Editor’s Note: Steve Fini breaks down yesterday’s mess at Lincoln Financial Field.
A word of warning: This is not going to be pretty. Yesterday’s 29-16 loss to New York was one of the worst of the Andy Reid era. If you’re looking for some hope this Monday morning, then go read Dave Spadaro and see what he has spun up.
Eli Manning (QB/Giants) – How can you not give him praise after what he did yesterday? He was exactly what we all feared he could be. He was cool in the pocket, didn’t get flustered, and made no mistakes. He got the ball out to his playmakers and didn’t give the game away. He wasn’t much more than a game manager, but with the way the Eagles tackled yesterday he didn’t have to be. With no Kevin Boss, Mario Manningham, or Dominik Hixon, he turned to Victor Cruz as a safety blanket and it worked. With the way the Eagles defensive line played last week it looked like he would throw three interceptions and match that number in fumbles. Instead, he distributed the ball in an efficient manner and threw for four touchdowns.
Nnamdi Asomugha (CB/Eagles) – As good as he was last week, he was awful this week. When I say awful, I mean awful for his standards. While he didn’t get worked all over the field, he didn’t make big plays when called upon to do so. He didn’t cover receiver Hakeem Nicks much, if at all, and still gave up a touchdown. He missed a tackle on the second long touchdown given up by the Eagles (although Kurt Coleman is partially to blame for that), and got outplayed on a jump ball by Victor Cruz. He is a shut-down corner. He needs to make those plays. The Eagles have now given up a total of eight passing touchdowns this season. That’s unacceptable.
Eagles safeties – Can the Eagles get one guy to step up, please? In Week 1, Kurt Coleman seemed to be all over the field, but has struggled since. Jarrad Page looked good in the opener, too, shutting down Rams tight end Lance Kendricks. Since then, however, they’ve been nothing but liabilities. Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez made them look silly. They were even worse this week—by a lot. Coleman was eventually benched for Nate Allen, who came in and was nearly invisible until he was stiff-armed to the ground by Ahmad Bradshaw. Page was supposed to provide help in zone coverage on the second Cruz touchdown catch, but didn’t. He also missed a handful of tackles. Basically, the Eagles don’t have a starting safety on this roster right now. Right now, the Eagles employ a defense that contains not a single play maker at any of the safety or linebacker positions. So that’s nice.
Eagles linebackers – After this game I really don’t care if I’m putting everyone into a group, because none of these guys do anything to differentiate themselves. Let’s start with Casey Matthews since he’s everybody’s favorite whipping boy. He needs to be off the field. I’ve been calling for this since the preseason but figured he at least deserved a shot to prove himself. He hasn’t. At all. He is the weakest link in a very weak group. I don’t understand why Brian Rolle doesn’t get more playing time. Maybe Matthews has some serious blackmail against defensive coordinator Juan Castillo. Maybe Castillo’s wife just likes to watch Mathews’ hair blow in the breeze of opponents running past him. I don’t have the answer. Rolle deserves the same opportunity that Matthews has blown these first three weeks.
Jamar Chaney, who I thought would step up in the middle, missed a ton of tackles. Moise Fokou blitzed well, but didn’t make enough plays. It’s going to take a magician to make this group effective. This team is in serious, serious trouble at the linebacker spot and a simple flip-flop of personnel is not the remedy.
Juan Castillo (Eagles/Defensive Coordinator) – Take your pick of points to criticize Castillo about. Nnamdi Asomugha in zone coverage. Matthews continued presence of the field. Not having an answer for an offense in the fourth quarter. Allowing eight touchdown passes over the last two games. It’s obvious that Castillo has been a failure so far. He has the second best shut down corner in the league and plays him in zone. Not only has Castillo failed to properly appraise talent, he also doesn’t know how to utilize the talent he has. Asomugha didn’t gain his reputation as a shut down cornerback in Oakland by playing zone. You know why? Because it’s is a complete waste of his talents to play him in zone.
You put him in a position to shut down a receiver so the pass is never even thrown. Castillo is putting players in bad positions and getting outcoached by other teams’ offensive coordinators. Kevin Gilbride, who has been getting blasted in New York for his unimaginative play calling, took Castillo to school yesterday.
As a whole, I think the coaching changes have been disappointments. They have tried to completely change the entire defensive and entire offensive lines in one offseason when they don’t even have the players to fit their systems. They’ve made no effort to ease this team into a change. Instead, they put in these systems and “outsmarted” everyone else. It’s no surprise that these two units are costing the Eagles games.