Defense Looks Legit

Posted: August 19th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 79 Comments »

The Eagles defense was good last year. It was very good according to analytics and pretty good according to traditional stats. No matter how you slice it, the group played well. The goal in the offseason was to make changes that would help this group get to the next level.

After a couple of preseason games, it looks like the defense could be outstanding this year.

All the talk after Thursday was about Ronald Darby, Mychal Kendricks and Derek Barnett. Those guys were noteworthy. But put on the game tape and you’ll see Fletcher Cox destroying the pocket on multiple plays. You’ll see Rodney McLeod flying around the field and making things happen. You’ll see Brandon Graham exploding into the backfield to blow up a run and then dropping back to cover a TE on a zone blitz. It seemed like everyone made a play or did their part to help a teammate make a play.

The addition of Darby gives this defense to really go up a notch. The defense now has playmakers at each position. Darby doesn’t have to turn into Troy Vincent, but he needs to give the Eagles someone they can have confidence in when facing top flight receivers. Darby showed against the Bills that he has big time speed and very good feet, key traits for a CB.

As with the addition of Alshon Jeffery, there is a ripple effect with the presence of Darby. Jalen Mills remains a starter, but is now the #2 CB. Patrick Robinson can slide inside and play the slot, where he’s had success in the past. Players are now in roles that fit them better. That helps players to play with more confidence and gives them a better chance at doing a good job.

The Eagles look better at each part of the defense.

Derek Barnett, Tim Jernigan and Chris Long make the DL look like it could be a dominant group this year. The returning players know their roles better and the new guys are ideal fits for the scheme.

Mychal Kendricks looks like Year 2 in the scheme is going to bring out the best in him. He’s still not going to play a lot, but he’ll build up confidence based on what he’s done this summer. After seeing his success, the coaches might decide they want to use the base package more than last year or that they mix him into the nickel. Joe Walker looks like he is past his torn ACL. He’s still young and learning, but I’ve been impressed by him. Nate Gerry shows promise. You want backup LBs that can run and hit.

The addition of Corey Graham gives the team better depth at Safety. The coaches can now use Malcolm Jenkins creatively if they want to. Last year they were forced to after Ron Brooks injury and it hurt the whole defense. Terrence Brooks has had a good summer and looks like the #4 Safety. He’s better against the run than in coverage, but has played well.

I already covered the key CBs earlier. Beyond them, you see Rasul Douglas playing better in games. Aaron Grymes just had his best game according to DB coach Cory Undlin. C.J. Smith has been up and down, but that’s okay if you’re the #5/#6 CB.

Jim Schwartz has to be excited by the depth and versatility of the defense. He can feel comfortable with backups on the field. He can get creative with different packages. Schwartz can mix up his coverages more than last year. He can go Cover 2 or single-high Safety or use some zone looks.

The team that has really given the Eagles fits in recent years is the Skins, who the Eagles face in the opener. The defense gets a chance right off the bat to show just what they can do. For now we’ll have to see how they play on Thursday night, when the starters will play more than half the game. I’m expecting another strong performance from the D.


79 Comments on “Defense Looks Legit”

  1. 1 Guy Media said at 8:39 PM on August 19th, 2017:

    Encouraging signs so far for sure.

  2. 2 ColorSgt said at 8:53 PM on August 19th, 2017:

    I like the point about Robinson being able to play the slot instead of outside.

  3. 3 Will Ft. Daft Punk said at 8:59 PM on August 19th, 2017:

    D went from looking like a disaster to a strength really fast

  4. 4 ColorSgt said at 9:00 PM on August 19th, 2017:

    Which is great with an offensive minded coach.

  5. 5 GermanEagle said at 9:08 PM on August 19th, 2017:


    What’s the likelyhood in your opinion, that Mychal will not be traded this year?

  6. 6 ColorSgt said at 9:13 PM on August 19th, 2017:

    I think its becoming more likely that he is traded, the better he plays in preseason. The Eagles just need a reasonable offer for him. Some teams looking to improve the roster prior to the season might be willing to deal.

  7. 7 bobeph said at 9:24 PM on August 19th, 2017:

    was he talking to you?

  8. 8 Flyin said at 11:48 PM on August 19th, 2017:

    An all knowing dbag like yourself should know he was typing not talking.

  9. 9 bobeph said at 3:43 PM on August 20th, 2017:

    I like you

  10. 10 Obama's son said at 9:34 PM on August 26th, 2017:


  11. 11 Mitchell said at 9:27 PM on August 19th, 2017:

    Personally I like a defense to have elite/great talent at every position. I think the Eagles have that with Graham at DE, CoxJernigan at DT, Hicks at LB, Darby at cb, Jenkins at S. Not to mention there are several guys next to them that are no slouches. It really should be a dominant unit, I hope they can live up.

  12. 12 Guy Media said at 9:34 PM on August 19th, 2017:

    I was going to flame you for wanting to recreate the 91 D with elite talent at every position, but you meant position group.

    And I agree.

  13. 13 A_T_G said at 9:37 PM on August 19th, 2017:

    I am not opposed to recreating the ’91 defense.

  14. 14 Flyin said at 11:55 PM on August 19th, 2017:

    As long as tragedy doesn’t strike the following year.

  15. 15 DustyRyder71 said at 3:39 PM on August 20th, 2017:

    Two days after we signed Herschel, too. Man that June sucked.

  16. 16 Ray888 said at 9:29 PM on August 19th, 2017:

    ROWE watching: Did not start tonite against Houston; starters were Gilmore & Butler. First mentioned in 2nd qtr when he’s at RCB. Only notable aspect after watching him for a qtr is that he goes out of his way to avoid contact. His idea of a tackling seems to be touching a receiver on the ground. With this lack of physical play plus backing up Gilmore, it would seem that he’s not going to be used by BB enough to turn the trade into a 3rd round pick.

  17. 17 Guy Media said at 9:33 PM on August 19th, 2017:

    But Rubbin Frank told me Howie was the worst GM ever for trading away Rowe.

  18. 18 Mitchell said at 9:43 PM on August 19th, 2017:

    Why the hell are you rubbing Frank??!?!?!

  19. 19 A Roy said at 10:28 PM on August 19th, 2017:

    My understanding is that he was rubbin franks.

  20. 20 A_T_G said at 9:06 AM on August 20th, 2017:

    Frankly, I’m offended.

  21. 21 or____ said at 9:13 AM on August 20th, 2017:

    Rubbed you the wrong way?

  22. 22 Guy Media said at 8:50 AM on August 20th, 2017:

    Why indeed?

  23. 23 FairOaks said at 11:23 PM on August 19th, 2017:

    Injuries are probably the only way.

  24. 24 Dragon_Eagle said at 9:45 PM on August 19th, 2017:

    But “its just preseason” was the message for not panicking about the offense.

    The offense is not as bad as it looks and the defense is not a good as it looks.

  25. 25 Ark87 said at 12:27 AM on August 20th, 2017:

    I don’t buy the “only preseason” either way. The Defense was really good last year. Unless Nolan Carroll was the key to that, there is no reason to think the defense would be any worse, and lots of reasons to think it will be a lot better.

    And the offense probably won’t be very good. Again. It shouldn’t be outright bad, the O-line should solidify with people playing proper positions, but I don’t think we should expect a running game to magically spring up. Which puts all the pressure on Wentz. Which if he turns into a top 5 QB, isn’t a problem. But reasonable expectations for a second year QB, talented though he is, probably means an up and down season with the offense on his back.

  26. 26 Flyin said at 1:17 AM on August 20th, 2017:

    Shut up with your negativity on offense. Sproles and Smallwood (injuriy) are not playing. OLine is a patch quilt so far. It’s the preseason and means nothing. We got Jeffery. WR is so good… Turner may not even make the practice squad. Wentz’s misfires are protecting his interception rate and perception of opponent defenses.

    With that said… I’ve got my fingers crossed that the O can be half as good as the D.

  27. 27 D3FB said at 11:41 AM on August 20th, 2017:

    We were 11th in rushing yards and 18th in YPA. The running game was actually pretty good last year, especially given the issues with the OL.

    I agree that the backs are underwhelming but once we start scheming, gameplanning, and play sequencing the rushing attack should be able to match last years production.

  28. 28 P_P_K said at 8:08 AM on August 20th, 2017:

    I agree with the “just pre-season” mindset, but I also think we have enough evidence to expect the D to be really strong this year.

  29. 29 HawaiianEagle said at 10:39 AM on August 20th, 2017:

    Speaking of evidence, not sure we have enough to determine if the offense will be strong this year.

  30. 30 Guy Media said at 8:55 AM on August 20th, 2017:

    The D added a player at a premium position with a premium pick in the first round, a talented young corner via trade, and a better scheme fit starter at DT (in the spot of a player who didn’t play all 16 games last year), a better scheme fit DE over a strictly 3-4 OLB, and flushed a few turds down the toilet / off of the roster.

    So I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say that for Schwartz’s scheme
    Barnett > Smith II
    Long > Barwin
    Jernigan > Logan
    Robinson > Carroll
    Darby > McKelvin

  31. 31 Dragon_Eagle said at 1:13 PM on August 20th, 2017:

    Yes, that’s the theory anyway. Jus’ sayin’ that dominating the Buffalo Bills offense in pre-season is nothing to get excited about.

  32. 32 Flyin said at 11:51 PM on August 19th, 2017:

    We hear all this talk about accountability for players… well Cory Undlin is a guy that sends that message well. He’s not afraid to critique players in the open.

  33. 33 Ryan Rambo said at 3:24 AM on August 20th, 2017:

    Pretty cool interview w/ Howie Roseman. Discusses the Joran Matthews trade w/ GMFB crew.

  34. 34 P_P_K said at 8:07 AM on August 20th, 2017:

    This trade could turn out to be the move that makes the Eagles winners this season.

  35. 35 Corry said at 9:18 AM on August 20th, 2017:

    I like the defense a lot and what they’ve shown in the preseason. The line looks very tough to block and has been pretty good at collapsing the pocket on opposing QBs.

    I still think the short pass is going to give us fits, though. As Mayock pointed out a couple times in the 2nd preseason game, Darby has the feet, agility, and speed to stick his foot in the ground and drive on those short passes to break them up/pick them off, but the other guys simply don’t. I also really don’t like Mills and Douglas playing off coverages and should press most of the time (no opinion on Robinson as I didn’t watch him much).

    On the bright side though, while the other corners aren’t as physically gifted as Darby, they do seem tough and like good competitors so while the short passes are completed, I think they’ll be able to make the tackle pretty quickly and force the opposing offense to drive the field.

  36. 36 ColorSgt said at 10:28 AM on August 20th, 2017:

    I’d love if they can win the first game against the skins and set the tone for the season. I always underestimate them because they should be a dumpster fire, but somehow recently have the Eagles number.

  37. 37 DJH said at 11:21 AM on August 20th, 2017:

    Is it true the Eagles are trying out a new uniform with Smallwood this week? Bubble wrap? (I kid, I kid. But the run game seems to depend on him staying healthy!)

  38. 38 or____ said at 11:22 AM on August 20th, 2017:

    I don’t understand why it depends on him. I like him a lot, but we can hang if he misses a few games.

  39. 39 DJH said at 11:25 AM on August 20th, 2017:

    The team doesn’t seem sold on Clement or Pumphrey. Sproles is dynamic but he will be limited. Same with Blount. At this point, I think Smalls is the best all around back on the team. Yikes. Having said that, I’m more optimistic about him than most.

  40. 40 or____ said at 11:29 AM on August 20th, 2017:

    Sounds like drawing conclusions from preseason to me. Blount pessimism seems outright silly to me. Why will Sproles be limited? Why do you think the team isn’t sold on Clement or Pump – what has given you that impression — at all?

  41. 41 DJH said at 11:48 AM on August 20th, 2017:

    Because Sproles always has a limited role. And I suppose they could use Blount as a workhorse back but I don’t see it. And I’m not pessimistic about Blount, I just think team would like to use Smallwood more.

    As for Smalls, Clement, and Pumphrey:

    I’m just going off what the coaches are saying, namely the RB coach. That’s gotta count for something, right?

  42. 42 or____ said at 11:54 AM on August 20th, 2017:

    Suit yourself. I don’t see how Staley favoring Smallwood, complementing him, all that, is any statement about the other backs. And you can have your opinion on Blount, but you might want to refer back to NFL history, 2016 season, SB champion team for some reference. Blount was the workhorse back – lead the league in TDs and rushed well. Meanwhile, he had some smaller, shifty backs mixed in… sound familiar?

  43. 43 DJH said at 12:11 PM on August 20th, 2017:

    You don’t see how the RB coach saying Smallwood was having the best camp out of all the RBs has anything to do with the status of the other backs? Ok.

    From what I can gather, it’s going to come down to Blount or Smallwood getting the majority of touches this year. I don’t think it’s too crazy to suppose the coaches would love to see Smallwood flourish and become the guy.

    If it comes down to him and Blount, and their production is essentially the same, who do you think the coaches would go to? I say Smallwood. Smallwood would be the future, Blount definitely is not.

  44. 44 or____ said at 12:22 PM on August 20th, 2017:

    Plenty of snaps to go around. Different backs.

    Conext. Smallwood is a young developing player. Blount is a proven commodity, seasoned veteran with superbowl rings coming off a td champ season. Training camp means completely different things for them.

  45. 45 A_T_G said at 2:08 PM on August 20th, 2017:

    I am a little concerned about Blount, and have been since we signed him.

    Having confidence that one can get the same results as Belichek is always a risky assumption, and I believe the last time Blount played for a different coach he was cut mid season.

    Plus, he is 30, he had a heavy load last year, and Belichek let him walk. This guy is not a sure thing.

  46. 46 or____ said at 2:11 PM on August 20th, 2017:

    Fair enough. Show me a sure thing and I’ll call bs.

  47. 47 kajomo said at 4:24 PM on August 20th, 2017:

    I’m fairly confident that Smallwood will end up being the best RB in the team this year.

  48. 48 DJH said at 4:45 PM on August 20th, 2017:

    Based on Duce’s comments, I think the team agrees. But 1) can he stay healthy, and 2) even if he does and is the best RB we’ve got, is he the long term answer?

    It’s a legit question because Blount won’t be here next year. If they are happy with Smallwood and he becomes a play maker, that means we can use our limited resources at other positions next year. That would be incredible.

    If Smallwood isn’t the guy, then we’re gonna have to find a RB somehow next year.

  49. 49 Someguy77 said at 2:54 PM on August 20th, 2017:

    Why? Blount signing to me was a guy who would help them in short-yardage situations and in the red zone. Still do think he can help them there and will this year.

    Just isn’t an every down RB and has a lot of wear on the tires.

    The issue is how do they substitute in the other RBs when Blount isn’t doing well and do the Eagles go away from the run to early if it isn’t working.

  50. 50 or____ said at 2:59 PM on August 20th, 2017:

    Same as last year for rmat. But with a potentially better Smallwood, OL, passing game and Pump in place of Barner.

  51. 51 unhinged said at 5:03 PM on August 20th, 2017:

    We may get a view of this guy on Thursday, and there is a decent chance that he will be cut. He looks to be no feature back but a body to spell Smallwood or Blount. Personally, I’d like to see Blount get just enough action to have him angry and salivating in December.

  52. 52 Tumtum said at 4:39 PM on August 20th, 2017:

    Yeah. If he stays healthy we are boned because they won’t cut him.

  53. 53 Someguy77 said at 2:49 PM on August 20th, 2017:

    Been surprised this weekend on Didinger’s outlook on this season. He isn’t usually downbeat but he has the Eagles at ~8 wins this year.

    Been critical a bit of Pederson too. Doesn’t understand why Pederson continues to do things like running Blount on sweeps/outside runs and then defending it by saying they are just evaluating things. His criticism was why do things with a player that you wouldn’t ever do in the regular season. He had a few other examples too.

    Didinger will never come out and say Pederson will get fired this year if this team finishes say 6-10/7-9. Just not his style. Get the sense from the time that Pederson was hired that Didigner thought it was a ‘reach’ hire with Pederson having a lot of growing pains last year.

  54. 54 Anders said at 3:08 PM on August 20th, 2017:

    You Will run a rb like Blount to the outside to keep the defense honest and Blount is actually good on the outside. Go read the breakdown of Blount carries to the outside on bgn

  55. 55 Nick C said at 3:12 PM on August 20th, 2017:

    He won’t be good if Ertz is his edge and gets pushed back 4 yards. While at the same time Kelce is on roller-skates as well.

  56. 56 Anders said at 1:58 AM on August 21st, 2017:

    Neither would jim Brown

  57. 57 Tumtum said at 4:38 PM on August 20th, 2017:

    Some people just never learn…preseason means nothing. If he runs Bount on a jet sweep come week 1, we can all break out the pitchforks. For now I think it is funny people are upset that he is trying weird stuff out. Remember Chip Kelly’s 4 TE set that we were all so excited to see in the regular season?

  58. 58 Greg Richards said at 4:42 PM on August 20th, 2017:

    IMO, Philly fans give Didinger way too much credence. Not talking about this specifically but in general. The guy is a very good writer. He’s very good with historical pieces. As far as actual football evaluation, he’s toward the lower end of the spectrum of Philly media.

  59. 59 Someguy77 said at 5:42 PM on August 20th, 2017:

    I would agree with this to a degree especially when it comes to his draft evaluations especially players the Eagles’ selected.

    His football evaluation in the post-games isn’t bad but he doesn’t seem to do a ton of video replay analysis of game footage either. More of what he sees on game day live with a heavy narrative perspective.

    More surprised about how he speaks abou Pederson. It is more negative than I am used to hearing. Usually is much more of a ‘middle of the road’ type even when the team is really struggling.

    Not someone like Hollis Thomas who is blunt in his criticism of Pederson and continually asserts he is going to be fired unless the Eagles finish better than .500 this year.

  60. 60 Ray888 said at 9:35 PM on August 20th, 2017:

    Interesting observation about not doing a ton of video work as I had the same reaction. This has been most notable since there was a time when no one seem to do more work, have more insights, and find more obscure possible draft choices to consider. No more! Also agree about reporting getting edgier lately.

  61. 61 Guy Media said at 5:44 PM on August 20th, 2017:

    He’s an amazing historian, not anything special as an analyst.

  62. 62 Ray888 said at 9:06 PM on August 20th, 2017:

    There was a time when he was the best writer/analyst covering the Eagles; you always wanted to get Ray’s evaluation & insights before reaching your own view. Sadly, that’s no longer the case and actually hasn’t been for a while. Time moves on.

  63. 63 ChoTime said at 5:12 PM on August 20th, 2017:

    8 is the record for an average team, and a pretty safe pick, statistically. It’s both the mean # of wins, and the mode (the largest # of teams get 8 wins). The 2nd largest # of teams get 7 or 9 wins.

    Together, we can expect around 11 teams will have a record of 7-9 wins–the “middle class.”

    Around 10 teams will have more than 9 wins, and around 10 teams will have less than 9 wins.

    On the other hand… although we only picked up 7 wins last year (a common #), we had a high DVOA rating–4th in the league! Part of this is we played the 2nd hardest schedule.

    Our Pythagorean record (points for vs. points against), was consistent with a 9 win team. FO estimated us as getting 10 wins. Therefore, we got fewer wins than we “should” have last year, and perhaps are currently underrated as a result.

    If the team has improved, then we might expect 10 wins or more. However, our schedule might continue to be very hard this year.

    In short, I agree that 8 wins might be a tad pessimistic. As a fan, I hope Wentz becomes the greatest QB that ever dons Midnight Black, but as a better man, I am not yet sold. If he doesn’t improve, this team’s going nowhere.

  64. 64 DJH said at 4:48 PM on August 20th, 2017:

    What’s more critical this Thursday: to see Wentz and Alshon make 2-3 big plays, or to see Smallwood and the OL looking solid?

  65. 65 ChoTime said at 4:58 PM on August 20th, 2017:

    If the OL gets its $hit together, the plays will come. If Wentz has to pull $hit out of his bag of tricks every play, that’s not a recipe for success and is the mark of a crappy franchise.

  66. 66 or____ said at 5:31 PM on August 20th, 2017:

    Yeah, the later

  67. 67 Tumtum said at 5:51 PM on August 20th, 2017:

    OL and Blount. Some random guy who should be cut doesn’t factor in though.

  68. 68 A_T_G said at 5:53 PM on August 20th, 2017:

    I believe Smallwood is going to be better and more important than Blount this year.

  69. 69 Tumtum said at 10:07 PM on August 20th, 2017:

    I hope you are right and I am wrong. I just personally haven’t seen anything I like from the guy.

  70. 70 DJH said at 5:03 PM on August 20th, 2017:

    “The more information I get about Blount the more I realize he’s not a lock to make the football team” – @caplannfl

  71. 71 ChoTime said at 5:15 PM on August 20th, 2017:

    Interesting. I say Ryan Mathews getting injured was a devastating loss to this team. He was a very good RB, and the other guys are JAGs.

  72. 72 Patrick said at 5:36 PM on August 20th, 2017:

    One thing to keep in mind about Blount, is that this is who he is. This is why he wasn’t that big of a FA and why he got a one year deal worth very little and like 500k in guarantees. Its why he never really succeeded outside of New England and their damn sith lord of a coach.

    It is also worth noting, that this is right around the time he should start figuring out that maybe he actually needs to try and win his job in the NFL. If the alternative is keeping 3 of Byron Marshall, Corey Clement, Donnell Pumphrey and Wendell Smallwood, I’d have to really doubt Blount to an extreme level since he is the only one who actually has done something in the NFL and actually looks like he has NFL talent. Even if the best usage of Blount with us, is a short yardage RB, not a guy who’ll get tons of carries and be the primary guy or top option in a RB by committee.

  73. 73 Tumtum said at 5:50 PM on August 20th, 2017:

    Blount was never meant to be a primary back in the NFL. New England always had multiple other options. Blount just worked/healthed his way to appear to be the lead. He is a committe guy for sure. I still want what he has to offer personally.

  74. 74 A_T_G said at 5:51 PM on August 20th, 2017:

    You know Howie, though. Keeping three of the four isn’t the only option.

  75. 75 ChoTime said at 6:04 PM on August 20th, 2017:

    He was pretty effective in NE, but he can’t generate offense by himself.

  76. 76 Tumtum said at 5:48 PM on August 20th, 2017:

    Problem with Ryan is that we knew it was coming. Blount is a bull and plodder that can bust one now and again. He hasn’t looked great but, he is who he is. We make him work or we don’t. That is on Doug.

  77. 77 ChoTime said at 6:03 PM on August 20th, 2017:

    I wouldn’t say “knew,” but there certainly was good reason to suspect. I take it you’re referring to his injury history before we brought him on board. Swing and a miss.

  78. 78 Tumtum said at 10:05 PM on August 20th, 2017:

    Swing well worth taking.

  79. 79 Obama's son said at 6:36 PM on August 20th, 2017: