I had a choice to make last night around 10 p.m. after watching Cliff Lee shut out the Nationals.
Do I catch up on DVR'd episodes of Rescue Me after I fell way behind last season?
Do I kill time on Facebook looking at wedding photos of people I haven't seen or spoken with in over a decade?
Or do I re-watch the defensive snaps from Sunday's Eagles game against the Panthers and provide a player-by-player analysis like I did with the offense earlier this week?
After a mental tug-of-war, I reminded myself of the kind words many of you provided after the earlier post this week and decided to go with option No. 3. So what follows is a breakdown of the defense's performance. Keep in mind that the 'D' does a lot more substituting than the offense so I didn't have something on every player, but I did get to most of them.
I'll plan on doing this every week. But I think we need a name for the feature. Does The Breakdown work? Anyone have other suggestions?
Also, I want to revisit coming up with a name for you, the MTC loyalists. We tried this in the offseason and only came up with The Chain Gang, which I wasn't crazy about. But if you all like it, I could probably be convinced. If not, please try to come up with something better.
Anyway, here we go:
Broderick Bunkley - He was very good against the run, helping the Eagles limit the Panthers to 86 rushing yards. I've said before I think he's a Pro Bowl-caliber player, and Bunkley got off to a great start Sunday. At training camp, I realized he isn't very good with the media. If Bunkley had Quintin Mikell's personality, this guy would get a lot more buzz.
Quintin Mikell – He did a nice job staying with Muhsin Muhammad on two occasions where the Panthers tried to go down the field. Mikell was also an aggressive blitzer, forcing a bad Jake Delhomme throw on the play where Juqua Parker was flagged for a facemask on third down during Carolina's first drive. He got beat on the Panthers’ lone touchdown, but DeAngelo Williams deserves credit for his footwork and speed on that play. In the same situation later in the game, Mikell stayed at home. In the second quarter, he did a good job of pursuing Williams and forcing a 4-yard loss. Mikell led the Eagles with six tackles.
Mike Patterson – Along with Bunkley, he was a major factor in stifling Carolina's ground game. Patterson stuffed Williams for no gain at the end of the first quarter and picked up half a sack in the third quarter. Five tackles overall.
Sheldon Brown – Great concentration on his first interception. Brown had to slow down and prevent the deflected pass from hitting the ground. He had one interception all of last season and has two after one game.
Juqua Parker – Bad facemask penalty on third down on the Panthers’ first drive, but he made up for it later. Made multiple nice plays against the run, including the Eagles' stop on Carolina's final offensive snap in the fourth quarter.
Chris Clemons – He came into the game primarily in the Eagles' nickel package. Along with Trent Cole, he put pressure on Delhomme to force the third-quarter interception by Akeem Jordan. It looked like he could have been awarded half-a-sack with Darren Howard on a fourth-quarter takedown, but Howard received full credit.
Akeem Jordan – Filled up the stat sheet with five tackles, four for loss, a sack and an interception. On the sack, he came through the middle untouched to nail Delhomme before he had a chance to realize what was going on. If you want to nitpick, Jordan did miss a tackle on a screen pass to Williams in the second quarter.
Chris Gocong – Along with three other defenders, he stopped Williams for no gain on a Wildcat play in the first half. Gocong also broke up a pass on third-and-goal at the end of the first half. The Eagles actually lined him up at defensive end, with his hand on the ground, during their final defensive possession.
Macho Harris – I know he's probably the guy you're most interested about, but he was also the toughest to evaluate. Harris wasn't in on many plays, but he also didn't appear to make any costly mistakes. Watching on TV, it was tough to assess exactly how he played. Harris did miss a tackle on Williams during the Panthers’ first drive. He also dropped an interception in the fourth quarter. We should know more about him after Week 2 against Drew Brees.
Trent Cole – Quite possibly the best player on the field Sunday. His sack and forced fumble of Delhomme was a game-changer. As the Inquirer's Bob Brookover pointed out in a story yesterday, Delhomme recognized where Cole was lined up, pointed to him and even said "Fifty-eight!" But apparently his linemen were not listening. Cole did the same thing in the fourth quarter and nearly crushed QB Matt Moore, who got rid of the ball just in time. He also caught up with Steve Smith on a Wildcat play and looked strong against the run.
Victor Abiamiri – His start was somewhat of a surprise, but Abiamiri made the most of the opportunity, recovering Delhomme’s fumble for the Eagles’ first touchdown. The Birds moved him inside on nickel downs and he even dropped back into coverage in the fourth quarter. Abiamiri combined with Mikell to bring Williams down for a 4-yard loss in the second quarter.
Asante Samuel – Samuel had an interception and helped shut down Smith for most of the game (although you could argue Delhomme had a greater role in shutting down Smith). Samuel missed a tackle on Williams in the flat, which allowed the Panthers to convert a third down during their first drive. He failed to bring down Jonathan Stewart on the very next play. Samuel did do a nice job of taking down TE Jeff King in the second half. He could have had another pick but dropped what would have been a TD against Josh McCown in the third quarter.
Darren Howard – He led the Eagles with two sacks, three QB hits and two tackles for loss. Howard also did a good job against the run with five solo tackles. He played both inside and outside.
Joselio Hanson – He led the Eagles with three passes defended, including a couple where he was matched up with Smith. Hanson also had an interception. But then again, who didn't?
Omar Gaither – He looked very good against the run. The disruption caused by the defensive tackles allowed Gaither to do his job. He made back-to-back stops on run plays down near the goal line on the Panthers' first drive. Gaither had half a sack and a fumble recovery. If you want to nitpick, he couldn't bring down Stewart in coverage on one play.
And some other notes on the defense:
** Several Eagles celebrated on a third down during the Panthers' first drive when Carolina came up short of the end zone. It appeared they didn't realize the Panthers could still pick up a first down without scoring.
** Sean McDermott got several reserves in the game early. After the Abiamiri TD, backups Antonio Dixon, Trevor Laws and Ellis Hobbs were on the field. All three guys saw playing time in various spots throughout the game.
** I love watching how players react on interceptions. I think it's a good gauge of who the biggest hustlers are. On Brown's second pick, it was Howard leading the way with a nice block to try and get his teammate into the end zone.
** On that play, the Eagles only rushed three guys. Clemons came into the game, but dropped back into coverage, likely confusing Delhomme. The Eagles chose to rush three only a handful of times all day.
** It was either Cole or Howard who forced a fumble in the fourth quarter.
** I wrote about this immediately after the game, but it probably warrants mentioning again. McDermott brought Gaither, Cole, Abiamiri, Bunkley and Patterson back on to the field for the Panthers' final offensive play, fourth-and-goal from the Eagles' 1-yard line. Not only do I love the move by McDermott, but I love that the Eagles made the stop and then celebrated as if it were a playoff game. That's the right message. Play every down like it's important. Don't take plays off. And take pride in playing with one another. It was only one game, and this will be tested once the defense faces better teams, but the players really like McDermott.
Note: Commenter 09 makes a fair point that the Eagles were simply using their goal line package on the last play and needed more linemen. However, they still brought in Gaither instead of a reserve linebacker. And you didn't see reserve DT Dixon on the field so I think you could probably argue it either way.