Eagles

Poor tackling reaches epidemic proportions for Eagles

Poor tackling reaches epidemic proportions for Eagles

There are a million reasons the Eagles are 4-5 a year after winning the Super Bowl, and poor tackling is right up there with shaky pass protection, bad play-calling, a lack of takeaways, slow starts and an inconsistent running game.
 
The Eagles tackled very well last year.
 
They've tackled very poorly this year.
 
A year ago, the Eagles were eighth-best in the NFL, allowing 5.02 yards per play. This year they’re 17th at 5.77.
 
That’s a difference of three-quarters of a yard per play, which is huge.
 
Is that all because of poor tackling? Not all of it but a lot of it.
 
There’s no doubt the Eagles miss Rodney McLeod, who is a very good tackler and may have saved the Eagles’ Super Bowl win with two huge solo red-zone stops on Gronk.
 
They also miss Jalen Mills, a very good tackling cornerback.
 
And Nigel Bradham, who was exceptional last year, seems to have taken a big step backwards this year in terms of coverage and tackling.
 
Even the usually reliable Jordan Hicks has missed his share of tackles.

It's been a team-wide malaise.


 
What the heck is going on here?
 
“I don't know,” defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. “I think a lot of tackling goes to positioning, it goes to playing fast, playing confident. I think first when you look at tackling, you generally go there. I don't think we've looked as fast and as swarming on defense. I think here's what happened: I think a lot of times last year we would miss the same number of tackles, but we were just flying around so fast and guys were covering each other up. I think that we’ve got a lot of new faces and they're all sort of working their way through playing off of the other guy. And there is something to that sort of communication like offensive line, knowing what the other guy's going to do. I think we've got some work to do there.”
 
The Eagles’ tackling issues reached a new low Sunday night against the Cowboys, and it showed up in Ezekiel Elliott’s rushing numbers.
 
Elliott finished with 151 rushing yards, most by a Cowboy against the Eagles since Emmitt Smith in 1995.
 
“You have guys in positions to tackle,” Schwartz said. “Tackling, I think a lot of times you guys look at it as a 1-on-1 thing. I don't look at tackling as a 1-on-1 thing. Not only is it the guy getting the guy down, but it's everybody else supporting him so he doesn't have to make a two-way tackle.
 
“Plus, it's a tough situation sometimes when a guy has to make a tackle when a ball has broken through our front seven. We didn't see many of those in the past. We saw a couple of them on Sunday night.
 
“I mean, all due respect, Ezekiel Elliott's a great running back, but we shouldn’t give up rushing yards like that.”
 
What other methods can we use to measure poor tackling? Consider this:
 
• The Eagles allowed 50 plays of 20+ yards all last year (40 passing, 10 rushing). In just nine games this year they’ve already allowed 41 (33 passing, eight rushing). Poor tackling is a part of that.
 
• The Eagles allowed 3.8 yards per rushing attempt last year, and that figure has ballooned to 4.7 this year. Poor tackling is a part of that.
 
• Opposing offenses were 0-for-23 last year on 3rd-and-15 or longer. They’re 5-for-17 this year on 3rd-and-15 or longer (29.4 percent). Poor tackling is a part of that.

There is no simple single metric that defines missed tackles. But 4-5 might be the best one.

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Eagles at Redskins live: Highlights and analysis from NFL Week 15 game

Eagles at Redskins live: Highlights and analysis from NFL Week 15 game

1:45 p.m.: Miles Sanders just passed DeSean Jackson for the Eagles’ rookie record for scrimmage yards. He’s been great this season and he was good on that drive. 

The Eagles went 75 yards on 6:18 and Sanders punched in a 1-yard touchdown. On that drive, they were bailed out by a weak roughing the passer call that went in their favor. 

Still 9:53 left in the half: Eagles 10, Redskins 7

1:33 p.m.: That was a quick first quarter. The Redskins are up but the Eagles are driving. Zach Ertz was just took a cheap shot from Montae Nicholson, but he looks to be fine. 

After 1: Redskins 7, Eagles 3 

1:26 p.m.: Well, Terry McLaurin didn’t beat the Eagles deep down the field, but he still scored a 75-yard touchdown. He caught a ball in the middle and Avonte Maddox missed the tackle. 

That was quick. 

Later in the first: Redskins 7, Eagles 3 

1:23 p.m.: The Eagles just went on a 16-play, 88-yard drive that took 7:40 off the clock. They eventually had to settle for a 25-yard field goal. Zach Ertz had three catches for 48 yards on the drive. 

Late in the first quarter: Eagles 3, Redskins 0 

1:10 p.m.: The Eagles gave up a few first downs on the opening drive but eventually forced a punt. Dwayne Haskins was getting the ball out quick on that drive. Seemed like a concerted effort to do that. 

1 p.m.: Eagles win the toss, defer. Defense up first. 

11:30 a.m.: Here’s the full list of Eagles’ inactives against the Redskins: 

Lane Johnson (ankle) 
Nelson Agholor (knee)
Jordan Howard (shoulder) 
Derek Barnett (ankle) 
Nate Sudfeld 
Sua Opeta 
Shareef Miller 

For Washington, guard Brandon Scherff is out. That's a big deal and good news for Fletcher Cox and Tim Jernigan inside. Watch for those guys to eat today. 

11:14 a.m.: A few scenes from early warmups: 

10:13 a.m.: Some good injury news a little over an hour before inactives come out. 

9:56 a.m.: It’s a beautiful sunny day here in Landover. We got really lucky. It was raining all day yesterday and it’s supposed to snow tomorrow. We’ll take a 50-degree day with sun for the game. 

8:28 a.m.: Good morning! It’s game day and I have had my coffee, so we’re good to go. The only injury question heading into today for the Eagles is about Ronald Darby, who is questionable after suffering a hip flexor injury in practice on Friday. The Eagles already ruled out Lane Johnson (ankle), Nelson Agholor (knee), Jordan Howard (shoulder) and Derek Barnett (ankle). 

The Eagles play at 1 p.m. and if they win, it’ll be worth watching the Rams-Cowboys game at 4:25 p.m. If the Eagles win and the Cowboys lose, it’ll set up a situation where the Eagles can clinch the division against the Cowboys in Week 16 and basically give themselves a Week 17 bye. 

But first the Eagles have to take care of business against Washington. Here are five matchups to watch. 

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Eagles inactives: Ronald Darby is active against Washington

Eagles inactives: Ronald Darby is active against Washington

LANDOVER, Maryland — Eagles cornerback Ronald Darby, who popped up on the injury report Friday with a hip flexor, is officially active.

Darby came into the weekend listed as questionable. 

We’ll see if he’s able to hold up during this game. If not, the Eagles do have six other cornerbacks active today: Jalen Mills, Rasul Douglas, Avonte Maddox, Cre’Von LeBlanc, Sidney Jones and Craig James. 

Here’s the full list of Eagles’ inactives against the Redskins: 

Lane Johnson (ankle) 
Nelson Agholor (knee)
Jordan Howard (shoulder) 
Derek Barnett (ankle) 
Nate Sudfeld 
Sua Opeta 
Shareef Miller 

Without Agholor, the Eagles are entering this game with just three healthy receivers. They tried that last week and two of them got hurt, so they were left with just Greg Ward Jr. standing. Sure, tight end Josh Perkins basically plays receiver, so he counts some, but it’s pretty wild to think that the Eagles are trying this again. And at least last week, one of those receivers was Alshon Jeffery. This week, their three receivers have a combined 20 career catches. 

Greg Ward: 11 catches, 79 yards 

J.J. Arcega-Whiteside: 8 catches, 130 yards, 1 touchdown 

Rob Davis: 1 catch, 11 yards

Without Johnson, Halapoulivaati Vaitai will start at right tackle. He’s back at FedEx Field, where he was demolished by Ryan Kerrigan as a rookie. The good news for Big V and the Eagles is that Kerrigan is out for the season. 

Without Barnett, Vinny Curry is likely to get his second straight start. Curry played well last week and so did Josh Sweat, who saw an increase in snaps. 

Backup rookie iOL Nate Herbig is active for the first time in his NFL career. 

Pretty big news from the Washington side too: 

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