Cleveland Browns vs. Philadelphia Eagles: Previewing the Eagles Defense
The defense has been without projected starters Brandon Graham, Antonio Dixon and Mike Patterson on the defensive line for the first two weeks of preseason and the run defense has suffered because of it.
The linebackers have also struggled to make an impact against the running game. The cornerbacks have been as good as advertised (outside of Asante Samuel getting burned trying to jump a route on Steelers receiver Antonio Brown).
The Eagles run defense will get a break tonight as Peyton Hillis isn't expected to play.
Coming off a dreadful performance last week against the Steelers, the Eagles defense needs to improve. The starters are expected to play at least a series or two into the third quarter.
It's a great opportunity to improve upon last week's stinker.
The new-look Eagles pass rush has been outstanding in the past two games, with a total of nine sacks and several more quarterback pressures. Eight different players have recorded a sack and the Eagles easily could have racked up more had they gone up against more pocket quarterbacks.
The run defense has not gone as well as the pass rush; the Eagles gave up 144 rushing yards against the Steelers. The new defensive line scheme, brought in by new defensive line coach Jim Washburn, has made things difficult for linebackers to contain the run.
The new scheme calls for the line to attack the backfield rather than cover up gaps, thus leaving linebackers to fend off 300-pound linemen on running plays.
A healthy Mike Patterson and Antonio Dixon will do wonders for the run defense going forward as neither player has seen a down in preseason so far. Both players will make a big difference in the running game and both players should be ready for the regular season.
The defensive end position has proven to be a very deep field for the Eagles. Trent Cole and Jason Babin are the projected starters, with Juqua Parker, Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, Phillip Hunt and Darryl Tapp all battling for the final three defensive end spots. Everyone has looked great, except for Juqua Parker who hasn't seen much action in preseason due to an injured calf.
The defensive line needs to have much more of an impact against the run in order for the Eagles defense to be effective. Look for a better effort out of the front four against the run tonight.
The Eagles linebackers got abused last week against the Steelers. The linebackers were unable to have much of an impact against the Steelers' running game, especially middle linebacker Casey Matthews, who finished the game with just three total tackles.
Jamar Chaney and Moise Fokou, the starting outside linebackers, also struggled to have much of an impact against the run.
The Eagles coaching staff has to make adjustments to help out the linebackers against the run, whether they use more stunts to confuse the opposing line or not, they have to do something to help out 235-pound Casey Matthews.
Look for the Eagles linebackers to get more help against the run and continue to cover the backs effectively. Casey Matthews is the key; he needs a bounce-back game to lock up his starting middle linebacker spot.
The Eagles secondary had mixed results last week. The three Pro Bowl cornerbacks, or Team DNA (Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Nnamdi Asomugha and Asante Samuel), looked as good as advertised, while safety Nate Allen looked completely lost in coverage.
Nate Allen blitzed on the first Steelers touchdown when he was supposed to be over the top of Samuel, leading to a 29-yard touchdown strike to Antonio Brown. Allen also gave up a touchdown to Hines Ward later in the first half. Allen looked confused in coverage and still didn't appear to be 100 percent following a knee injury last December. Allen will split time with Jarrad Page at the safety spot opposite of Kurt Coleman.
Speaking of Coleman, he is starting to emerge as a real leader of this defense. Coleman had 11 tackles in the game last week and continues to impress coaches despite the fact the Eagles drafted Jaiquawn Jarrett in the second round of last April's draft, and Jarrett was supposed to start at his spot. Coleman has been solid in pass coverage and run support and appears to be a lock to start opening week in St. Louis.
Look for the Eagles secondary to have a better outing with the Browns receiving core (who is already without both Josh Cribbs and Mohamed Massaquoi due to injury). Watch for both Jarrad Page and Nate Allen at safety. Both players are fighting for the starting job as Allen hasn't appeared healthy enough to handle it. If Allen proves he is 100 percent back, however, the job is his.