Second to None

Posted: November 9th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 104 Comments »

Last year the Cowboys and Giants combined to win 24 games. They had the best secondaries in the NFC East and that played a key part in their success. Dallas lost some key players in free agency and replaced them with younger, cheaper players. The results haven’t been great. The Giants returned their key players, but those guys just aren’t playing as well this season, not to mention there are all kinds of character issues.

The Eagles secondary was all over the place last year, but is playing good football this season. They are a key reason this team is 8-1.

The leader is Malcolm Jenkins. His stats aren’t compelling at all. Jenkins is 2nd on the team in tackles. He has a sack, a TFL and 5 PDs. He doesn’t have any INTs or FFs. Those are not the numbers of a star player. However, put on the game tape and you see just how good he is.

Jenkins best attribute is his versatility. He can play in the slot. He can line up out wide and cover a TE. He can cover a RB out of the backfield. Jenkins is a good blitzer. He’s also comfortable playing in the box and helping to stuff the run. He can do it all and he can do it well.

Rodney McLeod sits back deep. His job is to keep things in front of him and not let receivers get deep. It isn’t the sexiest job in the world, but don’t underestimate his value. By staying deep and covering a lot of ground, the CBs can be aggressive. They know McLeod can help them over the top.

The biggest surprise is Patrick Robinson. He looked terrible this spring and was still struggling in Training Camp. Robinson is a veteran player and he eventually got comfortable with his role in the scheme and he began to play better. Robinson was outstanding in the slot during the preseason. When Ronald Darby got hurt in the opener, I was worried that playing Robinson some on the outside might hurt his game.

That hasn’t been the case at all. Robinson has been good in the slot and outside. I’ve been very impressed with his run defense. Robinson is willing to take on blockers or make tough, physical tackles. He is having arguably the best season of his career. Robinson has 3 INTs, 11 PDs and 3 TFLs and there is still almost half a season to be played.

Jalen Mills took a huge step forward from his rookie season to this year. Last year he was a spirited rookie. This year he’s a good CB. Mills is covering better and he’s more of a playmaker. He didn’t have any picks last year and this season he’s got 3, including the pick-six against SF that blew the game open. Mills has been great against the run. He is tied for 2nd on the team with 34 solo tackles.

Rasul Douglas has been a promising rookie. You can see his ball skills and the value of his size. He can really extend to break up passes on downfield throws. He already has 7 PDs and 2 INTs this season. Douglas is a willing tackler. He will be sloppy at times, but there is no lack of effort or toughness.

Jaylen Watkins has also seen some time on the outside. I’m shocked at how he has become a physical player and hard hitter. I had serious concerns about him coming out of Florida because I didn’t think he tackled well enough for the NFL. Now he’s out there laying the lumber and making runners/receivers pay when they come to his side.

Corey Graham has done a bit of everything, playing CB, S and in the slot. He has become a valuable chess piece for Jim Schwartz to mix into the lineup.

The secondary has had several players take a big step forward this year and play at a higher level. The crazy thing is that the secondary can get even better. Ronald Darby has a good chance to play against Dallas. He is a gifted athlete and very confident player. Putting him on the field would give the Eagles their best combination of size, speed, skill and overall athleticism.

It will be interesting to see what Schwartz does. He could have P-Rob play in the slot and stick with Mills and Darby on the outside.

Sidney Jones…remember him? He could play anytime this season. Or the Eagles could hold him and be cautious. They think he can be a star CB in the future. You don’t rush a guy like that back when the other DBs are playing so well.

Darby will be on the field soon. Jones is more of a 50-50 proposition, at best.

I don’t know what the future holds for all these guys. The Eagles will have some tough decisions to make as to who sticks around and who plays where. These are good problems for a team that had a porous secondary last year. Things have gotten incredibly better in just a few months.

Right now the Eagles have the best secondary in the division and that helps them to sit atop the standings.

_


  • RC5000

    It amazes me just how good and valuable of a signing Patrick Robinson was. I didn’t dislike the signing but my attitude was maybe we’ll get lucky and he’ll be a good slot corner like he was in San Diego one year. I really had no expectations for him when we signed him.

  • BlindChow

    I saw some Colts fans lamenting how well Robinson was playing for us the other day.

    Remember when our bum Free Agents would sign with other teams and suddenly start playing lights out? It’s nice to finally be on the other side of that for a change…

    • Stephen E.

      Especially Chung. He didn’t even look like an NFL player here.

    • ChoTime

      Special season, bro. This is the year. Swoop down, Eagles!

  • Masked Man

    When we signed Pat Robinson, I looked at his 2010 NFL dot com scouting reports. He was drafted #32 in the 1st round that year and was a highly rated guy. He had a glowing scouting report.

    It’s amazing how the right or wrong team, coaching situation and other factors can bring out the best in a player or not. He’s been up and down in his career to this point.

    But he really shines in the Schwartz defense with Undlin coaching him. His experience is invaluable. And when he’s confident in a defense that is well coordinated, look how he can contribute.

    He’s been a bright spot. Hope he stays a few years and makes a home here in Philly. Cool to have him with the Eagles doing great stuff.

    • Geoff

      Barring injuries, this is exactly why 1st round picks who don’t pan out are given so many chances… everyone knows the talent is there and each new team/coaching staff hopes to be the one to capitalize on it. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t (ex. RG3). So far it looks like the Eagles got lucky for a change!

      • ColorSgt

        Look at Ags this year. I was discouraged last year when Doug forced the ball to him and he still couldn’t produce. But this year he’s turned it all around in the slot.

        • BlindChow

          Hmmm. Robinson…Agholor… Next time a player struggles, we should just stick him in the slot. It’s like magic!

          • D3FB

            Chance Warmack, still trash in the slot.

      • Masked Man

        Can’t have success with all those. But the Eagles talk about the in depth scouting approach they have. So far, it’s all working!

    • A_T_G

      So you are saying he is like getting (…wait for it…) another first round pick?

      • Masked Man

        Egg-Zackly! Lol.

  • Guy Media

    The growth of these guys this year has been fun. The only really bad game they played was vs. the Giants and that was due to a skeleton crew playing at safety. They’ll need to keep drafting guys at the safety position, but the CB group should be lethal for a long (nfl – long) time…………and Darby / Jones aren’t even playing yet.

    • A_T_G

      So you don’t subscribe to my Jenkins -> Mills, McLeod -> Douglas line of succession theory? With Jones and Darby, they will still be a cheap, smothering secondary that will allow DC Undlin be as creative as he likes with the blitzes as we work towards our third Lombardi.

      • D3FB

        Mills yes, Douglas no

  • Geoff

    This massive first half success has me worried that it will be fleeting. Can the offense and defense really play this well for the rest of the season with so many key injuries and new personnel? Even the 2004 eagles were never so hyped up on a national level like this team has been and – with the possible exception of TO’s injury – I don’t recall them facing this much adversity.

    • kajomo

      What they are doing is so consistent that it must now be considered their norm. We aren’t the Chiefs who started red hot and have faltered. If anything i feel we get stronger each week despitbthe injuries.

      And you are wrong about 2004. That was the musthyped eagles team I can ever remember both locally and nationally. That was a fun season due to the certainty we all had that we were going to the Super Bowl. This team is way more fun though.

    • Howie Littlefinger

      Todd freaking Pinkston was a #2 receiver that filled in for TO. That is plenty adversity lol

      • Stephen E.

        Actually, Freddie “thanks to my hands for being so great” Mitchell was TO’s backup. He did OK in the playoffs except for the MIN game where he fumbled into the pylon for a touchback.

        • Howie Littlefinger

          Actually (LOL Really?) Pinks ton became the #1 WR. Mitchell did play more but you just further reinforced my actual point: it was true Adversity

          Not like this season where everything has been on easy street

          • ChoTime

            Half of McNabb’s tenure was WR adversity. It was really only one good season with TO, too.

          • Geoff

            I have to agree with ChoTime, losing TO was essentially just going back to the same WRs they’d used to reach the championship round each of the previous three season; not sure that fits the criteria for major adversity.

          • Howie Littlefinger

            that whole era was adversity. i’m not the biggest #5 defender but those were trash wide outs

        • Geoff

          He kinda made up for that with the catch of LJ Smtih’s fumble into the end zone against MIN in the playoffs though

    • ChoTime

      Sometimes things just click. If the offensive success is because Wentz is just that damn good, yes it’s sustainable. Statistically, the defense has fallen off quite a bit from last year in terms of DVOA (an advanced stat). One could interpret that as winning even if you’re not having some kind of freakish, unusual performance.

      Look for the 3rd down performances to cool down, that’s not sustainable. It’s okay, though, you don’t have to win by 20 points every game 🙂

    • FairOaks

      2004 team was plenty hyped. It just wasn’t a surprise — they had played in the NFC championship game three straight seasons prior, and McNabb was a recognized star. Then they added TO and Kearse. You knew it was not a mirage; they had a track record and were good. They started 13-1 and most games were not close (including the loss).

      There was not as much adversity — one thing I like about big wins is players can make small business decisions and not fight tooth and nail to their last ability for every yard all the time. But, there was some. That team did have the TO injury (not an issue for the regular season, though that laid the seeds for the drama the next year). Buckhalter was out all year. They also lost Shawn Andrews for the year in the first game; he may have made a significant difference. We lost Jon Ritchie early in the season as well. They also lost Chad Lewis for the SB. Derrick Burgess was oft-injured, though he made an impact in the playoffs and was signed away after the year, the best part of his career coming in Oakland.

      • Geoff

        I actually went back and looked at espn’s power rankings that year; never were the Eagles ranked #1 and certainly not for multiple weeks. That’s what I mean by hype.

        Who was it that they signed out of retirement right before the SB to play TE?

        I’ll be honest that I don’t remember the Buckhalter, Ritchie, and Andrews (was that the good one or the brother?) injuries… I more remember Westbrook being a force

        • FairOaks

          There were other dominant teams that year — Patriots were defending champions, and once we lost to Pittsburgh (that one loss) they were ranked above us the rest of the year. We were the best NFC team all year. Even this year, most people think the Eagles are just the best of a not-so-great bunch… they really don’t have the track record of being a dominant team, but there are no dominant teams to rank higher.

          LJ Smith was the backup TE in his second year; he got the start when Lewis went down. Lewis was a really big loss, actually — did a lot of small things well, and was a great blocker. Mike Bartrum was the long snapper and 3rd TE; I don’t recall if we signed someone to back up or not.

          Jon Ritchie was another tough loss — we had Josh Parry and Thomas Tapeh as backups and they were not great. I think it wasn’t until Leonard Weaver several years later that we had a really good fullback again. That didn’t end well either (and then the fullback went out of style).

          That was the good Andrews, in his rookie year. He had looked outstanding all preseason, and in the first game. But he got injured for the year in that first game. We went all year with Artis Hicks as a starter after that, which was mostly OK, but when coupled with Hank Fraley at center was a bit of an issue in the SB. Andrews came back the next year and was terrific until his other issues caught up with him.

          Buckhalter had been part of the three-headed monster the year before (featured even more once Westbrook missed the playoffs in 2003), but badly hurt his knee in the 2004 preseason and didn’t play again until 2006. So yes, 2004 became Westbrook’s breakout year as the feature back.

  • ColorSgt

    A few reasons for great secondary play.
    Great run defense. Forcing the opponent to pass makes it a lot easier to play D when you know what’s coming. Credit the secondary for the run D. I’ve never seen a seconday fly around like this and look to hit runners.
    Great D-line play.
    Second year in the system.
    Jenkins doesn’t have to play in the slot.
    Offense is rolling. TOP is controlled, unlike under Kelly.
    Holding a lead all game also forces opponent to pass.

    All this adds up to some dominating defense.

  • Mitchell

    You could say the secondary is pretty… Pretty….. Pretty good.

  • GermanEagle

    Malcolm Jenkins is due a pick sick against the Cowboys on SNF.

    • Ryan Rambo

      How bout 2??

      • Bert’s Bells

        And a safety, yes. Dropping whoever’s filling in for Zeke at a loss of 4 in the endzone.

        • Stephen E.

          I’ve pretty much assumed that Jerry Jones will do whatever is necessary to get the suspension pushed back indefinitely.

    • EagleOne1983

      Rasul is the one that has dropped two of those Pic-6 balls this year. He’s bound to snap one and take it to the house soon.

  • A_T_G

    I don’t think the secondary is the primary reason for our success, but it is certainly more than just tertiary.

    • P_P_K

      Well played.

  • A_T_G

    From the article and the comments, there is a common thread through all of it. Surprise FA guys exceeding expectations, homegrown guys that have progressed in leaps and bounds, wily veterans used in creative ways, next man up actually filling the void, willing and enthusiastic tacklers, guys playing better when they get here and worse when they leave…

    Coaching. This is what really good coaching looks like, in the position group and at the higher levels coordinating those groups. This is a well run team.

  • SteveH

    The amount of guys who are playing way above expectations is amazing. Agholor, Robinson, Mills, Kendricks, Wizniewski, Curry… As great as it is that our star guys like Wentz and Cox and Graham and Johnson are playing well, it’s the unexpected successes that are turning this team into a well rounded machine.

  • SteveH

    Also, Howie Roseman is the GOAT. Manuvering up to get Wentz without crippling the organization in the process is one of the great GM gambits of all time.

    • Insomniac

      Howie > Hinkie but only by a little (for now).

      • RobNE

        nope, you went too far

        • Insomniac

          dem fighting words.

  • tag1555

    The defense really flows through Cox, Hicks, and Jenkins. But, we’re more talented this year and have been able to withstand losing Cox for a couple of weeks and Hicks for the rest of the season; Kendricks playing lights-out so far has been a big help.

    I think most of us were gritting our teeth when Darby went down. There wasn’t much from what we saw in the preseason that gave indications that the DBs would step up the way they have. DB coach Cory Undlin really deserves a lot of credit for getting Robinson/Douglas/Mills to up their game in the wake of Darby’s injury. I really like what Douglas has shown as far as translating his ball-hawk INT skills from NCAA to the NFL, the timing has just been a little off or he’d have a couple more interceptions.

    I’m sure Jones will be disappointed, but the smart play clearly seems to be to IR him and see what we have in him in camp next year. There’s not an urgent need with how the secondary is playing to date.

    • dandynator

      yea kendricks is def playing lights out. just more experience in the system and I think the fact hes playing with hicks and bradham is helping him, their greatness overflowing. just the way hicks sees the field and bradham being a straight up dawg. that has to awaken the LB in him cuz he always had all the tools.

  • SteveH

    I don’t want to just beat the Cowboys, I want to crush them. A win is a win, but I really want a beatdown, something like 35-14 or so.

    • Bert’s Bells

      AND HEAR THE LAMENTATION OF THEIR WOMEN

      • ACViking

        many, many upvotes

      • Stephen E.

        Crom will be pleased.

      • P_P_K

        Including the ones wearing helmets.

      • DustyRyder71

        This is what is best in life.

  • unhinged

    Is it too early to start counting the ways I hate the Cowboys? You know, in 2016 they lost their first game, and then ran off a string of 11 consecutive wins. They finished 13-3, were the #1 seed in the post-season, had a first-round bye, hosted their first game, AND LOST IT!!!
    Those turds haven’t forgotten their season of pretense, and they will lose this Sunday, looking ahead to hosting an upstart Eagles squad. I hope that Rod Marinelli has fear in his heart when he reviews the Denver film. Blitz at your peril. Play man and turn your back on 11, dare ya. Get your guys ready for college antics (RPO), and BOOM…Ajayi finds a crease. How sweet will it be to keep their stud RB under 100 yards? (Assuming a judge allows him to play) How awesome to see our run totals exceed theirs?
    In the first meeting of the two rookie QB’s last season the Cowturds did not win! The Eagles beat themselves!!! THAT iS NOT GOING TO HAPPEN this year. The Texas frauds shall be exposed.

  • EaglesHero87

    Right now the Eagles have the best secondary in the division and that helps them to sit atop the standings.

    Seriously, who would have thought anyone, let alone our famous Tommy Lawlor, would say this? I know we don’t exactly have the best secondary in the league, but you have to wonder how our opposing teams feel knowing that they can’t run against us and are forced to throw to our “bend-but-don’t-break” defense. I’m looking forward to Darby’s return!

    • Bert’s Bells

      Coming into this year, Jenkins and McLeod were roundly considered one of the top safety tandems in the NFL. Getting decent from corners with them in place, it only stands to reason the whole secondary is going to look good.

  • Eagles4life

    I need a flashback 44-7 destruction of cowgirls with Jenkins playing like Dawkins from that game!

    • Someguy77

      I’d be more than happy with a routine win and no serious injuries.

    • sonofdman

      44-6

  • CrackSammich

    I’m not going to praise the secondary too much. They’ve gotten their job done, but they’re benefiting significantly from the guys playing in front of them.

    • sonofdman

      Friends, Philadelphians, countrymen, lend me your ears; I come to bury the secondary not to praise it…

    • Julescat

      not to mention that sustained offensive drives keeps them off the field and rested

    • ChoTime

      They’re doing about all you can ask relatively untalented CBs to do, riding the same wave as the rest of the team. Or maybe they’ve improved and are legitimately competent. Time will tell…

    • Someguy77

      Exactly although the one guy I would praise is Robinson. Arguably been the best budget FA signing this year so far.

      The reports on him early in camp were pretty negative and it sounded like there was some concern he might even make the Opening Day roster.

    • A Roy

      I prefer to look at it as “teamwork.”

    • Will Ft. The Roots

      You probably dont find many top secondaries without a good to great pass rush.

  • unhinged

    Do you have a Premier League team that you rot for?

    • GermanEagle

      Eagles.

      • unhinged

        Crystal Palace of Selhurst Park?

  • Sean E

    I love Mills!

  • sonofdman

    Ezekiel Elliot suspension back on!

    • Fufina

      And it should stay on now. Unless they can somehow persuade the supreme court to hear a stay, while case is still ongoing (not happening lol), or they try and persuade the 2nd circuit to hear the stay with a full enbanc… which is about a likely as an Australian white Christmas.

      • Dave

        …although, they did get snow on Christmas in 2010.

  • Tdoteaglefan

    Zeke suspension back on…def not playing this week at least

    • Julescat

      it’s on until it’s off and then until it’s on again

      • Sean E

        Hopefully it’s on for 2 weeks, then off again, then on starting week 17

    • Eric Carranza

      Set to miss at least 4 games before they can do anything

  • RobNE

    BAM Jernigan just signed an extension.

  • Crus57

    If we do get a London game next year I am buying you a beer mate.

  • GermanEagle

    Even in the bye week the Eagles are killing it! *TJ

  • A_T_G

    Make sure no one accuses you of a liberty.

  • Ark87

    The secondary has played well above expectations given the early loss of Darby. The weakest position elevating it’s performance has been one of the big differences between being a good team and being a great team.

    That being said, they haven’t exactly had to shut down a murderers row of WR/QB combos. And they’ve had the help of an incredible defensive line. If there were a performance bubble to pop, it would be that of the corners. Darby’s return can’t be overstated going into the toughest portion of the schedule. Him bolstering the defense should ensure there won’t be a drop-off against tougher offenses.

    Highly confident going forward. Very happy that all of these guys got time and held up pretty well. Put as many WR’s on the field as you want, these guys can all play.

  • laeagle

    Jerrah threatening to sue the league if he doesn’t get his way on Goodell. This coming after he was part of the unanimous decision to extend Goodell, but of course after Goodell suspended Zeke.

    I hope it blows up in his wretched, ghoulish face.

    If the man who hired and paid Greg Hardy sticks up for Zeke, I’m not sure who I should believe…

    • RobNE

      I’m not sure who to root for.

      • laeagle

        Well, it’s always against Dallas, that makes it easy.

        Not that I support Goodell and his arbitrary manner of handling league discipline, either.

        But one owner, particular an asshole like Jones, thinking he can sue the league if he doesn’t get everyone to do what he wants, is ridiculous.

        At least when Al Davis sued the league back in the day, it’s because he wanted to do his own things his own way. He wasn’t telling the rest of the league that they had to obey him.

        • Bert’s Bells

          Al Davis farted out more for the NFL and football in general than Jerruh Jones could ever dream.

      • Ark87

        In a world that doesn’t make much sense anymore, there is only one constant. An anchor onto which reality is tethered. The foundation of existence itself:

        Fuck
        Dallas

        • P_P_K

          My man.

      • A_T_G

        ALWAYS root against Dallas.

        • TomATL

          A-L-W-A-Y-S. And in all ways.

        • Insomniac

          but what if they’re playing Dallas

      • unhinged

        If you see Goodell as an autonomous actor in the NFL saga, I think you’re taking a poor perspective. He has no power but what is conferred by a majority of the owners. So a I think a more appropriate perspective would see Jones threatening to sue those of his fellow owners who wish to keep Goodell under contract. No doubt he has tried to glad hand and persuade those he can enlist in a conversation, but if he was succeeding in that effort he wouldn’t be threatening to sue. So in conclusion, Jerry Jones (once again) is spitting in the eye of consensus, which until he came along, was the standard practice of the NFL owners. This, if it plays out in the courts, will mark Jones as the Al Davis of today’s NFL.

    • Dave

      I’m confident if any Eagles player was accused and suspended for a similar domestic abuse allegation as Zeke, Jeff Lurie would admonish the player and only allow them to remain on the roster if they exhibited remorse and were willing to perform some sort of community outreach on the matter.

  • A_T_G
    • BlindChow

      Checked out the stats of this “Chris Wormley” (if that IS his real name). He has exactly 5 tackles in 5 games played (3 of which were losses). Douglas has 18 tackles and 2 INTS in 9 games (plus has 9 passes defensed). I’d say this was a blow-out.

      [Incidentally, as I looked up the passes defensed stat… All three of our corners are in the top 5 (!). Robinson is #1 with 11, Mills is #3 with 10, and Douglas is #5 with 9. Remember when our corners never even bothered to look back for a pass during a game…?]

  • HokiEagle07

    Just imagine a future Dime set with Darby, Mills, Jones, Douglas, McLeod, Jenkins, Hicks, Cox, Barnett, Curry, Graham. This team has such versatility going forward.