Eagles

Eagles 2018 first quarter report card: Defense and special teams

Eagles 2018 first quarter report card: Defense and special teams

A position-by-position examination of how the Eagles’ defense and special team have fared four weeks into the 2018 NFL season.

Offensive grades can be found here

Defensive line 

Outstanding
Opponents are unable to run the football against this front. The Eagles rank No. 1 in the NFL on the ground — again — and tied for second in terms of yards per attempt.

Outstanding
Fletcher Cox (14 TKL, 3 TFL, 3.0 SK, 8 QH) is off to a monster start and should best his totals from either of the last two seasons with even a mild finish. Derek Barnett is quietly becoming a star, too. The second-year end leads the team with four tackles for loss and is second to Cox with 2.5 sacks and seven quarterback hits.

Satisfactory 
Veterans Michael Bennett (3 TFL, 1.0 SK, 6 QH), Chris Long (1.0 SK, 7 QH, 1 FF) and Haloti Ngata (2 TFL, 1.0 SK, 2 QH) are solid, each playing around 50 percent of the snaps.

Needs improvement
Brandon Graham is a non-entity, particularly rushing the passer with only one quarterback hit and zero sacks. Is he healthy? Regardless, Bennett should probably see more playing time.

Grade: B+

Linebackers 

Outstanding
Only five linebackers in the league have more solo tackles than Jordan Hicks with 25. And among that group, only one bests Hicks’ line of 1.5 sacks, two tackles for loss and three pass breakups.

Needs improvement 
Nigel Bradham (15 TKL, 1 TFL, 1.0 SK) isn’t around the ball much since returning from a one-game suspension. He’s playing fewer snaps than previous seasons but has made little impact with those opportunities.

Grade: B+

Defensive backs

Satisfactory
The secondary is more middle-of-the-road than bad. Quarterbacks are completing 64.4 percent of passes (15th) for 7.3 yards per attempt (14th) with seven touchdowns and three interceptions for a 92.7 rating (13th).

Needs improvement
Too many big gains either over the top or stemming from poor tackling. The Eagles are tied for 10th with 14 completions of 20 yards or more and tied for eighth with three for 40-plus. That’s not including multiple Jalen Mills pass interference penalties downfield, either. While Mills has earned the brunt of the criticism, the issue is secondary-wide.

Unsatisfactory
The worst play of the season thus far, without question, is Corey Graham’s mental error on 4th-and-15 against the Titans. A stop there wins the game, period. The Eagles miss Rodney McLeod (10 TKL, 4 PD), who was off to a nice start.

Grade: C+

Special teams 

Satisfactory
Cameron Johnston has booted a few too many touchbacks with five, leading the league by two, but he’s also third with a 44.0 net average. Directional kicking could be better, but he’s really booming the ball.

Satisfactory
After struggling a bit from close range in 2017, Jake Elliott is perfect from inside 40 yards with eight extra points and six field goals. He’s also missed both attempts from 40-plus, though, which is something to keep an eye on.

Unsatisfactory
Too. Many. Penalties. How many decent returns were negated by penalties? How many times was an opponents’ field position aided by a flag? It’s turned around somewhat but was on the verge of becoming an epidemic in the first few games.

Grade: B-

More on the Eagles

Eagles' coaches to continue working at home despite NFL policy change

Eagles' coaches to continue working at home despite NFL policy change

In a bit of a surprising move, the Eagles have decided to keep their coaching staff sequestered at home, despite an NFL policy that would allow them to return to work at the NovaCare Complex on Friday.

The NFL is allowing coaches — but not players — to work at team facilities starting Friday, as long as local and state guidelines allow it.

But Doug Pederson is apparently so happy with the way virtual sessions between the coaches and players have gone over the past several weeks that he doesn't see a reason to bring his coaches into the building yet.

"The virtual collaboration over the past three months has proven that the contributions and value of our employees is not dependent upon their physical presence at the facility," the team said in a statement.

Many Eagles assistants don't live in Philadelphia year-round and the new coaches on Pederson's staff haven't had the chance to look for homes yet.

Because players aren't allowed into the complex — other than injured or rehabbing players — it wouldn't really change the way the Eagles are holding virtual OTA sessions.

The current set of offseason workouts is scheduled to end on June 25, and training camp is scheduled to begin about a month later.

The Eagles will be opening the NovaCare Complex and the Linc to a limited number of employees next week.  

"Over the last 12 weeks, our organization has remained connected, united and focused on our preparations for the upcoming season," the Eagles said in an unattributed statement. 

"We have been planning for and will begin a phased approach of gradually returning a limited number of employees to the NovaCare Complex and Lincoln Financial Field beginning Monday in compliance with the state and local guidelines, NFL policies and in consultation with medical experts."

The Eagles closed the NovaCare Complex on March 13 and players and coaches have been meeting virtually since. 

Subscribe and rate the Eagle Eye podcast: 
Apple Podcasts / Google Play / Stitcher / Spotify / Art19

More on the Eagles

Drew Brees fumble highlights how much Carson Wentz nailed it

Drew Brees fumble highlights how much Carson Wentz nailed it

As we watch Drew Brees backpedal, apologize and now try to smooth things over with his teammates and his city, one thing is becoming clear. 

Carson Wentz nailed it. The first time. 

Wentz last Friday became one of the first high-profile white athletes in America to speak out about the killing of George Floyd. He stopped short of specifically calling out police brutality but he condemned “institutional racism” and his approach was one of understanding and empathy. It was honest, it was refreshing and it was unifying. 

Then there’s what Brees said. 

Brees in an interview on Wednesday reiterated his response from 2016 about the peaceful protests against police brutality and racial injustice once held by NFL players during the national anthem. Brees said he will “never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America.” 

For Brees’s black teammates who have been fighting for racial equality, and for those affected by racial injustice, those words hurt. Not just because Brees completely missed the point of those protests but because of his complete lack of awareness. It hurt more because it came from someone they thought was an ally. 

Malcolm Jenkins on Thursday said he had spoken to Brees but he still posted his emotional responses to those comments. A strained Jenkins choked back tears as he talked about how much the words from Brees pained him. 

One of the big problems for Jenkins was the loss of trust. In an emotionally charged week, during which Jenkins has been trying to effect real change, someone he considered to be an ally, a friend, a brother, completely discounted the cause. 

To Brees’s credit, he did apologize on Thursday morning. While many will argue that his apology fell short in many areas, it’s at least a start to his rebuilding trust in the locker room and in New Orleans, where crowds of protesters on Wednesday chanted “F— Drew Brees!” Some will accept his apology, some will want to see more and some never will. 

For his sake and for the sake of his teammates, I hope the apology wasn’t hollow. I hope Brees learns why his words hurt so many. 

It’s hard to imagine Brees watching those videos of Jenkins and not wanting to rectify the situation. Imagine causing so much pain to someone you’re supposed to care about. 

While plenty of Saints players have spoken out against their quarterback’s words this week, many Eagles players have gained even more respect for their quarterback. DeSean Jackson earlier this week said his white teammates like Wentz, Zach Ertz and Jason Kelce stepped up. In that moment, Wentz wasn’t just a leader of a football team; he was a leader of the community. 

This isn’t about football right now. But eventually, there will be NFL games and it’s fair to wonder how these parallel situations will play out short-term and long-term in their respective cities. One team seems to be weaker because of this and one team seems to be stronger. 

While Brees caused what might be irreparable damage to the brotherhood of his football team and to his legacy in New Orleans, Wentz took a huge step forward as a leader of his locker room and the community. 

Subscribe and rate the Eagle Eye podcast: 

Apple Podcasts / Google Play / Stitcher / Spotify / Art19



Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Eagles