Your Eagletarian is headed for the Grand Canyon today, but in his absence, bored hockey scribe Frank Seravalli, believing that an empty reporter's notebook is the devil's workshop, is chipping in. Frank will skate a shift or two with the Eagles' coverage while the NHL is locked out.
PHOENIX -- With much of the attention this week focused on which Eagle will have the unenviable task of trying to shut down Cardinals future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald, perhaps the more favorable matchup for the Birds is on the other side of the ball.
Which Eagle wideout will draw Cardinals rookie cornerback Jamell Fleming on the outside?
Fleming, a third-round pick out of Oklahoma, made his second career start last Sunday in New England, but saw a huge uptick in snaps as the Cardinals frequented the nickel often against Tom Brady. It’s a scheme the Eagles could see a lot of this week, especially after Brent Celek’s 157-yard performance against Baltimore.
Fleming was on the field for 80 of the Arizona’s 82 defensive snaps, a far cry from the 16 he saw in Week 1’s win over Seattle. Against the Patriots, Fleming didn’t give up any deep balls, yet he wasn’t exactly a shutdown defender, either.
According to Pro Football Focus, Fleming was thrown at 9 times last week, 7 of which were caught for 55 total yards. He defensed one pass and made 4 tackles. Brady posted a 92.7 passer rating on balls thrown in Fleming’s coverage.
“He’s not giving up any big plays,” Cards cornerback Patrick Peterson told the Arizona Republic. “Giving up touchdowns, giving up big plays, that can put you on the bench. He’s keeping everything in front of him.”
Peterson, coming off a Pro Bowl rookie season, has been a mentor to Fleming. He’s also been lights out. Peterson has been thrown at 12 times with just 4 going for completions. Peterson didn’t draw Rob Gronkowski or Wes Welker once in coverage last Sunday, but he held Brady to just a 2.8 passer rating on those 12 throws.
Fleming, 23, still has a ways to go. He is known for his speed and change of direction, yet his zone coverage at Oklahoma was a bit suspect, according to multiple scouting reports.
The Eagles' options to throw at Fleming will be limited, for sure, with Jeremy Maclin sidelined. Whether that means the Eagles will lineup in sets that push Fleming back to the bench remains to be seen. Undrafted rookie Damaris Johnson is expected to get a lot of work.
Quote to note: Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton said his unit strung together its “best week of practice ever.” Arizona enters Week 3 with a speedy, 13th-ranked defense, which has allowed 320.5 yards per game over the first two.