Eagles defensive coordinator Sean McDermott said last week that he would play the best 11 players.
In fact, he's been saying that since he took over the job in the summer of 2009. However, the problem has been that McDermott's never really settled on those 11 - partly because of injuries, and partly because of a lack of effectiveness.
That continued in Week 5 when he decided to start Juqua Parker instead of Brandon Graham at defensive end and Moise Fokou instead of Akeem Jordan at strong-side linebacker. McDermott was also forced to deal with Asante Samuel's absence (concussion), Brodrick Bunkley's departure early in the first quarter and no Trent Cole for a stretch in the second half.
Aside from the personnel changes, McDermott's scheme changed too, as he utilized a dime package with a sixth defensive back more often than he has all season.
Let's start with the defensive line. Here's the breakdown of snaps:
|Player||No. of snaps||Perc. of snaps|
Let's start with Parker. He started and played nearly 70 percent of the defensive snaps, by far the most action he's seen all season. His previous high was 44 percent against the Lions. Parker played mostly at left defensive end but saw some time at right defensive end when Cole was sidelined.
And that meant Graham was in the game less than usual. Of the seven defensive linemen that McDermott rotated in, none saw less action than Graham, who played 38.1 percent of the snaps. That is by far a season low. The previous number was 63 percent against the Jaguars. Part of that might have to do with Graham recovering from an ankle injury, but it's something to keep an eye on.
The other player that stands out is Dixon. When Bunkley went down after the first two plays, he got the majority of snaps at defensive tackle, alongside Patterson. Dixon is better than Laws against the run, and it's obvious that McDermott wanted to focus on stopping Frank Gore early.
LINEBACKERS AND DBs
Jordan didn't play a single snap. Fokou played alongside Stewart Bradley and Ernie Sims in the base defense. Bradley and Sims remained on the field in nickel situations.
And the Eagles went with one linebacker (Bradley) quite a bit in their dime package. Here's the breakdown:
|Defense||No. of snaps||Perc. of snaps|
|Base (3 LBs, 4 DBs)||21||33.3%|
|Nickel (2 LBs, 5 DBs)||27||42.9%|
|Dime (1 LB, 6 DBs)||15||23.8%|
By my unofficial count, the Eagles had only used their dime package six times in the first four games. But they used it 15 times here. The personnel (for the most part) in the package was Bradley at linebacker; Ellis Hobbs, Joselio Hanson, Dimitri Patterson and Trevard Lindley at cornerback; and Quintin Mikell and Nate Allen at safety.
Lindley, who was inactive the previous two games, ended up playing 32 percent of the snaps. At the end of the game, he was the nickel corner ahead of Patterson, although I'm not sure if there was an injury involved.
Lindley was on the field in place of Ernie Sims in the dime packages. Sims played 76 percent of the snaps, which was a season-low (not counting the Jaguars game where he suffered an injury). In the other three games, Sims played 100 percent, 96 percent and 96 percent of the snaps, rarely coming off the field.
In the first four games, when the Eagles brought in a sixth defensive back, it was either Patterson or third safety Kurt Coleman.
As for Fokou, he played every snap (33.3 percent) in the base defense.
Later today, I'll post Man Up on the defense with player-by-player notes.