This week’s Detailed Game Review is half done. Here is the defense for your viewing pleasure while I work on the offense.
The defense made great strides in a week. There were a variety of reasons, but the biggest one is that the players had a game under their belt and the coaches had game tape to use to teach them. Trent Cole can learn better by watching Trent Cole than he can Kevin Greene or some other former Bill Davis OLB.
The coaches did a lot of teaching this week at practice. The players responded by playing smarter and more aggressively. There were fewer mental mistakes, missed tackles and “what the heck was that” moments. This isn’t quite Gang Green Pt 2, but the defense is at least headed in the right direction. There were no Keystone Cops moments (like the LeGarrette Blount run from last week).
It was good to see the starters play a full half. We got to see them in different situations. It also gave them time to get loose. Trent Cole was better in the 2nd Qtr than he was in the 1st. Every snap is a learning experience for some of these guys as they adjust to the new scheme. The more they play, the better they should look.
* On 3rd/20 we ran 3-3-5. Cox-Thornton-Cole up front. Barwin, Ryans, Kendricks at LB. They all covered on the play. Just rushed 3. Need All-22 before any idea of what coverage really wast.
* #2 DL came in the game on the 3rd drive (late 1st Qtr). Geather – Logan – Square.
* CAR ran a play-action pass to open the 2nd Qtr. The TE and WR criss-crossed downfield. Nate Allen and Bradley Fletcher communicated well and made a clean switch. Nate pointed to Brad about who to take and each guy then went with the correct receiver. Huge step forward to see the players on the same page and communicating in the middle of a play like that.
* CAR had a sustained drive in the 2nd Qtr. At one point Davis replaced the DL and OLBs. Interesting move.
* There was a lot of Cover 3. This is one deep Safety and 2 deep CBs. The goal is to keep receivers from getting behind the DBs. This means giving up underneath catches and is one reason Cary Williams gave up a few. The strategy worked as CAR could drive into the Red Zone, but not score TDs. The Panthers longest pass play was 23 yards and they mostly moved the ball in small chunks.
COX - Better than last week. Chased Cam on the 2nd play of the game, after Ced had flushed him. Fletch showed his great speed on the play. Got good pressure on early 3rd down. Kendricks flushed Cam and Cox chased him out wide, almost getting a sack. Rare speed for a 300-pound DE. Got good pressure on 1st/10 pass by driving the LG right back into Cam’s face. More active, more disruptive.
SOPOAGA - NT. Did a solid job on screen. Stuck with his blocker and moved toward the ball. Took away the cutback lane. Got no pressure on pass to open the 2nd drive, but battled 3 different OL so there is no question of effort. Isn’t getting much push at all in the pass game. Hasn’t done anything bad, but he’s off to an underwhelming start.
THORNTON - Good game. Broke through on first play to get late pressure on Cam. On the next play, Ced drove the RT back to Cam and Ced lunged for him, then fell to the ground. That flushed Cam and led to an incompletion. Got pressure on early screen pass. Wasn’t gift pressure either. Screen was going away from him. Ced used his hands to get by the RT and into Cam’s face. Was unblocked on early run. Slammed the RB down for easy TFL. Impressive job on 3rd/20. Was NT in Dime. Drove the C backward. RB tried to chip Ced, but did nothing. Then hit the RG. Then went back to the C. Cam started to run and Ced took off chasing him. Power, speed and hustle.
GEATHERS - Played LDE at first. Shed block and tackled runner on his first play. Did give up 4 yds. Missed tackle of RB on inside run. Just threw the TE down on that play and was there for the stop, but couldn’t do it. Got a pretty good bull rush on the RG on 2nd Qtr pass play. Was able to generate initial movement, but couldn’t keep the guy going. Shed a block, chase the RB and made the tackle on a run play late in the half. Looked sorta athletic. Isn’t as physically dominant as I hoped. Plays smaller than he is. I’m pretty sure his hero is Dwight Freeney.
LOGAN - Got driven off the ball 5 yds on his first play, which was at NT. Not good. LG tried to block him on next play, a pass. Logan got by him and hit Cam. Attacked upfield on next inside run. Fell down and ball went away from him. Shed the block of the LG and stuffed an inside run for minimal gain late in the 1st half. Batted down pass late in the half. Quick hands. Got some push on pass play in the early 3rd when Boykin almost picked off the QB in the RZ.
SQUARE - RDE at first. Got off block and helped with tackle of RB on first play. Got blown 5 yds off the ball by double team on run play. There is nothing the least bit flashy about him, but Square gets off blocks and finds the football. Still slow off the ball at times and isn’t athletic, but smart, skilled and he uses his hands well. Doesn’t make mental mistakes.
CURRY - Came into the game late in the 1st half as part of Nickel. #3 RDE. Shed block in early 3rd and stuffed RB for a TFL. Fired upfield to go for another TFL, this time in the mid-3rd. Didn’t make the play. Not sure how coaches will feel about him shooting upfield like that instead of playing his gaps. Just destroyed the RG from RDT in the Nickel and forced an incomplete pass on 3rd down. Quick and used his hands well. Fired upfield to disrupt a late 3rd Qtr run. Vinny wasn’t over the OT so him shooting the gap may have been part of the play design.
KING - Played LDE in the early 3rd. Got sealed inside on first play and RB had open lane to attack. Used his hands to get off block of LG in Nickel D vs pass. Played RDE late. Did okay, but failed to stand out at all. Project.
DIXON - Came in at NT in the early 3rd. Got little to no push on pass plays. Looked slow. Didn’t stand out vs the run. Played late in the game as well. Bad sign when a former starter like Dixon is on vs 4th stringers and fails to stand out. I’m hoping he was just rusty after missing a couple of weeks of practice. Next week is critical for him.
KRUGER - Played LDE starting in the late 3rd. Got put on the ground on first play. Doesn’t have the strength to battle double teams very well. Got some pressure on the next play, which was a screen pass. Showed good speed. Athletic project, but isn’t physical enough and is still a bit raw in terms of skills.
WALKER - 4th string NT. Used his hands well to engage OL. Big guy. Also played some DE. Showed good hustle.
REMINGTON - 4th string RDE. Played some DT in the Nickel. Good effort, but limited push on pass plays. Played some NT as well.
COLE - Getting better. Dropped into coverage on first play. Buzzed to his area. Focused on player in front of him. Saw ball go over his head so Trent jumped and tried to get a hand on it. Solid job. Looked a bit spastic, but did his job on that play. Got some pressure on an early screen pass, but they wanted him coming upfield since pass went right to where Trent was. Eagles must have had a “game” on vs a run play. Cox went wide and Cole headed to the inside. Trent didn’t see the RB running his way until too late and missed the tackle. Still isn’t seeing the field the way he should. Best early pass rush came from DE in Dime set. Good burst, but LT still rode him wide. Best moment in the game was 3rd/4 in early 2nd Qtr. Was stand up rusher in the Nickel. Ran into the LT and drove him straight back to Cam, forcing quick throw. That stopped a drive. Lined up in the slot on a 2nd Qtr drive. Then rushed at the snap. Destroyed the TE that tried to block him. Cam got rid of the ball before Trent could hit him. CAR ran at him on the next play. Trent stood up the TE and shed the block, but couldn’t contain Deangelo Williams. Trent did tackle him 5 yds upfield. Called for neutral zone infraction in the 2nd Qtr. On the next play Trent stuffed a FB and tackled the RB for minimal gain on a play coming right at him. CAR tried to run outside of him in mid-2nd Qtr. Cole engage the blocker and moved laterally, forcing the RB to stay to the inside.
BARWIN - Good in coverage. Many early plays went away from his side. Lined up as LDE in Nickel and got good rush off the edge, but then used spin move to the inside and let Cam get wide of him. Can’t give up the edge to a mobile QB. Shed a block and tackled RB on cutback run to his side. Hasn’t stood out as a pass rusher, but is very good vs run and in coverage.
GRAHAM - Came into the game in the late 2nd Qtr. First play was a run to his side. Graham engaged the blocker and moved him back a step, but then flowed wide to keep contain. RB cut back inside where pursuit got him. Played DE/OLB in the Nickel late in the half. Tackled RB on a draw play. Showed good awareness on that. Drew a holding call late in the half when he rushed from LDE and cleanly beat the RT. Made nice play vs run in the early 3rd. Engaged the TE, shed him and crashed to the inside to get RB on inside run. Used a great dip move to get by the RT and pressure QB on pass play in the early 3rd. Almost led to pick. Hustles in pursuit. Looked okay covering TE over the middle on short route, but the ball went elsewhere. Had an excellent TFL in the late 3rd Qtr. Fired into the TE and then shed him and shot into the backfield for the stuff. Beautiful play. Opened the 4th Qtr by flying off the edge and flushing the QB. Led to bad throw & TFL. We know he can rush the passer. Played pretty good run defense. Still adjusting to being a OLB.
MCCOY - ROLB. Crashed to the inside and helped stop a run for minimal gain late in the 1st half. Continued to show speed and quickness as a pass rusher. Pursued well on a pass play where Cam rolled away from him. Drove the LT right back to the QB on 3rd down pass play in the mid-3rd. Good power. Flew into the backfield on screen pass where he was unblocked. Don’t think they anticipated him getting there so quickly. Love his size and athleticism. Looks like NFL OLB.
LONG - Played LOLB in the 4th Qtr. Stuffed FB on run play that came at him. Looped inside on passing play and flushed QB to Brown for a sack. You can tell Long has played LB in a 3-4. Smart player, even though he’s a rookie. Just not dynamic off the edge. Project.
BROWN - Played some RDE/OLB late. Had a gift sack. QB was flushed right to him.
KENDRICKS - Good game. Side-stepped a blocker on a screen pass and was able to get in on the tackle. Blitzed on early 3rd down. Got by the RB and dove for Cam. Didn’t get him, but affected the play and kept Cam from being able to get off a good throw. Over-pursued on inside run and didn’t cover his gap. Made a good tackle of Cam in space on a play where he had started to run upfield. Cam got about 5 yds. Kendricks kept outside leverage, which is exactly what you want. If you miss, send the runner back to the middle where there is more help. Kendricks also stayed low and was in good tackling position. Good when covering RBs and TEs. Got a TFL in the early 2nd Qtr when he read an inside run and just fired into the backfield to make the stop. Good burst, vision. Strong tackle. Came free up the middle on a delayed blitz and got the best shot of the night on Cam. Clean, but hard.
RYANS - Sorta quiet game. Good in coverage. Ryans is in the right spot. He’ll take away WR on shallow cross or drop 20 yds downfield and take away the seam. Doesn’t stand out until you watch the tape. Helped stuff a cutback run on the opening drive. Helped tackle RB on inside run to open the 3rd series. Stuffed the FB on an iso play and forced the RB to cutback.
CHANEY - So disappointing. Played ILB in 3rd Qtr. First play was a run to his side. Got blocked and RB went for 15 yds right through that area. Made a nice play vs screen pass in the late 3rd. Got in RB’s hip pocket and made the tackle right after catch. TFL. Good tackle. Played late in the game against fringe guys and failed to stand out. Struggled to get off blocks. Wasn’t instinctive. Needs to play WLB on a 4-3 team.
MATTHEWS - DNP.
ACHO - The Eagles 3rd best ILB and I’m not sure it is close. Came into the game in the mid-3rd. Made tackle on run play away from him on first snap. Moved laterally. Stayed back. Then made a good tackle. There was a run play in the late 3rd Qtr where Acho made the read and stepped up to make the tackle. As he was taking the RB down, Chaney was 2 yds behind him…I assume still trying to read the play. Yikes. Bit on run fake on 3rd/shot and left the FB open in the flat. FB caught pass and got the 1st down. Acho chased him down and made the tackle. Used spin move to get off block and make tackle on inside run. Had good coverage of TE on short route, but couldn’t make tackle. Gave up extra 5 yds. Does a solid job in coverage. Nothing special in terms of athleticism, but looks like a polished LB.
KNOTT - Came into the game late in the 1st half as part of the Nickel. Played in base in 3rd Qtr. On first play, tried to run around blocker and took himself out of the play. Must engage and shed. Had another 3rd Qtr run where he moved around the OL instead of taking him on. This will get him sent to the practice squad. Can’t do that. Got thrown to the ground by OL on inside run. On plays where he is kept clean, Knott gets to the ball and makes things happen. Really struggles with OL right now. Lots of potential if he can become more physical with blockers.
ALLEN - Started. Came down into the box on the 2nd play and stuck right with the TE, which helped to force Cam to throw the ball away. There was a blown coverage on the 3rd play. Was either Nate or Bradley Fletcher. I think Fletcher, but that’s just a guess. Nate hustled to the sideline to force the WR out of bounds. Had excellent man coverage of the TE on early 3rd down. Took him out of the play. Steve Smith was unable to grab a high pass to open the 2nd series. Nate was there to deliver a big hit if he did. Would have been good to see if Nate was able to do that or if he pulled up or missed. Nate did have the hardest hit by a DB last week, but he hasn’t had many in his career. Need to know if that’s changed or not. Tackled RB on inside run where he got to the 2nd level. Nate wrapped and got him down, but it wasn’t a forceful tackle. Was in the backfield and ready to get a TFL, but Kendricks beat him to the RB. Nate timed the play perfectly. Would have been good to know if he could have made that stop. Got a hit on RB on inside run, but didn’t wrap up. I think the coaches will grade Nate pretty high since he didn’t make mistakes, but we still didn’t get questions answered about his ability to hit/tackle.
CHUNG - Good game. Came up into the box and made the tackle on a screen pass that came his way. Helped Ryans stuff a run right by the LOS on the opening drive. Had downfield coverage of Ginn on early 3rd down. You could see Chung’s athletic limitations. Didn’t have the speed to stick close, but did his best. Pressure on the play kept Cam from having time to get the ball downfield. Came up quickly to tackle WR on catch over the middle. Tackled the RB right at the LOS on inside run at end of 1st Qtr. We used 8-man front and Chung was unblocked. Did a good job of playing in traffic and then making a strong tackle. Had tight coverage of a WR on a play where Cam was forced to scramble. Was used to cover the TE man-to-man at times. Did a good job. Was ready to light up Steve Smith after a catch, but Smith short-armed the ball and Chung pulled up as he saw it fall away.
WOLFF - Played in the 3rd. Helped Boykin tackle WR after catch to his side. Not afraid to come up and play the run. Took on FB aggressively in mid-3rd to help bottle up a run play. Showed okay range as he tried to help a CB with a WR on a deep ball. Came down in the box on a run play in the early 4th. Hit the FB and spun off him. Couldn’t tackle the RB, but slowed him so others got the TFL. Very impressive. I trust Earl as a run defender. Still trying to figure out how well he covers. Definitely behind Nate for starting job.
COLEMAN - Played in the 3rd. Played some in the slot. Made a good hustle tackle in the late 3rd after WR caught pass downfield. With new emphasis on size, Kurt needs to stand out more than he has. Needs to do something to make the coaches keep him.
SIMS - Played late.
ANDERSON - Had his best hit of the game came when he popped DL Daryell Walker late in the game.
PHILLIPS - DNP.
FLETCHER - So far, the Eagles best CB. Good coverage on 2nd play of the game. Stayed close to the WR and forced Cam to throw the ball away. There was a blown coverage on the next play. I think Fletcher was at fault, but could have been Nate. Hard to say without knowing the scheme better. Fletcher was all over Greg Olsen on 2nd Qtr pass play, but Cam still got the ball in there. Tackled him immediately. Beaten by Smith on slant pass on 3rd/5 play. Fletcher got there 1/2 second after the ball. Not shy about supporting the run. Will get in traffic and try to get a shot on RBs. Had tight coverage of Smith on RZ pass play and the ball was thrown away.
WILLIAMS - Gave up completion to Smith on first play, but we were in Cover 3 zone and Cary did his job. Got body-slammed by Steve Smith on a run play. Wow. Smith made him look like a rag doll. Shocked me that Cary didn’t get up and go nuts. Kelly’s comments about playing with discipline must be working. Williams stuck with WR LaFell on 3rd down crossing route. Cam couldn’t get the ball in there. Gave up short completion to Smith and then Smith fought upfield to the the 1st down. Made a great play on 3rd/4. CAR ran short route over the middle. Cary knew they were throwing short due to down/distance and the route being run. Broke on the ball and knocked it away, without hitting the WR. That stopped a drive and forced CAR to kick a FG. Great anticipation, body control and ball skills on the play. Made an awkward, but effective tackle of Williams on run play that came to his side. Gave up a 15-yd pass to Smith on 3rd/6. Played off and was beaten easily. Made a shoulder-tackle of Williams on run to his side. Doesn’t seem to prefer wrapping up.
HUGHES - Played RCB in the 3rd. Called for strange penalty. Hughes moved early and that led the WR to move early. Very odd. WR got behind him on the next snap, but the ball was off-target and fell incomplete. Played press-bail coverage in late 3rd and gave up easy completion. Seemed slow to get there and touch the WR down. Gave up catch/run in the late 3rd. Played off and WR ran deep cross. Brandon didn’t close quickly and never even got in on the tackle. Not fluid in his backpedal. Poor COD. No closing speed. Good press coverage in early 4th, but WR got some separation and caught pass to move the chains. Not a good game.
BOYKIN - Had a chance to pick off a throw on 3rd/20 play downfield. Ball was too high for WR. Boykin went up and got his hands on it, but couldn’t make the grab. Not an easy pick, but you’d like to see him make plays like that. Had a good night in the slot, especially when pressing receivers. Able to stick right with them. Made a good tackle of Smith after short catch where Fletcher was the cover guy. Moved outside in the 3rd Qtr. Gave up completion for about 10, but then forced the WR out immediately. Got beaten again on the next play, but had tight coverage. QB just got the ball by him to the WR. Had excellent coverage on RZ pass play in the early 3rd. Was in excellent position to make the pick, but couldn’t hold onto the ball. That is a critical play. Must make those. The next pass play came right back his way. Boykin pressed and was all over the WR. Ball was incomplete.
MARSH - Injured on STs. Never played D.
POYER - Played the slot late in the 1st half. And in the 2nd half. Beaten to the flat by a WR on short route. The ball was off-target, but Poyer was a step late in getting out there. A good throw would have moved the chains. Poyer isn’t fast so he has to anticipate well and be one step ahead mentally. Got TFL in early 4th Q. WR made diving catch on errant throw and Poyer dove on him. Made good tackle of TE after he got away from Acho on short pass play. Played slot and outside in the 4th. Looked more comfortable. Maybe he’s starting to adjust to NFL speed.
WHITLEY - Good game. Played LCB in the early 4th. Had outstanding coverage on WR on deep ball. Played it inside out and used the sideline to pin the WR to a small area. Ball was incomplete. Came up quickly in run support and made a good tackle of RB near the LOS. Had very tight coverage of WR on play where QB was sacked. Had nowhere to go with the ball. Had good coverage of WR on 3rd/3 pass late in the game. Pass was overthrown. Has good feet and looks like instinctive cover guy. Good size. Hope to see him vs better players next week.