Eagles Starting to Play Good Defense

Posted: December 19th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 59 Comments »

Early in the year the defense was a complete mess.  At one point, the run defense was 30th in the league.  Just a couple of weeks back the Red Zone defense was dead last.  And the overall unit was 32nd in the FO DOVA rankings back in September.

Take a look at the numbers from the last 2 games:

Points – 29
Yards – 445
Sacks – 13
Takeaways – 7
RZ defense – 3 for 8
3rd downs – 6 for 28
Rushing – 53-203 (no TDs)

The defense is starting to come together.  We’ve seen flashes (WAS, DAL), but I think this is the best the group has played all year.  You might argue that Matt Moore and Mark Sanchez aren’t Brees & Rodgers.  That’s fair.  Still, Moore (8 TDs, 1 INT) and Sanchez (7 TDs, 1 INT) were on hot streaks when we played them.  Those guys were forced into rough outings by good Eagles defense.  And they had skill players around them Bush, Marshall & Plax, Santonio, Keller, LT, Greene.

The overall rankings for the defense:

10th in yards
10th in passing
17th in rushing
19th in scoring
1st in sacks
15th in takeaways
30th in Red Zone (64.3%)
14th in yards per play (5.4)
19th in yards per carry (4.3)
25th in opp. QB rating (88.4)

Some good, some bad, and some still pretty ugly. The RZ defense is improving. We’re holding teams under 50% in the last 3 games. That’s encouraging.

The thing I’m happiest about isn’t the numbers, but rather the vibe.  Our players are playing with confidence.  They are flying around the field.  Our guys are passing the eyeball test.  They look like a good defense.

STs mistakes (both by Curtis Marsh) led to turnovers deep in our own territory in the last 2 games.  There was no panic.  The defense got the ball right back in each game.  RZ takeaways seemed like a fantasy idea (like Unicorns, El Dorado, or the Fountain of Youth) for most of the season.  Sure, we knew they might exist, but our defense thought they were just theoretically possible and not realistic.  Now we’ve had consecutive games with them.

Castillo has figured out how to use all of his players in order to get maximum productivity.  Look at what the LBs did yesterday:  8 solo tackles, 1 TFL, 1 PD, 1 INT.  And the Jets:  16 solo tackles, 1 sack, , 1 TFL, 1 INT.  The Jets had David Harris, Calvin Pace, and Bart Scott on the field.  We can’t compete with them player for player and name for name.  But our LB corps of Brian Rolle, Akeem Jordan, Jamar Chaney, Casey Matthews, and Akeem Jordan as a group can function well.  And our LBs out-played the Jets yesterday.

DRC is finally settling into things and looks worlds different.  This is the guy we saw at Lehigh, who is incredibly gifted.  It took him a while to get comfortable, but something is clicking.  He’s now looked good in his last 3 games.

Kurt Coleman was the best Safety on the field yesterday.  He covered, blitzed, and tackled well.  Nate Allen also had a good game.

Up front, the line is playing terrific.  Castillo is letting them get creative and the players love that.  They are stunting and looping from some different alignments.  Jason Babin is deadly as a speed rusher from LDE, but we’re also finding out that he’s pretty good when he loops inside as a stand-up rusher.  He, Jim Washburn, and Castillo are definitely in sync right now.  And it is great to see a guy like Phillip Hunt coming along.  He’s now got 2 sacks in 2 weeks.  That is one less than Jerome McDougle had in his 37-game career.  Hunt may never be a starter in this league, but he can be a good situational rusher.  He’s not getting lucky sacks.  He’s getting into the backfield and being disruptive on multiple plays.

Life is good for the Eagles defense right now, but Saturday’s game at Dallas is going to be the biggest challenge of the year.  Struggle in Big D and the defense goes right back to getting ripped by fans and the media.

It is great to see the defense playing better, but they haven’t done enough to earn our trust to this point.  Make us believe.  Go on the road against a winning team and shut down a red hot QB who has a lot of weapons to work with.  That might just make believers of us all.

* * * * *

Couple of numbers from Reuben Frank:

First five games, Eagles allowed 352 yards and 26.4 points per game. Last nine games, they’ve allowed 314 yards and 19.9 points per game.

Eagles allowed 5.0 yards per carry, 140 rush yards per game 1st 5 weeks. Since then, 98 per game and 3.9 per carry.

59 Comments on “Eagles Starting to Play Good Defense”

  1. 1 Anonymous said at 12:57 PM on December 19th, 2011:

    I watched and made some casual observation of Brandon yesterday evening. He looked better inside using power than outside using speed, he is still some way off. I hope he comes alive next year.

    I love the way this D is playing at the moment, but I am somewhat strengthened as I did not and have not watched the ‘Hawks game.

    Off topic, what magic did Crennel muster yesterday?

  2. 2 Anonymous said at 1:12 PM on December 19th, 2011:

    Brandon won’t be back to his old self until next summer. He must get in great shape. He must actively train and practice with the team to get in good football shape. He’s in neither at this point.

    The Seattle game was ugly. Spare yourself.

    Crennel got a great game from Tamba Hali (3 sacks, 2 QB hits). GB lost 2 or 3 OTs to injury. They struggled with protection and Rodgers is mortal. Without a clean pocket, he’s not Superman. GB also had some crucial dropped passes. Plus, Greg Jennings missed the game w/ his knee injury.

  3. 3 Anders Jensen said at 1:28 PM on December 19th, 2011:

    Tommy, if the defense plays like this in the last 2 games, what is your opinion on bringing back JC as DC? I really hope the defense keeps this up and if they do, Im all for bringing back JC (even tho I still believe he should scale back the use of zone with NA and DRC as CBs)

  4. 4 Anonymous said at 1:42 PM on December 19th, 2011:

    Depending on how well the D plays, Juan might get to come back. We have to be careful on how to judge. You don’t want to overrate a hot streak late in the year. You also don’t want to ignore that and fire the guy when the worst games came early in the year and the unit did improve.

    I’m a big fan of judging the whole body of work and being able to put things in context. The biggest game of the year will be Saturday. How does the D handle that pressure situation? Dallas has seen us already. No surprises. We whipped them earlier so they’ll be very motivated to win. If we can shut down Romo and come up with a win, that would be huge in Juan’s bid to keep his job.

  5. 5 Anonymous said at 3:35 PM on December 19th, 2011:

    It’s great to see the team win some games and for the defense to be playing much better football, but I am terrified of the idea that we go 8-8 or however we do, miss the playoffs, and the coaches and FO come back and say, “we played great down the stretch. I don’t think we need to make any changes.” Playing well at the end of the season is good, but if you don’t put yourself in a good position earlier in the season, those mistakes can’t be ignored. Regardless of how this season ends, they need to go back and look at the beginning of the season and figure out what they were doing wrong. Why did they came out so sloppy and unprepared? Maybe AR’s method is too methodical and too patient and they need to make the adjustment there, but the failures earlier in the season can’t be ignored simply because the end of the season was more successful.

  6. 6 Anonymous said at 5:06 PM on December 19th, 2011:

    Trust me…”we don’t need to make any changes” will not be the mindset at NovaCare. Big Red might say that type thing at a year end PC, but it isn’t what’s really going on and being talked about. We need some help at a few places. Those discussions are already being had by the personnel guys.

  7. 7 Anonymous said at 5:18 PM on December 19th, 2011:

    I’m hoping, ala McNabb, the Eagles announce on Easter who will be the DC next year. Making an announcement as to whether JC will return or if his era is over would be fitting on Easter.

  8. 8 Anonymous said at 8:49 PM on December 19th, 2011:


  9. 9 Anonymous said at 2:44 PM on December 19th, 2011:

    I would love to keep Juan on staff, but barring a deep run into the playoffs, I still think a Vet DC needs to come in and work with Juan to fine tune things. As Tommy mentioned before, we need someone who can make in game adjustments better than Juan can. Someone who has been around a long time and knows OC tendacies on other teams. I think if the Eagles lean heavy on LB’s and another stud WR, this team could be special.

  10. 10 Anonymous said at 3:05 PM on December 19th, 2011:

    I thought Tim Tebow had the market cornered on JC.

  11. 11 Anonymous said at 5:05 PM on December 19th, 2011:

    That he does.

  12. 12 Anonymous said at 9:15 PM on December 19th, 2011:

    I’ll be Castilloing for the miracles it will take to get us into the playoffs.

  13. 13 Anonymous said at 1:40 PM on December 19th, 2011:

    As hard as it would be for the Eagles to make the playoff..its still not the daunting task of the 2008?? season. Come on Jets and then come on Giants in week 17!!

  14. 14 Anders Jensen said at 2:10 PM on December 19th, 2011:

    2008 was a crazy ending in the last week.

  15. 15 Anonymous said at 6:14 PM on December 19th, 2011:

    I remember getting in the shower and the Raiders were losing and I got out and they had beaten the Texans and the Bears were about to beat the Bucs and I was going apeshit … all for the chance to beat the Cowboys and get in.

    I fear though we might have used up all our luckysauce that year.

  16. 16 Anonymous said at 9:56 PM on December 19th, 2011:

    Raiders beat Bucs, Texans beat Bears. That is probably what you meant. What a great day!

  17. 17 Anonymous said at 2:34 PM on December 19th, 2011:

    Quick thought on the recent success of the D: Moving target.

    If Juan has thrown out the kitchen sink to try different things then opposing OC’s essentially have useless tape to work off of. In other words, to what extent are teams facing an Eagles’ D they couldn’t have prepared for, and how much does that play a factor in the recent improvement?

    I’m not suggesting the D hasn’t improved at all on its’ own, but certainly changing the scheme every week has to benefit us in confusing other teams.

    On that note, I wonder if we use the same game-plan that worked against the Cowboys earlier this year, or trot out what seems to be working now…

  18. 18 Anonymous said at 4:36 PM on December 19th, 2011:

    That’s a fair point. Although, the gameplan wasn’t significantly different this week than last. The Jets had a chance to see our stuff and it still worked.

    And I do think that 90% of what we do is pretty basic. Guys like Babin, Cole, Jenkins, Asomugha, and Samuel are so good at what they do that we don’t need tricks for them to have success. We mix in different things to make it harder to deal with them.

  19. 19 barry mccusker said at 3:14 PM on December 19th, 2011:


    Where did these new blitz packages the last two games from ? Babin and cole as stand up rushers, very interesting !!

  20. 20 Anonymous said at 3:38 PM on December 19th, 2011:

    It’s the “Double Joker” defense.

  21. 21 Eric Weaver said at 4:20 PM on December 19th, 2011:

    Just don’t have those guys drop back in coverage or JC may get the McDermott treatment.

  22. 22 Thorin McGee said at 5:00 PM on December 19th, 2011:

    We saw that too.

  23. 23 Anonymous said at 10:49 PM on December 19th, 2011:

    Got to have the right matchups.
    Cole on Keller is a huge mismatch.
    A healthy Graham on Ballard might be workable.

  24. 24 Anonymous said at 5:20 PM on December 19th, 2011:

    I believe they refer to it as double penetration.

  25. 25 Anonymous said at 3:34 PM on December 19th, 2011:


    I haven’t gone back to look, but were there any other QBs available after the CBA/lockout shenanigans ended besides VY who would have been a better fit for this offense?

  26. 26 Scott Buchanan said at 3:41 PM on December 19th, 2011:

    If we coulda had a legit Dc from day 1…Oh well Spags is on the way

  27. 27 Anonymous said at 6:12 PM on December 19th, 2011:

    Yeah he is.

  28. 28 Anonymous said at 4:12 PM on December 19th, 2011:

    Happy to see better play from our defense, but I’m going to reserve judgment. I don’t think you can overlook the fact that we just played the 21st and 25th ranked offenses. As much as I’d like to overlook that fact, the numerous horrible games we’ve seen can’t be wiped out by good play against 2 below average offenses.

  29. 29 Anonymous said at 4:42 PM on December 19th, 2011:

    True…but as I wrote in the post, you have to judge them in context. Miami was hot on offense when we faced them. Same for the Jets. NY struggled mightily when Nick Mangold was out. Different offense now. Miami struggled early on with poor QB play. Matt Moore has gotten worlds better.

    Think from an opponents perspective. How different were we vs ARZ than yesterday? Cards fans think of the crappy Eagles. Jets fans think of a juggernaut.

    I agree that we can’t make too much of the defense until we can judge the whole season, but we need to make sure and judge it fairly and not just based on generic numbers. Shutting down the Bills right now is no big deal. They were red hot when we faced them. You must take things like that into account to get a good feel for the true situation.

  30. 30 Anonymous said at 11:07 PM on December 19th, 2011:

    I hear what you’re saying about context. My point is that when I wrestled in college if I wrestled 5 average guys in a row and looked like a world beater it wouldn’t mean much, if I then wrestled 2 guys ranked in the top 10 and got put over there kneed and spanked.

    Let’s put Moore’s 8 TDs and 1 INT into context. In those games they played ONE defense ranked better than 15th and that was Dallas. He threw for 1 TD in that game. This was 2 games before us.

    Moore had two games of 3 TD each against KC & Buffalo. KC was ranked 16th and Buffalo ranked 26th. The game with 1 INT was against the Redskins at the time ranked 12th (the highest of these games) and he threw for 200 yds 0 TDs and an INT. Also, the game before us was the Raiders, ranked 27th, and he threw for 162 yds with 1TD & 0 INT. That’s not exactly hot coming to play us.

    Let’s look at Jets. Their 5 games before us they played one defense ranked better than 15th. That was the Skins & Sanchez had 165 yds, 1 TD & 0 INT. His biggest games was against the 26th ranked billed and he had 180 yds and 4 TDs. The other 3 games were New England, Denver & KC. NE is 32nd and he was 306 yds 1 TD & 2 INTs. Denver is 22nd. You can say they’ve played better w/Tebow and that’s fine bc Sanchez had 252 yds with a 0 TD & 1 INT. The game before us was KC ranked 16th and he had 181 yds, 2 TDs and 0 INTs. I live in NY and any fan here will tell you that the Jets have been highly inconsistent on offense.

    So context here tells me that Sanchez and Moore’s last 5 games before us were against some pretty average defenses and to say they were “hot” is a huge stretch. So my original point is that we’ve looked good against 2 less than average offenses that have had some good games, but struggled for much of the season, which is why they’re ranked 21st and 25th and are both very likely to miss the playoffs (Dolphins are already out). I’m glad to see us playing better, but let’s tap those breaks very firmly.

  31. 31 Anonymous said at 4:20 PM on December 19th, 2011:

    Any chance the NFL flexes the Jets vs. Giants game up to 4:15? I’d rather see the Eagles play without knowing weather or not the Giants won. I would think seeing the Giants win or lose before their game against Dallas would really affect their game either way.

  32. 32 Anonymous said at 4:37 PM on December 19th, 2011:

    I was thinking of this as well and if the NFL is not stupid they will change it.

  33. 33 Anonymous said at 4:44 PM on December 19th, 2011:

    No. Per Jimmy at BloggingThebEast.com, because of fans making holiday plans, the NFL isn’t allowing games to be shifted.

  34. 34 Anonymous said at 5:24 PM on December 19th, 2011:

    Does the NFL seriously think that people form their holiday and weekend plans around watching a football game?

  35. 35 Sam Lynch said at 6:24 PM on December 19th, 2011:

    Those attending do … right?

  36. 36 Anonymous said at 5:33 PM on December 19th, 2011:

    Holidays?! My family canceled Festivus this year, and all I wanna see is a beat down on the Cowpies. Regardless of playoff elimination.

  37. 37 Corry Henry said at 4:52 PM on December 19th, 2011:

    I have to give Castillo his due and recognize the fact that the defense has looked very good the past two weeks. I’m not sure it’s enough to save his job, and in my opinion, it is not. However, that might change depending on how the next two games play out.

    I do wonder if firing Castillo is still the smart move. The D looks like they’re finally starting to “get it.” Will we improve by starting over again next year? I know we’ll still be running a 1 gap, 4-3 scheme, but a new DC is going to bring his own terminology, his own plays etc. Would it be better to give Castillo another year for the players to settle into the scheme? I ask because for some of our younger players (Nate Allen, Coleman, Graham, Dixon, Chaney, etc.), this would be their third DC in three years (or two for two for this year’s rookies). That can’t be good for their development. I guess a lot depends on the final two games, but I am starting to waver on my opinion.

    As of today, I’m still for firing or demoting Castillo. He’s been overmatched all season long and two games of good defense over sketchy offenses isn’t enough to convince me yet. Shut down the Cowboys and dominate the Redskins and maybe I’ll flip flop.

  38. 38 Anonymous said at 5:41 PM on December 19th, 2011:

    This post caused me to read up on El Dorado.

    Also, how does this improve the odds of Castillo keeping his job? What if they finish 8-8 as opposed to 6-10, with four good games at the end of the year? Playoffs or not?

  39. 39 Anonymous said at 6:15 PM on December 19th, 2011:

    Nevermind. Answered above.

  40. 40 Anonymous said at 5:42 PM on December 19th, 2011:

    hey tommy, totally off topic here, but i wanted to get your thoughts on this play from the carolina game. pretty crazy to watch. worth a laugh.


  41. 41 Anonymous said at 7:55 PM on December 19th, 2011:

    What’s your take on players criticizing JC (subtly, but still) and news about Samuel and Nnamdi coaching him up with play calling etc. and being public about it as well? Surely coaches should have more authority over their players…

  42. 42 Anonymous said at 10:24 PM on December 19th, 2011:

    I’ll cover that in a post.

  43. 43 Jason A Hines said at 8:59 PM on December 19th, 2011:

    Someone mentioned this in the previous post, but I wanted to bring it up again –

    Considering that the Eagles will know whether they will be eliminated before their game begins, what do people think about the Eagles potential sitting Vick, McCoy, Jackson, etc.?

  44. 44 Furt said at 9:53 PM on December 19th, 2011:

    Absolutely not! Yes they will know Saturday, but not while they are practicing this week.

  45. 45 Anonymous said at 10:01 PM on December 19th, 2011:


  46. 46 Jason A Hines said at 11:01 PM on December 19th, 2011:

    You would do it to avoid injury to one of the major pieces for next year. Wouldn’t we all be upset if Vick or McCoy or Maclin got a year long injury in a now meaningless 15th game.

  47. 47 Anonymous said at 10:26 PM on December 19th, 2011:

    If the veterans spend the week practicing, I think you must play them.

    The final game could be a different story. Even then, guys may trying to meet certain personal goals and/or incentive clauses. Sitting starters is awkward.

  48. 48 Mac said at 9:51 AM on December 20th, 2011:

    Starting sitters is also awkward.

  49. 49 Anonymous said at 10:21 PM on December 19th, 2011:

    I know I’m nitpicking here, but I’m a bit displeased with our place-kicking situation. In Sunday’s game, sometime in the 2nd half (can’t remember the exact time) we had a 4th and a few on the 33 yard line. Instead of choosing to kick the fg, AR choose to punt. I was okay with that given the score and the outcome (ball downed near the 5yrd line). However, I’m wondering – does AR and the coaching staff have any confidence in Henry? If I’m not mistaken he was a 4th round draft pick and it’s not all that common that kickers are taken that early in the draft. I thought he was supposed to be an upgrade – or at least solid replacement. I look at Akers leading the league in points, yet we have a guy who we can’t even trust to kick a 49-50 yard field goal. What’s the deal? Is it simply a confidence issue or does he simply have a weaker leg?

  50. 50 Jason A Hines said at 11:44 PM on December 19th, 2011:

    I checked the drive chart from yesterday I think you’re talking about the drive that ended with a 4th and 20 on the Jets 36 yard line, making that a 53 yd FGA. Does that change your analysis any? I wouldn’t have complete confidence in any kicker When you’re up by that much I don’t think you give them great field position where you could potentially give them a spark. Now if the Eagles were down and did that I would wonder, but not here.

  51. 51 Anonymous said at 10:47 PM on December 19th, 2011:

    Frank stole my stuff from the Blog on the EMB.
    I pointed this out a week ago, the first five weeks, Juan was overmatched and nothing was clicking.
    Since the Redskins game, that’s a 9 game stretch folks, this has been a top 10 defense.
    Now there have been ups and downs, but look at the Ravens v the Chargers, even top defenses have off games.

    Note the change came when they benched Page.
    And most of the bad games have been the games when the safeties struggled.
    The improvement in tackling by the safeties has almost eliminated the runs over 10 yards.

    They need to make changes next year, but if they continued to play well, you have to concede that not only has Juan grown up, but he’s combining JJ’s blitz packages with the wide 9 to create a unique hybrid defense. Wide 9 defenses in the past combined the scheme with a zone shell, Eagles with DRC can go press and blitz or send four and drop into zone – that makes it much harder to read. Same with shifting linemen before the snap, covering different gaps, but that requires LBs to shift and know their gap responsibilities.

    You can see where a full offseason tweaking this defense, upgrading LB, getting the young players more experience, adding some veteran depth at a couple spots, and some draft picks for development, could pay big dividends.

  52. 52 Steve H said at 2:29 AM on December 20th, 2011:

    haha, really funny video for those who haven’t seen it yet:


  53. 53 Anonymous said at 7:19 AM on December 20th, 2011:

    Tommy, is this article for real?


    Nnambi appears to think carefully b4 he talks, but what type of a TEAM player that wants to win the biggest game of the year would undermined his coach and try to hurt the team in the process? What benefit is this for the team, coaches and organization for him to say this whether true, false or in between right now. All I can think of is maybe Juan mentioned to Nnambi that it would be nice if he did what he’s being paid to do instead of giving up TD’s the past couple games as well as PI calls. I was thinking last week that we should trade Nnambi with our 1st rd pick to move up & get RG3 or Barkley due to his perceived value around the league. Now I definitely think we should for the sake of the TEAM.

    What he decided to talk about doesn’t help the Eagles beat Dallas; just hurts the TEAMS chances. Maybe he should prepare 4 the game instead of talking…….

  54. 54 Anonymous said at 9:47 AM on December 20th, 2011:

    The same Nnamdi quotes appear in stories on philly.com today. The slant of the article you link to is harsher on Juan than what philly.com has, but either way the quotes are authentic and appear to paint a picture of a in-over-his-head Juan Castillo at the start of this season.

    Not really surprising to all of us following the team this year. Just interesting to hear it out of the players’ mouths. Especially a smart player like Nnamdi.

  55. 55 Anonymous said at 10:36 AM on December 20th, 2011:

    The phillysportsreport article also includes this line from Asomugha:
    “Obviously we’re going to keep talking to him, because this is his first year, so you’ve got to keep talking to him, but he’s doing a good job, he’s getting it on his own.”

    and concludes with this:
    “Either way, what was once easy enough to see and recognize has now been put out in the open: Juan Castillo had a learning curve and is just now, 15 weeks into the season, beginning to fully gain the confidence of his players as their defensive coordinator.”

    It doesn’t sound to me like Asomugha is throwing him under the bus. It is part of a team for the players to work with the coaches, particularly the veterans. Perhaps they are quotes that would have been better off delivered in the off-season. But really, who expected Castillo to be a veteran DC from Day One anyway?

  56. 56 Anonymous said at 11:24 AM on December 20th, 2011:

    Yeah, I don’t think Nnamdi was throwing Juan under the bus by any means. But to me he was providing troubling confirmation of Juan’s early-season ineptitude. It’s not a surprise, but it’s the first time we’ve heard a player talking about specific problems — the back 7 confusion in particular.

    I don’t think anyone was expecting Castillo to be “a veteran DC” from Day one, but Reid’s picking him meant that the team was expecting basic competence from the get-go. If they weren’t, if they knew it would take Juan half a season or more to figure things out, and they made that decision anyway…to me, that’s completely unacceptable. In a season we’re getting all-time performances from guys like Shady McCoy, Jason Peters and Jason Babin, hiring someone to learn defensive coordinating on the job was incredibly irresponsible.

    It’s why I think it’s time to take the keys away from Andy.

  57. 57 Anonymous said at 2:49 PM on December 20th, 2011:

    In a season we’re getting all-time performances from guys like Shady McCoy, Jason Peters and Jason Babin, hiring someone to learn defensive coordinating on the job was incredibly irresponsible.

    Agree with that.

  58. 58 Anonymous said at 10:04 AM on December 20th, 2011:

    Until we play a top 10 offense (Dallas), I’m reserving judgment. Miami was missing their startnig QB + top 2 defensive tackles. The Jets were moving the ball very well before Holmes’ 2 turnovers led to 14 points by the Eagles. If the offense doesn’t score, NYJ continue “Ground and Pound”.

    San Francisco has a great defense. This is, at best, an average defense that is only great if we can consistently get pressure with our front 4.

  59. 59 9 random thought on the NFC East – Blogging the bEast said at 10:07 AM on December 23rd, 2011:

    […] 6. The Eagles defense is starting to play well. […]