I switched it up for Man Up this week. Below you'll find the player-by-player breakdown for the Eagles' starting defense (everyone who played in the first half).
I wanted to get this writeup posted as soon as possible. I'll still analyze the Eagles' backups, who played in the second half and are fighting for roster spots, but I need some more time. Look for that writeup later Friday or some time this weekend.
The player-by-player breakdown of the offense will also be posted this weekend.
Meanwhile, here's the starting D:
Jason Babin - I’m not sure how he got away without a penalty after hitting Ben Roethlisberger late on the Steelers' first possession. In the second quarter, he picked up a sack after coming unblocked off the edge.
Anthony Hargrove - He got the start at left defensive tackle next to Babin. Hargrove did a good job getting to the ball, but missed a tackle on Rashard Mendenhall near the line of scrimmage on a 5-yard run. He got good interior pressure on a Roethlisberger incompletion to the tight end on the first drive. And Hargrove created disruption on the 2-yard Isaac Redman gain in the first. Hargrove also sacked Leftwich on third down in the second. He's not as good of a run-stuffer as Antonio Dixon or Mike Patterson, but Hargrove held his own.
Cullen Jenkins - Tough player to judge. His facemask on Roethlisberger was a big one and extended the Steelers' first drive, but looking at the bigger picture, at least he got to the quarterback. At times, he had trouble against the run, like on the first play where Jenkins got blocked and Mendenhall picked up 4 yards. Later though, Jenkins helped bring Redman down after a 2-yard gain. And in the second, he and Trent Cole dropped Redman for a 4-yard loss. In the second, Jenkins hit Roethlisberger on an incompletion. Overall, I like what I've seen from him through two games.
Trent Cole - He started off slow, but then made some plays. The gaps in between the linemen in the wide-9 were glaring though against the run. A huge hole opened up between Cole and Jenkins on Mendenhall’s 9-yard run. Cole, who's shown in the past that he can play the run well too, stuffed Redman for no gain in the first. As a pass rusher, Cole used a nice inside move to force Roethlisberger out of the pocket, but the Steelers' QB improvised and found Mendenhall for a 12-yard gain. Later, Cole used a powerful move to force a Roethlisberger incompletion. On the second touchdown, Cole chased Roethlisberger out of the pocket. And later, he got past the left tackle and then the fullback before delivering a hit on Leftwich.
Daniel Te’o-Nesheim - With Juqua Parker sidelined, Babin played with the first team and Te'o-Nesheim played LDE with the second group. He also moved around the line a little. At some point, Te'o-Nesheim left the game with a hamstring injury, but he had little or no impact when on the field. Against the run, he looked like a liability, and while he didn't get a lot of pass-rushing opportunities, I didn't see him get close to the quarterback. On one play, he was effectively blocked by the Steelers tight end. Not a good sign. I have a hard time seeing how he could make an impact this season, but if the Eagles still see potential, they may keep him on the roster for another year.
Cedric Thornton - With the injuries to Dixon and Patterson, he played defensive tackle with the second group. Thornton had a couple good plays against the run - stopping Mendenhall after a 4-yard gain in the first and disrupting a run play that was stopped for no gain in the second. I can't see him making the roster though. Probably a practice squad candidate.
Derek Landri - I thought he was excellent in the first game, but he didn't do much to stand out here. Landri played defensive tackle with the second group. A huge cutback lane opened up between him and Thornton on Redman’s 16-yard run. Landri is squarely on the roster bubble.
Darryl Tapp - He played quite a bit inside. After notching two sacks against the Ravens, Tapp didn't get much pressure against the Steelers. However, I noticed he and Babin ran a twist in the second. Babin rushed inside, and Tapp looped to the outside. The Eagles didn't do a lot of that last season, but I have seen them practicing the maneuver during practice.
Phillip Hunt - He came in and played both left and right defensive end in the second quarter. Hunt had a couple decent rushes, but look for more details on him when I run through the backups.
Casey Matthews - This is the guy most of you were waiting for, I presume. Matthews struggled, specifically against the run. What stood out was that when an offensive lineman got his hands on Matthews, it seemed like he had no shot. He was unable to shed blocks and as a result, was often nowhere near the ball. When he did get to the ball, it was often as the second or third defender. In coverage, there was way too much room in the zone between Matthews and the defensive backs on the Jerricho Cothcery 29-yard completion. Leftwich had a huge window to make the pass. To be fair, if the coaching staff wanted to see how Matthews would do against the Steelers before making a change, I'm OK with that. If they trot him out there in Week 1 against the Rams, and Matthews gets abused, then this defense has a major problem.
Moise Fokou - He was probably the Eagles' best linebacker. Fokou did a good job getting off a block and stopping Mendenhall after a 4-yard gain. He later broke up a pass intended for the tight end. If the Eagles switch things up, he could move back to SAM.
Jamar Chaney - Someone asked me on Twitter why the team decided to move him away from the middle in the first place. I really don't have an answer. I thought Chaney was clearly their best middle linebacker last season, but he started camp playing the SAM. He didn't do much against the Steelers either. He was blocked on Redman's 16-yard run and Mendenhall's 6-yard run. Chaney had some bright spots - he stopped Redman after a 1-yard gain in the second and Moore after a 2-yard loss. But overall, he was just OKl. There was a really interesting play when the Eagles were in their dime package on 1st-and-20. The defensive tackles lined up out wide and were nowhere near the Steelers' center. Chaney was the only player in the middle of the field. Roethlisberger took the snap, the center blocked Chaney, and he picked up 8 yards on the sneak. Savvy move by Roethlisberger there - recognizing the defense and picking up an easy gain.
Asante Samuel - He was by himself on the first touchdown pass. Samuel knew the Eagles were sending six guys at Roethlisberger, and that’s probably why he gambled. He was counting on the pressure to get there. But Roethlisberger ended up having time, and Samuel got beat for the touchdown. Are we sure that was him blocking the field goal? Or did someone else steal his No. 22 jersey for a play?
Nnamdi Asomugha - He got his hands dirty right away, tackling Mendenhall after a 5-yard gain in the first. Asomugha played both right cornerback and in the slot. I don't remember a ball being thrown his way. Don't think he blitzed at all either.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie - I like what I've seen from him during practice, but there were some areas of concern in this one. Rodgers-Cromartie played in three different spots - the slot, right cornerback and left cornerback. He helped break up a WR screen in the second. The Eagles brought him on a blitz on Roethlisberger’s first touchdown pass. Rodgers-Cromartie has good speed, but I can’t say he looked very willing to take on Mendenhall, who stayed in to block. Instead of going at him or around him, Rodgers-Cromartie kind of just slowed down at the point of contact. Later on short yardage, he didn't offer a very good tackling attempt on Jonathan Dwyer's 6-yard run. In coverage, he lost Arnaz Battle on 3rd-and-7 for a 14-yard gain. If Rodgers-Cromartie is going to play inside, he has to show he's able to do a variety of things for this defense.
Joselio Hanson - He came in when the Eagles played dime with four cornerbacks. I'll probably have more on him when I look at the backups.
Nate Allen - The second-year safety was shaky in this one. He bit badly on play-action on 3rd-and-1 and lost tight end Heath Miller, who made an 11-yard grab for a first down. Allen was a step behind Battle on the 18-yard completion on 3rd-and-8. He blitzed on the first touchdown pass. Instead of taking a direct path to Roethlisberger, Allen jumped when he thought the pass was coming. Roethlisberger held on to it and then had plenty of time to hit Brown. Allen was actually unblocked on the play, but looked like he hesitated. The Eagles were in zone on the second touchdown pass, and it looked like Allen lost Ward. When I examined the 31 touchdown passes the Eagles allowed last year, here's what I wrote about Allen:
There were several instances where Nate Allen got to the ball right after a touchdown catch. Allen showed great potential as a rookie, but after re-watching the touchdowns, it was clear they need improvement from him in pass coverage.
The Eagles need to see that, and soon.
Kurt Coleman - It's generally not a good sign when your safety has to make 11 tackles. Having said that, Coleman got the job done in run support. He is clearly one of their most physical players and doesn't look ready to give up the starting job to rookie Jaiquawn Jarrett just yet.
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