PSgame2013

Don’t think twice…Eagles “D” will be all right…

Silly people are panicking over the Eagles' new defensive look just 'cause they got gashed on the first two series in their very first preseason game in 2013.

Of course the fact that Tom Brady was the opposing QB and the fact that the Eagles were tackling to the ground for the first time in 2013 didn't seem to register with the critics.

Coach Chip Kelly did set the record straight on Saturday after the first preseason game.

"We do live tackling in practice. We just do it in an isolated situation instead of 11 on 11. The biggest (problem) isn't the guy tackling, it's the pileup that occurs and who's going to fall over them."

Fact is, after the initial two series led by Brady against the Eagles "D" on Friday night, there were many plays where the Birds' "D" stepped up nicely…

Rookie nose tackle Bennie Logan tied for the team lead with five tackles, had a half-sack and made a tackle for a loss. Second-year defensive end Vinny Curry had a half-sack and a pair of quarterback hurries. Curry, a second-round draft pick in 2012, had a disappointing rookie season. He was inactive for the first 10 games and was a non-factor in the other six.

"I"m way more confident in myself this year," Curry said after the game. "This year just feels good. I feel better about myself. I've bought in right from the beginning and I've been been working hard, so I'm glad I got to see it start to pay off tonight. I just want to prove to myself and to everybody that I'm a worthy player."

The Eagles were off Saturday. They resume training camp Sunday with an open workout at Lincoln Financial Field at 12:30 p.m.

Curry isn't the only Eagle defender who may be in line for a promotion. Cornerback Brandon Boykin, who came in after veteran Brandon Hughes started opposite Bradley Fletcher, continued to play like the best at his position this summer. And rookie defensive tackle Bennie Logan was a lot more active than starter Isaac Sopoaga, who, according to Allentown Morning Call's Nick Fierro, "didn't do anything to shed his image as the most puzzling free agent addition of the offseason."

In a 3-4 defense, which the Eagles might not be able to run due to lack of qualified players at key positions, the nose tackle is the most important component.

Sopoaga, the lovable Samoan who will turn 32 next month, eats up a lot of space at 6-foot-2, 330 pounds. But he hasn't done much more than that since arriving and is a situational player at best because of virtually no pass rush.

Meh, we'll have to look at that and consider ch-ch-changes over the next few weeks.  Personally, I don't think we have enough of a sample size to throw out the 3-4 option altogether just yet. Bennie Logan just might be good enough to star in a rotation at NT with Sopoaga as the middle-relief guy… and Bennie Logan is Brizer's designated surprise rookie, so that counts for something, too…

Defensive coordinator Bill Davis and inside linebacker DeMeco Ryans, who made just one tackle against the Patriots, tried to dismiss Friday night's alarming early incompetence as mostly lack of gap control and miscommunication — errors that have nothing to do with players lacking tools.

"It's something that we can take a look at and get corrected," he said. "But it's no glaring issue or anything like that. We'll be fine."

"We had some breakdowns in gaps and then we missed some tackles," Davis added, "so we talked about coming in here that our effort to the ball was going to improve and our tackling was going to improve. The effort to the ball was there and the tackling isn't where it needs to be yet."

"We'll get the tackling right, we'll continue to work on it."

Okay— I'm buying into that. Why would they lie?

Our very own correspondent Ham-Lion Brozer from Virginia may have diagnosed the Eagles problem on defense the best:

"The area we looked the worstest at from the starters,…was the interior five guys…3 down linemen…and two ILB's… Sopoaga didn't blow me socks off… A 3-4 is only as good as its Nose Tackle… He wasnt horrible…but he wasn't the immovable force that frees up the LB's to swarm…"

The Great JB Sage-Lion pointed a finger at DE/OLB Trent Cole:

"Wartching this game again, it's fairly easy to see that Cole isn't the player he once was. He got old fast…"

Then a blast of rare lucidity from our man Beano in Evans Head, Australia:

"Just watched Cox again on the first two series…   double teamed 6 out of 7 on the first drive while playing RE (and tackled first play which sprung the big run)…  the one time he wasn't (double-teamed)… Menkin used his penetration to turn him inside and they PLANNED for it… running straight at the gap..(Kendricks who?..)"

"The second series.. Davis came out with a 4 – 3 look and Cox as the UT..   Barwin RE and Cole LE…   Brady near sacked by Cox on a stunt… "

"Brady just started working the 4- 3 over with quick passing..  When Davis changed back to 3 -4 it didn't matter…  Brady targeted the LB's in coverage."

"Cox  was double teamed 90% of the time and they knew they NEEDED to…  He is gonna kill it this year…"

So you're telling me there's a chance?

Things are not as bad as they appear defensively based upon first preseason glance of the 2013 Eagles…

Many Philly fans have already hit the panic button after Tom Brady and the Patriots gashed the Birds on their first two offensive possessions Friday night.

But I tend to focus on the positives. It is still so early, and there were circumstances beyond control…

 Bill Davis wouldn’t come right out and say it, after his first unit allowed the New England Patriots to score on its first two possessions in Friday night’s 31-22 preseason loss, but you could read between the lines.

“We have to see where we are, watch this one again and evaluate,’’ Davis said in the locker room Friday night. “That’s what the preseason is all about, evaluating what you have and trying to get the best out of your players.’’

“That [ the 3-4]  is a big difference (in schemes),’’ Davis said. “We’re still trying to see who fits where. Again that’s what this is all about, looking at our personnel and trying to make it all fit. Obviously, we want to get our best players on the field.’’

This may sound too harsh, but—Trent Cole, coming off his least productive season in 2012, but still the most prolific defensive player on the roster, is not suited for the 3-4.

Young players like Vinny Curry, who played well Friday as an end in the four-man front, and Brandon Graham, trying to play outside linebacker, do not fit in a 3-4.

“Vinny is a good player,’’ Davis said. “He’s been playing well (in practice). There’s a reason he was a second-round pick. It’s up to us to find a way to use him.’’

Fletcher Cox, the 2012 first-round draft pick, is fine as a 3-4 end, but would look just as good and maybe better as a 4-3 tackle.

If the Eagles go back to the 4-3 as their base, the defense isn’t going to remind anyone of the 1985 Chicago Bears, but it will be better than it looked in a 3-4, Friday night, or on a daily basis in camp.

Ideally, I look for the evolution of a 4-man front that has Cole, Curry and Graham rotating at end, with Phillip Hunt also getting some work as the No. 4, and Cox, rookie Bennie Logan, Cedric Thornton and Isaac Sopoaga rotating inside. Sopoaga is the one player allegedly more ideally suited as a 3-4 nose tackle, but he could be used in the 4-3 on short yardage and goal-line situations.

At linebacker, Connor Barwin might be a little overpriced but he would be the Eagles best strong-side linebacker since Carlos Emmons. DeMeco Ryans has shown he’s better in the middle of a 4-3 than inside in a 3-4 and Mychal Kendricks played a lot better as a rookie when he was finally moved to the weakside.

“We’re going to look over everything,’’ Davis said. “We’ll evaluate and come back out to practice, Sunday.’’

And oh, for those skeptics who say the Eagles can't tackle, go back and re-watch the tape of last Friday's game:

 

Team 58 52 3 3 3 10 0
Philadelphia Defensive
  TACKLES MISC
  TOT SOLO SACKS TFL PD QB HTS TD
B. Fletcher 5 5 0 0 0 0 0
B. Logan 5 4 .5 1 0 1 0
C. Matthews 4 4 0 0 0 0 0
P. Chung 4 4 0 0 0 0 0
J. Knott 4 3 .5 0 1 2 0
B. Hughes 3 3 0 0 0 0 0
J. Chaney 3 3 0 0 0 0 0
C. McCoy 3 2 1.5 1 0 2 0
D. King 3 2 0 1 0 0 0
E. Wolff 3 2 0 0 0 0 0
C. Barwin 2 2 0 0 0 0 0
E. Acho 2 2 0 0 0 1 0
P. Hunt 2 2 0 0 0 0 0
E. Brown 2 2 0 0 0 0 0
V. Curry 2 1 .5 0 0 2 0
B. Graham 1 1 0 0 0 1 0
M. Kendricks 1 1 0 0 0 0 0
C. Anderson 1 1 0 0 0 0 0
J. Poyer 1 1 0 0 0 0 0
N. Allen 1 1 0 0 0 0 0
J. Casey 1 1 0 0 0 0 0
K. Coleman 1 1 0 0 0 0 0
D. Ryans 1 1 0 0 0 0 0
K. Phillips 1 1 0 0 0 0 0
E. Igwenagu 1 1 0 0 0 0 0
C. Marsh 1 1 0 0 1 0 0
B. Boykin 0 0 0 0 1 0 0
F. Cox 0 0 0 0 0 1 0

 And although you wouldn't know it from watching the exhibition game in its entirety, the Eagles actually out-gained the Patriots in total yardage, 452-442.  As Sonbutts would say: " 'Tis a puzzlement…"

 

Thomas Jackson

About Thomas Jackson

Jax Sports Media has been reporting on NFL teams in the mid-Atlantic region since 2006. Thomas Jackson is its senior writer. Tom started covering the Philadelphia Eagles for the MVN Network in 2007. In 2009 he joined the Bloguin Network. He now also covers the Baltimore Ravens.

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