Defense is Movin’ On Up

Posted: November 4th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 23 Comments »

No game preview today since we don’t play til Monday night.  I’ll post it Monday AM.  I’m sure all you guys feel the same way, but waiting til Monday is gonna drive me nuts.  I wish we played tonight.

* * * * *

So let’s talk about the defense.  Here are some numbers:

Yards – 11th
Rush – 19th
Pass – 10th
Points – tied 14th (Jets)

3rd Down % – 7th
Opp QB Rating – 20th
Yards Per Carry – 30th
Sacks – tied for 6th (didn’t factor in bye weeks)
Yards Per Play – 21st

FO’s DVOA rankings – 18th

We are seeing some definite signs of improvement. 11th overall and 14th in scoring are solid numbers. Last year we were 12th in yards and 23rd in scoring.

The huge area of concern was Red Zone defense. We are 31st. In the last 3 games we’re tied for 13th in the league. We have had consecutive games where teams got into the RZ and didn’t score a point. This is a very good sign. That didn’t happen for a long time prior to the WAS game.

Here are some interesting numbers from a recent Paul Domowitch column:

There still is a lot of the season to be played, but for the moment, Castillo’s unit appears to have stabilized. The Eagles have given up just 20 points in their last two games, marking the first time they’ve held back-to-back opponents to less than 14 points since 2008, and the first time they’ve done it in back-to-back wins since ’04.

In the last 25 opponent possessions dating back to the second half of their Week 5 loss to Buffalo, the defense has given up just 23 points, held opposing quarterbacks to a 50.6 passer rating and allowed just 4.2 yards per carry after allowing 5.3 per carry in the first 54 possessions.

There is still plenty of uncertainty.  People are going to have doubts about this defense until they have strung together several good games in a row.  2 1/2 is a start, but we need a bigger sample size to really buy in totally.

Big plays remain an issue.  The yards per carry and yards per play numbers need to come down.  Teams aren’t sustaining drives and scoring right now, but they are still gashing the defense at times.

People can talk about Juan Castillo making adjustments all they want, but I really believe that the biggest key is getting guys to relax and play.  There were no major shifts in the 2nd half of the Buffalo game.  Something just clicked.  The defense finally played with a sense of urgency.  It also helped that Nate Allen played well and Kurt Coleman got on the field.

Poor tackling has plagued this team more than anything.  That led to multiple big plays and TDs in the first 5 games.  Allen and Coleman have made a huge improvement in that area.  The defense is also doing a better job of swarming to the ball so that if one guy misses, someone is there to clean up.  The NFL is full of great skill players.  Guys are going to get beat.  That’s where gang tackling and team defense make such a difference.

I think stability at LB has also helped the defense.  Brian Rolle has started the last 4 games at WLB.  Jamar Chaney has started at MLB for 5 games now.  Moise Fokou has been the SAM also for 5 games.  This isn’t a good unit, but there is something to be said for letting the same 3 guys get out there and play.  Juan had to do some tweaking early on as he searched for the right combination.  He’s got a group that can be functional so the smart thing is to let them play.

Jamar Chaney has improved at MLB. I think he’s getting comfortable playing back in the middle and in the new scheme. His confidence should be sky high after doing well vs Jason Witten last week. Jamar is also more of a leader out there now. Any defense is going to be at its best when a LB can be the leader, technically and emotionally. He needs to get players in the right spots. He also needs to be a stabilizing force.

Another key that has been somewhat overlooked is getting the DEs healthy.  Jim Washburn’s scheme is predicated on maximum effort.  He needs 4 bodies to rotate in and out.  Juqua Parker, Darryl Tapp, and Trent Cole all missed time.  That had a major impact.  The guys are all back now and that bodes well going forward.

The DTs also have been more of a factor in recent games.  I’m not sure why this is, but Mike Patterson has played well.  Cullen Jenkins has been good all year long.  I joke a lot about Derek Landri, but he did bring a spark to the lineup.  And Trevor Laws has played his best football of the year in the last few weeks.  He got his first sack of the season on Sunday night.

Nnamdi is starting to look like the guy we all got so excited about.  He was okay for the first few weeks, but looked a bit lost as they tried to do different things with him.  Nnamdi has had really impressive tackles in consecutive games.  He’s already got 2 picks this year.  He helped to slow down Jason Witten on Sunday.

And I have to give Asante Samuel credit.  He bought into whatever Juan was selling.  Asante played press coverage and tackled reasonably well last week.  When he does those things, he is a big help at LCB.

As for Castillo…he remains a very complicated subject.  I give the guy credit for getting things headed in the right direction.  The man will never fail due to lack of effort.

There is no reason to re-hash the “why’d we hire him” stuff right now.  He’s here.  And he is getting better.  The defense is playing better.  Also, his press conferences no longer have me cringing in fear.  That may not sound important, but I think it is in a way.  Doesn’t mean he can or can’t coach, but it is sure easier to buy into him as legit when he’s able to have a reasonable PC.  Early on it was torturous to listen to his bizarre answers.

Juan has dug himself out of “must go” territory and is now firmly in the “we’ll see” area.  He’s got 9 weeks left to show what he and the defense can do.  Things are headed in the right direction, but some serious tests await.

CHI – scored 31 on us last year…great RB, talented QB

NYG – lit us up the past 2 games

NE – that Brady dude doesn’t suck

NYJ – limited offense, but great in the RZ

DAL – they’ll be hungry for revenge

When facing teams like ARZ, SEA, MIA, and WAS the challenge will be to shut them down.  Part of being a good coach is getting your players to be consistent and handling those teams that they’re better than.

23 Comments on “Defense is Movin’ On Up”

  1. 1 Anonymous said at 4:15 PM on November 4th, 2011:

    I was curious if you could say something about the adjustments that have been made to the wide 9. I know you and Kapadia have tried to stress that adjustments to the scheme/wide 9 had little to do with the changes/new success, but at the same time, you have acknowledged that the DEs have been moved a little inside from what we previously were doing with the wide 9 on running downs. I think you are probably right that the success we have had has been more to do with better tackling/buying into the scheme/more experience with the scheme rather than the scheme itself, but it seems to me that the coaches obviously either have a better feel for the wide 9 and how to use it or have actually made an adjustment to it to something slightly more effective.

    I guess my question really is, does moving the DEs in the yard or so that they moved in help the LBers in any way in terms of angles/space? Does it help the DTs by bunching things up a little more and making it harder to have a clean 2 Dlineman vs. 3 Olineman matchup? Does it limit the holes inside for the RBs? I guess to me, it seems that the coaches are doing something different however minor, so I am curious how/what those changes actually affected.

  2. 2 Anonymous said at 4:18 PM on November 4th, 2011:

    Tommy do you know approximately what round SLB Cole will be drafted because I don’t think Fokou will ever be that good at covering TE’s. It’s to bad they didn’t start Chaney in the preseason and TC at MLB he’d probably be playing at this level week 1 and would only improve. I like Rolle a lot at WLB, against the run and the pass, do you think he could handle Matt Forte with a little help?

    Do you think they will extend the contracts for DRC and McCoy soon? Maybe sign Mathis and Landri too(since it’s hard to tell how long Dixon will take to get better).

    Hopefully they draft BPA like in ’09 in the first 2 rounds. The more they reach it seems like the players never work out(this yr they haven’t even played Jarrett who was supposed to go btwn the 3rd & 6th rd). If the 2nd rounder was any good maybe the Cowboys wouldn’t have gotten that TD since he was drafted to immediately take over for KC.

  3. 3 Morton said at 4:42 PM on November 4th, 2011:

    Why should they prioritize drafting Devon Still in the first round?

    – He looks like an impact player at a position which rarely sees impact players emerge (DT). Finding a DT who is big enough (6’5″ 310lbs+) to command double teams in the running game and simultaneously quick enough to disrupt the pocket in the passing game is like finding the White Whale. The best pass pressure is interior pressure because it doesn’t allow the QB to step up in the pocket. Thus, the best pass rusher is an interior pass rusher, or a three technique that is big enough and strong enough to play all three downs, and not just the passing downs. Still fits this bill.

    – At first glance, the DT rotation appears to be set. But take a look at each player: Cullen Jenkins is on the wrong side of 30, and is limited in the running game. Can you count on him next season and into the future? Trevor Laws has proven that he is nothing more than a rotational player at this point. Does he have the physical ability to be the type of impact three-down DT that Devon Still has? Antonio Dixon is a big body who is excellent at plugging gaps in the running game but offers little in terms of pass pressure. Mike Patterson is another smaller DT who has failed to stand out in terms of generating pass pressure. Derek Landri is a career journeyman who has played well in stretches but lacks elite physical upside and will thus never be more than a solid rotational piece.

    – Still is the clear-cut top DT prospect in this draft class. Jerel Worthy is poorly conditioned and lazy, and doesn’t provide nearly the same amount of consistency play-in and play-out as Still. Brandon Thompson lacks Still’s explosiveness, strength and body control and looks to be more of a “college” player at the position. DT is also a position that yearly is in high demand in the upper portion of the first round, and it would serve the Eagles well to draft him as early as possible to avoid missing out on him. If they were to burn their first round pick on a MLB, there is a strong chance that Still would not be available with their early 2nd round pick. Being forced to settle for an inferior prospect in a weak draft class for DTs would be disastrous. Pick Still in the first round and see if one of the MLBs falls into the second; regardless of whether or not you have a shot at a MLB with the 2nd round pick, picking a potential impact DT will have a bigger impact on your defense than picking a potential impact MLB.

  4. 4 Patrick said at 5:16 PM on November 4th, 2011:

    For a guy who’s been screaming about LB Sean Lee forever, you sure seem to think the world of Stills.
    I have 2 things. He probably won’t be available with our picks, and you don’t break the bank for a player on a non skill position.
    Second, do you take a potential All pro DT or a potential multi Pro Bowl LB? The quick answer is the DTs, but Jenkins should go to the Pro Bowl, Patterson is a solid and very stable DT, Laws is a perfect fit for the system and a very good pass rusher. We have players at DT. We don’t have a linebacker that is more than serviceable. Fokou and Chaney seems OK, but nothing special(even though i think Chaney could improve fast with playing time). Sometimes you just have to get the best bang for your buck.

  5. 5 Anonymous said at 5:33 PM on November 4th, 2011:

    isnt cullen jenkins here on a 1 year deal? if thats the case and he has a great year in our system, i would imagine he would cost quite a bit to bring back for more years. money that needs to be spent on the young, up and coming guys (mccoy, jackson, maclin, etc)

  6. 6 Anders Jensen said at 5:47 PM on November 4th, 2011:

    No, it was a 4 year deal, but the Eagles can cut him any time after the first year with no cap hit.

  7. 7 Jeppe Elmelund van Ee said at 6:27 PM on November 4th, 2011:

    I really like your reasoning, and I’m a big believer of Still too! But I think he will be picked in the top 10, as he should be the first DT of the board. Would you trade a 2nd + a 3rd to move from 15-25 to top 10?

  8. 8 Anonymous said at 10:29 AM on November 5th, 2011:

    I am surprised, I would have expected you to be angry if the Eagles do not address the LB position in the first round. Still (uhum), if he on the board when we make the 32nd pick, I won’t complain.

  9. 9 Anonymous said at 4:48 PM on November 4th, 2011:

    if the season ended today (or after the dallas game), would you be calling for juan’s head or would you be ok with him coming back?

    basically, force a decision on the ‘wait and see’ thing now.

    i’m in the same boat as you. we need more time to get to a point where we can make a good decision. but i’d say that the improvement the D has shown lately would be enough to bring him back for a second year.
    i wouldnt want to give him only a single year anyway. what if it takes 2 offseasons to bring in the guys you need for your scheme? what if you need one FULL offseason to truly teach your scheme to your players? if after 2 seasons, our D still sucks, its time for him to go. maybe even halfway through the 2nd season.
    i guess every bad game cuts his job’s lifespan down a bit and every good game stretches it out some.

  10. 10 Mac said at 5:02 PM on November 4th, 2011:

    I think there are plenty of factors that played into the poor performance of the defense early this year. I don’t think it can all be laid on Juan. For example, it’s not his fault that a deep d-line was put to the test by injury early. He was pretty clearly tinkering with his LB, S, and even CBs early this season. It’s a shame that he didn’t have more time to fiddle with that crap in the offseason. Clearly he didn’t know exactly what he wanted to do with the talent. I see no harm in trying new things. Hopefully that has mostly been sorted out now.

  11. 11 Anonymous said at 5:19 PM on November 4th, 2011:

    I think if I had to decide today on Juan Castillo, I would lean towards not bringing him back. He deserves a lot of credit for the last two games (two and a half if you include the Buffalo game), but I think after the Dallas game, fans have acted as if we are in Week 3 or 4 of the season and the Eagles are 3 and 1. That four game loosing streak, that seems to be ignored at the moment, has a very possible chance of ruining this season regardless of how well we play the rest of the way, and Juan had a significant hand in that. So far, we have seen more games of bad defense than good. Of course, it is important to recognize that we are showing incredible improvement recently, and if that can remain true, Juan will be very much deserving of credit and continue to be the DC. Right now though, you can’t label him a successful coach based on two solid games after 4 horrendous ones.

  12. 12 Anonymous said at 5:31 PM on November 4th, 2011:

    thats fair. maybe once we have had as many ‘good’ games as ‘bad’ ones, itll be easier to make the decision. if, at the end of the season, things are still bad, then i’d have to cut my losses.
    i put a lot of emphasis on improvement when making the decision. definitely need more time to decide if this improvement is for real or if the bad defense was the real part….

  13. 13 Anders Jensen said at 5:48 PM on November 4th, 2011:

    Do you also forgot that both the Falcons, Niners and Bills game, the offense turned the ball over in critical situations.

  14. 14 Anonymous said at 6:49 PM on November 4th, 2011:

    Just think of it this way: we’ve played 3.5 games of bad defense and 3.5 games of good defense. The jury is still out, but if I had to make a decision on Juan today, he’d be back next year.

  15. 15 Anonymous said at 5:50 PM on November 4th, 2011:

    … but waiting til Monday is gonna drive me nuts. Try waiting ’til Tuesday, try going with out live Eagles football since before the bye. It’s been poop!!!!

  16. 16 Anonymous said at 6:58 PM on November 4th, 2011:

    Tommy have you commented on the Monday Night Tribute? Buddy, Clyde, Seth, and both Keith’s. I understand this. Most worthy. Also included Mike Pitts, Britt Hagar, Michael Haddix, Anthony Toney, my Uncle Pete, Max the gardener and 2 extras from that beer commercial you shared. Who’s coming next week? Todd Pinkston and Freddie Mitchell?

  17. 17 Cliff Hall said at 10:03 PM on November 4th, 2011:

    Geesh – we definitely need to win those ARZ, SEA, MIA and WAS games.

  18. 18 Anonymous said at 5:52 AM on November 5th, 2011:

    Yards – 5th
    Rush – 26th
    Pass – 2nd
    Points – 8th

    3rd Down % – tied for 10th
    Opp QB Rating – 12th
    Yards Per Carry – 12th
    Sacks – tied for 12th (didn’t factor in bye weeks

    THAT is Dick Jauron’s defense in Cleveland, with definitely less talent on paper. Also the Browns’ red zone D ranks 10th (TD’s only), while the Eagles are second to last. Time’s yours!

  19. 19 Anonymous said at 11:21 AM on November 5th, 2011:

    To change subjects for one second. Would it be safe to say we target defensive players throughout next years draft and maybe some backup offensive linemen? I see a surplus at the skill positions and no major offensive needs whereas d line could get younger and we all know we can improve the LB positions…

  20. 20 Anonymous said at 11:32 AM on November 5th, 2011:

    For one moment I thought you were talking about this year’s draft…

  21. 21 Anonymous said at 12:59 PM on November 5th, 2011:

    Movin’ on up because: 1. Matthews is sitting. 2. Two good, healthy safetys. 3. Using Nnamdi properly. 4. The wide 9 is being adjusted on rushing downs.

    I think this game will cement the D as being strong. Forte will be a forte (yuk, yuk) to be reckoned with, but Cutler is Cutler. No way he sustains good play when his O line is crushed by our D line. Asante should get to pad his interception numbers in this game.

  22. 22 Steven Dileo said at 2:51 PM on November 5th, 2011:

    What’s the deal with Brandon Graham? Don’t they have a deadline to fulfill? Don’t they have to cut someone in order to make room for him?

  23. 23 Anders Jensen said at 5:02 PM on November 5th, 2011:

    The Eagles have activated him today