We’re all doing it right now. It happens when you lose a close game and the defensive secondary’s lack of big plays down the stretch seems to stand out in high relief. We second-guess the safeties, the corners, the defensive alignment, the guy calling the defense…
As Beans from Botnay Bay and ~BROZ from Drafttek pointed out, Jimmy Kempski mirrors many of our criticisms of the Eagles secondary, and calls for change:
“In my view, Sidney Jones is a better [outside corner] player than Jalen Mills, and should be starting. Avonte Maddox played 20 snaps, many of which were at safety, where he has never played. He only began getting reps there earlier this week. The notable omission here is Rasul Douglas, who did not play a single snap in the regular defense [against Tennessee].”
“Corey Graham is a good sub-package player, but he was exposed [as a starting safety] in the deep middle against a bad passing offense. Playing centerfield does not appear to be a strength of his at this stage of his career.”
Then, besides the omnipresent chatter that Mills is too slow to cover or does not learn from past mistakes, there is the murmuring about cornerback Ronald Darby’s shaky tackling technique. Darby may explain that he is going for the strip, but the fact on film is he is missing tackles by a mile.
The funny part about all this current debate is it would not be happening had the Eagles held on to a 3-point lead in overtime. Winning obscures a lot of mistakes in the secondary.
Now what I know about playing cornerback or safety would fit into a thimble, but what I do know is a much greater pass rush effort from our front seven would make everyone on the back end look better.
Still, there are legitimate concerns.
“I don’t think anybody’s going to look at this,” safety Malcolm Jenkins said, “and feel like they played a clean game.”
With the Eagles up three points in overtime and needing a fourth-down stop at midfield to seal a victory over the Tennessee Titans, Philadelphia had Tennessee facing a 4th-and-15 at their own 31-yard line. That’s when Corey Graham had a brain cramp.
Graham allowed a 19-yard completion to Taywan Taylor for the first down, which put the Titans at midfield and kept the drive alive. The Titans scored a touchdown 10-plays later in an hilariously inept series by the Eagles defense to take a 26-23 overtime victory.
Graham was nowhere near Taylor when he caught the pass, playing in front of him when Marcus Mariota completed the pass. For a veteran with Graham’s status, that shouldn’t happen.
“I would have lined up at 15 (15 yards from the line of scrimmage),” Graham said (via the Go Birds Podcast). “Make them throw it in front then you just have to get them down. You got to know that they’re going to go deep, so no reason for me to be lined up at 10 yards. They’re going to throw it 15, 20. They’re going to throw it behind the sticks.
“It’s just a dumb play my me. I got to be a lot smarter than that. I got to get at least in position or make him (Mariota) make a spectacular throw. It was just a stupid play.”
That kind of mistake is not because of the coordinator’s scheme. A lot of people have been dumping on Jim Schwartz for calling that defense. Sometimes it’s the player’s fault.
Graham wasn’t the only member of the Eagles defensive secondary that struggled. The Titans wanted Corey Davis on Jalen Mills and got their wish as Davis caught a 28-yard pass on the second pass play of the game (Mariota missed Davis on a long touchdown the play before that with Mills covering Davis). Mills also was the player in coverage on the 51-yard pass to Corey Davis in the fourth quarter (no safety help).
Avonte Maddox slipped on the winning touchdown to Corey Davis in the new nickel package the Eagles debuted after losing Rodney McLeod with a torn MCL. The Eagles allowed 327 pass yards and 7.1 yards per completion in the loss.
Four games may be all Jalen Mills gets as a starting cornerback on the Philadelphia Eagles in 2018. At his day-after news conference on Monday, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson revealed he is contemplating making changes at cornerback, and wherever else is necessary.
“They’re happening weekly, quite honestly, because we evaluate our players based on how they play and so there’s always these conversations each week, on Mondays and Tuesdays and making decisions that way,” Pederson said. “But again, we as a team offense, defense, special teams, need to be more efficient and so, again, it is not just a knee-jerk reaction, but these conversations do go on.
“Our efficiency as we look at as a staff and as coaches, we have to be careful that we are not just on a whim swapping people out. If you start doing that it starts moving other people around as well.
“We’re going to take these next couple of days and really evaluate everybody, evaluate us as coaches, too, and see if there’s a change to be made, we’ll make it. If not, then we’ll leave it alone. At the same time, we can also coach a little bit better and get our guys prepared in a situation to play.”
In other words, the Eagles coaching staff is second-guessing the secondary too.
Mills has been up and down through four games this season, allowing 20 catches for 278 yards and a touchdown…an average of 13.9 yards per catch. Ronald Darby hasn’t been any better, allowing 25 catches for 287 yards (11.5 yards per catch).
Mills also leads the NFL in pass interference penalties with three, adding more to his struggles in coverage. The popular vote for Mills’ replacement is Sidney Jones, who has allowed just 12 catches for 79 yards while being targeted 20 times in the slot.
Philadelphia could also adjust its defensive scheme, as Pederson noticed a weakness offenses are attacking even with the team having 96 pressures in four games.
“These corners are on islands a lot,” Pederson said. “from an offensive perspective, that when you see a guy that maybe you can attack, you try to attack. I think that’s what offenses are doing right now.”