Saturday, February 13, 2016

Eagles' biggest concern: Who's opposite Asante?

The Eagles' biggest concern going into Sunday's matchup is who's going to start at right cornerback and how Sean McDermott's unit is going to deal with one of the most prolific passing attacks in the league.

Eagles' biggest concern: Who's opposite Asante?

Dimitri Patterson (pictured) or Joselio Hanson will start at right cornerback Sunday opposite Asante Samuel. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)
Dimitri Patterson (pictured) or Joselio Hanson will start at right cornerback Sunday opposite Asante Samuel. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)

The Eagles have several questions on defense and less than seven days to find answers.

But the biggest concern of all is how this secondary is going to perform against Aaron Rodgers and the prolific Packers passing game.

The Green Bay quarterback will work on a gameplan this week, but part of it can already be simplified to this: attack whichever Eagles cornerback is playing opposite Asante Samuel.

That's been the gameplan for opposing quarterbacks for weeks now. In Tuesday night's loss to the Vikings, Joe Webb only threw in Samuel's direction a couple times.

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The week before, Eli Manning targeted Dimitri Patterson time after time, burning him for three touchdowns, including two that were from more than 30 yards out.

That right cornerback is the team's biggest concern is hardly shocking. It was the biggest concern on defense when the team began training camp. And now, more than five months later, that hasn't changed.

The Eagles' strategy on defense last offseason was to improve its pass rush so that the secondary would not have to be great. But their moves did not do enough to cover up their weakness. It's worth mentioning that two of the guys they decided not to bring back - Jason Babin and Chris Clemons - have more sacks (12.5 and 11, respectively) than anyone on the Eagles roster. And that includes Trent Cole (10).

Now Sean McDermott has to make a decision at cornerback - Patterson or Joselio Hanson?

Both players insisted Sunday night that they don't know who is going to start. Neither guy provides the Eagles with an ideal matchup, and that's somewhat alarming when you consider the following five things:

1. Rodgers finished the season with the highest QB rating in the NFC at 101.2.

2. Rodgers had 40 completions of 25 yards or more and averaged 8.26 yards per attempt. Both were tops in the NFC.

3. Rodgers had a QB rating of 107.4 in the red zone.

4. Packers WR Greg Jennings has 403 yards after the catch, sixth-most among receivers.

5. Jennings had 21 plays of 20-plus yards, the same number as DeSean Jackson. He also led the NFC with 12 receiving touchdowns.

The numbers are not so flattering for the Eagles' defense. They gave up 30 touchdown passes (third-worst) and allowed opponents to convert red-zone opportunities into touchdowns 76.74 percent of the time (league-worst).

The challenge will be to limit Rodgers' big plays. In the first meeting, the Eagles gave up two plays of 20 yards or more in the passing game. I'm guessing McDermott would do the Dance of Joy if his unit repeated that performance this time around.

But he's probably not counting on it. On the season, the Eagles have given up 54 plays of 20-plus yards, ninth-most in the league. But maybe more importantly, that's the most the Birds have given up since starting tracking the stat (1991).

With the game in six days, there's no time to pick up a free agent or find the right cornerback in the draft. McDermott has to pick his man and devise a gameplan to limit the damage. It's a tall task, and one way or another, will determine whether the Eagles get on the plane to Chicago or pack up their lockers for the offseason.

Programming note: No Man Up this week. I'm shifting focus to the Packers matchup. In the offseason, I'll take a look at the Week 17 game and have some notes on how the young guys looked.

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About this blog
Sheil Kapadia is in his fifth season writing about the Eagles and the NFL for 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 or by clicking here

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