Targeting Asante and the Eagles' D

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Eagles cornerback Asante Samuel was targeted six times against the Rams. (Staff photo)

The Eagles' defense limited the Rams to a 69.8 QB rating on Sunday, the fourth-worst in the NFL in Week 1.

OK, maybe "limited" is being generous. The Rams had drop after drop (seven total, according to Pro Football Focus), as Sam Bradford's weapons did very little to help him on what turned out to be a tough day for the second-year quarterback.

But from an Eagles standpoint, the interest rests in where Bradford (and late in the game, A.J. Feeley) threw the ball.

Let's start with the cornerbacks. The Eagles stayed mainly in their base defense with two cornerbacks - Asante Samuel and Nnamdi Asomugha - on the field. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie came in and played the slot in nickel situations, and Joselio Hanson saw some action late (more details on snap counts here).

Here are the numbers on the three cornerbacks:

  Targets Completions Yds. YPA
Samuel 6 2 8 1.3
Rodgers-Cromartie 3 1 18 6.0
Asomugha 2 1 31 31.0

Note that charting these plays is a little tricky. I didn't include plays where the Eagles were in zone and one of these cornerbacks just happened to be the closest guy to the receiver. They had to be clearly covering a specific Rams player for me to count it as a target.

Let's start with Samuel. It's a brave new world for the Eagles' left cornerback. He was targeted 36 times in 11 games last season (according to Football Outsiders), but the Rams went after Samuel six times. As you can see from the numbers above, they didn't have much success. One play not included is Samuel's illegal contact penalty in the second, which gave the Rams a first down.

Asomugha, meanwhile, was targeted just twice. He gave up the 31-yard completion to Brandon Gibson and was called for the 41-yard pass interference penalty.

Rodgers-Cromartie was thrown at three times and gave up one catch for 18 yards.

The linebackers struggled against the run, but played pretty well in coverage. Jamar Chaney was targeted six times, and allowed three completions for 18 yards.

Moise Fokou was targeted twice and gave up just a 1-yard completion. And Casey Matthews was targeted just once on an incompletion.

The Eagles appeared to have some breakdowns in communication, specifically when they were playing different zone coverages. That led to Rams receivers getting wide open, but again, because of the drops, they weren't able to capitalize.

Looking ahead, we'll see where Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan goes with the ball on Sunday night. In Week 1, he targeted Roddy White 13 times, and the Falcons wide receiver caught eight balls for 61 yards. Rookie Julio Jones had five catches for 71 yards on six targets.

But Ryan spread it out, targeting running backs or tight ends on 23 of his 46 attempts. Tony Gonzalez had five catches for 72 yards and averaged 14.4 yards per reception in Week 1. That means it could be a busy day for the Eagles linebackers once again in coverage.

If you missed it from earlier, I posted on Jim Washburn and the defensive line.


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