Eagles' secondary relished opportunity to 'shut that up' against Giants

Eagles' secondary relished opportunity to 'shut that up' against Giants

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — They got everybody off their back.

For now, at least.

The Eagles’ much-maligned secondary was terrific Thursday night in the Eagles’ 34-13 win over the Giants at MetLife Stadium (see 10 observations).

It shut down Odell Beckham Jr., it didn't allow a passing touchdown, it knocked a ton of passes down, and for the first time this year it played up to its high standards.

“I feel like every time things go bad, it’s always the secondary’s fault,” Ronald Darby said. “So we just took it upon ourselves to shut that up and go out there and make plays, and that’s what our key objective was.”

Beckham managed just 44 receiving yards with a long gain of 12 yards, most of it in garbage time, and although Giants rookie Saquon Barkley had a brilliant evening with 229 yards from scrimmage, the Eagles’ secondary had by far its strongest game of the season.

Eli Manning, who’s thrown more touchdowns against the Eagles than any QB in history, didn't throw a touchdown, got picked off by Kamu Grugier-Hill and had nine passes knocked down, four by Darby.

Manning looked old and washed up. The Eagles' secondary looked fast, aggressive and confident.

“Feels good,” Jalen Mills said. “We were out there communicating, which is the biggest part in secondary play. We played fast.”

The Eagles’ pass defense has actually been among the NFL’s best this year. Other than a terrible first half in Tampa. 

The Eagles have allowed just eight TD passes in six games, and their red-zone defense is second best in the NFL.

But Darby is right.

On days when nobody plays well, most of the criticism is aimed at the corners.

They’re easy targets. When they mess up, it’s easy to see.

“It comes with the territory,” Darby said. “That’s the sport. That’s what you signed up for. That’s what you get paid for. You’ve just gotta go out there and keep competing.

“It’s a team sport. You talk bad about one, you’re talking bad about all of us. So just go out there and have fun.”

Mills had a very good day, especially in the red zone. The Giants were 0 for 3 inside the 20, managing just two field goals, and Mills was a big reason why. His toughness and aggressiveness are magnified inside the 20.

“We put the work in, even on a short week, and guys executed,” Mills said. “Banged up, short week, guys in the trainer’s room. This feels like — not to try to reminisce or anything — but it feels like one of those team wins from last year.”

The Eagles, already without starting safety Rodney McLeod, lost nickel corner Sidney Jones early in the second quarter, which left Rasul Douglas playing safety for the first time in his life. Rookie Avonte Maddox was already playing safety for the first time in his life.

Malcolm Jenkins is the only defensive back the Eagles had in uniform over the age of 24.

People need to realize how young and talented and confident and deep this group is.

At one point, Mills left the field and safety Tre Sullivan — who wasn't even on the roster a few days ago — came in for a few snaps, with Douglas moving to outside corner and Maddox back to nickel.

“We had cornerbacks playing safety, safeties playing nickel … a lot of moving parts,” Maddox said. “We all learn every position in case something like this happens, and we were ready.”

Since allowing Ryan Fitzpatrick four TD passes in Week 2, the Eagles have allowed just four touchdown passes the last four games.

And they’ve done it despite injuries, guys in new positions and some pretty accomplished receivers across the line of scrimmage.

“They’re very dynamic in that they can all play multiple positions,” Jordan Hicks said.

“Malcolm’s such a great leader for that room with the young guys. We have so much confidence in them. That’s the fabric of this team. When one person goes down, the next guy goes in. That’s the expectation.

“If you don’t, you’re playing lower than our expectations, no matter the situation, and guys understand that, and it showed tonight.”

Darby made it clear he relished the opportunity to quiet a lot of doubters Thursday night.

“It feels good, but they’re always going to be lurking,” he said. “So you’ve got to stay on top of your game.”

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One play that has to be haunting Eagles from blowout loss


One play that has to be haunting Eagles from blowout loss

In a 48-7 loss, it’s probably unfair to pinpoint just one play, but I can’t seem to get over this one.

We’re getting pretty late in the second quarter and the Eagles are still alive in this thing. Earlier in the quarter, Josh Adams ran in a 28-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 10 points (17-7). And then the Eagles’ defense got a quick (and rare) 3-and-out. 

So now the Eagles have the ball back and they’re marching down the field, threatening to turn a 17-point deficit into a 3-point deficit. And they’re actually moving the ball. They’ve picked up two first downs to get the ball into Saints territory. 

It’s 3rd-and-3 from the New Orleans 46-yard line. The one thing the Eagles can’t afford to do here is to take a sack. If they’re faced with a 4th-and-3, they at least have a decent shot to get it on fourth down. But, instead, Wentz gets sacked for a 10-yard loss to bring up 4th-and-13 and the Eagles punt the ball away. 

“Yeah, it was just an eight-man protection, and we just missed on a call up front, so there was quick pressure in Carson's face, and he couldn't reload,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “Zach (Ertz) was coming open in the middle of the field.”

On the ensuing possession, the Saints rip off an 84-yard touchdown drive to put them up 24-7 and the route is on. 

So this 3rd-down play the Eagles ruined was huge. Let’s take a closer look: 

At the snap, Pederson is right. The Saints have eight in the box with just one safety deep. This is going to give Zach Ertz plenty of space with a 1-on-1 matchup in the middle of the field. But remember, the Eagles need just three yards to get the first down. Is this the best way to get it? 

That’s a pretty deep drop that takes a long time. Remember, the Eagles snapped the ball under center from the 46-yard line. Wentz dropped nine yards after a play-action look. 

But as he plants his back leg at the Eagles’ 45-yard line, Ertz does have a ton of field in front of him in single coverage. It’s good coverage here, but the Eagles will be happy to give Ertz a chance to make a play. 

The problem, of course, is that Sheldon Rankings ends up coming free and takes down Wentz for a sack. Ertz was starting to get open as Wentz gets brought down.

If the protection was better, Wentz might have delivered the ball to Ertz for a 10- or 15-yard gain and the Eagles move the chains and maybe make this a game. But you have to ask yourself if a long-developing play to pick up 10-15 yards is what the Eagles needed on 3rd-and-3 from inside enemy territory. 

So how did Rankins come so free? 

Well, you can see it better from this view. The Eagles, at the snap, look like they have good protection. 


But then Stefen Wisniewski, who was in for Jason Kelce at center, seemed to let Rankins run free. Not sure exactly what happened here. Perhaps he expected a stunt and was passing Rankins off and the stunt never game. Near the end, a hip check from Wisniewski nearly throws Rankins off, but he was able to fight through it and get the sack. 

At the very end of the video, you’ll see Wisniewski ask Seumalo what the heck happened. Maybe Seumalo was supposed to pick that man up. Either way, that confusion or blown assignment up front ruined the play. 

Eagles offensive coordinator Mike Groh confirmed Tuesday that there was a “miscommunication with the protection.” 

If this play works, it’s a big first down and the Eagles move the chains. But it’s fair to question the play call. This was a slow-developing play in a situation where they absolutely couldn’t afford to take a sack. If it’s 4th-and-3, you can bet the Eagles would have gone for it, but this failure took that opportunity away from them. 

In a 48-7 game, there are plenty of things that went wrong. This is one that should be haunting the Eagles. 

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Eagles finally activate Tim Jernigan after long layoff

Eagles finally activate Tim Jernigan after long layoff

It may be a case of too little too late, but defensive tackle Tim Jernigan is finally back.

The Eagles on Tuesday activated Jernigan from the reserve-non-football injury list, and he’s expected to make his 2018 debut on Sunday, when the Eagles face the Giants at the Linc.

To make room on the 53-man roster, the Eagles released defensive tackle T.Y. McGill.

Jernigan hasn’t played since the Super Bowl. He got hurt during an unsupervised offseason workout, underwent disc surgery and has been on reserve-NFI since. 

During the interim, the Eagles slashed his contract, converting guaranteed money to non-guaranteed salary, so in a way he’s playing for his roster spot these last six weeks. He's earning $3 million this year.

Once Jernigan was cleared to practice on Nov. 5, the Eagles had three weeks to either activate him or shut him down for the season.

How much he can play and how much he can contribute after missing all of the offseason, OTAs, training camp and the first 10 games of the season remains to be seen. 

But considering what the Eagles have been running out there at defensive tackle, it’s hard to imagine he won’t be a major upgrade.

In Jernigan’s absence and with Haloti Ngata in and out of the lineup (he missed three games), the Eagles used Bruce Hector in six games (he’s currently on the practice squad), Treyvon Hester in six games (he had been on the practice squad) and the last two weeks McGill, who got 15 snaps against the Cowboys and 30 against the Saints.

McGill, who had previously spent time with the Seahawks, Colts, Browns, Chiefs and Chargers, earned $82,941 for his two-week stay with the Eagles.

“It’s been a long journey for him,” defensive end Chris Long said of Jernigan earlier this month. “He’s very eager. He’s been patient, because that’s not something to mess around with, but at the same time, I know he wants to be back out here with us. We’ve watched him work every day and he’s ready to roll.

“He’s definitely a complete player. We’re not going to expect him to come back the first game and light the world on fire. [But] he’s going to be a valuable member of the team.”

Jernigan, 26, spent his first three seasons with the Ravens before the Eagles acquired him for a 2017 third-round pick. He started 15 games last year for the Super Bowl champs. He has 15½ sacks in four seasons.

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