10 reasons the Eagles' defense is a mess

10 reasons the Eagles' defense is a mess

When the Eagles held the Bills, Bears, Patriots and Seahawks to a combined 61 points over a four-game stretch, there was definitely reason for optimism regarding the Eagles’ defense.
Sure looked like they had figured a few things out.
They were up to 12th in the league in yards allowed and 15th in points allowed. Not great but considering everything? Not bad.
Since then?
The Eagles have allowed 81 points to three teams that are a combined 9-33.
The Eagles managed to win two of those three games because Carson Wentz engineered two late comebacks, but the defense will need to be significantly better Sunday than it has been to slow down a Cowboys offense that’s No. 1 in the NFL in yards per game, passing, yards per play, third down and sacks allowed.
A win over the Cowboys Sunday means the Eagles will win the NFC East just by beating the Giants on the last day of the season.
But can they pull it off with this defense?
Here’s a look at 10 issues facing the Eagles’ defense with the Cowboys heading to the Linc in three days.
RUN DEFENSE: A month and a half into season, this was one of the top run defenses in the league. Through six games, the Eagles were No. 2 against the run, allowing 3.3 yards per carry. In the last eight games they’re 22nd at 4.5 yards per carry. With one of the NFL’s best running teams coming to town Sunday. Definitely trending in the wrong direction.
INTERCEPTIONS: They’ve disappeared. The first seven games of the season, the Eagles had eight INTs — 5th-most in the NFL. They have just two the last seven games. Only the 49ers have fewer.  
BIG PLAYS: The Eagles have allowed six TD passes of 50 yards or more, TWICE AS MANY AS ANY OTHER TEAM. Julio Jones, Terry McLaurin and Darius Slayton have all had their longest catch of the year against the Eagles. Case Keenum and Dwayne Haskins have both had their longest career TD pass against the Eagles. In all, the Eagles have allowed an NFL-high eight pass plays of at least 50 yards and an NFL-high nine scrimmage plays of 50 yards. 
MALCOLM AND FLETCHER: Malcolm Jenkins and Fletcher Cox are the only truly elite defensive players the Eagles have. They're the only defensive players to make a Pro Bowl under the current coaching staff. Both have played OK this year but neither has been up to his usual standard. When you only have two elite players and neither has an elite year, that's a problem.
TORCHED BY BAD QBs: Over the last three weeks, the Eagles have faced a 37-year-old with his eighth team and a career record 30 games under .500, a hapless 38-year-old washed-up veteran who was benched two games into the season and a struggling 22-year-old rookie with three career TD passes. Those three — Ryan Fitzpatrick, Eli Manning and Dwayne Haskins — combined to torch the Eagles, completing 63 percent of their passes for 829 yards with 8 TDs, 1 INT and a 113.3 passer rating. How are you going to beat good QBs when you play like this against bad ones?
SACKS: The Eagles are 12th in the NFL in sacks, which is pretty good. But when you consider that 10 of them were against the Jets and they have 27 in their 13 other games, you get a more realistic picture of their inconsistent pass pressure. On Sunday in Washington, they faced a QB who had been sacked once every seven times he dropped back in his career. They didn’t sack him.
FIRST HALF: Jim Schwartz is one of the better defensive coaches when it comes to adjustments. The Eagles are 9th in the NFL in second-half defense, which is pretty good. But they’re 26th in first-half points allowed, and that’s routinely put the Eagles in early holes. 
POINTS AFTER OFFENSE SCORES: I finally took the time to look this up, and as expected, the defense gives up way too many points after the offense scores. The offense has scored 61 times this year — 40 touchdowns and 21 field goals. Taking out nine instances when they scored in the final two minutes of a half, that’s 52 times that they’ve scored and then the defense has taken the field with a significant amount of time left in the half or game. Of those 52 times, they’ve allowed points 26 times. That's 20 TDs and 6 field goals on drives immediately following Eagles scores. On 99 drives that didn’t follow an offensive score, the defense has allowed points 32 times — 19 TDs and 13 field goals. So they're allowing points 50 percent of the time after the offense scores, 32 percent after the offense hasn't score. Following an offensive score, the defense is allowing 3.0 points per drive. Following non-scoring drives that figure drops to 1.7 points. Those are just momentum killers.
TRICK PLAYS: Whether it’s the Lions getting 44 yards from a receiver on an end-around to set up a field goal, the Patriots scoring a touchdown on a halfback option, the Seahawks scoring on a flea flicker or the Dolphins on a TD pass to their kicker, teams have had tremendous success using trick plays against the Eagles. They just seem to always fall for them.
PERSONNEL: It all comes down to this. Let’s be honest. A big part of the Eagles’ defensive struggles are simply due to them not having good enough players. They’ve found one Pro Bowl defensive player in their last 14 drafts, and that's Cox. How many other defensive players do they have who are among even the 10 best at their position? Malcolm Jenkins, maybe Brandon Graham? It's impossible to be a great defense without great players.

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Malcolm Jenkins to Drew Brees: 'Sometimes you should shut the f--- up'

Malcolm Jenkins to Drew Brees: 'Sometimes you should shut the f--- up'

Drew Brees said Wednesday he still feels kneeling during the national anthem is "disrespectful," as protestors across the nation speak out about institutional racism.

The New Orleans Saints quarterback said in 2016 that he "wholeheartedly" disagreed with then-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's decision to kneel during the anthem as a way to protest racism in the U.S. and in the country's police system.

On Wednesday, Brees returned to those words amid displays from citizens, including fellow athletes, across the country.

Many, including former Eagles safety and Brees' current teammate Malcolm Jenkins, believe Brees is missing the point of the current national conversation.

Jenkins posted a lengthy response to Brees' comments on his Instagram in a video, which he later deleted. 

Here's what Jenkins said in the now-deleted video:

Quite frankly I'm hurt, and I'm not okay. I saw Drew Brees' comments, and they were extremely disappointing, extremely self-centered, and just shows a complete lack of awareness or care for the plight of teammates, your peers, and your countrymen. For you to talk about the reasons why you respect the flag, and the national anthem, because your grandfathers both served and fought for this country, shows that you're so unaware of the history of my grandfather, and others whose grandparents fought for this country in those same wars. 

And when they came back to this country, they didn't get a hero's welcome. They were met with violence for wearing that uniform. The same people who put their lives on the line for you, and your ancestors, came back to this country and were treated less than men, or beaten up and snatched off of buses for wearing their uniforms. Cut out of society and marginalized, even though they put their lives on the line for you. So to assume that, because you have a perspective about the flag and what it means to you, and the national anthem, and that everybody else should have the same mentality - it's just completely unaware that my grandfather's experience is way different than yours.

And so I'm somebody who protested during the national anthem. Not against the national anthem, but against police brutality, and the systemic racism that is plaguing our country. And if you can't see - now, in 2020, with the whole nation on fire and people screaming for equality and that this is enough - and you can't, with the same vigor that you like to denounce the protest during the national anthem, denounce the murder of George Floyd, denounce the murder of Breonna Taylor, denounce the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, denounce systematic racism, commit yourself to making this country better without criticizing those who have exhausted every single resource they have to make this country better, and this country has not stepped up to the plate. You have not stepped up to the plate. To stay silent when your peers are screaming from the mountaintops that we need help, our communities are under siege, and we need help. What you're telling us is, 'Don't ask for help that way. Ask for it a different way. I can't listen when you ask that way.' 

We're done asking, Drew. People who share your sentiments, who express those and push them throughout the world, the airwaves, are the problem. And it's unfortunate, because I considered you a friend, I looked up to you as somebody I had a great deal of respect for, but sometimes you should shut the f**k up.

Jenkins said he deleted the video because he "knew it [would] be more about the headlines".

After Jenkins deleted the first video, he uploaded a second, different video. Here's what he said:

I promise you this... the onslaught of s**t that we have to deal with is f***ing crazy right now. Drew Brees, if you don't understand how hurtful, how insensitive your comments are, you are part of the problem. To think that, because your grandfathers served in this country and you have a great respect for the flag, that everybody else should have the same ideals and thoughts that you do is ridiculous. And it shows that you don't know history. Because when our grandfathers fought for this country, and served, and they came back, they didn't come back to a hero's welcome. They came back and got attacked for wearing their uniforms. They came back to people, to racism, to complete violence. 

And then here we are in 2020, with the whole country on fire, everybody witnessing a black man being murdered at the hands of the police, just in cold blood, for everybody to see, the whole country's on fire, and the first thing you do is criticize one's peaceful protest? That was years ago, when we were trying to signal a sign for help, signal for our allies, for our white brothers and sisters, the people we considered to be friends, to get involved. It was ignored, and here we are, now, with the world on fire, and you still first continue to criticize how we peacefully protest, because it doesn't fit in what you do? And your beliefs? Without ever acknowledging the fact that a man was murdered at the hands of police in front of us all, and it's been continuing for centuries. That the same brothers that you break the huddle down with before every game, the same guys that you bleed with and go into battle with every single day, go home to communities that have been decimated. 

Drew, unfortunately you're somebody who doesn't understand their privelege. You don't understand the potential you have to actually be an advocate for the people that you call brothers. You don't understand the history, and why people like me, people of my skin color, whose grandfathers fought for this country, who served, and I still protested not against the national anthem but against what was happening in America, what the fabric of this country stands for. If you don't understand that other people experience something totally different, then when you talk about being the brotherhood, and all this other bulls**t, it's just lip service, or it's only on the field. Because when we step off this field and I take my helmet off, I'm a black man walking around America, and I'm telling you - I'm dealing with these things. My communities are dealing with these things. And your response to me is, 'Don't talk about that here. This is not the place.' Drew - where is the place, Drew?

I'm disappointed, I'm hurt, because while the world tells you that you're not worthy, that your life doesn't matter, the last place you want to hear it from are the guys that you go to war with, and that you consider to be allies and to be your friends. Even though we're teammates, I can't let this slide.

Both times, Jenkins also included this caption with his posts:

I’m tired...

As I was trying to muster up the energy and find the words to address Drew Brees’s comments I recorded this video. Before I could post it, Drew reached out to me to discuss his point of view.

All in all, I’m still posting this video because it’s important for anyone who wants to consider themself an ally to know how these words and actions affect those who you want to help. Drew’s words during his interview were extremely painful to hear and I hope he rectifies them with real action.

Here's how Brees had explained his stance in an interview with Yahoo! Finance:

I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America, or our country. 

Let me just tell you what I see, what I feel, when the national anthem is played, and when I look at the flag of the United States. I envision my two grandfathers, who fought for this country during World War II, one in the Army, and one in the Marine Corps. Both risking their lives to protect our country, and to try and make our country, and this world, a better place. So every time I stand with my hand over my heart, looking at that flag and singing the national anthem, that's what I think about. 

And in many cases, it brings me to tears, thinking about all that has been sacrificed - not just those in the military, but for that matter, those throughout the civil rights movements of the 60s, and all that has been endured by so many people up until this point. 

And is everything right with our country right now? No, it's not. We still have a long way to go. But I think what you do, by standing there and showing respect to the flag with your hand over your heart, is it shows unity. It shows that we are all in this together, we all can do better, and that we are all part of the solution.


Brees' comments have drawn blowback from many others in the sports world, including other Philly athletes. 

Eagles cornerback Darius Slay voiced his displeasure:

Sixers forward Tobias Harris expressed his displeasure:

Eagles safety Jalen Mills weighed in:

Eagles running back Miles Sanders retweeted this tweet from Titans wideout A.J. Brown:

Eagles cornerback Rasul Douglas retweeted this tweet from Lions safety Jayron Kearse:

Sixers forward Mike Scott retweeted this tweet from Bleacher Report's Taylor Rooks:

Former Eagles running back Jordan Howard also chimed in:

Brees' comments come after a number of prominent white athletes, including Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, have tried to use their voices and platforms to lift up the voices and experiences of black people in the United States who are tired of not being heard and understood.

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Why Eagles will miss joint practices this summer

Why Eagles will miss joint practices this summer

We learned two things on Tuesday night about the NFL’s restrictions for training camps this summer:

One is that NFL teams will reportedly be required to stay at their own facilities this summer. That won’t be a big deal for the Eagles who haven’t held training camp at Lehigh University since 2012. 

But the other probably will affect them. 

Based on a memo sent by commissioner Roger Goodell to all 32 teams on Tuesday night, joint practices will be prohibited this year. 

While this decree makes sense when we’re talking about limiting exposure during the COVID-19 age, it could throw a wrinkle in the Eagles’ summer plans. While we don’t know for sure that the Birds were going to hold joint practices, we do know Doug Pederson is quite fond of them. 

The Eagles practiced with the Dolphins in 2017 and the Ravens in 2019. The only reason they didn’t have joint practices in 2018 was because the schedule didn’t work out. 

And this year, an obvious joint practice opponent would have been the Patriots, who come to Philly for Week 3 of the preseason. The Patriots held joint practices from 2012-17 and held joint practices with two teams last summer. They practiced with the Eagles in 2013. 

The Patriots open their 2020 preseason schedule with the Lions and head coach Matt Patricia, their former defensive coordinator. They also held joint practices with the Lions last year too, so perhaps the Patriots would have practiced with them. But they could have held double joint practices again this year if allowed. 

The Eagles also open their preseason against Frank Reich’s Colts and then go to Miami for Week 2. They obviously have a history with Reich and they held joint practices with the Dolphins a few years ago. So there were plenty of options this summer. 

But you can forget all that. 

So what will change now that we know the Eagles can’t hold joint practices? 

Well, they’re probably going to have to play a little harder during the preseason, especially in the third preseason game. Historically, that third preseason game has been the dress rehearsal game. But last year, Pederson got a lot of that work in during the joint practices with the Ravens.

Pederson said coaches could actually evaluate better in joint practices than they could during preseason games. 

"Yeah, because in practice sometimes you don't get all the situations in a game that you'd like to see your players in," Pederson said last summer. "So practices, I can set practices up that way. I can set them up hard. I can set them up where we're in pads, or going live, whatever it might be that we can really get a true evaluation of a player.

"The only real change from a game to a practice is in a game you don't get to do it over. At least in a practice setting, if we make a mistake, we can line up and do it again, and so we can correct that mistake right away.  In preseason games, we can't do that. We get a little bit better evaluation in practice in that case."

Another element the Eagles will miss from joint practices is the break in monotony. It gets old facing your teammates in practice for five to six weeks and going against another team can provide a boost. 

For now, the Eagles are fully planning to begin their training camp at the NovaCare Complex in late July. They have held their entire offseason program virtually. Pederson has previously said the Eagles will need a full training camp to prepare for an on-time start to the 2020 season.

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