Continuous failure; three positions that Crippled Reid's Eagles

US PRESSWIRE

Let's take a brief break from all the coaching rumors to talk a little bit of football!

It's now official; Andy Reid is gone. The Eagles will have a new coach for the first time in since 1999. Early in his tenure Reid did an excellent job with personnel but the past few seasons are littered with mistakes that really set the team back. To be fair every NFL team makes mistakes but it was the failure to resolve problems even at the second attempt that really cost the Eagles in this 4-12 season. The secondary especially has suffered since the death of

Jim Johnson with quality players like Sheldon Brown, Quintin Mikell and Brian Dawkins leaving despite playing at a high level. The right guard position is the other that really sticks out as having been mismanaged. The Eagles have poured resources into the position and at the end of 2012 they were playing a street free agent who wasn't even on a team to begin the year ...

1. Cornerback

Sheldon Brown was in the top echelon of corners in 2009, his final year with the Eagles. They traded him for peanuts. That season Brown allowed just 44 of 86 targets to be complete (all statistics courtesy of PFF) for 584 yards, five interceptions and 11 pass deflections. He did allow five TDs but his QB rating allowed of 68.2 was good enough for 20th amongst all corners playing at least 25% of snaps. As compensation for his services the Eagles got Alex Hall and third and fifth round picks. They traded that third round pick to Green Bay in exchange for their third rounder and a fourth rounder. With those picks the Eagles got Daniel Te'o-Nesheim and Mike Kafka. They traded the fifth rounder for Ernie Sims. Those four players combined for almost as little impact as is possible. None of them are on the team after three years. Hall was cut prior to the 2010 regular season. Sims somehow managed to last a whole year as a starter at weakside linebacker before finally being replaced. Te'o Nesheim and Kafka didn't make the 2012 team ...

I digress somewhat on the compensation. Even more egregious was the failure to find a replacement. The Eagles went into 2010 with Ellis Hobbs as the starter opposite Asante Samuel. His last full season as a starter with the PatBroriots in 2008 was really poor. Hobbs allowed 45 of 78 targets to be complete for 728 yards, nine touchdowns, three interceptions and nine pass deflections. His QB rating allowed was 111.5. As everyone knows, Hobbs got hurt and was replaced by Dimitri Patterson who showed some ability early before being exposed later in the year. Patterson is a good nickel back but struggles on the outside.

After seeing the travesty that was the position in 2010, the Eagles targeted and acquired Nnamdi Asomugha. Two years on and the joy that came with that announcement has been replaced with total disappointment. It was obvious very quickly that Asomugha could not play zone and that his ball skills were amongst the worst of all players at the position. His tackling is also terrible. Brown, meanwhile, took one year to adjust in Cleveland before returning to top form. Below are tables with each player's numbers:

Sheldon Brown

Targets

Receptions

Catch %

Yards

TDs

INTs

PDs

QB rating

2010

72

46

63.9

657

7

2

8

114.2

2011

76

35

46.1

485

2

2

8

64.9

2012

90

52

57.8

655

4

3

10

81.5

Nnamdi Asomugha

Targets

Receptions

Catch %

Yards

TDs

INTs

PDs

QB rating

2011

47

29

61.7

376

4

3

3

88.6

2012

66

44

66.7

698

5

1

9

120.6

Obviously Brown struggled a little in 2010 but it seems he was adjusting to a new scheme and team, as he's played much better over the past couple of years. In contrast Asomugha has been poor, giving up nine TDs compared to just four picks.

Now let's take a look at how Samuel's season compared to DRC's

Player

Targets

Receptions

Catch %

Yards

TDs

INTs

PDs

QB rating

DRC

81

46

56.8

645

5

3

13

87.7

Samuel

77

41

53.2

596

2

5

7

60.3

Clearly Samuel's played better. The latter has missed more tackles (18) than Rodgers-Cromartie (11) but that obviously doesn't include the ones DRC hasn't even attempted!

2. Safety

Despite still playing at a high level, Brian Dawkins was allowed to leave after the 2008 season. The heart and soul of the defense apparently wasn't worth a two year contract so Denver happily snatched up the future hall of famer. The Eagles were dead wrong. In 2010 B-Dawk was still at the top of his game as a run defender, even if he'd regressed a little in coverage. The plan in 2009 to replace the legend was pathetic. They crossed their fingers hoping Quintin Demps would be good enough but he couldn't even hold onto the job in training camp. That meant a combination of rookie Macho Harris and journeyman veteran Sean Jones had to start. Here's how their numbers stack up:

Run defense

Player

Tackles

Assists

Missed Tackles

Stops

Harris

28

2

1

7

Jones

34

6

7

12

Dawkins

97

10

12

30

Pass coverage

Player

Targets

Receptions

Catch %

Yards

TDs

INTs

PDs

QB rating

Harris

13

10

76.9

151

1

0

0

140.2

Jones

17

13

76.5

179

2

2

2

109.3

Dawkins

48

29

60.4

303

4

2

5

89.1

The situation finally seemed like it was resolved in 2010 when the Eagles drafted Nate Allen in the second round. He made a good duo with the excellent Quintin Mikell and everyone expected for Allen to come back strong after hitting the rookie wall and then getting injured. The Eagles' weren't content with the steady consistency of Mikell however, instead ludicrously considering Kurt Coleman a viable NFL starter. Coleman's season was saved in large part by Rex Grossman throwing him the ball three times in a single game but aside from that he wasn't very good. 2011 was also the season the Eagles' brass thought Jarrad Page was capable ...

Run defense - 2011

Player

Tackles

Assists

Missed Tackles

Stops

Coleman

62

13

11

20

Page

29

4

7

9

Mikell

78

10

15

23

Mikell's missed tackles obviously weren't ideal but he was still active around the line of scrimmage, unlike the two Eagles in the table.

Pass coverage - 2011

Player

Targets

Receptions

Catch %

Yards

TDs

INTs

PDs

QB rating

Coleman

31

19

61.3

396

5

4

1

105.2

Page

15

10

66.7

108

1

0

2

109.9

Mikell

35

18

51.4

260

1

2

2

61.6

Eagles fans also got a glimpse of the terrible Jaiquawn Jarrett. The second round pick remains probably the worst rookie I've ever seen in an Eagles uniform and that's saying something. There wasn't one play you could point to, whether in the preseason or regular season, that made him look like an NFL player. That never changed in his whole career with the birds, and he'll go down as one of the biggest draft busts in history.

Somehow the coaching staff also managed to break Nate Allen. Maybe having such a terrible safety partner made him that way but after two solid years he fell apart. The duo of Allen and Coleman was by far the worst in the NFL this season.

Run defense - 2012

Player

Tackles

Assists

Missed Tackles

Stops

Coleman

72

12

15

19

Allen

62

9

13

18

Mikell

84

11

13

39

Mikell attempted more tackles, missed at worst the same number and made twice as many defensive stops.

Pass coverage - 2012

Player

Targets

Receptions

Catch %

Yards

TDs

INTs

PDs

QB rating

Coleman

27

17

63.0

294

2

2

2

93.7

Allen

49

27

55.1

346

4

0

2

104.6

Mikell

47

36

76.6

474

0

0

1

107.9

Not a great year for Mikell in terms of coverage but he did his job and didn't give up the deep ball.

3. Right Guard

Unlike with the secondary, at least the Eagles haven't really had a good right guard in a while. It became obvious after the 2008 season that the team needed an upgrade at the position as Max Jean-Gilles and Nick Cole struggled. It's the end of the 2012 season and there's still a hole. In one of the biggest free agency busts of all time, the Eagles paid Stacy Andrews a boatload to start exactly two games for them. He wasn't a very good player in Cincinnati but the worst part was that he was coming off a major injury which he could easily fail to recover from. The bad Andrews brother managed to give up three sacks and seven hurries in just 174 pass blocks. In contrast Nick Cole allowed just two sacks, three hits and 11 hurries in 606 drop backs that year. The attempt to reconcile his brother also failed abysmally, as it was clear Stacy's presence had no impact. The Eagles had to again rely on the underwhelming Jean-Gilles who struggled with his run blocking throughout the year.

By 2010 both Andrews were out of the picture but the Eagles managed to find an even worse player in Reggie Wells. Wells had been one of the worst guards in the entire league for the Arizona Cardinals in 2009 but that didn't stop the team adding him as competition. For the second year in a row it was Cole and Jean-Gilles who got the majority of snaps at RG but this time Cole looked a shadow of his former decent self, giving up seven sacks, three hits and 17 pressures in just 327 pass blocks. Jean-Gilles did all he could, but he simply doesn't have the talent.

Finally the situation seemed resolved in 2011. The incredibly underrated Evan Mathis had been added and shown his quality in training camp. The Eagles were going to have a dominant offensive line with him, Herremans, Peters, first round pick Danny Watkins and the lone question mark Jason Kelce. Unfortunately things didn't work out as planned and Watkins wasn't even able to win the job. Instead Kyle Devan was brought in to start off the street, with predictably poor results. When Watkins finally did get his chance he was underwhelming, struggling both as a pass protector and run blocker. He gave up 23 hurries a year ago, 11th worst amongst guards, despite playing in just 502 pass snaps. Rookie struggles are to be expected but Watkins is no ordinary rookie working out kinks in his early 20s ...

All that was in the past though and, with an offseason to prepare, everyone expected Watkins to be much improved in 2012. He was worse. The 29 year old second year player gave up a sack, six hits and nine pressures in 286 drop backs. Watkins hurt his foot and the Eagles coaches had the excuse they needed to bench him. In came another street free agent, Jake Scott, to stabilise the position and the Canadian fireman may never see another snap again.

The number of incorrect decisions made with the secondary is really astounding. Ineptitude is the only way to describe it. It was obvious at the time and it's even more obvious now. The only relief for Eagles fans is that whoever was responsible is gone and that the new coaching staff will hopefully bring some semblance of competency. Todd Bowles has to be heavily criticised. Not necessarily for his inability to be even a serviceable defensive coordinator but for the fact that Allen, Coleman, Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie all regressed under his coaching. It's not so easy to criticise the legend that is Howard Mudd but perhaps Juan Castillo's failures on the defensive side aren't so surprising when you notice the struggles he had with the right guard position. At the end of the day it's probably a combination of the coaches and the front office but whoever was responsible for Stacy Andrews and Danny Watkins needs to think long and hard about another profession. I've heard fans say Watkins isn't a lost cause but he'll be 30 mid-way through 2013, and I'm not sure a new coach is going to put up with the growing pains ....

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