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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