After a promising 3-1 start, the Eagles lost 11 of their next 12 to stumble to last place in the entire NFC. The Birds’ 4-12 mark is the worst record since Reid took over as head coach in 1999.
Not one player can be held responsible for the miserable campaign, but disappointing performances from many of the top starters on the team contributed to the awful year. Reid has already been fired, meaning the new head coach will have to carefully evaluate each of the 53 players to see which guys deserve to come back in 2013.
As part two of this three-part series, I’ll evaluate the defensive players on the Eagles. Click here to read part one, which addresses the offense. Part three on the special teams and coaching staff will be coming shortly.
Since the Eagles drafted Trent Cole in the fifth round of the 2005 NFL draft, he’s been one of the finest defensive linemen in the league. Cole can play the run and the pass, and he does so as well as any player in the game.
He saw a dramatic drop-off in his play in 2012, though. After averaging 10 sacks per season over the previous six campaigns, Cole put up just three in 16 games this year. He went a stretch of 13 games in which he registered just 1.5 sacks.
The Wide 9 defense didn’t play to Cole’s strengths, as he’s a tremendous run-stopper. Ideally, Cole will rebound in 2013 behind a new head coach, defensive coordinator and defensive line coach.
He’s locked up for years to come, and the Eagles are counting on him to be an integral part of their defense.
The Eagles signed Cullen Jenkins as part of their Dream Team compilation of players before 2011. He’s been one of the better ones, and his performance in 2012 was better than people realized.
His four sacks was a drop-off from the seven he posted in 2010 and the 5.5 he recorded last year. But he still finished fifth among interior defensive linemen with 25 quarterback hurries, and he’s a very talented tackle.
The Eagles traded up to select defensive tackle Fletcher Cox in the 2012 NFL draft. He responded by working his way into the starting lineup by midseason.
Cox totaled 5.5 sacks in 14 games before a concussion forced him to miss the last two contests. Cox was particularly strong down the stretch, notching a sack in four of his final six games.
After posting a whopping 18.5 sacks in 2011, Babin’s play dramatically tailed off in 2012. He totaled just 5.5 sacks in 10 games before the Eagles released him.
The release was more about Babin’s attitude and role as a clubhouse cancer than his play, although it was seen as a vast disappointment when compared to the prior season. Babin is a one-dimensional player who can’t stop the run, and he commits a ton of penalties.
After two miserable seasons with the Eagles, Brandon Graham finally came to life in 2012. He was especially effective after the team released Babin.
Graham finished the season as the second-best 4-3 defensive end in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus. Graham topped out against the Cincinnati Bengals, recording 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble against star right tackle Andre Smith.
Graham can also play the run, and he was one of the top defensive ends in the league down the stretch.
After a breakout 2011 campaign, Derek Landri had to settle for a one-year deal with the Eagles for 2012. With the way he played, Landri won’t be getting any more contract offers.
Landri simply stopped making plays. He rated as one of the better defensive tackles in the league last year but didn’t register a single sack in ’12. Landri lost many of his snaps to Cedric Thornton.
Mike Patterson’s return from offseason brain surgery was remarkable. He worked his way into the lineup by midseason, dressing for five games.
Patterson’s on-field impact was limited, as he recorded just three tackles and one sack. However, it’s safe to assume he was not at full strength.
Hunt finished with four quarterback hurries in 149 snaps. That’s a year after he recorded 15 pressures in 180 snaps.
Darryl Tapp wasn’t expected to provide much impact in 2012, so it’s really no big deal that he didn’t. Tapp dressed for 13 of the season’s 16 games, finishing with a half-sack and a lone fumble recovery.
Cedric Thornton spent most of 2011 on the team’s practice squad but earned a spot on the 53-man roster in training camp of ’12.
Thornton didn’t start any games but he averaged as many as 25 snaps per game, topping out with 40 in an overtime loss against the Detroit Lions. Thornton isn’t a particularly effective pass-rusher, but he did finish with 19 tackles as a run-stopper.
It wasn’t until the Eagles released Babin that Vinny Curry finally dressed for an NFL game. Curry ended the season with fewer than 100 snaps, which isn’t impressive for a second-round rookie.
He did play pretty well when he was activated though. Curry totaled a quarterback pressure in each of his first three games, and finished the season with eight tackles.
After years of undervaluing the linebacker position, Andy Reid sent a fourth-round pick to the Houston Texans for DeMeco Ryans. The move paid off well for Philadelphia, as Ryans showed no lingering effects of a torn Achilles tendon from 2010.
Ryans started all 16 games, playing at a very high level. His performance dropped off from the first several games. Nonetheless, Ryans was a massive upgrade over the likes of Casey Matthews and Jamar Chaney—average players who had plagued the team for the previous years.
Ryans isn’t a pass-rusher and he’s not great in coverage. What he can do is play the run. Ryans totaled 84 tackles (as well as four passes defensed), and he helped the Eagles go the majority of the season without allowing a 100-yard rusher.
Mychal Kendricks had a roller coaster of a rookie season. He looked like a Pro Bowler for his first several weeks, helping the Eagles win three of four games. During that span, Kendricks held opposing tight ends without a touchdown catch.
He showed some rookie growing pains down the stretch, struggling in tackling and in pass coverage. When the Eagles eventually moved Kendricks to weak-side linebacker against Tampa Bay, Kendricks responded with arguably his finest all-around game.
He finished the season with two more solid contests before he missed Week 17 with a concussion.
Akeem Jordan is the Eagles version of Kyle Kendrick, a player good enough to make the team and contribute, but one who will never be a productive player.
Jordan began the season as a backup and took over as the WILL starter midway through the 2012 campaign. He gave way to Jamar Chaney, but then started Week 17 against the New York Giants.
Jordan isn’t particularly solid in any aspect of the game, but he does provide good depth. The problem is that when he’s forced to start, he gets exposed.
Jamar Chaney played some games here and some there, racking up plays as both a strong-side and weak-side linebacker.
He’s nowhere near the player he was in 2010. though, and the Eagles are better off with Chaney on the bench. He didn’t register a single quarterback hurry, and he was torched for a 129.2 passer rating.
Casey Matthews’ last name is probably what’s keeping him on the team. He’s a solid tackler (against Pittsburgh, he played three snaps and made two tackles).
But he doesn’t offer anything to the Eagles. He can’t cover or rush the quarterback, and he’s not good enough in the running game.
What more can you say about a player that started as a rookie and was released four games into his sophomore campaign?
With two seasons in the books, Eagles fans can start counting Nnamdi Asomugha among the franchise’s all-time free-agent busts.
When the Eagles locked up the shutdown corner to a five-year, $60 million contract before 2011, expectations were through the roof. Asomugha proceeded to endure a rough debut season in Philly, although it was written off as poor defensive scheming on Juan Castillo’s part.
And then 2012 happened. Asomugha has been asked to simply cover the opposing team’s best wide receiver, and he’s looked completely lost. It got to the point where Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was taking the best wideout, leaving Asomugha with the second-best receiver.
Asomugha was torched for a ridiculous 120.6 passer rating in 2012. Quarterbacks completed two-thirds of their passes thrown his way for five touchdowns and just one interception. Seven times Asomguha allowed a passer rating of over 100. Four times that number was over 150.
It got so bad in Week 17 that Asomugha was benched for a former college running back with 58 NFL snaps under his belt.
This was Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie’s chance to show the city that he deserved a long-term extension. After all, the five-year deal he had signed as a rookie was set to expire after the season.
DRC began the season in stunning fashion, intercepting rookie Brandon Weeden twice while holding Cleveland receivers to just one completion on seven throws his way. Through the first six games, quarterbacks were 15-of-33 for 220 yards, no touchdowns, and three picks throwing DRC’s way. That’s a nifty 29.98 passer rating that put DRC in the discussion for the NFL’s best cornerbacks.
And then it all collapsed. DRC seemingly stopped trying when the Eagles switched coordinators. Over the final 10 games, opposing QBs posted a 105.6 passer rating, throwing five scores to no interceptions.
The talent was evident, as Rodgers-Cromartie still made his fair share of plays. But the lack of effort was glaring, and that’s unacceptable for a Pro Bowler, a rookie, a veteran or a bench player.
Like fellow rookie Mychal Kendricks, Brandon Boykin showed some ups and downs during his initial campaign with the Eagles.
Boykin was at his best for his first two NFL games in wins against the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens. His play trailed off in the subsequent weeks, and the numbers against him aren’t great. Boykin’s season stats include three touchdown passes to no interceptions with a defensive passer rating of nearly 100.
For a rookie corner playing in nickel situations though, that’s nothing to be ashamed about. Boykin had some impressive highlights too, notably the pass knockdown late against the Ravens in Week 2.
The fact that Hughes allowed a 155.3 passer rating and a touchdown pass on nine throws his way could be why the Eagles just re-signed Trevard Lindley.
Curtis Marsh showed absolutely nothing as a rookie to give Eagles fans any hope. He appeared in just 13 snaps as a rookie, seeing action in just four games.
Marsh didn’t play much more in 2012, but he looked much better when he did play. He even took over for Asomugha in the final minutes of a Week 17 loss, when Asomguha was benched for his poor play.
The jury was still out on Nate Allen after two up-and-down NFL seasons. That’s no longer the case, as Allen’s third season was absolutely miserable.
It concluded with the former second-round draft choice being benched for a career special teams player. Allen is awful in run defense, and he allowed a 104.1 passer rating on 49 passes his way.
After recording three interceptions in his first three NFL games, Allen failed to record any in 2012.
Kurt Coleman is a tremendously motivated player who gives it his all on every snap. But the former seventh-round pick has no business being on an NFL field.
He is simply overmatched in all situations, whether it’s on a passing or running down. Coleman has never met a play-action fake he won’t bite for, and he’s horrendous in coverage.
It’s pretty difficult for a second-round pick to not even make it to his second NFL season. Such was the case for former Temple safety Jaiquawn Jarrett.
Colt Anderson holds the distinction of being the Eagle that broke the team’s long interception-less streak when he picked off Robert Griffin III in Week 16.
Unfortunately for Anderson, that’s the only defensive highlight he had in 2012. Anderson allowed three touchdown passes in just three games as a starter, and he was at his worst in the finale against the New York Giants.
David Sims didn’t play a single down as a safety until Week 9 against the New York Giants. In that contest, he started and played all 57 of the defense's snaps, but then he didn’t play again until the Week 17 game.