Big plays haunt Eagles' defense again in loss to Ravens

Big plays haunt Eagles' defense again in loss to Ravens

BALTIMORE – They play great for a series. They play great for two series. Good pressure. Shut down the run. Big hits. Terrific tackling. Solid coverage.

They look like a real, live NFL defense.

Then, invariably, disaster.

Teams aren’t really grinding out long drives against the Eagles. They're crushing the Eagles with big plays.

The Eagles had already allowed the third-most plays of 30 yards or more in the NFL going into this weekend, and they allowed an offensively challenged Ravens team to hit on four more of them.

The Ravens had hit on just 16 plays of 30 yards or more in their first 13 games before clicking on four Sunday against the Eagles

So with two games left, the Eagles have allowed a staggering 30 offensive plays of at least 30 yards.

The Eagles actually passed the Browns, who allowed only one big play in their loss to the Bills, and moved into a tie for last in the NFL with the Raiders, who gave up one 30-yarder in their win over the Chargers.

So 14 weeks into the season, no team in the NFL has allowed more 30-yard plays than the Eagles.

“It’s never going to be perfect, but you can’t let the imperfections turn into 40-yard runs, 50-yard runs, 60-yard touchdowns,” Jordan Hicks said. “You can’t let that happen.”

The Ravens hit one big play in each quarter Sunday in their 27-26 win over the Eagles (see Instant Replay).

Michael Campanaro’s 39-yard run in the first quarter set up a field goal, Joe Flacco’s 34-yard pass to Steve Smith went for a touchdown, Terrance West’s 41-yard run opened up the third quarter, and Flacco added a 54-yard completion to Mike Wallace in the fourth quarter.

The Eagles neutralized the damage on the last one when Hicks picked off Flacco on what John Harbaugh said was the worst play call he ever saw.

But the point is no defense can keep allowing these sort of plays — chunk plays, X plays, whatever you want to call them — at this rate and expect to win football games (see Roob's 10 observations from the loss).

“If there’s one place that we can improve, it’s definitely the big plays,” safety Malcolm Jenkins said. “That’s in the run game and in the pass game. It’s not just one group, it’s the entire defense.”

True. Two of the Ravens’ big plays Sunday were runs. Two were passes. It’s not just the secondary, it’s not just the linebackers, it’s not just the defensive line.

When you’re this bad at preventing teams to strike deep, it’s definitely a group effort.

“If you play an aggressive-style defense, big plays are going to come,” Jenkins said. “So limit the ones that you do give up and find a way to get them on the ground and live to fight another day.”

But they haven’t been able to do that.

Teams aren’t hitting a ton of little plays against the Eagles but they’re killing the Eagles with big plays.

That’s why you have this seeming anomaly where the Eagles are actually allowing the 12th-fewest yards per game in the NFL but have allowed the most big plays.

Let’s take the Ravens on Sunday. They ran 57 plays and netted 340 yards. But nearly half those yards — 168 of them — came on four plays.

It’s all or nothing.

And all is winning.

The Eagles are 5-9 for a lot of reasons but allowing a staggering number of big plays is one of the biggest.

And they’re also among the top three in the NFL allowing plays of 40 yards or more (16) and 50 yards or more (nine).

This was all supposed to end when the Eagles upgraded their secondary and moved on from Bill Davis.

It hasn’t.

And if this is ever going to be an elite defense, these X plays have to stop.

The Eagles have allowed 26 or more points in five straight games for only the their time in franchise history.

You know what the culprit is.

“Yeah, man, it’s difficult,” said safety Rodney McLeod, who’s been on the wrong end of too many big plays lately. “I felt early in the season a few of those plays happened, but we were able to overcome them.

“But down the stretch, those plays have come back to haunt us. We have to figure out what we have to do to stop then. We just can’t allow them to keep happening.”

You expect inconsistency from the offense. They’re young, they’re banged up, they’re still learning.

This is a veteran defense. And a healthy defense. With a supposed elite front four.

They’re not supposed to be allowing big play after big play after big play.

“You want to play a solid game, where you’re not giving up big chunks,” said Hicks, who picked up his fifth interception in 22 career games Sunday deep in Eagles territory.

“Big chunks kill you. They flip field position and they’re huge for momentum. It’s big for us. It’s something we have to fix.”

Eagles gain 'more resources' by trading out of NFL draft 1st round

AP Images

Eagles gain 'more resources' by trading out of NFL draft 1st round

It’s not that the Eagles didn’t want to pick a player at No. 32. It’s just that they believed they could get equal value at No. 52. And add an additional second-round pick as well.

So to Howie Roseman, this trade was a no-brainer.

To the surprise of no one, the Super Bowl champion Eagles traded out of the first round late Thursday night.

They shipped No. 32 overall — the final pick in the first round — along with one of their fourth-round picks (No. 132) for the Ravens’ second-round pick this year (No. 52), a fourth-round pick this year (No. 125) and a second-round pick in next year’s draft (see story).

“We felt what we were going to get at 32 was going to be a strength tomorrow as well,” said Roseman, the Eagles' vice president of football operations.

“We felt where this draft was strong continues to be strong [Friday], which gives us the chance to get a good player.

“There’s not many times you get an opportunity to move back in the draft and get a second-round pick, so for us, we thought it was the right value.”

The deal left the Eagles without a first-round pick for the first time since 2009 and only the third time in the last 25 years.

“There were some guys we really liked on the board,” Roseman said. “But as the round goes and you start getting calls and guys come off the board, some teams bail out and some teams come back in.

“We did not come into tonight thinking we were going to trade out. We wouldn’t have traded out just to trade out, because we did think there was good value at 32.

“We felt this was a really good trade for both teams. For the way we’re trying to build, it was really important that we got more resources moving forward."

With salary cap trouble looming in 2019, it makes sense for the Eagles to start stocking up on future draft picks — which equals cheaper talent.

“We felt like the value was right for us and where we are as a football team, where the value was in this draft," Roseman said.

So the Eagles remain without a third-round pick in this year’s draft, but the bottom line is that they shipped a first-round pick and a fourth-round pick for two second-round picks and a fourth-round pick.

As of the end of activity Thursday, they have a second-round pick on Friday, two fourth-round picks (No. 125 and No. 130), a fifth-round pick (No. 169), a sixth-round pick (No. 206) and a seventh-round pick (No. 250).

There are some very significant Eagles-Ravens connections. Ravens head coach John Harbaugh was on Andy Reid’s coaching staff in 1999 when Eagles head coach Doug Pederson was the team’s opening day quarterback. 

And Eagles vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas worked under Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome in Baltimore for over a decade.

With the 32nd pick, the Ravens drafted Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner.

“We kind of had a thought [the Ravens were interested in making a deal] with all the conversations we’ve had,” Roseman said. “We knew they were interested in adding firepower. We knew if there were certain players on the board, the phone was going to ring.”

The Eagles have drafted some of the best players in franchise history in the second round — Brian Dawkins, Eric Allen, LeSean McCoy, Randall Cunningham and DeSean Jackson, to name a few (see gallery).

With No. 52, they could go after a running back, a linebacker or an interior lineman, although with Roseman and Douglas, anything is on the table.

“We’re excited about moving back and seeing if we can make some of that magic happen in Round 2,” Roseman said.

Eagles trade out of NFL draft 1st round in deal with Ravens

AP Images

Eagles trade out of NFL draft 1st round in deal with Ravens

Eagles fans waited all night … so they can wait a little more.

The Birds held on to the No. 32 pick all night, but traded it to the Ravens when they finally got on the clock. The Ravens moved up to get quarterback Lamar Jackson from Louisville. 

The Eagles in return got picks 52 (second round), 125 (fourth) and a 2019 second-round pick. The Ravens got 32 and 132 (fourth).

Basically, the Eagles moved back 20 spots from 32, moved up seven spots in the fourth round, but the big pickup is that second-rounder in next year’s draft.

Last week, Eagles de facto GM Howie Roseman said the Eagles were “open for business” and the Ravens were buyers on Thursday night. 

“We felt like the value was right for us, where we are as a football team,” Roseman said after the round concluded. “Where the value was in this draft. There were a bunch of players that we still like and are optimistic to get tomorrow.” 

This is the exact scenario the Eagles were hoping for — that a quarterback fell to the 32nd pick and a team would be willing to go up and get him. It happened when the Vikings moved up to get Teddy Bridgewater.

Coming into this draft, Jackson was on a list the Eagles compiled of players who could garner interest if they slipped to 32. They were concerned, however, that one of the teams just before them would also be willing to trade down. 

“There was a bunch of phone calls,” Roseman said. “It’s interesting, as you get closer to your pick and guys get excited about guys and you get some guys that bail out. They call and say ‘that was our guy, we’re out.’ And then you’ll have guys come in. We just try to keep track of that.”

Even as the Eagles were on the clock at 32, they were fielding offers from multiple teams. Roseman said it came down to value. And the value of a second-round pick, even though it won’t help them this year, was too much to turn down.  

Roseman hinted that his relationship with Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome helped pull off the trade. The two have had discussion about this type of hypothetical before, so when the situation arose, both sides were ready. 

Here are the Eagles’ six draft choices heading into Friday:

2 (52)
4 (125)
4 (130)
5 (169)
6 (206)
7 (250)

The Eagles came into the draft with just six picks, tied for the fewest amount in the league. They still have six. 

The second and third rounds of the draft kick off on Friday night at 7 p.m. and the Eagles will actually have a pick to make. The fourth through seventh rounds go on Saturday, starting at noon. The Eagles have five picks on Saturday.