Raanan Review: Eagles D vs. Tight Ends

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 16: Corner back Brandon Boykin #22 of the Philadelphia Eagles deflects a pass away from wide receiver Anquan Boldin #81of the Baltimore Ravens during a game at Lincoln Financial Field on September 16, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Eagles defeated the Ravens 24-23. (Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images)

Veteran Eagles beat writer and current Xfinity 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 Ravens.

It's hump day, Wednesday. Usually that means turning the page to think about the next opponent, in this case the Arizona Cardinals and old friend Kevin Kolb.

Since it was such an exhilarating victory over the Ravens though, it only makes sense to enjoy this one a little longer. Wins like Sundays don't come around often. Savor the heart attack-inducing victory. It's possible this is the high point of the season even though we hope it isn't.

Regardless, let's rehash some of the positives (and a few negatives) that popped during my weekly breakdown. And what better place to start than with the defense, the no-doubt bright spot so far this season. In particular, the standout play of linebackers DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks.

Remember, the Eagles hadn't been able to cover a tight end since the Buddy Ryan era. That has finally changed. The Browns tight ends had three catches for eight yards in the opener. Baltimore's tight ends (Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson) had nine catches for 88 yards on a whopping 19 targets.

There's no doubt Joe Flacco and the Ravens thought they could do some damage there. They didn't. So who was responsible for the consistently tight coverage?

The breakdown for Baltimore's TEs...

vs. Nate Allen

4-for-8, 49 yards

vs. Kurt Coleman

2-for-2, 8 yards

vs. Mychael Kendricks

1-for-5, 4 yards

vs. DeMeco Ryans

1-for-2, 2 yards INT

vs. Akeem Jordan

1-for-2, 16 yards

As you can see, Flacco went 1-for-7 for six yards and an interception when he targeted a tight end against Kendricks and Ryans, the Eagles' linebackers who also stay on the field in nickel situations. That is just tremendous. It's a monumental upgrade compared to years past.

As for the Eagles' starting cornerbacks, they weren't quite as successful against the Ravens receivers. It was a bit of a mixed bag with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha. In fact, if not for a generous offensive pass interference call on Jacoby Jones in the fourth quarter it would have been a disastrous day for Asomugha.

The game plan was for the Eagles cornerbacks to play physical against Baltimore's receivers, and the result was three illegal contact penalties despite just four receptions.

The total count:


6 targets

2 completions, 51yards

1 illegal contact


6 targets

2 completions, 27 yards, 1 TD

2 illegal contacts

1 25-yard TD overturned

Other Notable Observations:

  • Eagles defensive coordinator Juan Castillo played eight men in the box almost the entire second half. Allen played at the linebacker level and the Eagles remained in their base defense (3 linebackers) most of the final 30 minutes. Asomugha and DRC were also close to the line of scrimmage on almost 75 percent of the second-half snaps.
  • Part of Ryans success in pass defense is his ability to knock tight ends and backs off their routes in the middle of the field. The Eagles' middle linebacker several times chucked Pitta and Dickson in the middle of the field within five yards (give or take) of the line of scrimmage.
  • Vick took 12 hits in the contest compared to 19 in the opener. Most were a result of holding the ball too long or when he left the pocket.
  • Baltimore blitzed on just eight of 40 pass plays. The Eagles committed two penalties and were sacked on those eight plays. They also had three big plays.
  • The Eagles didn't change much from the opener to protect Vick. Tight end Brent Celek stayed in to block on just 12 of 36 passes. Two of those 12 blocks were screen pass. Celek was asked to help more often once Demetress Bell came into the game in the second half.
  • Neither Bell or King Dunlap were especially impressive at left tackle. Bell, who entered the game with 10 minutes remaining in the third quarter, allowed two pressures and was flagged for a penalty. He was also blown up on a running play late in the game and seemed lost on a screen pass, blocking nobody.
  • Backup Dallas Reynolds more than held his own in place of the injured Jason Kelce. While he's unable to pull and get to the second level on many of the Eagles' runs like Kelce, he didn't get physically dominated by a stout Ravens interior. Reynolds also avoided any snapping gaffes, a problem that occurs often when a new center enters in the middle of a game.
  • Fletcher Cox played 51 snaps, the most of any defensive tackle, and stood out in the second half. He interrupted a screen, was held on a strong pass rush and pressured Flacco when it mattered most late in the game.
  • Props to Baltimore kicker Justin Tucker on one of the best kicking games I've ever seen. He hit field goals of 56, 51 and 48 yards and was exceptional on kickoffs. Five of his six kickoffs reached the end zone and three went for touchbacks. Wow. Just wow. Quite a day for the rookie.
  • The Eagles special teams haven't been as impressive. Punter Chas Henry (5 punts, 39.2 average) was brutal and the Eagles return games haven't done much of anything in the two games. Damaris Johnson averaged 3.3 yards per punt return on Sunday.
  • Defensive end Brandon Graham was on the field for 10 snaps (1 play was negated by a penalty). He had three pressures, twice hitting the quarterback and once interrupting the timing on a screen.
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