Saturday, July 12, 2014
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Man Up: State of the Eagles' defense

Here's a look at what we've seen from each Eagles defensive player in the first six games and what to expect in the final 10.

Man Up: State of the Eagles' defense

Eagles safety Nate Allen has played better in recent weeks. (Michael Bryant/Staff Photographer)
Eagles safety Nate Allen has played better in recent weeks. (Michael Bryant/Staff Photographer)

Here's a look at what we've seen from each Eagles defensive player in the first six games and what to expect in the final 10.

Click here if you missed the offensive breakdown.

Jason Babin - No Eagles defensive lineman has played more snaps than Babin through the first six games. When the Birds brought him back in the offseason, they wanted a defensive end to rush the passer opposite Trent Cole, and that's exactly what they got. Babin leads the team in sacks (7), QB hits (14) and hurries (24). Only three players in the NFL have more sacks. Even with Trent Cole sidelined, Babin piled up nine hurries against the Redskins, the most of any Eagles defensive lineman in a single game this season. Babin's had ups and downs against the run, but the same can probably be said for every defensive player on this roster. He's also been called for a team-high six penalties. In Week 1, Babin played less than 50 percent of the defensive snaps. But he's been on the field much more since then, given the team's injuries. The Eagles appear to be getting healthy along the defensive line, so don't be surprised if Babin gets more breathers in the coming weeks.

Trent Cole - Cole played the first four games before going down with a calf injury against the 49ers and missing the last two. We'll see if he returns to the field Sunday night. Cole was a beast against the Rams and Falcons, but was relatively quiet against the Giants and San Francisco. He's still the team's best all-around lineman, and probably the team's best all-around defensive player. Cole has three sacks and 13 hurries on the season. This defensive line has a chance to control games, and that starts with Babin and Cole.

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Cullen Jenkins - Only Babin's been on the field more among Eagles defensive linemen. Jenkins has slowed down a bit after notching four sacks in the Eagles' first three games. But it's hard to complain about his production, considering that Jenkins leads all NFL defensive tackles with five sacks. He's been up and down against the run. The Eagles other defensive tackles have played pretty well so we could see Jenkins play fewer snaps going forward.

Mike Patterson - He delivered one of his better games in recent memory against the Redskins and was key in the Eagles' success against Washington's rushing attack. Patterson has never been much of a pass rusher, and that was the case in the first four games when he totaled zero sacks and three hurries. But in the last two games, Patterson's got a sack and six hurries. Was that just a case of matchups, or did it just take some time for Patterson to pick up on Jim Washburn's methods?

Trevor Laws - He's playing about 37 percent of the time, rotating in at defensive tackle. Laws got off to a slow start as a pass rusher, with just one hurry in the Eagles' first three games. But in the past three, he's had nine hurries, including a season-high five against the Redskins. Laws has been pretty good against the run too.

Darryl Tapp - He's played in three games and performed well in two of them - against the Rams and Redskins. Tapp has had fewer opportunities to rush the passer than Babin and Cole, but has been effective when given the chance. He'll continue to be a part of the rotation, likely spelling Cole at right defensive end.

Juqua Parker - There were reports that the Eagles wanted to trade him before last week's deadline, and that made sense. I'm not sure what Parker's role will be once Graham returns. Parker's best game came against the Redskins, but he really didn't do much before that, having missed two games with an ankle injury. The moment most will remember about Parker from the first six games was when he jumped offsides at the end of the game against the Bills.

Phillip Hunt - He was inactive in Week 1, but has played in every game since, due to injuries at defensive end. Hunt has been OK, but has not really stood out. He's had his moments as a pass-rusher (five hurries), but the Eagles can't count on him against the run at this point.

Derek Landri - He's played only 35 snaps in two weeks, but has made an impact with six tackles and a pair of quarterback hurries. I liked Landri in the preseason, and he looks like he can definitely be a contributor as part of the defensive tackle rotation.

Brandon Graham - He got back on the practice field this week, but it's still unclear when he'll be activated. I can't predict how effective he'll be when he returns so it's just wait-and-see mode with Graham right now.

Antonio Dixon - Under normal circumstances, he's probably the Eagles' best run-stuffing defensive tackle, but Dixon suffered a torn triceps injury in Week 4 and is out for the season.

Jamar Chaney - After showing flashes at the end of 2010, Chaney has disappointed in 2011. Of course, the coaching staff didn't really help his development by moving Chaney to the SAM position to start the season. Chaney has not made enough plays in the run game, but has shown improvement and probably played his best game of the season against the Redskins. The Eagles really don't have any other options at this point so they'll just have to see if Chaney can get better as the season continues.

Brian Rolle - He's been an upgrade at WILL and stays on the field in nickel situations. Rolle is small, but provides the Eagles with a physical presence at linebacker. The rookie took over the starting job in Week 4 and now rarely comes off the field.

Moise Fokou - The Eagles played more nickel against the Bills and Redskins, resulting in Fokou being on the field only about 34 percent of the time. He played poorly against Washington and has not had a good season overall. But again, I'm not really sure what the Eagles' options are to replace him.

Casey Matthews - The Eagles realized their first-round pick, Danny Watkins, wasn't ready and signed Kyle DeVan. They realized Jaiquawn Jarrett wasn't ready, and he hasn't played a defensive snap. But for some reason, they felt Matthews would be just fine at middle linebacker, playing behind the wide-9. We know how that turned out. He lasted two games at middle linebacker and then was moved to the WILL position. That experiment lasted only one game, and now Matthews spends most of the game on the sidelines. As we've seen, it was unfair to blame all of the Eagles' problems on Matthews, and now the coaches have to build his confidence up and see if he can have a role in the future.

Akeem Jordan - He's only played a handful of snaps on the season and has not been much of a factor. If Fokou were to get injured, Jordan would likely fill in at SAM.

Keenan Clayton - He went from playing in dime packages to playing special teams to being inactive. At the beginning of the season, I thought Clayton had a chance to contribute this year, but it's now difficult to imagine him having much of a role in the team's future plans.

Asante Samuel - He got off to a pretty good start, but has not played well in the last three games. By my count, opposing quarterbacks are 13-for-30 for 167 yards when throwing at Samuel. Samuel was targeted just 36 times in all of 2010, according to Football Outsiders. And he has just one interception. We'll see how last week's trade rumors affect Samuel's play after he sounded off during a radio interview over the weekend.

Nnamdi Asomugha - He has not lived up to expectations, but Asomugha has played better in the last two games. He allowed completions of 25+ yards in three of the Eagles' first four games and was also whistled for a 41-yard pass interference penalty. His three penalties are the most among Eagles defensive backs. Asomugha hasn't looked like a very good tackler either, but he delivered a big blow on Chris Cooley against the Redskins. He got off to a bad start, but there have been signs of improvement and Asomugha should continue to get better as the season progresses.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie - He has looked lost and disinterested at times, specifically in the Bills game. Rodgers-Cromartie has played all over the place, but has not looked comfortable. The Eagles played a lot of nickel against the Bills and Redskins. Rodgers-Cromartie has dropped a pair of interceptions, and the Eagles need more from him the rest of way to shore up their pass defense.

Joselio Hanson - Had Samuel been traded, Hanson would have gone back to his role as the Eagles' nickel corner. But instead, he'll continue to play mostly in the dime.

Nate Allen - If you're looking for a bright spot, Allen's recent performance is probably it. He played very well against the Bills (13 tackles) and had an interception against the Redskins. The Eagles desperately need strong play from their safeties, and Allen has started to provide that.

Kurt Coleman - Many have pointed to the missed tackle on Victor Cruz against the Giants as the reason Coleman was benched, but the truth is, he had not played well at all up to that point. Maybe the benching was just what he needed as Coleman responded with a three-interception game against the Redskins. Don't be surprised if he plays up in the box when the Eagles need to stop the run.

Jarrad Page - According to Pro Football Focus, his seven missed tackles are the third-most among safeties (although it should be noted that they have Quintin Mikell at No. 1 with eight). Page just had a nightmarish game against the Bills. He was constantly in positions to make plays, but missed four tackles and was benched the following week. He'll likely stay on the sidelines unless Allen or Coleman suffers an injury.

Jaiquawn Jarrett - He's been active for two games, but has not played a defensive snap. It's obvious the Eagles just don't think he's ready, and we'll almost definitely have to wait until 2012 to see what he brings to the table.


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Sheil Kapadia Philly.com
About this blog
Sheil Kapadia is in his fifth season writing about the Eagles and the NFL for philly.com. His earliest memories as a sports fan include several trips to Veterans Stadium with his Dad. He's not a beat writer or an Insider, but is here to discuss the NFL 365 days a year. E-mail him at skapadia@philly.com or by clicking here

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