I woke up this morning annoyed. A little angry, somewhat bitter, but mainly just annoyed.
And then I thought about how it’s a damn good thing the NFL Playoffs don’t begin for another 15 weeks.
While it’s certainly no safe bet the Eagles will even qualify for the postseason, if they do indeed get there, things must change on the defensive side of the ball. And fast.
First, the good news– Cullen Jenkins is playing at an All-Pro level. Trent Cole, too. And Jason Babin looks very much like the player who broke out last season under Jim Washburn in Tennessee, not the player who was a non-factor during his first stint here.
The secondary? Excellent. A week after completely shutting down the Rams’ vertical passing attack the Eagles’ secondary held the vaunted duo of Julio Jones and Roddy White to a combined 5 catches and 52 yards. Asante Samuel and Nnamdi Asomugha each added interceptions.
So how exactly does a defense that showed flashes of brilliance get lit up for 35 points, 14 of which came in the fourth quarter, as they let a critical early season road game slip away?
Well, we can start with the fact they employ a defensive scheme that doesn’t match the strengths of their personnel. Now, I’m just a silly sports blogger, but I think that could be a problem.
The much talked about “wide nine” scheme is terrific for rushing the passer–it’s produced nine total sacks in two games. And despite the accepted notion that it’s impossible to stop the run when in a defensive alignment that leaves that much spacing at the line of scrimmage, well, it’s just simply untrue.
Teams can stop run out of the “wide-nine front”. In fact, the Eagles did it several times last night. Trent Cole and Cullen Jenkins spent a good portion of their nights wrapping up Falcons running back Michael Turner before or just at the line of scrimmage on several of his carries. The problem occurs when defensive linemen don’t win one-on-one matchups, leaving the onus on the linebackers to, you know, like make plays. That’s something this current group clearly cannot do.
So why employ a system the exposes your defense’s biggest vulnerability?
Isn’t the strength of the Eagles’ defense supposed to be protecting leads? You know, “pin back the ears, fly around, make plays,” and all of those other cliches. So what the Hell happened last night?
What happened was the same thing that’s happened to Eagles defensive units for years–they wore down. And when the front four doesn’t get home, even without a blitz, opponents have success. There will be much talk today about Casey Matthews and his inability to, uh, do anything remotely productive on a football field. And that’s fair.
Still, the focus should be intensified on the puzzling question of why the Eagles have elected to employ a system that doesn’t match up with their personnel. And while one could argue it’s way too early in the season to fully evaluate this unit, games like last night’s are ones taylor made for this group.
That loss was unacceptable. It felt eerily familiar to those that have preceded it. 35 points. A maddening inability to get off the feild on third down. Red zone difficulties. Tight ends roaming free. It just never seems to end.
And yeah, so while it’s too early to make final judgments on anything at this point, the Eagles better figure out a way to clean this stuff up, or this will be just the first of many this season when I wake up annoyed, wondering to myself what the Hell happened.