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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The real reason this Kansas City radio host's attack on Andy Reid was out of line

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The real reason this Kansas City radio host's attack on Andy Reid was out of line

I get why people are so outraged by the comments made Monday by a Kansas City radio host who linked Tyreek Hill’s off-the-field issues with the death seven years ago of Andy Reid’s son Garrett.

The guy tried to make a case that Big Red’s inability to be a strict disciplinarian as both a parent and a coach was responsible for both. 

“It did not work out particularly well in his family life,“ is what Kevin Kietzman of Sports Radio 810 WHB said. “He’s had a lot of things go bad on him, family and players. He is not good at fixing people. He is not good at discipline.”

Of course, these sort of remarks are irresponsible, hurtful and off-base. But you consider the source and they're probably not all that surprising.

And let's be honest. We all understand you don’t record the eighth-most wins of any NFL head coach in history and the seventh-most playoff wins without being able to discipline players when it’s necessary. We’ve all seen coaches who truly are bad at this stuff, and they don’t have three losing seasons in 20 years. They don’t last three years.

So yeah, this isn’t about that. Andy doesn’t need to be defended. Not about this.

And outrage distracts us from the real point. The real shame of Kietzman’s comments is that he connects a lack of discipline with heroin addiction.

Garrett Reid, Andy’s oldest son, died during training camp in Bethlehem seven years ago from a heroin overdose after a long battle with addiction, and the notion that his death somehow was the result of his father not disciplining him enough shows such a lack of understanding of addiction and substance abuse.

Addiction is a mental health disorder. It’s a disease.

It’s not a weakness. It’s not a character flaw. It’s not a lack of discipline.

Treatment can help, but it’s a long and difficult process. The changes substance abuse cause in a person’s brain, the addictive traits of heroin and other opioids, make recovery difficult and in some cases impossible.

Garrett was a good kid, a smart kid, and he and his family battled his addiction for years.

Here’s part of Andy’s statement the evening Garrett died:

“We understood that Garrett's long-standing battle with addiction was going to be difficult. He will, however, always have our family's love and respect for the courage he showed in trying to overcome it.”

This guy doesn’t know Andy and the battle he and his family fought to try and help Garrett through that battle.

Addiction and substance abuse have become such an epidemic in our communities. Big city. Small town. Everywhere. All of us know someone who’s lost a family member. All of us have either directly or indirectly felt that pain.

What Kietzman said is wrong in so many ways, but worst of all is how he trivializes addiction by implying that a little parental discipline would have saved Garrett Reid’s life.

This was a horrible thing to say for a lot of reasons, and it’s been nice to see so many of Andy’s former players rallying behind him on social media.

No parents should have to go through what Andy and his family went through seven summers ago at Lehigh. No parents should have to go through this either.

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Are 2019 Eagles better or worse at defensive tackle?

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Are 2019 Eagles better or worse at defensive tackle?

The Eagles bolstered the defensive tackle position in free agency, through a trade and by re-signing one of their own, but whether the unit is better or worse in 2019 largely falls on one player.

Key additions: Malik Jackson (free agent, Jaguars), Hassan Ridgeway (trade, Colts) 

Key departures: Haloti Ngata (retired)

Why they could be better: Fletcher Cox gets some help

Cox was basically a one-man show in 2018, lining up for 80 percent of the Eagles’ defensive snaps. The next closest defensive tackle on the club: a way-past-his-prime Haloti Ngata (Ngata... Ngata... not gonna be here anymore) at 35.5 percent. Of returning interior linemen not named Cox, only Trayvon Hester was on the field more than 8 percent of the time.

And, incredibly, Cox set a new career-high with 10.5 sacks and finished second in the NFL with 34 quarterback hits. Opponents knew the guy next to him was either washed, a defensive end moving inside or just a body, and it didn’t matter one bit. Couldn't stop him. So what happens when Malik Jackson averaging 5.5 sacks over the last six seasons is occupying the space next to Cox? Tim Jernigan returns, too, and Hassan Ridgeway — acquired for a seventh-round pick — provides a veteran challenger for Hester’s spot. All of a sudden, this is a deep, dangerous group.

Why they could be worse: Cox’s injury

Up to this point, all indications are Cox’s offseason foot surgery was not serious and the four-time Pro Bowl selection will be ready to go for training camp. Great. When it’s July 25 and he’s practicing with his teammates, this immediately becomes a non-issue.

Honestly though, the only argument for the Eagles’ defensive tackles taking a step back in 2019 is if Cox isn’t 100 percent going into this season — and don’t act like it can’t happen. Every year in camps all across the league, there are players who were to be “ready for camp” who don't come back until late August, even after Week 1. Again, there is no reason to assume that will be the case with Cox, but on the off chance he’s not himself come September, any dip in performance, let alone absence, would be felt by the entire D-line.

The X-factor: Jernigan

Thanks to the Jackson signing, the defense probably won’t need to depend on a whole heck of a lot from Jernigan. Yet, imagine if he’s healthy and providing a high-end starter's level of talent off the bench, at a position where the Eagles were literally plugging in journeymen like T.Y. McGill last season. Yes, that is a real person who wore midnight green in ’18.

Jernigan basically missed all of the previous year with a mysterious back injury, pretty much only making a few bit appearances in the playoffs. But just one year earlier, he was a regular on a Super Bowl-winning defense, recording a respectable 2.5 sacks, 9 tackles for loss and 10 quarterback hits. He posted even bigger numbers with the Ravens before that. Now, he’s the No. 3, playing on a team-friendly one-year deal, with much to prove. If he’s healthy and motivated, the Eagles may very well field the best interior in the league.

Are the Eagles’ defensive tackles better or worse?

There really isn’t much to add at this point. As long as Cox is healthy, it’s a no-brainer. Jackson is an upgrade, Jernigan is healthy as far as we know and there’s competition for the other roster spot. BETTER

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