How teams have targeted the Eagles' D

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Juan Castillo and the Eagles defense have been exposed by their opponents. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

On Friday, I wrote in-depth about the Eagles' pass rush and Jim Washburn's wide-9.

The issues with the run defense, meanwhile, have been well-documented.

But how are the Birds doing in coverage? And how are teams attacking them through the air?

Here's a breakdown of completions, attempts, passing yards, yards per catch and touchdowns by position:

  Catches Targets Yds. YPC TDs
Running Backs 28 38 362 9.53 3
Tight Ends 20 29 208 7.17 3
Wide Receivers 45 76 572 7.53 5

What stands out here? Running backs are actually averaging MORE yards per catch than wide receivers against the Eagles. Think about that. Offenses are completing about 74 percent of their passes to running backs, and the completions are picking up 9.53 yards on average. High percentage plays that are picking up big chunks of yardage. That's a problem.

And yes, the idea that the linebackers haven't been very good in coverage either is backed up here. Six of the 11 touchdowns have gone to running backs or tight ends.

Football Outsiders keeps track of how well teams defend No. 1 receivers, No. 2 receivers, running backs and tight ends, compared to the rest of the league.

Here's how the Eagles rank, according to their metrics:

VS. Rank
No. 1 WR 9
No. 2 WR 29
Other WR 7
RB 30
TE 15

As you can see, it's really been running backs and No. 2 wide receivers who have killed the Eagles. Only the Raiders are allowing more passing yards per game to running backs than the Eagles.

As for the No. 2 wide receivers, that's probably a combination of lapses by all three Eagles cornerbacks at different times, and of course the breakdowns when they are playing zone.

Target numbers vary, and are subjective, but here's what I've got for the top three Eagles corners:

  Completions Targets Yards YPA
Asante Samuel 11 24 112 4.67
Nnamdi Asomugha 6 12 125 10.42
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie 8 12 87 7.25

Teams are clearly targeting Samuel more than Asomugha. Samuel started off the season well, but in the last two weeks, he's given up five catches on eight targets for 61 yards. Samuel was targeted just 36 times all last season, but that number is 24 through five games.

Asomugha played better last week, but still has a bad yards-per-attempt number. And keep in mind, that doesn't even factor in the 41-yard pass interference penalty in Week 1.

And Rodgers-Cromartie's preference for avoiding contact has been well-documented.

If you're wondering how the Eagles will use the three cornerbacks going forward, check out Paul Domowitch's column. He makes the case that they should trade either Samuel or Rodgers-Cromartie before Tuesday's deadline.


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