It's that time again. Below is my player-by-player breakdown of the Eagles' defense, after I re-watched their 31-13 win against the Rams.
But first, I want to thank reader, Excel whiz and Eagles fan Mark, who has helped me put together spreadsheets to chart a lot of the data you'll see in MTC features throughout the week and throughout the season. Not sure what I'd be left to write about this season without Mark's help.
Now on to the breakdown:
Jason Babin - The Eagles' newest pass rusher wasted no time getting started, picking up two sacks and four quarterback hits (both team highs). The Rams gift-wrapped his first one as Babin came untouched off the edge and crushed Sam Bradford. On his second sack, Babin beat the left tackle one-on-one. It's worth noting that his second sack came from right defensive end, with Trent Cole on the sideline. Babin also made a nice play against the run, dropping Cadillac Williams after a 2-yard gain in the third. There were a couple miscues. Babin had an illegal use of the hands penalty on third down in the first. Also in the first, Williams found room between Babin and Jenkins for 11 yards. But overall, a great start to his second tour in Philly.
Trent Cole - He got on the board with his first sack of the season, blowing by the left tackle and getting to Bradford. Cole had a pair of QB hits, clobbering A.J. Feeley on a fourth-quarter incompletion. As anyone who watched the game could see, the wide-9 creates huge lanes against the run. A big hole opened up between Cole and Mike Patterson on Steven Jackson’s 47-yard touchdown run. And Cole was blocked on Jackson’s 9-yard run in the first. He later got called for a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty in the third. It was a tough one though, as Bradford still had the ball when Cole made contact with him. On 4th-and-1 in the third, Cole gave a good effort, nearly stopping Williams short of the first down.
Cullen Jenkins - He used a nice inside move to pick up the Eagles' only sack by a non-defensive end, and Jenkins finished with a pair of QB hits. One came on Bradford's 19-yard completion to Billy Bajema. The other when Jenkins crushed Bradford on the trick play to Danny Amendola. Against the run, he dropped Williams for a 1-yard loss in the first. As I wrote about before the season, Jenkins brings a new element to the interior of the Eagles' line.
Mike Patterson - He's a good run-stuffer, but as I mentioned above, the wide-9 alignment opens up big lanes. Patterson hustled to tackle Williams 11 yards downfield in the first. And he made an excellent play in the second, stopping a Williams run for no gain. As a pass rusher, Patterson got pressure on Bradford on 4th-and-3 in the fourth, but the Rams quarterback got the pass away for a first down.
Juqua Parker - He was the only Eagles defensive end without a sack, but Parker got in the end zone, picking up the Bradford fumble in the first and taking it to the house. I thought it was pretty funny that Moise Fokou shoved him on the return as if it would help Parker get to the end zone quicker. The Eagles defensive end responded with a nice stiff arm. Parker is the only defensive lineman I saw drop back into coverage, and he only did so once. He led a great group effort to stuff Williams at the goal line in the third. The Rams ended up being called for a penalty on the next play and eventually had to settle for a field goal.
Darryl Tapp - Good showing from Tapp. He swatted the ball out of Bradford’s hand on the first-quarter fumble and then held on to Bradford’s leg so he couldn’t recover it. He made a nice play on Williams, stopping him after a 2-yard gain in the third. Later in the quarter, the Rams tried to block him with a tight end, and Tapp went right around him to sack Bradford. I’m surprised he didn’t get called for a late hit on a play in the second. Tapp finished with a sack and two QB hits, but left the game with a pec strain.
Antonio Dixon - He made a classic "doesn’t show up in the box score" play in the first. Dixon showed unbelievable power on a Williams run. The Rams double-teamed him with two linemen, and Dixon drove them both back three yards, disrupting the play and allowing Jamar Chaney to make the tackle. He later did a good job of getting into the backfield on Williams’ 3-yard run. Teams with overpowering run games are going to give the Eagles trouble. In those situations, Dixon is going to have to play more snaps. He's clearly the team's best run-defender on the line.
Trevor Laws - He didn't do much as a pass rusher, but had a couple nice plays against the run. Laws stopped Williams after a 4-yard gain in the first. And he and Fokou dropped Williams for a 1-yard loss in the second. On the other hand, Laws got blocked to the ground on Williams’ 16-yard run in the first.
Casey Matthews - He and the Eagles linebackers struggled to make plays against the run. With the wide-9, it doesn't help matters that they often have offensive linemen in their face soon after the ball is snapped. Some of the plays I'm talking about: Matthews was nowhere near the ball on Jackson’s 47-yard touchdown run. Two linemen got their hands on him on Jackson’s 9-yard run. He chased down Williams, but not before he picked up 10 yards in the first. He was blocked out of the play on Williams’ 16-yard run. He couldn’t get off his block on Williams’ 11-yard run. He hustled to get to the fullback in the second, but it was after a 12-yard gain. He was blocked out of the play on a 9-yard Williams run in the third. And he missed a tackle on a WR screen in the fourth. There were actually some good moments too. Matthews made a nice play on Williams’ 3-yard run in the first. He ran Williams out of bounds after a 2-yard gain in the third. And he did a good job of sniffing out a screen in the second. He split time with Brian Rolle in nickel situations and played 55 of 66 snaps. In coverage, it looked like the Eagles were playing some kind of zone when Lance Kendricks got behind Matthews, but dropped the pass from Bradford. Here's how I see this thing playing out: The Eagles will continue to go with Matthews until it comes to the point where they don't think he's going to be able to get it done at some point this year. If they come to that conclusion, I'm not sure what they do though. I guess the most likely move would still be to go with Chaney in the middle. But their hope will be that they can get by with Matthews, that he'll show improvement and that he'll be playing his best football in December. It's a risky move, but remember, this is a franchise that trotted Ernie Sims out there for an entire season.
Moise Fokou - He had a strange game in that Fokou made some outstanding plays, but also struggled at times like Matthews. Fokou probably deserves a lot of the blame for Jackson’s 47-yard touchdown run. It looked like he was responsible for filling the hole between Cole and Patterson, but couldn’t get off the tight end’s block. Later, he was blocked on Jackson’s 9-yard run. He lined up opposite Amendola in the slot, and the ex-Eagles receiver delivered a great cut block on Fokou as Williams picked up 10 yards. He was blocked on Williams’ 16-yard run. And again on Williams’ 9-yard run. The good? Fokou made an excellent tackle on Amendola after a 2-yard completion in the first. He teamed up with Laws to drop Williams for a 1-yard loss in the second. He broke up a pass for Mike Sims-Walker over the middle in the third. He did a great job of reading the play and making the tackle on a pass to Williams in the flat that gained only 1 yard in the fourth. The Eagles stayed in their base defense quite a bit, and Fokou played 44 of 66 snaps. Overall, a lot of ups and downs, but he looked good in coverage.
Jamar Chaney - And the same goes for Chaney. He was blocked by a lineman on Williams’ 16-yard run. He was blocked by the center on Williams’ 14-yard run in the third. And he got blocked initially as Williams cut back to his side for a 5-yard gain. On the flip side, Chaney stuffed Williams for no gain in the first. He forced an incompletion to Williams. He did a good job in coverage after a play-fake, tackling Bajema after a gain of 2. Chaney was one of two Eagles (Jarrad Page) on defense to play all 66 snaps.
Keenan Clayton - I only saw him get in the game on one play. It was when the Eagles sent in their goal-line package and Clayton came in as the fourth linebacker.
Brian Rolle - He played more in the nickel than Matthews and was on the field for 14 snaps. At one point, he replaced Fokou at the WILL in the base defense, but I think that was because of injury. Rolle blitzed twice, something I expect to see him do quite a bit. He had one extremely impressive play. He literally knocked the Rams’ center over with a two-handed shove and tackled Williams after a 7-yard gain in the third. He gets knocked for his size, but Rolle is clearly a powerful and physical linebacker.
Asante Samuel - He was targeted 36 times in 2010, but the Rams went at Samuel six times yesterday. He was called for an illegal contact penalty on 3rd-and-6 in the second. The Rams were awarded a first down and eventually kicked a field goal on the drive. Later, Samuel did an excellent job of breaking up a pass intended for Brandon Gibson on third down. He’s not going to get many easier interception opportunities than the one he had in the fourth. The ball bounced off the Rams receiver, high into the air, but Samuel couldn’t make the catch. He stayed on the left side of the field all game.
Nnamdi Asomugha - I already wrote about him at length yesterday. But Asomugha was targeted twice. One play resulted in a 41-yard pass interference penalty. Another a 31-yard completion to Gibson. It looked like there was confusion between him and Kurt Coleman when the Eagles were in zone coverage in the first and Bradford hit Bajema for 19 yards. It might take a few weeks for Asomugha to get in full shut-down mode, but keep in mind that even though he got beat a couple times, Bradford didn't even look to throw in his direction for most of the game.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie - The Eagles were in nickel on only 20 of 66 defensive snaps. Rodgers-Cromartie was on the field for 19 plays and lined up in the slot on 18 of them. He was on Amendola on 3rd-and-10 in the second, but got beat for an 18-yard completion. The Eagles sent eight on a third-down blitz in the red zone, and Bradford was looking for Amendola. Rodgers-Cromartie had one-on-one coverage, and the throw was incomplete. He had good coverage on Greg Salas on a deep ball in the fourth.
Joselio Hanson - He was only on the field for a couple snaps in the fourth quarter. The Eagles didn't use their dime package with four cornerbacks this week.
Kurt Coleman - Amendola put a pretty good block on him, and Coleman couldn’t make a play on Jackson’s 47-yard touchdown run. If he had shed the block, it would have only been a gain of 10 yards or so. When the Rams lined up two receivers to the left, Coleman generally picked up the slot guy next to Asomugha.
Jarrad Page - It's always tough to evaluate safety play off TV tape, but I thought Page played really well. He did a good job in run support, tackling Williams after a 5-yard gain in the first. He made a very nice play in the second, stopping Williams after a 3-yard gain. In coverage, Page made a good tackle on Gibson, stopping him for a gain of 6 on 3rd-and-7. And he had excellent coverage on the tight end, nearly coming up with an interception in the red zone in the third. Overall, a very encouraging performance from Page.