Eagles' D better fix issue because 'Rams can hang 40 and 50 on people'

Eagles' D better fix issue because 'Rams can hang 40 and 50 on people'

COSTA MESA, Calif. — The Eagles' defense prides itself on tackling and avoiding penalties.

Jim Schwartz's unit didn't do either well Sunday in the Eagles' 24-10 loss to the Seahawks. 

"We have to get back to playing our style of football," Schwartz said Tuesday afternoon from the team's hotel in Southern California, "because the Rams can hang 40 and 50 on people."

After Sunday's loss, the Eagles flew south and will spend the week at a hotel in Costa Mesa, while practicing at Angel Stadium in Anaheim. On Tuesday, while the offense went to the stadium for its walkthrough, the Eagles' defense used an empty ballroom in the team hotel after working out in an open-air weight room.

It's in a completely foreign environment, but Schwartz's unit needs to get back to what made it dominant before. 

“We understand what happened that game," defensive end Brandon Graham said. "We understand what we are as a team. And I know that we have a big challenge this week. And I know that we’re gonna do what we gotta do to bounce back this week.”

On Monday, head coach Doug Pederson didn't deny what a few of his players said after the loss to the Seahawks: that the team didn't have a great week of practice beforehand. That possibly led to some mental mistakes; the Eagles felt like they helped the Seahawks out way too much. 

Schwartz said he was overly worried about the week heading into the Chicago game. Maybe his fears there were somewhat unfounded, but the Eagles did make similar mistakes that eventually hurt them against the Seahawks. 

Perhaps the Eagles' defense had been a little too loose. 

"Every team has a little different personality," Schwartz said. "Some teams play best when they're loose. [For] some teams, it's more of a grind. I think our guys have the ability to play with and have some fun out on the field. But there is also a fine line between doing that and losing focus. Maybe that's something we can improve on."

Whatever the case was during practice, the Eagles need to fix it, especially if it's what led to penalties and missed tackles against the Seahawks. 

Of the Eagles' seven penalties for 64 yards against Seattle, four of them gave the Seahawks first downs.

And the Birds also had eight missed tackles, according to ProFootballFocus. Three of them belonged to Jalen Mills, normally a good tackling cornerback. Schwartz also noted they had a few chances to bring down Russell Wilson, and not just when he was scrambling around. 

"We missed a couple tackles that we have done a good job of making. We already talked about the penalties," Schwartz said. "That's a couple things that we've been really proud of defensively of being a good tackling team. That didn't show on Sunday night against Seattle."

A few weeks ago, Schwartz commended — as much as he does — his defense's ability to avoid costly penalties. The defense had four penalties Sunday against the Seahawks and all of them gave Seattle first downs. The Eagles were called for three defensive holds — one apiece for Nigel Bradham, Patrick Robinson and Corey Graham — and the pass interference call on Ronald Darby. Maybe it was a ticky-tack call on Darby, but Schwartz said the corner didn't play it as well as he should have. Had he, the flag probably doesn't get thrown. 

The Eagles had given up just one first down by penalty in each of their previous five games and had given up just 17 all season coming into Sunday. The only other time they gave up four in one game this season was against Carolina nearly two months ago. 

"When you give good offenses second chances, good things don't happen," Schwartz said. "I think that's probably going to be the same thing, well, it's going to be the same every week, but particularly so this week, facing a high-powered offense, a team that can score a lot. When we have a chance to stop them, we have to be able to stop them. We can't be extending drives due to penalties."

The good news for the Eagles is even with all the penalties and the missed tackles and coverage problems, they still gave up just 24 points. They've given up more points than that just once this season. 

To put those 24 points into perspective, 12 NFL teams are allowing an average of 24-plus points per game this season. And it constituted a bad performance for the Eagles, who have given up an average of 17.9 (sixth best in the league). 

"I think we, to a man, all recognize we played a poor game, and I'll include myself in that, too," Schwartz said. "And we gave up 24 points. Again, please don't misconstrue that, because we don't take any pride in that. But it shows you a little bit about where our guys are, that that's considered a bad performance, you know what I mean?"

Schwartz said they don't have one player on defense that considers that Seattle game one of their best performances. And for a lot of his players, it was one of their worst games. 

This week, the Eagles are working to keep perspective. They lost one game — sure, a big one, but still just one game — Sunday. They still have a chance to split this West Coast trip and can still accomplish all their goals. They just have to get back to what led them to nine straight wins. 

"We're a really good 10-2 team," Graham said. "That's what we are right now. We can't sit around and pout about it. We have the Rams up next."

LeGarrette Blount has found a new home

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LeGarrette Blount has found a new home

A big piece of the Eagles’ 2017 Super Bowl season is moving on. 

Running Back LeGarrette Blount has signed with the Detroit Lions. Blount's deal will be for one-year, $4.5 million, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport

Blount, 31, was scheduled to visit the Lions on Friday and he didn’t leave without a new deal. He’ll reunite with Lions head coach Matt Patricia, who was the defensive coordinator in New England when Blount was there; the familiarity probably helped. 

Last offseason, Blount took his time deciding where he’d land. He didn’t sign with the Eagles until May and his contract was worth around $1 million. He apparently showed enough during 2017 to get a bigger deal this time around. 

After beginning the season as the Eagles’ primary runner, he eventually saw his role diminish after the Birds added Jay Ajayi through a trade. Still, Blount played in all 16 games and rushed for 766 yards during the regular season. More importantly, he had 14 carries for 90 yards and a touchdown in Super Bowl LII. Blount had a rushing touchdown in all three playoff games after having just two during the regular season. 

Perhaps more important than his contributions on the field, it was Blount’s unselfish nature that seemed to rub off on his teammates. When he and Alshon Jeffery were on board with that unselfish mindset, it seemed like the rest of the team followed. 

As recently as late February, Blount indicated he wanted to return to Philadelphia, where he really seemed to fit in the locker room and under running backs coach Duce Staley, whom Blount clearly respects. 

"Obviously I like it a lot there,” Blount said in February on NFL Network. “They like me a lot there. It's a mutual respect and a mutual agreement thing about how we feel about each other. Obviously, you guys know how I feel about the team, the guys; I love those guys.”

While Blount said he wanted to return to Philly, it was unlikely the Eagles could have (or would have) offered him the type of contract he’s getting from the Lions. 

Meanwhile, the Eagles still have Ajayi and Corey Clement under contract from last season. Kenjon Barner is a free agent. The running back position still seems up in the air, but the Eagles have a few months and a draft to figure it out. 

Looking back at trio of Eagles' 2016 extensions

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Looking back at trio of Eagles' 2016 extensions

Back in early 2016, just after Howie Roseman had been reinstated to his post of power, he pulled out some moves from the classic Joe Banner playbook. 

He tried to find value in projection. 

Within a nine-day span in early 2016, the Eagles signed Vinny Curry, Zach Ertz and Lane Johnson to lucrative five-year extensions. Since then, Ertz and Johnson have grown into Pro Bowl players, rendering their contracts relative bargains. 

Curry simply remained a good player, which is why he was cut on Friday afternoon

While Curry finally became a starter in 2017, he had just three sacks and the team drafted Derek Barnett and traded for Michael Bennett who was cheaper and better. It’s certainly not really a knock on Curry, who had his best professional season during the Eagles’ Super Bowl year. 

When Curry signed his five-year, $47.25 million extension in February 2016, he was just two years removed from his nine-sack season and was seen as a much better fit in the 4-3 scheme Jim Schwartz was bringing to town. So the Eagles paid Curry like he was going to play at a Pro Bowl level and it never happened. In that first year, the Eagles tried to peg him in as a starter opposite of Connor Barwin, but Brandon Graham outplayed him. After Barwin was gone, Curry became a starter, but was just good; not great. 

Meanwhile, the two other big contracts handed to Ertz and Johnson have clearly worked out. Cutting Curry really speaks more to the nature of NFL contracts these days than it does to the level of his play. 

Sure, Curry never played to the level of his contract, but the deals for Ertz and Johnson look much better. And unlike Curry, both of them had one year left on their rookie deals when the Eagles tried to gain value in re-signing them early. It’s worked out. 

Ertz was the first of the three to sign his five-year extension. His was worth $42.5 million and as a Pro Bowler in 2017, he’s beginning to outplay it. He’s now the fifth-highest-paid tight end in the league and he’ll continue to drop on that list as he plays out the next four years of that deal. The best part of Ertz’s contract is it wasn’t heavily backloaded, which has allowed the Eagles to restructure with him the last two offseasons to create some cap room. 

The second of the three big five-year extensions based on projections went to Lane Johnson. His deal was worth $56.25 million. Of course, Johnson’s suspension in 2016 was tough, but he rebounded to have an incredible 2017. He’s the highest-paid right tackle in football, but he’s 10th among all offensive tackles, which is a good value. 

Twenty days after Curry signed his deal, Malcolm Jenkins also got a five-year deal, but at that point he had already been a Pro Bowler, so his deal was more based off of production than projection. 

During that entire offseason, every single time Roseman was asked about the moves he made that offseason, he continually said the most important ones were the moves they made to keep their own players. That obviously included the projection deals for Curry, Johnson and Ertz. 

Sure, only two of the three ended up being bargains with tenable contracts. But even Curry was useful during the two years he played of his extension before the Eagles took the out they built into the deal. That’s not a bad hit rate.