A lot has been said about which level to place blame for how the Eagles season has gone. Players, coaches, or front office? At the midway point, I think it’s obvious that all three units deserve their fair share of blame. The Chicago game was a microcosm of how this team has problems on all three levels.
Juan Castillo failed to make adjustments at the half. Not to make excuses for the DBs, but in the NFL you can’t expect perfect coverage downfield when the QB has 5+ seconds to throw every single play. If the DBs are getting beat in zone coverage all game, what did we have to lose by locking them into man and sending an extra blitzer every third down during the second half? Castillo just isn’t aggressive enough; he plays not to lose. He doesn’t have the killer instinct to stomp on an opponent when they’re down.
On offense the Eagles once again abandoned the running game in the 4th quarter while they held a lead. McCoy had a respectable 4.7 yards per carry but only got 16 carries, and only 2 in the fourth quarter when he usually produces his best work. After the defense made a stop and the Eagles got the ball back, they passed the ball 3 straight times and had to punt.
Offensive Players- Inconsistency & Mistakes
Of course as usual the players on offense came up short too. DeSean Jackson dropped a huge third down pass that could have put the nail in the coffin on that 3-and-out drive I just mentioned. Then there’s the PR fumble. Maclin came up small on the last drive of the second quarter and the last drive of the fourth quarter. Vick was the victim of at least 3 or 4 drops but I was at the game and can tell you there were numerous plays where there were wide open options downfield and he didn’t see them. He had one pick but probably should have had two or three. He has to make it his prerogative to audible to the run more often when Morninwheg reverts to his pass-happy self, especially late in the game with a lead. The inconsistency of the pass protection contributed to these woes of course.
Defensive Players- "Fantasy Football" syndrome by the front office
Asante Samuel was actually right when he lambasted the front office for going after "fantasy players" in the offseason. The thing about this defense is that we have a bunch of guys who are great in certain statistical categories but are terrible in other aspects of the game. The ironic thing is that Samuel is one of those fantasy football players, and he’s not even delivering on his fantasy stat this season—interceptions.
Remember the glory days during the prime of Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown? Those guys were all-around cornerbacks. They could play press-man, cover 2, cover 3, they could tackle in the open field, they could support the run, they could blitz.... I don't know how much of a hand Jim Johnson had in those drafts, but they could use a good one in 2012.
There are only a few complete players currently on this unit:
The only proven all-around player we have on defense is Trent Cole. He is solid in both the run and pass game. He and Jared Allen are the two most complete DEs in the NFC. Everyone expected him to shred the Bears’ pass protection all game but it didn’t happen. Still, he’s earned a pass for this one game, and nevertheless he played a big part in the Bears’ two turnovers. He pressured Jay Cutler into throwing the ball to Forte early which led to Rolle’s forced fumble/touchdown. Cole also ran across the field himself to make the tackle and force Forte’s second fumble. That’s what complete players do.
To pick out another guy developing into a solid all-around player, Kurt Coleman played a great game against the Bears, which makes his third straight great game if we discount the one play he got burned in garbage time vs. the Cowboys. He was all over the field making tackles and has emerged as the closest thing we have to an enforcer on defense. When the Bears tested him deep, he was in the right spot and broke up a couple passes.
Brian Rolle is IMO solid starter material in the NFL regardless of his size. He isn’t Ray Lewis, but he plays with passion and heart and this team can’t get enough of that. He plays 30lbs and 3 inches bigger than he actually is. I don’t think he’s a liability in coverage or against the run.
Now, on to the INCOMPLETE players who are killing this defense.
- Asomugha cannot seem to play zone coverage and looks like a lost child when he does. This still boggles my mind. Press-man is the hard part; if you can stay in front of anyone in man-coverage how can you look so bad and get beat down the field when you play with a cushion? I know he’s a converted safety. I know he didn’t play much zone in Oakland. I know it’s a new system blah blah blah. You’re a $10 million corner and you don’t know how to play cover 3? Something’s wrong with that.
- Asante Samuel ("I don’t get paid to tackle") is the opposite; he can’t play man coverage and his constant 10-yard cushion is killing the team in the running game and the short passing game. And he’s not making the interceptions he used to that allowed us to look past his flaws. Forget about his poor tackling. Usually he can’t even get in position to make tackles most of the time as he’s 15 yards downfield getting blocked.
- Jason Babin ("I’m looking for sacks") is a total liability in the run game and opponents seem run to his side (which also happens to be Samuel’s side) at least 70% of the time. He either flies up field and takes himself out of running downs or when he does try to hold his ground, gets pushed around by the tackle at will. Here’s an amazing stat: Babin has 9 sacks this season but only 22 tackles (solo+assist). That means if you take away his sacks, he only has 13 tackles over 8 games. I know that d-lineman don’t usually rack up 100 tackles per season. But that stat equates to an appallingly low 1.6 tackles per game (not incl sacks), considering that teams run to Babin’s side at least 20 times per game.
- Cullen Jenkins is a pass rush specialist. He isn’t terrible against the run like Babin, but he’s still something of a liability inside.
- Mike Patterson is the mirror-image of Jenkins. Solid run-stuffer, rarely gets upfield on passing downs.
- Jamar Chaney is as good as any linebacker running sideline-to-sideline and in coverage, but has trouble getting off blocks. Even when he does hold his ground in the middle and make the tackles, RBs always seem to fall forward and turn 2 yard gains into 4 yard gains. He NEVER makes plays in the backfield.
- Moise Fokou looks great every once in a while but then disappears for long stretches of the game. He seems to have trouble diagnosing plays and reacts too slowly.
- Rogers-Cromartie looks just awful for the umpteenth straight game; he doesn’t seem to do anything well. It’s time they look into putting Hanson or one of the rookies in as the nickelback.
Jaiquawn Jarrett got his first playing time for the injured Allen. The jury is still out on both of these guys.