TrentColeinterrogated

Evaluating Eagles’ defensive and ST sides of the ball..

So much attention has been given to the Eagles' offensive shortcomings in 2012, a lot of fans tend to minimize the defensive and special teams' failures to launch…

But that's why you and many other "smart phans" exist— to uncover the total picture.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Trent Cole (DE) is interrogated by the press after the Eagles' final game 42-7 loss to the Giants as to what went wrong in 2012…

The Philadelphia Eagles' defense did little right this season. The unit blew some fourth-quarter leads early in the season, causing coach Andy Reid to fire defensive coordinator Juan Castillo and replace him with Todd Bowles. Yet protecting leads late in the season wasn't a problem, since the Birds routinely fell behind by two or three touchdowns.

Personnel problems and strategies plagued the defense all season. The "Over Defense 9-Technique" scheme that worked so well for much of last season was ineffective to the point where Reid also dismissed defensive line coach Jim Washburn after cutting defensive end Jason Babin.

Babin was one of two starters from 2011 to get cut, following linebacker Brian Rolle.

The pass rush had 20 fewer sacks than it did last season and the Eagles ranked last in the league with 13 takeaways.

The next head coach will be challenged to find a defensive coordinator who can turn things around and make the defense one of the strengths of the team.

Defensive line

This unit had the biggest dropoff of any position. Now I'm a guy who's just as interested in "Hurries" as "Sacks"… but there is no getting around the astronomical decline in the number of Iggles' sacks.

Babin and defensive end Trent Cole combined for just 8 sacks after collecting 29 in 2011. Cole had just three sacks, his fewest since joining the Eagles in 2005. Brandon Graham was the most productive defensive end down the stretch. He had 5 sacks, including four in the last five games. Darryl Tapp, Phillip Hunt and rookie Vinny Curry were non-factors. Curry, a second-round pick, languished on the bench for most of the year.

At tackle, first-round draft pick Fletcher Cox showed promise. He led the defensive line with 65 tackles, despite missing the last game with a concussion. Cullen Jenkins had four sacks but failed to make much of an impact. Derek Landri was invisible most of the year. Mike Patterson played in just five games because of injuries and illness.

Jenkins could be released in the offseason. Tapp and Landri are free agents who likely won't be re-signed.

Linebackers

Aside from middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans, this group was inconsistent.

Ryans, who was acquired from Houston in an offseason trade, had a good season. He led the Eagles with 148 tackles and provided much-needed leadership. If there could be a knock on Ryans, it might be his lack of playmaking results, as in forcing fumbles or coming up with key interceptions. Rookie Mychal Kendricks, a second-round pick, got off to a strong start but struggled with coverage in the second half of the season. He also missed the last game with a concussion. He seemed to play a little better once Bowles switched him from the strong side to the weak side. Akeem Jordan and Jamar Chaney had chances to stay in the starting lineup but failed to consistently impress. Rolle played just special teams for four games and then was cut. Casey Matthews was relegated to special teams for most of the season.

Secondary

This unit needs a major overhaul.

Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, the NFL's highest-ranked free agent in 2011, was brilliant at times and completely off the playbook coverage diagram at others…Aso obviously was out of sync with his safeties, upon whom he was relying for back-door help.  Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had two intercptions in the opener and one the rest of the season—DRC seemed to vanish at times without explanation— he often was the best cover guy on the opponents' best receivers at any given moment, then mysteriously disappeared . Rookie Brandon Boykin was so-so as the nickel corner, not for lack of effort but moreso because of lack of knowledge. Curtis Marsh and Brandon Hughes seldom got on the field, but did their best to fill in when they had the chance.

The safeties were worse. Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman were routinely beaten on pass plays and were often out of position. Neither did a great job of tackling in the open field. Allen was demoted late in the season in favor of Colt Anderson, who provided a physical presence but appears more suited for special teams. David Sims started one game and was back on the bench. Jaiquawn Jarrett, a second-round pick in 2011, was cut on Sept. 11. He is now a project of the Jets.

Special teams

Place-kicker Alex Henery was the team's best scoring option. He missed three field goals in the last four games but still had a solid season. He set a franchise record by making 22 straight field goals at one point. He connected on 27-of-31 (87.1 percent) of his field-goal attempts.

The Eagles gambled by releasing punter/holder Chas Henry after three games and re-signing Mat McBriar. He averaged 46.5 yards per punt, which was the second-best gross average in team history behind Joe Muha's average of 47.26 in 1948. My biggest beef with McBriar— he is a horrible tackler. Sav Rocca could at least tackle. And McBriar seemed to lack the finesse to backspin the deep punt…most of those bounced into the endzone for a touchback.

Coaching

Reid lost his job after leading the Eagles to their worst record (4-12) since they went 3-13 under Ray Rhodes in 1998. Questionable decisions both on and off the field led to a 1-11 record in the last 12 games, which included an eight-game losing streak. Reid seemed to be out of touch with reality at times— understandable since he was still in shock and denial over the loss of his oldest son under tragic circumstances.

Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg had to deal with an injury-riddled line and a change in quarterbacks in the middle of the season. It was not all Marty's fault— but Marty's in-game calls at times seemed incomprehensible.

Hiring Juan Castillo as DC was a mistake last season, but firing him just a month into the season was a bigger one. Todd Bowles didn't have enough time to install an alternative system. Hard for Bowles to create a new defensive identity when your DL coach Jim Washburn had carte-blanche with the front-four pressure scheme…Too many cooks in the kitchen…Ultimately Washburn was fired, too.

Special-teams coordinator Bobby April had little to work with in the return and coverage squads. Or so the story goes. But fans in the know could see the confusion and the disarray on the sidelines…April seemed overwhelmed by his assignment at times.

Rookie punt returner Damaris Johnson was not very reliable but did score on a franchise-record 98-yard return at Dallas. Brandon Boykin and running back Bryce Brown were average at best as kickoff returners.

Defense and special-teams awards:

MVP (defense): (co-winners) Middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans and rookie DT Fletcher Cox

Comeback Player of The Year (defense): Defensive end Brandon Graham

MVP (special teams): Place-kicker Alex Henery

 

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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