[Note by JasonB, 09/20/11 10:54 AM EDT ] This year, veteran Eagles beat writer and current Comcast sports NFL columnist Jordan Raanan will be joining us every week with a review of the previous Sunday's Eagles game. This week he offers his notes and thoughts on the Eagles win over the Redskins
It hasn't been difficult to notice the Eagles' biggest deficiency this season. Their run defense was indefensibly horrendous the first five weeks, so much so that they entered the Washington game ranked 30th out of 32 teams in that department. Rumor has it, they couldn't even stop a ballooned Duce Staley in practice.
And while the Eagles made many of the same mistakes -- especially in the second half -- against the Redskins, there was one noticeable difference on Sunday. Their run defense was exceptional.
The Redskins finished with just 42 yards on 14 carries. If you subtract quarterback John Beck's fourth-quarter scramble for 12 yards, the Eagles only allowed 30 yards on 13 carries. They allowed only three of the 13 called runs to be successful plays. They made Rex Grossman try and beat them. And Rex Grossman predictably beat himself.
So how did the they do it? How did such a drastic turnaround take place in the span of seven days? Did defensive coordinator Juan Castillo suddenly turn into a genius? Let's take a look:
Run Defense Breakdown:
Called Runs: 13
Successful Runs: 3
Plays Stuffed: 10 (3 yards or less)
Longest Gain: 6 yards
1) Penetration Was Key
On eight of the 10 stuffed runs, I have the word penetration penned on my notepad. Most of the time, it was by a defensive tackle, with Mike Patterson having by far his best game of the season. On one play, it was even Kurt Coleman on a run blitz causing an early cutback in the backfield.
2) Much Better Individual Effort by Front Four
Schematically, the Eagles didn't do much different. They didn't blitz often, switch personnel or permanently plant their safeties in the box. They just won more 1-on-1 battles. Patterson beat his blocker on three of the 13 called runs. Jason Babin blew one rushing attempt. Derek Landri pushed his man into the backfield on two of the plays. Even Trevor Laws was stout on one rush. Against an offensive line that was pretty good in the run game, the Eagles dominated.
3) Better Linebacker Play
Jamar Chaney, the Eagles' middle linebacker, had a good game against the run. He did a nice job attacking and plugging the holes so Ryan Torrain or Roy Helu couldn't get through. Chaney fought off blockers and made tackles, something he has struggled with so far this season. As for Brian Rolle and Moise Fokou, they only made one tackle apiece against the run, but they stayed in their lanes and didn't allow the huge cutbacks that had hurt the defense in previous weeks.
4) Solid Tackling
The Eagles missed very few tackles. Their safeties didn't have to make as many tackles. Both are good for the defense. For three quarters at least, it was back to fundaments. That is until the fourth when the Eagles missed more tackles (4) than they did the entire other three quarters combined (2).
Other Notable Observations:
• I charted and graded every snap of right tackle Winston Justice, the Eagles' starter last season who was playing his first game after offseason knee surgery. Justice spent most of the afternoon matched against Ryan Kerrigan. The talented Redskins first-round pick went head-to-head with Justice on 23 pass plays and only twice pressured Michael Vick. He did not record a sack.
• Justice, known more for his pass blocking, received negative marks from me on 11 of 32 running plays. That's not very good. The Eagles did not run the ball well to the right side, with almost all of LeSean McCoy's 126 rushing yards coming up the middle and to the left side of the field. The Eagles were successful on just one of eight runs to the right side on Sunday.
* The idea that Vick had dirt in his eyes on a play when he was injured in the second half is utter garbage. He didn't appear to reach for his eyes at any point after the play. Neither did the trainers who were treating him. In fact, Vick immediately stretched his neck following the hit. He returned the following series after Vince Young threw an awful interception on his only pass attempt.
• The Eagles made a more concerted effort to get the ball to tight end Brent Celek. He was targeted nine times despite going out as a receiver on just 15 of 36 called passes. Celek finished with four catches for 42 yards and a touchdown. He had a drop and one pass that was intended for him was tipped and intercepted at the 1-yard line.
• Patterson's big afternoon also stretched into the passing game. He had a sack and a pressure on Nate Allen's interception.