forced fumble and a pair of hurries. Graham had a sack/forced fumble last week too. According to reports, the Eagles pursued Free in free agency in 2011, but he re-signed with Dallas. The right tackle has struggled this season and is tied for the league-lead among tackles with 10 penalties, per PFF. Smith’s not far behind with nine. As a team, the Cowboys have only allowed 14 sacks on the season.

6. Miles Austin battled an injury-plagued 2011 season but is playing well so far this year, averaging 79.6 receiving yards per game and 15.5 yards per reception. He’s fifth in the league with 11 catches of 20+ yards. Austin lines up in the slot 70 percent of the time, per Pro Football Focus, meaning rookie Brandon Boykin has a tough task ahead. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will likely also get a shot at Austin. He got off to a strong start this season, but has fizzled. Rodgers-Cromartie leads all cornerbacks with eight penalties and at times looks like he has no interest in trying to get off blocks. Dez Bryant has 42 catches for 503 yards. He’ll likely see a lot of Asomugha. Kevin Ogletree’s played 52.2 percent of the snaps. He has 24 catches for 344 yards.

7. When the Eagles promoted Bowles, some thought he’d blitz more, but that hasn’t really been the case. And when he’s dialed up extra pressure, the results have not been good. Ryan and Brees were 9-for-11 for 111 yards (one sack) against the Eagles’ blitz. Part of that is on Bowles, but part of it is on the players for failing to execute. For example, one blitz last week freed Cole up for a shot at the quarterback, but he got juked by Brees, and the result was a big play to Lance Moore. Those are the kinds of things Bowles is referring to when he says the players are in position to make things happen. Romo, meanwhile, is completing 65.3 percent of his passes against the blitz. Given Dallas’ weapons in the passing game, I wouldn’t expect to see Bowles blitz a lot Sunday afternoon.

8. Romo’s improvisation can lead to turnovers, but it can also lead to big plays. I’m talking about the plays that cause announcers to make statements like, “This guy’s just having fun out there!” For example, last week against the Falcons, Asante Samuel initially had good coverage on Ogletree in the end zone.

But Romo escaped the pocket (and a possible sack by Kroy Biermann) to buy time.

That allowed Ogletree to shake free for the 21-yard touchdown.

By my count, Romo had the ball in his hands for about 5.7 seconds. It’s pretty much impossible to cover for that long. The defensive backs need to be disciplined when Romo improvises, but more importantly, the Eagles linemen need to finish when given the opportunity, something they have not done all season.

9. Play-action has given the Eagles problems all season long. Part of the reason why is that the safeties have responsibilities in the run game. The Birds get Nate Allen back this week after he was sidelined against the Saints. And while they’ll still need to avoid big gains off play-action, they probably won’t see a lot of those throws. Romo’s only run play-action 9.2 percent of the time, per Pro Football Focus, the lowest percentage of any starting quarterback in the league.

10. The Cowboys rank 27th in red-zone offense, scoring touchdowns 44 percent of the time. The Eagles’ defense is fourth, allowing touchdowns 40.7 percent of the time. …Dallas is ninth in third-down success, converting 42.6 percent of the time. The Eagles are sixth in third-down defense, allowing conversions 34.7 percent of the time. …Joe Buck and Troy Aikman will call the game for Fox.

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Bowles: Players Are In the Right Positions

Philadelphia Eagles secondary coach Todd Bowles.Through six games, the Eagles’ pass defense looked like a much-improved unit from the one that took the field in 2011.

That’s why when Andy Reid decided to fire Juan Castillo and promote Todd Bowles, it made sense on some levels. Bowles, after all, was the man in charge of the secondary. At the time, the Eagles led the league in opponents’ completion percentage (52.7) and were tied for the second-best mark in yards per attempt (6.2).

Results have not been so good in the last two games, as the Eagles have allowed five touchdowns and come up with no interceptions. Matt Ryan and Drew Brees did whatever they wanted, completing a staggering 76.8 of their passes while averaging 8.9 yards per attempt. So what’s been the problem?

“In this last ballgame, we’ve got to make plays,” Bowles said. “We’re in position. Pass coverage involves linebackers and sometimes D-linemen [not just the secondary]. We’ve got to make plays. Each individual guy, we’ve got to step up and make plays. That’s all this game is about.”

While Bowles and some players are reluctant to admit it, part of the problem has been adjusting to a new coordinator halfway through the season. The explanations in the locker room are that much of the defense is unchanged, but of course, Bowles is adding his own wrinkles, some of which Tim broke down in an earlier post.

“We’ve been in a lot of positions to make plays and just haven’t been able to,” said safety Kurt Coleman. “We’ve also changed up a lot of our defense a little bit so we’re still trying to get acclimated as far as knowing everything – right gaps, right people to execute – so we’re still getting acclimated to that. When it comes down to it, the players have to play better. We have to play better.”

What, specifically, has changed?

“We’re making a lot more different calls,” Coleman said. “There are a variety of things, and we haven’t had as much practice as we used to have. We’re just getting our bearings around everything, getting used to it, and I think everyone’s going to be able to fly around and play better.”

One criticism of Castillo was that he was too predictable, so it makes sense that Bowles would be trying to add a level of complexity to the defense. And while it is easy to blame the defensive coordinator, the truth is there’s quite a bit of evidence to back what he and the players are saying. A few examples from last week:

  • A first-quarter blitz where Trent Cole was left unblocked but got juked by Brees. The Eagles went from a potential sack to allowing a 38-yard completion.
  • Nnamdi Asomugha missing a tackle, allowing what should have been a 9-yard run to turn into a 23-yard gain.
  • David Sims missing a tackle near the line of scrimmage and the Eagles allowing a 7-yard run.

Blown assignments were an issue against the Falcons. Last week, it seemed to be players just failing to execute when given the opportunity. A couple fundamental issues that are hurting the defense have been poor tackling and a failure to get off blocks (detailed in the All-22 breakdown).

“There are players that are going to miss tackles that are good tacklers, and then there are some players that just aren’t good tacklers, and you can fix that with fundamentals,” Bowles said. “You can fix that with attitude. Attitude’s the main thing.”

The truth is, players like Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha were poor tacklers before they got to the Eagles and continue to be poor tacklers.

When asked if it was possible to fix tackling, given the Eagles’ in-season practice schedule, Bowles said he believed it was.

“Attitude should be the same all the time,” Bowles said. “You can have the right drive and mindset and miss a tackle, but you’ve got to have body control. You’ve got to have fundamentals. You’ve got to be able to tackle.”

Given that the Eagles have lost four in a row and stand at 3-5 at the halfway point, the margin of error has grown increasingly slim.

“We can’t have the same mistakes creep up every week, and we’ve got to rectify that,” Bowles said. “From that part, it’s a little disappointing, but we’ve got the guys in this room that can turn it around.”

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Eagles Wake-Up Call: The Difference Under Bowles

The defense allowed 21 points per game under Juan Castillo through the first six weeks of the season. Over the past two weeks under Todd Bowles, the edge has dulled and the unit has yielded 26 points per game. They gave up 763 yards of offense in that span and have not generated an interception.

Most Eagles players insist that the approach has not changed much at all since Andy Reid decided to make the switch at defensive coordinator. But their instant regression — particularly in the secondary — cannot be pure coincidence.

Turns out, the defense is working through some things as a result of the move to Bowles.

“We kept the basic principles of what we did, so the defense really didn’t change that much,” said Brandon Hughes. “Just the way [Bowles] calls it, some of the blitzes. And I think the biggest difference is having some vision coverages in there so guys can see what’s going on.”

What is vision coverage?

“You run enough man that you see [only] your man and it’s hard to see route progressions. Vision coverage you see your guy and what’s going on around you, and you can make an educated decision on what you might be getting and maybe steal one — steal a play.”

The Eagles still deploy a lot of press man, but are using different looks in which the corners have more depth. It is a tweak, but one that is taking some getting used to.

“Sometimes when you put in stuff like vision coverages and you do have a new defensive coordinator, you have to get used to the way he calls the game,” said Hughes. “Guys have to get used to being next to each other on certain plays. As you’re getting used to his play-calling you’re also getting used to where you’re going to be at — where certain guys are going to be at. At first it kind of slows things down, but not really because we didn’t change the overall structure of the defense.”

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in particular has seen a dropoff in production since Bowles replaced Castillo.  There has been a dip across the board. Fundamentals have eroded as the unit’s sure-footedness has waned.

“There’s a whole bunch of stuff that plays into it, but nevertheless it’s our job and we have to get our job done,” said rookie linebacker Mychal Kendricks. “Regardless of the situation, we have to get (expletive) done around here.

“I truly believe we have the best guys on this team, for real. We’re a talented team. I believe in us, and I feel there’s going to be a big turnaround.”


It is depressing. It is informative. It is undeniable. It is the Kapadia All-22 review.

A look at the D-line’s performance Monday shows that Fletcher Cox has gotten into a pass-rush rut.

The Eagles are down another lineman. Details on the injury that put Todd Herremans on the IR.

Michael Vick had a “heart to heart” with his brother Marcus after Monday’s Twitter tirade.

The Eagles signed safety Phillip Thomas to the practice squad.

A look at what the national media is saying about the Eagles.

If you haven’t listened to our show from Tuesday, check out the podcast. 


Reid has made it to No. 1 on Mike Florio’s coaching hot seat list.

“We always here this after a loss: We’ve got to get better, we’ve got to get better. Maybe you’re as good as you’re ever going to get. Maybe this is it. Maybe this is as good as your team will be.

“The switch isn’t there. This is as good as it gets. Now make the most of it.”

Here’s the entire top-5:

5) Mike Shanahan
4) Mike Mularkey
3) Mike Munchak
2) Pat Shurmur
1)  Andy Reid

With Herremans out for the year, Demetress Bell will play left tackle and King Dunlap will move over to the right side, writes Reuben Frank.

Although Bell was exclusively a left tackle during his three years in Buffalo, he finished the game at right tackle while Dunlap – who has played both sides in his five years in Philly – stayed at left tackle.

When the Eagles returned to practice on Wednesday, Bell was back at his more familiar left tackle position, and Dunlap was over on the right side, where he started three games in 2010 in place of injured Winston Justice.


Gil Brandt of ranks the top 20 rookies in the league so far. Fletcher Cox, the lone Eagles representative, comes in at 13.

Very athletic, Cox has started two straight games and has one sack and four hurries. Heading into last Monday night’s game against the New Orleans Saints, he’d collected four tipped balls and four impact tackles (defined as taking place in the backfield or within 2 yards of the line of scrimmage).


Maybe it doesn’t feel like it, but it’s Cowboys week. Practice at 1:50. Bobby April, Marty Mornhinweg and Todd Bowles speak.

Cheat Sheet: Eagles’ Defense Vs. Saints’ Offense

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

1. The Saints are sixth in the league in scoring offense, averaging 27.1 points per game. Football Outsiders has them ranked eighth – 10th in passing and 15th in rushing. New Orleans is coming off its worst offensive performance of the season. In their first 10 drives against the Broncos, the Saints punted eight times, scored once and turned it over once. They scored just 14 points, a season-low. The Eagles’ defense, meanwhile, is also coming off its worst performance of the season in a 30-17 loss to the Falcons. They allowed scores on each of Atlanta’s first six drives (touchdowns on the first three). The Eagles are 16th in scoring defense (22.1 points per game). Football Outsiders ranks them ninth – 13th against the pass and eighth against the run.

2. With the Saints, it all of course starts and ends with quarterback Drew Brees, one of the best in the game. He’s averaging a league-high 45 attempts and 330 yards per game. When Brees is rolling, the Saints have a versatile passing attack, capable of putting together long, efficient drives or burning defenses with the deep ball. By some accounts, Brees is performing as well as ever. For example, his 20 touchdowns are second in the NFL to only Aaron Rodgers. On the other hand, Brees is completing just 59.7 percent of his passes, putting him at 21st in the league. That’s a huge dropoff from last year when Brees had a completion percentage of 71.2. The last time Brees completed less than 60 percent of his attempts was 2003, and he has a completion percentage of 67.2 since joining the Saints.

3. Brees is averaging 7.3 yards per attempt (tied for 12th), but the big play is very much a part of this offense. Brees has hit on 30 pass plays of 20+ yards, second-most in the league to Peyton Manning (33). And per Pro Football Focus, his accuracy percentage (which includes completions and drops) on throws of 20+ yards is 52.6, fourth-best in the league. He’s thrown eight interceptions, or one every 39.4 attempts. Brees hasn’t been great on third down (51.8 percent completions), but in the red zone, he’s got 12 touchdowns and no interceptions. Meanwhile, even though Matt Ryan carved up the Eagles last week, the Birds are still second in opponents’ completion percentage (55.3). And they’re allowing 6.6 yards per attempt, tied for eighth.

4. The Saints will spread it out, meaning the Eagles will be in nickel or dime for much of the game. That means a lot of action for Brandon Boykin and potentially Curtis Marsh or Brandon Hughes. According to STATS, Inc., 60 percent of Brees’ attempts have come from 4+-WR sets. And 85.7 percent have come out of 3+-WR sets. Brees gets rid of the ball quickly and does an outstanding job of moving in the pocket to create space. It’s important that the Eagles at least make things difficult for him, something they did not do against Ryan and the Falcons.

Here’s a play from last week against Denver. First of all, look at the pre-snap formation.

The Saints go five-wide. No in-line tight end. No backs to chip or block. But Denver does an excellent job in coverage.

You can see initially that Brees has a clean pocket as the Broncos only rush four.

But his first read is covered and he has to maneuver to his left. Now, the pocket isn’t so clean anymore.

By the time he wants to get rid of the ball, he’s shuffling to his left while throwing to his right and has a defensive lineman in his face. Remember, Brees is the same height as Michael Vick (6 feet).

Brees actually made a nice throw, but the linebacker on tight end Jimmy Graham broke the play up. Regardless, you get the point. The front end and the back end working together to make things difficult on Brees, even if the defense didn’t tally a sack.

5. The Saints have very little interest in running the ball. They are averaging a league-low 19.9 rushing attempts per game and are tied for 30th, averaging 3.7 yards per carry. Part of that is because the defense is so bad. And part of that is because Brees is generally such a high-percentage passer so throwing the ball carries less risk. On Monday night, the Saints will be without playmaker Darren Sproles and will go with Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram. Thomas has played 40.2 percent of the snaps, and Ingram 17.9. Thomas is averaging 4.4 yards per carry; Ingram 2.9. The Eagles, meanwhile, are allowing 4.0 yards per carry, tied for 12th. DeMeco Ryans has been tremendous with 10 tackles for loss, more than any Eagles player had all of last season. He’s got 40 tackles in the last three games, according to team stats. On the defensive line, the Eagles could get a boost from defensive tackle Mike Patterson, who has not played yet this season. Fletcher Cox got the starting nod over Derek Landri last week. And Cedric Thornton played his best game of the season with eight tackles.

6. Marques Colston (6-4, 225) is the Saints’ leading receiver with 40 catches (on a team-high 70 targets) for 580 yards. He has lined up in the slot about 50 percent of the time, per PFF. The Eagles will have to decide what to do on those plays. Colston would have a sizable height advantage over nickel corner Brandon Boykin (5-9). This might be a good spot to move Nnamdi Asomugha inside on Colston. Colston leads the team with seven catches of 20+ yards and five touchdowns. His 10 red-zone receptions are tops in the league. And Colston has converted 12 third downs (tied for seventh).

7. Lance Moore is second on the team with 54 targets and 433 yards. He’s lined up in the slot 35.1 percent of the time, per PFF and can get deep. Last week, when asked about Vick leaving plays on the field, Andy Reid said that happens to all quarterbacks. And he’s got some evidence here. Brees is one of the best in the league, but he misses throws too. Last week, with the offense sputtering vs. the Broncos, he had a chance to hit a big play to Moore.

A double-move combined with a Brees pump-fake allowed Moore to get behind the cornerback. As you can see, the safety is not in position to get there in time, but Brees overthrew him, and a potential 66-yard touchdown instead was simply an incompletion on third down. You can be sure that the Saints will test the Eagles downfield. Nate Allen could be out with a hamstring injury, meaning David Sims, who has never played a defensive snap in the NFL, would get the start.

8. Tight end Jimmy Graham has 30 catches for 315 yards and four touchdowns. Last year, Graham had 99 catches for 1,310 yards and 11 touchdowns. Asomugha could also match up with Graham in this one. Last week, the Eagles got killed on screens. You can expect the Saints to run a few of those to Graham on Monday night.

“I just thought we missed tackles,” Todd Bowles said on Friday.

The Eagles are 13th in the league at covering opposing tight ends, per Football Outsiders. Meanwhile, Devery Henderson is a deep threat. He only has 17 catches, but five of them have been for 20+ yards, and Henderson is averaging 16.0 yards per reception.

9. The Saints’ offensive line: Jermon Bushrod (LT), Ben Grubbs (LG), Brian De La Puente (Center), Jahri Evans (RG) and Zach Strief (RT). Bushrod has made 39 straight starts for New Orleans. Grubbs, a former first-round pick of the Ravens, is in his first year with the Saints. De La Puente has been the team’s starting center the past two seasons. Evans has been named an All-Pro for three straight seasons and has started 103 games in a row. The same five offensive linemen have started every snap together for the Saints this season. Brees has been sacked just 13 times. Jason Babin and Brandon Graham will match up against Strief. Babin played 33 snaps last week; Graham 31. Trent Cole has not played as well as he has in previous seasons. He’ll get matched up against Bushrod.

10. Will the Eagles blitz more? Brees has been pretty good against extra pressure, completing 60.4 percent of his passes and averaging 8.0 yards per attempt (four touchdowns, two INTs), per STATS, Inc. Last week, the Eagles blitzed seven times. Ryan went 3-for-3 for 36 yards, and the Eagles were called for three penalties (two pass interference, one defensive holding) on those plays. On another, the Saints were called for a penalty.

Last week, the Broncos’ lone sack on Brees came on a delayed blitz. Initially, it looks like a four-man rush, but the key is linebacker Wesley Woodyard, who waits a second after the ball is snapped.

The left defensive end rushes inside, meaning the right tackle has his back to Woodyard and has no idea he’s coming.

That leads to a sack and forced fumble on Brees.

See? The Eagles aren’t the only team that struggles to handle a delayed blitz every now and again.

Leftovers: The Saints have the league’s best red-zone offense, scoring touchdowns 72.73 percent of the time. The Eagles are fourth in red-zone defense, allowing touchdowns 37.5 percent of the time. … The Saints look for big plays on play-action. According to PFF, Brees’ yards-per-attempt jumps from 6.9 to 9.2 on play-action throws. Given the responsibilities of Eagles’ safeties against the run, they’ve been vulnerable to play-action all season. … The Saints are one of two teams that has had worse starting field position (their own 23.03) than the Eagles this season. They are dead-last in the league in that category.

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All-22: Why the Eagles’ Pass-Rush Is Struggling

Here’s an All-22 look at the issues plaguing the Eagles’ pass rush, with a focus on last week’s performance against the Falcons.

Play 1: The Eagles got the Falcons in a 3rd-and-8 on their first possession and sent a blitz. Both linebackers (DeMeco Ryans and Casey Matthews) went after Ryan. Nobody got close to the quarterback.

One-on-one blocks all around, and look at that pocket. Granted, Ryan got rid of the ball quickly, but I would bet the Eagles haven’t given Michael Vick a pocket like this against a six-man pressure all season.

Meanwhile, the Falcons set up with a bunch look to the left. The Eagles appeared to be in man coverage with two deep safeties, but there was one problem: No one accounted for Drew Davis, who was left wide open.

The result is a 15-yard completion and a Falcons first down. After the game, Todd Bowles took responsibility for making a bad call on the first drive. This could have been the play he was talking about.

Play 2: Another clean pocket in the first for Ryan. Here, he finds Tony Gonzalez for an 11-yard completion.

The Falcons kept a running back in to block, and the Eagles only rushed four. But check out Trent Cole. One-on-one with Sam Baker, and he’s nowhere close to affecting the play.

Now is a good time to address the “He got rid of the ball quickly” argument. Last year, J.J. Cooper of Football Outsiders tracked how many “quick sacks” various defensive linemen had. These were sacks that occurred in 2.5 seconds or less from when the ball was snapped. Jason Babin had eight of those, and Cole had five.

Pretty much any time I’ve interviewed a defensive lineman in the past two years, he’s talked about the need to get off the ball quickly to be effective in Jim Washburn’s system. In other words, the pass-rush is supposed to account for quarterbacks getting rid of the ball quickly. That doesn’t always translate into sacks, but it should mean making life difficult for the opposing offense. That’s not happening nearly enough right now.

On the play above, Ryan got rid of the ball in under three seconds, but the Eagles made it pretty easy for him.

Play 3: On the first touchdown, the key was Julio Jones (red circle). Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Kurt Coleman reacted to a possible WR screen as Davis ran right past them.

By the time they realized he was behind them, it was too late. Touchdown.

Again, it didn’t help that Ryan again had a clean pocket. The Falcons kept in seven to block. Babin got a one-on-one, although that was probably because he rushed off the edge. As you can see, he and the Eagles’ other linemen got nowhere near Ryan.

But the touchdown here was clearly on the coverage.

Play 4: Tim already did a good job of breaking down the Jones 63-yard touchdown against Nnamdi Asomugha, but again, look at the pocket for Ryan.

He once again got rid of the ball in under three seconds, so it would have been difficult to sack him, but Eagles defensive linemen are nowhere near him. Brandon Graham got chipped. Derek Landri initially faced a double-team, and then the guard moved to Darryl Tapp. To be fair, it didn’t help that Ryan often had his first read open. On all levels, this was just too easy for the quarterback.

Play 5: Here, it’s another 11-yard completion to Gonzalez. Ryan again gets rid of the ball in under three seconds. But the pocket is clean.

Cullen Jenkins was double-teamed. Everybody else had one-on-ones. You can make the case that Cole got held, but Babin isn’t close to Ryan. Again, too easy for the quarterback.

Play 6: So, if the quarterback’s getting rid of the ball quickly and you’re not getting pressure with the front four, what do you do? One option is to blitz. Overall, the Eagles blitzed seven times – not really an increase from what we saw in the first six games. I showed one of them earlier. Here’s another.

The Eagles send six (Mychal Kendricks and Ryans), but no one gets a hand on Ryan. The blitz goes up the middle, setting up one-on-ones for both ends, but Ryan hits Roddy White on the drag route for 14 yards.

Play 7: It probably goes without saying, but the back end plays a critical role in pressure. Take a look at this play near the end of the first half. Asomugha has single coverage on Jones, and the Falcons try a double-move. Asomugha doesn’t bite, the Eagles pressure Ryan, and they drop him after a 1-yard scramble.

Here, you see that the coverage was good, leading to pressure on the quarterback. Rather than blitzing, this is probably the Eagles’ best option for fixing the pass-rush. Cover better, make the quarterback hold the ball, and give the defensive line more time to get home.

Play 8: Another example here of how this is supposed to work. Graham bull-rushes the right tackle and makes things difficult for Ryan.

Ryan has a receiver open, but the defensive line makes it hard to get rid of the football, so he has to scramble.

And it’s not as if Ryan held onto the ball here. The first image was captured about 1.9 seconds after the ball was snapped. Graham just got to him quickly.

Play 9: In the third quarter, Cole shows he’s capable of doing the same, beating Baker one-on-one and forcing Ryan out of the pocket.

The pressure got there in about 2.1 seconds. It sounds simple, and it is. One way to fix the pass-rush: Get there faster! Again, they did so in 2011. They’re not doing so enough this year.

Play 10: In the red zone in the third, Cedric Thornton breaks the sack drought with a pressure up the middle.

Did Ryan hold on to the ball too long? Nope. This sack took place in about 2.2 seconds. You can see the right guard is pushed back into Ryan’s face. He wanted to go White, but Asomugha had good coverage.

Once again, evidence that the front end and the back end have to work together for this defense to be successful.

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All-22: What the Tape Tells Us About Nnamdi

Any drops of good will gathered by Nnamdi Asomugha for his performance against Calvin Johnson and the Lions spilled onto Lincoln Financial Field Sunday. The critics are back in full throat and more fed up than ever at their $60 million cornerback. Asomugha, like the rest of his defensive teammates, was largely ineffective in a 30-17 loss to the Falcons.

The tape confirms what many have contended: that the 31-year-old does not possess the kind of recovery speed necessary to be a shutdown corner. Not anymore. But there is more to the story. The blame does not rest solely on Asomugha’s shoulders.

Let’s start with the 63-yard touchdown from Matt Ryan to Julio Jones that gave Atlanta a 21-7 lead.

Asomugha is lined up over Jones on the outside. Kurt Coleman is in the box to help with tight end Tony Gonzalez, leaving Nate Allen as the lone deep safety. Asomugha offers Jones free release, which in hindsight was a regrettable move.


“Yeah, probably [should have jammed]. You can’t go backwards on it, but yeah, probably I would have changed it up,” said Asomugha.

Asomugha could have executed better, no question. However, Jones — boasting 4.3 speed — is a difficult matchup for anyone, and Asomugha  receives no help on this play. As the next still shot illustrates, three Eagles defenders are protecting the middle. Meanwhile, three Falcons receivers are releasing downfield. Allen is stuck in no-man’s land.

All that’s left is for Jones to win the foot race and for Ryan to execute the throw. No problem on either account.

Asomugha was left one-on-one with Jones and the Eagles only rushed four on the play. Doesn’t seem right.

Next up is a 14-yard pickup by Roddy White on a cross. The Eagles are playing man. Todd Bowles will send both Mychal Kendricks and DeMeco Ryans on a blitz, leaving the middle of the field wide open.

The Falcons could not have asked for more. The other three receivers pull the rest of the secondary deep, leaving nothing but green for White.

The last play we’ll examine is a wide receiver screen to Jones in the third quarter that went for 37 yards. The cornerbacks did not bump much at the line in this one, and that’s the case on this play. Asomugha gives Jones a little bit of a cushion at the onset. White, lined up to the inside of Jones, will run a pick.

Jones starts out as if heading downfield, then peels back. Asomugha tries to adjust but White is closing in and is in perfect position to wipe him out. (The refs initially threw a flag on White before determining that the block came within the extended neutral zone.)

Mission accomplished. Asomugha ends up on the ground, and Jones ends up with a caravan of blockers paving the way towards a big gain.

“It’s embarrassing. It’s embarrassing to come out and for us to put that out there,” said Asomugha. “We’re a better team than what we showed today.”

On all three plays, you can find fault in the corner. But credit also has to go to the Falcons for play-calling and execution. And Bowles has to take some of the heat for leaving his players in vulnerable positions.

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Anonymous Eagles Player: ‘No Energy, No Passion’

Plenty of Eagles players went on the record after Sunday’s game, voicing their frustration and displeasure with the team’s performance against the Falcons.

Tim included thoughts from LeSean McCoy and Cullen Jenkins in the Wake-Up Call (definitely worth a read). And Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie voiced their opinions as well.

But one defensive player chose to speak anonymously to Jason Cole of Yahoo Sports:

“We didn’t have no passion and you have to have passion in this game,” the player said. “You have to want to throw everything you are out on that field on every play. You have to feel like you’re playing with your teammates and for the fans and your coaches. Nothing, nada. No energy, no passion.”

He continued:

“The media was getting on [Castillo] because he didn’t make adjustments in the fourth quarter, but what’s the difference now? We can’t stop them in the first quarter.”

Again, it’s not so much what the player said, although clearly he’s frustrated with the guys he’s playing with. But it’s just another sign that the season is falling apart and the team is fractured.

Seven games in, it’s tough to see it any other way.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at

Defense Falls Apart In Bowles’ Debut

Philadelphia Eagles secondary coach Todd Bowles.It’s difficult to imagine Todd Bowles’ debut as the Eagles’ new defensive coordinator going any worse.

Through three quarters, the Atlanta Falcons’ offense possessed the ball six times. And on all six occasions, they ended up with points – three touchdowns and three field goals.

“We ran the same things,” Bowles said, an answer that many players backed up. “The guys have to play… the coaches have to coach. We didn’t coach it good. We didn’t play it good, and they beat us. They deserve all the credit in the world.”

Matt Ryan picked the Eagles apart, completing 22 of 29 passes for 262 yards and three touchdowns. Through six games, the Eagles had limited opposing quarterbacks to 52.7 percent completions, the top mark in the league. But Ryan completed 75.9 percent of his passes and averaged 9.0 yards per attempt. His first touchdown went to Drew Davis in the back of the end zone. The Falcons faked a wide-receiver screen to Julio Jones and got the Eagles’ entire defense – including Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Brandon Boykin and Kurt Coleman – to bite.

“My guy ran a screen. I came up for the screen, and they ran a guy behind me,” Rodgers-Cromartie said.

“Busted coverage,” said Bowles. “We had two guys that should have been there. They were not.”

In the second quarter, Jones burned Nnamdi Asomugha for a 63-yard touchdown down the left sideline. Ryan was perfect to Jones on the day, completing all five of his attempts to the second-year receiver for 123 yards.

“He just created separation and got it,” Asomugha said. “There was nothing special in particular. He just got it.”

Asked if he felt Asomugha could still keep up with receivers on those vertical routes, Bowles said, “I do. I think it’s part of technique. Nnamdi got beat today on a deep ball, but you know, a couple people get beat every week. We’ve got to correct it. We’ve got to coach them better. They’ve got to play better.”

Bowles had not called a game since he was the defensive coordinator at Grambling State in 1999. But the players backed their new general, taking responsibility for their poor performance.

“Us as individuals not making the plays,” Rodgers-Cromartie said. “We’re put in the right position. We’ve got to look at ourselves. It’s not schematic, it’s not the defense. It’s nothing to do with the coordinators or coaches. That’s all on us as players.”

“It’s embarrassing,” added Asomugha. “It’s embarrassing to come out and for us to put that out there. We’re a better team than what we showed today.”

That last part can actually be debated. The Eagles are 11-12 in their last 23 games. The defensive coordinator was fired during the bye week. The starting quarterback isn’t sure if he’s going to get the ball when the team travels to New Orleans. And the owner has said that an eight-win season won’t save the head coach.

They’ve lost three in a row and four of their last five. On the season, the Eagles have been outscored, 155-120.

They’re 3-4 after seven games, and really, it’s hard to argue that they should be anywhere else.

Bowles was asked what it meant for him personally to be on the wrong end of such a lopsided defeat in his first game as defensive coordinator.

“It’s frustrating that we lost,” he said. “It’s frustrating that we didn’t play well and we lost. It’s not going to make or break me. We’ll line up next week. You’re going to have some ups and downs in this business. I’m frustrated today. I’m pissed off, and as well we should be. I don’t like losing. I’m a sore loser. We lost.”

Can the Eagles get things corrected in the final nine games?

“You can go from the outhouse to the penthouse in one week,” Bowles said. “Right now, we’re in the damn outhouse.”

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at

Eagles Wake-Up Call: Todd Bowles At Ground Level

Philadelphia Eagles secondary coach Todd Bowles.The great question of our time has been answered: Todd Bowles will coach from the sideline Sunday, coming down from his usual perch in the coaches’ box.

“Just his presence on the field I think is important so he’ll be down on the field,” said Andy Reid.

New vantage point, new responsibilities for the veteran assistant coach who will be calling a game for the first time on the professional level. He has not had such duties since he was the defensive coordinator at Grambling State in the late 90’s.

“As a coordinator, you’ve got to make it all tie in together. You’ve got to make sure you’re helping somebody at a certain point in time without exposing the other,” said Bowles. “It’s not just helping Nnamdi [Asomugha] or helping Trent [Cole] or helping  DeMeco [Ryans]; it’s a matter of tying it all in together as a coordinator and you have to [have the] due diligence to make sure you do your homework and get that done.”

Bowles has maintained that there will only be tweaks to the approach as opposed to a philosophical shift in scheme. He will be walking a fine line between  putting his own twist on things, while staying with what is familiar to his players.

“As a coordinator, you always try to do that but you have to make sure it’s within the scheme of what we do, as opposed to just going out and grab bagging things and coming in and doing something that we’re not comfortable doing,” he said.

Bowles talked about the “cat and mouse” game he’ll have to play with opposing offenses to try and get the front-four loose. Sometimes he’ll use the blitz, other times different looks in coverage.

“We just have to creatively find ways to keep things a guessing game each week,” he said.

Bowles has the advantage in that department for this matchup. This is his first week, after all, so the opposition doesn’t know what’s coming. But they should know not to expect anything too crazy.

“I certainly didn’t invent the game and I’m not going to reinvent the game,” he said.


Danny Watkins missed his second straight day of practice with what Reid called a “chronic ankle.” Watkins is doubtful. Rookie Dennis Kelly is likely to start at right guard.

Sheil has his cheat sheets ready for Sunday. Read about the Eagles’ offense here and the defense here.

Was Bobby April sweating during the bye week? Here’s what the special teams coach had to say.


Peter King is picking the Eagles to win, 23-20.

All six wins by the Falcons are against teams currently .500 or less, which is no fault of their own obviously, simply a commentary on the fact they haven’t played a tough schedule. The Eagles, obviously, are the seventh, and a deceiving 3-3. I do believe Mike Vick, as he says, will play angry this week, not only because this is his old team but because he knows Andy Reid isn’t going to put up with his 2.2 turnovers per game, the highest quarterback average in the league.

Eight of the 12 experts at ESPN are going with the Birds as well.

Ashley Fox points out that the sky might not be falling on the Eagles, even if it feels like it.

The Eagles are up against a wall. No one expects them to win. The expectation is that they will crumble under the weight of the moment, press too much, and then fold, another season of great expectations gone. But consider the devil’s advocate. The Eagles beat the Giants earlier this season under tough conditions. They beat Baltimore, too. Will all still be lost if they win?


Eagles have a mock game at 11 a.m. in their final piece of preparation for the Falcons.

Twitter Mailbag: On Peters, Asante And Safety Depth

Every Thursday we select a few of your Twitter questions and provide the long-form answers they deserve. For a chance to have your question published on Birds 24/7, send it to @Tim_McManus.

 From @JoshCahan: What do you put the chance of Peters being back sometime in late Nov/early Dec?

Just as a quick refresher: The Eagles have until November 6 to put Peters on the practice-eligible list. They have three weeks from placing Peters on the list to activate him to the 53-man roster. That means November 27 is the last day they can activate him. There is a good chance they will use every bit of that time to allow the big lineman to recover from a pair of ruptured Achilles.

Even if they opt to put him on the 53-man, it doesn’t mean they have to play him right away. It sounds like Peters’ rehab is going well — he’s running and also doing some agility drills — and Terrell Suggs‘ rapid recovery from a similar injury is fueling optimism regarding a potential Peters’ return.

My gut says we’ll be a couple weeks into December before Andy Reid decides to give Peters the green light, if he gives it to him at all.

From @static71: Do you think the Eagles will put in some plays to isolate Asante in space and make him tackle?

Samuel does have six missed tackles on the year, according to Pro Football Focus. Running right at him and forcing him to make stops is never a bad way to go.

I also think you might be able to get Samuel on a double move or two in this game. You know he will be hyped and is dying to make the Eagles look bad for their decision to get rid of him. He is a gambler by nature, and may be even more willing to risk getting burnt in the name of an interception. Seems the Eagles would be wise to take advantage of his aggressiveness.

From@mstry001:  Bowles coaching from box or field during game?!

Undecided, according to Bowles. Said they will make a decision Friday.

From @Lemur421: A healthy Colt Anderson wasn’t good enough to be backup safety last year but coming of ACL surgery this year he is?

Couldn’t agree with you more. Safety depth was one of the major concerns exiting training camp. That kind of went on the back-burner for a while because Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman started out relatively strong and were healthy. Losing Allen to a hamstring injury in the fourth quarter against the Lions was a crusher. Anderson is a very good special teams player but, as you pointed out, he is not  a viable option at safety — especially coming off a major injury.

You can’t be deep everywhere, granted, but this was a vulnerability heading into the season and everyone knew it. Howie Roseman and Reid have to own that.

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