Eagles-Pats: Film Review of Defense

Here’s the breakdown of the Eagles defense in the Patriots game after re-watching the tape (note: the NFL doesn’t provide the all-22 in the preseason):


Defensive line: Aside from a few rushes, the Eagles run defense was sound. The lack of a pass rush was another story. Cedric Thornton was pinned onto his back when Patriots RB Stevan Ridley rushed 11 yards through the vacated hole. He got into the backfield on the next play, glanced off Ridley, who picked up six yards. He recorded a stop of Ridley after two yards. He was silent as a pass rusher.

Bennie Logan played in his first preseason game after sitting out with a hamstring in the opener. He played only 14 snaps. He was held and drew a penalty when he beat his man off the snap in the first quarter. Fletcher Cox was more active than he was last week against the Bears. He got push up front and stopped RB James White after a one-yard rush. Cox fought off another block and tackled White four yards upfield. Chip Kelly was critical of his front after the game for the lack of a rush on third downs, but he said on Sunday that Cox played well: “Fletch has been steady and productive for us in terms of what we’re asking him to do.”

Linebackers: Trent Cole dropped into coverage and made a stop after a six-yard catch. He later got around a block, but the Pats set up a screen. Cole has done little as a pass rusher in two games, but there’s no reason to be concerned until the regular season. Connor Barwin got pressure off the edge and forced Tom Brady to throw errant. The play was nullified by an Eagles hold. He had a one-on-one against a tight end on a rush -- a matchup he said after the game he should always win -- and didn’t apply pressure on a deep drop.

DeMeco Ryans looked strong against the run, per usual. He shot into the backfield and tripped up White after one yard. The play was negated by another penalty. He teamed up with Brandon Bair for another one-yard stop. Ryans played only 15 snaps and was replaced by Najee Goode late in the Pats’ second series.

Mychal Kendricks was also effective as a run stopper. He zoomed past Pats tackle Sebastian Vollmer for a tackle for loss. He stopped White after a one-yard gain. Kendricks forced a ball carrier outside where Nate Allen made a tackle after two yards. Brady didn’t target the Eagles linebackers in coverage that much.

Defensive backs: Brady tossed a screen to Cary Williams’ side and the cornerback couldn’t make the initial tackle. He went back to that side, but his tight end seemed to run the wrong route and the pass wound up in Williams’ hands. Williams hurdled Brady on the return and ran 77 yards for the TD. It was his last play of the game. The Eagles announced a hamstring injury. For all the talk about how the new rules would limit Bradley Fletcher’s effectiveness, he’s yet to be flagged this preseason. Brady never threw in his direction, partly because Curtis Marsh was on the other side.

Brandon Boykin had a rough game. He was whistled for holding twice. On third and seven, he appeared to make the wrong read, turned inside toward another receiver while Julian Edelman caught a 10-yard pass underneath. On third and four, Boykin played five yards off in a soft zone and Brady hit Danny Amendola for nine yards and a first down. I’m not sure if that was Boykin freelancing or a bad defensive call by DC Bill Davis. RB Brandon Bolden ripped off 18 yards when Boykin took a bad angle on a tackle attempt. Boykin later came up and made a tackle on a bubble screen.

It’s difficult to fully assess safeties without the help of the coach’s tape, but Malcolm Jenkins was cut down on 12-yard screen to RB Shane Vereen. Nate Allen was a half step behind Amendola on a deep pass over the top that was too long. He ran downfield and made a run stop after a short gain.


The Eagles starters weren’t very good, but the reserves appeared to have even more issues.

Defensive line: Damion Square played only 11 snaps. He assisted on a run stop. Vinny Curry had another nice game. He actually had more success against the run than the previous week. That was part of the plan. The Eagles wanted to get him more two-gap opportunities. He met a ball carrier at the line, couldn’t wrap up, but another defender made a short stop. A play later, Curry teamed up with Square. He split a double team on a rush and forced a Jimmy Garoppolo throw that was dropped. He was penalized once for lining up in the neutral zone.

Brandon Bair played well against the run. He fought off a blocker and stopped White after a one-yard rush. He earned another tackle after a four-yard carry. Bair was credited with another run stop. He wasn’t as active as a rusher. Beau Allen took some first snaps, but didn’t stand out until he faced the Pats second team center. He tossed him aside and pressured Garoppolo out of pocket where he threw incomplete. Allen made a tackle seven yards downfield on a run up the middle. I’m not sure if that’s what Davis wants when he had two inside linebackers – Casey Matthews and Jason Phillips, in this case -- patrolling the middle.

Taylor Hart played 33 snaps and was in on two run tackles. He got some push on one particular rush. Joe Kruger was on the field for 18 plays. He had his ups and downs. He recorded a run stop after a one-yard gain. He lined up over a gap and chased down a running back five yards downfield. He was flagged once for illegal use of the hands. In the fourth quarter, Alejandro Villanueva jumped to bat a pass, kept his feet and sacked Mallett. He flashed good technique on a short carry. Frances Mays played both defensive end and nose. He had trouble staying upright.  Nose tackle Wade Keliikipi did little to clog the middle against the rush.

Linebackers: Brandon Graham didn’t play most of first half. He said it was because his back needed to warm up. He ran down a screen when he finally got in before the half. Graham was left unblocked off the edge and picked up blind side sack. He fought off a block and made a run stop near the line. He set the edge on a rush and forced it inside to Mays and Keliipiki, who split a tackle.

Travis Long could be poised to take Graham’s roster spot. Kelly said today that he was “trying to figure out how he fits us on the roster.” It sounds like he’s got the roster made. Long played with the starters some. He tossed a tackle to the ground at one point and made a run stop after a 4-yard pickup. He played as a four-technique in a three-point stance several times and made a run stop after a 2-yard gain and got pressure on Mallett up the middle.

Marcus Smith played the second-most snaps on defense (73) behind Marsh. The rookie struggled. He did a nice job of setting the edge on a sweep, but couldn’t make the tackle and the Pats picked up a short third down. He was chipped to the ground by a tight end. The Pats ran 12 yards to his side and he was handily blocked by a receiver. That shouldn’t happen. He was later taken out by a pulling guard on an 8-yard rush. He was explosive with outside rushes, as Kelly noted, but the Pats tackles just pushed him upfield. Smith did show athleticism when he ran down a screen. He didn’t contain when RB Roy Finch reversed in the backfield and ran 17 yards through a wide gap.

Najee Goode wasn’t around the ball much despite 31 snaps at inside linebacker. He did get pressure off the edge when he was left unblocked, but a penalty nullified the play. Goode appeared as if he bit on a play fake that freed up RB James Develin for a 12-yard catch. Casey Matthews appeared to pick the wrong gap to fill on a 5-yard run.

Jason Phillips had some good, some bad. He missed a tackle on a screen. A play later, he stopped White short on a rush. It was unclear if it was Phillips or Smith that was supposed to contain the quarterback when Mallet scrambled six yards for a TD. The guess is Smith, who rushed straight upfield. Phillips missed the initial tackle on 20-yard TD run that was brought back by an illegal block downfield. Emmanuel Acho looked like he missed his assignment when he covered the releasing TE off the line (Long’s man) and left Develin, who scored an easy 15-yard TD out the backfield.

Defensive backs: Curtis Marsh’s problems were well-documented. His main issues seem to stem from an inability to locate the ball in the air. He was beat down the sideline by Edelman and committed pass interference. He played soft on Edelman a few plays later and the receiver picked up an easy nine yards. Marsh had no shot when Brady tossed a back shoulder TD. Receiver Brandon LaFell beat Marsh on a 25-yard corner route. Garoppolo, who had too much time, found a receiver in the back of the end zone against him for a 4-yard TD. Marsh had tight coverage on an overthrown pass and broke up another. But then was beat for a 17-yard TD when Mallett tossed a beauty corner fade.

Roc Carmichael, last week’s goat, was called once for illegal contact. With several injuries at cornerback, Davon Morgan moved from safety.

Earl Wolff had a solid outing. He ran down Develin from the back side and ripped the ball out. New England maintained possession. He blitzed off the corner and was unblocked and jumped and batted the pass to the ground. He once ran himself out of a screen and was blocked. Chris Maragos once came across field and saved a huge gain on a well-blocked reverse. Ed Reynolds, Keelan Johnson, and Daytowian Lowe didn’t put much on the telecast.