All-22: The Emergence Of Fletcher Cox

Here’s the All-22 breakdown of the Eagles’ defensive performance against the Redskins. And since it’s the holiday season, I threw in some positives – primarily of Fletcher Cox, who turned in a 10-tackle/one-sack performance.

Play 1: Would you believe that on the Redskins’ first touchdown, Darrel Young wasn’t even the most wide-open receiver? Take a look at tight end Logan Paulsen (blue circle) in the back of the end zone. I mean, there’s not a single defender in the same area code.

Robert Griffin III ended up going to Young (yellow circle). It looked like he was Nate Allen’s responsibility, but the safety bit on the play-fake. As for Paulsen, I really have no clue who was supposed to be on him. But a complete breakdown on just the second defensive play of the game.

Play 2: Ok, I promised to throw in some positives. I had to watch this one a few times to make sure my eyes weren’t deceiving me. Check out where Cox is when the toss goes to Alfred Morris on the option.

In the next frame, he’s hustling, but it still seems unlikely that he is going to get in on the play.

Look at who makes the tackle near the sideline. Sure, it helped that the Eagles missed a couple of tackles, but this is why I have a bit of an issue with the whole “They’ve all given up” narrative. Cox clearly went all out on this play and showcased his athleticism.

Amid a season of disappointments, the rookie from Mississippi State is coming on strong. He has two double-digit tackle games in the last month. No other Eagles defensive lineman has one all year.

Play 3: This one’s going to really make you miss Jason Peters. If you’re not prepared for that, move on to the next play. Check out Redskins left tackle Trent Williams on DeMeco Ryans on a toss to Morris in the second.

Has anyone seen Ryans? Anyone? Oh, he’s behind Williams in this next shot?

And finally, Morris runs by for 12 yards.

Keep in mind, Ryans is having an outstanding year – specifically against the run. But here, he got manhandled by Williams. Eagles defensive linemen are likely not looking forward to facing Griffin twice a year for the next decade. I’m guessing the linebackers aren’t looking forward to having to deal with Williams either.

Play 4: It looked like the Eagles were in Cover 3 on the 49-yard touchdown. Here’s the pre-snap alignment.

Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie are on the outside. Nate Allen is in the middle. They each take a third of the field deep. The Redskins fake a handoff and then an end around, but that’s not what gets Allen to bite. It is the receiver in the middle of the field.

Matt Bowen of the National Football Post does a good job of explaining the free safety’s responsibilities on this play:

The free safety is the top of the defense. He must honor his responsibilities and not chase any intermediate routes. Offenses will run a deep dig (15-yard square in) to entice the free safety to jump the route — while running a post from the opposite side of the field, leaving the corner naked and playing from outside in with zero help. A classic Cover 3-beater.

So the touchdown was clearly Allen’s fault. But take a look at Asomugha in the photo above. He’s got no other receiver to that side of the field. At this point, doesn’t he say “Uh-oh, Allen bit, I’ve got to bust it to keep up with this guy.” Maybe it’s difficult to adjust on the fly like that. Maybe players are taught to just focus on their jobs. But defense only works when all 11 guys are working together, not individually in a vacuum. Here’s where Aldrick Robinson ends up, with Asomugha nowhere near him.

Play 5: Ok, I think you need another positive before you stop reading. Let’s show some more of Cox’s athleticism. Here, on the bootleg, Griffin probably should have pulled the trigger. He had the receiver going downfield with the linebacker trailing. Look at where Cox is.

Instead, Griffin chooses to tuck the ball and run. It appears he has a pretty good running lane.

There’s no way Cox is catching up with him, right? This is probably the fastest quarterback in the league.

Wrong. Cox gets there, makes the tackle after a 1-yard run and forces a fumble. Impressive.

Play 6: Hey, remember when the Eagles bit on the WR screen against Atlanta and gave up a touchdown? I wonder if the Redskins saw that on film.

Nice touch by the wide receiver here to jump like the ball’s coming to him. Both cornerbacks (including Asomugha) bite, and Griffin hits Leonard Hankerson for a 21-yard completion.

Play 7: Ok, one more of Cox. Here, Griffin escapes to his left on a third-quarter run.

As Asomugha runs into Mychal Kendricks, Cox is still hustling downfield.

And look who finally pushes Griffin out of bounds.

Keep in mind, this is 23 yards downfield. Just an outstanding job of playing to the whistle and not giving up on the play.

On the season, Cox has 50 tackles (33 solo), the most of any Eagles defensive lineman, to go along with three sacks and 20 hurries. He’s only 10 games into his career, but it looks like the Eagles hit with this first-round pick.

Play 8: On the Santana Moss 61-yard touchdown, Brandon Boykin gets beat on a double-move.

This is as good a job in coverage as you’ll see out of Coleman. He hustles back, turns for the ball, gets there in time and doesn’t interfere. In other words, he does everything but actually make a play on the ball.

Of course, that’s the only part that really matters.

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