Eagles Defensive Performance Reviews: Hey, It's Tom Brady Edition

Eagles Defensive Performance Reviews: Hey, It's Tom Brady Edition

There’s a quote of Trent Cole’s that probably bears repeating after Friday night’s preseason game against the Patriots. Purely a defensive end during his first eight years in the NFL, Cole almost seemed to feel bad for DeMarus Ware back in June. While Cole has been transitioning to outside linebacker in the Eagles’ new 3-4 scheme, Ware has been doing just the opposite in Dallas, learning the 4-3.

"I'm very comfortable now when I'm rushing because there's so much space to work with," Cole said. "You're just able to see so much more of what's in front of you and what's around you and where you can and can't go. Plus, I get to rush over tight ends and running backs now, so that's a lot of fun."

"So that means DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer, those guys are going to have to line up right up against the tackle and go at tackles and guards all game, right?" he said. "That's a lot tougher way to go."

It didn’t take very long for Cole to experience outside linebacker, the 3-4, all of that – not so easy. Actually, it took precisely one snap to learn the hard way.

If Cole was able to see more of the field, that didn’t keep him from navigating its obstacles like an elderly person behind the wheel of a Hummer. New England’s offense basically threw a little debris in Trent’s path, and that was enough to make the two-time Pro Bowler take his turns as wide as an 18-wheeler, running himself out of several plays as a result.

Let’s cut the metaphors. Take the first play from scrimmage, where Stevan Ridley rips off a 62-yard run. Quite a bit had to go wrong for this to happen, by the way – we’re not blaming Cole. Fletcher Cox gets pancaked, Nate Allen takes a horrible angle to the ball, nobody sheds their blocks anywhere. It’s simply an example of a player (Cole) learning his new surroundings, because you have to think what he faced was probably OLB 101.

The offset tight end at the top of the screen will wind up blocking Cole one-on-one, sealing him off outside long enough for the rusher to advance out of the backfield. The blocker is not entirely without help though. The wide receiver who came in motion to their side and stopped tight to the formation runs right past Cole’s right shoulder, creating at least the illusion of additional traffic – enough to slow down the attacker it seemed.

Reminder: nothing in terms of the play is even happening out here.

While this was perhaps the most complex diversion Cole faced all night, it wasn’t uncommon to see the 30-year-old’s impact minimized by any bodies moving in his general direction, as he attempted to run around those hurdles every time. On the flip side, the couple of times I noticed a tight end try to divert Connor Barwin, he just tossed them aside.

Save for one solid moment – surprisingly when he dropped into coverage – Cole was largely invisible out there. He’s got a long way to go.

RISING/FALLING

Nate Allen

Took a bad angle to the ball carrier on the first play from scrimmage, turning a 15-to-20-yard gain into a 62-yard sprint. Saw additional reps with second-team defense. Was involved in miscommunication that would have resulted in an easy touchdown had it been the starting quarterback. No signs his window is closing, but didn’t help himself.

Mychal Kendricks

Was marginalized in the running game. Had a chance to hold New England to a field goal on opening drive, but got trucked by LaGarette Blount on 3rd and 1. Ran stride-for-stride with back on touchdown pass that was completed over his outstretched fingertips. Sometimes you can’t help but wonder watching him if size (6-0, 240) is an issue at this level.

Brandon Boykin

Start went to Brandon Hughes, but Boykin did well with the opportunities provided. Kept ball out of the end zone on a punt to help pin New England at their own 1. Maintained picture-perfect coverage against a bigger wide receiver on a fade pattern to the back of the end zone. Tackled well. Basically continued what has been a superb camp.

Vinny Curry

Incredibly disruptive against Patriots’ second string. Whacked the quarterback several times. Didn’t show up on the stat sheet much, but did record a half sack. Playing much bigger than his rookie season (up to 279 lbs.), didn’t seem to slow him down any. Need to see more, but very promising effort.

Jamar Chaney

Fighting for a spot as one of the backups behind Kendricks and DeMeco Ryans. Missed tackles. Didn’t appear to be particularly productive on special teams. Didn’t really do anything good of note at all, finishing with a forgettable two tackles.

Bennie Logan

Had the best night of any Eagles rookie. Moved all over the defensive line, wreaked havoc everywhere. Tied for most total tackles on the team. Tackle for loss: check. Sack: check. Pass batted down at the line of scrimmage: check. Working against second string obviously, but credit where credit is due.

Jake Knott

Did a little bit of everything. Racked up four total tackles, a half sack, and a pass defended. Maneuvered well through traffic, was generally in good position, finished plays when he had the chance. Considering Chaney’s disappointing outing, it seems Knott might have himself a legitimate shot at earning a roster spot at inside linebacker.

MIXED REVIEWS

Bradley Fletcher

Fletcher, a cornerback, led the Eagles with five solo tackles – he only played on the first two series. Had tight coverage on a few plays where Tom Brady had even better timing. From watching him in camp, he seems like a solid-albeit-unremarkable player. Didn’t do anything exceptional, didn’t do anything terrible or even wrong.

Patrick Chung

Played aggressive, sometimes to his detriment. Wasn’t shutdown in man coverage. Then again, he generally diagnosed plays well and could finish them. Sniffed out a bubble screen for no gain on third down, wound up with four tackles overall. Also played nickel corner reasonably well – that kind of versatility is nice. Nothing special here, a few aspects of his game could be cleaned up, but not a bad debut, either.

Brandon Graham

I wanted so much to say his stock is rising, but lost backside contain during Blount’s obscene 51-yard cutback touchdown jaunt. Contributed on special teams. Consistently put varying levels of pressure on the quarterback, even popped him once. None of it quite meant enough to erase that one critical, unnecessary mistake.

Best of NBA: DeRozan scores career-high 43 points in Raptors' win

Best of NBA: DeRozan scores career-high 43 points in Raptors' win

TORONTO -- DeMar DeRozan scored a career-high 43 points and the Toronto Raptors rallied from a 17-point deficit to beat the Boston Celtics 107-97 on Friday night.

DeRozan shot 15 of 28 from the floor as he surpassed his 42-point effort against the Houston Rockets on March 30, 2015, helping the Raptors overcome the absence of fellow All-Star Kyle Lowry. Lowry sat out with a right wrist injury.

Serge Ibaka, acquired by trade from the Orlando Magic last week, scored 15 points in his debut, while fellow newcomer P.J. Tucker, picked up from the Phoenix Suns on Thursday, had a game-high 10 rebounds and nine points in his first game for his new team.

Isaiah Thomas scored 20 points for Boston, which also got 19 points each from Jae Crowder and Marcus Smart (see full recap).

Westbrook triple-double lifts Thunder over Lakers
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Russell Westbrook scored 17 points in his 28th triple-double of the season, and his new teammates fit in seamlessly as the Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 110-93 on Friday night.

Westbrook also had 18 rebounds and 17 assists for the 65th triple-double of his career.

It was the first game for new Thunder players Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott, acquired Thursday in a trade with the Chicago Bulls. Gibson scored 12 points and McDermott added eight, even though they arrived Thursday night and weren't even available for shootaround on Friday.

Alex Abrines and Andre Roberson each set a career high with 19 points, and Steven Adams added 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Thunder.

D'Angelo Russell scored 29 for the Lakers (see full recap).

Pacers beat Grizzlies to snap six-game skid
INDIANAPOLIS -- CJ Miles made five 3-pointers and scored 17 points, Paul George had nine points and nine rebounds after remaining with Indiana following the trade deadline, and the Pacers snapped a six-game losing streak with a 102-92 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night.

Monta Ellis finished with 16 points, Myles Turner scored 12, and Lavoy Allen, Jeff Teague and Thaddeus Young each added 10 for the Pacers.

The Pacers outscored the Grizzlies 64-42 across the middle two quarters and never relinquished their lead, leading by as many as 27 points in the second half. The Grizzlies finished the game shooting 41 percent from the floor (35 for 84).

Troy Daniels had 13 points for Memphis and Marc Gasol scored 12. Indiana outrebounded Memphis 50-39 and scored 29 points off 17 Grizzlies turnovers (see full recap).

Thrust into bigger role, Sixers' Holmes stars in win over Wizards

Thrust into bigger role, Sixers' Holmes stars in win over Wizards

BOX SCORE

For as much as the Sixers’ bigs are talked about, Richaun Holmes often is left out of the conversation. 

He’s not the centerpiece of the team like Joel Embiid nor was he heavily involved in trade talks like Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor. He is the backup center who bides his time on the bench and quietly stays ready when he gets the nod.

And on Friday, he was the standout player in the Sixers’ 120-112 win over the Wizards (see Instant Replay)

“He’s been sort of the person that people forget about because of the logjam of five men,” Brett Brown said. “We all sort of think, ‘Well, he should just accept it because he’s behind Joel and Nerlens and Jahlil. Good ol’ Richaun. Go to the D-League and it’s OK.’ And that doesn’t work. He’s a pro, he’s competitive. He’s handled it. He’s really been a wonderful teammate.”

Holmes was bumped up in the rotation following the trade of Noel to the Mavs. He moved into the second-unit role while Okafor started in place of the injured Embiid. 

Holmes recorded his first double-double with 12 points (6 for 9 from the field) and 10 rebounds (three offensive). He also blocked a career-high five shots, tying Embiid for the most by a Sixer this season. The second-year big man put together this impressive performance in 26 minutes off the bench (see feature highlight).

“Just play hard,” Holmes said of his approach. “Just go out there, show what you’ve been working on, play hard every second you’re out there. That’s the motto I’ve got.”

Holmes is averaging 16.1 minutes and has appeared in just 32 of the Sixers’ 57 games. This season, he also spent time with the Delaware 87ers of the Development League to get playing time. Holmes embraced an opportunity similar to Friday’s a month ago when he scored 18 points in as many minutes against the Clippers. 

“I try to approach every game this season the same way, whether everybody was playing or people were hurt,” Holmes said. “Prepare like I’m going to play 30 minutes a game. I think having that mindset helped me to stay ready at all times and be aggressive when I had a chance.”

Brown did not rule out the possibility that Holmes could start at some point if he continues this production. The Sixers are limiting Okafor to 20 to 24 minutes per game, according to Brown. That, combined with Embiid’s injury, could lend itself to an increased role for Holmes. 

“I think in that environment, it wouldn’t seem out of the ordinary for Richaun to get a start from time to time,” Brown said. 

Even if he remains on the second unit, Holmes proved he can provide a spark off the bench. Dario Saric noted how Holmes’ impact on both ends of the floor bolsters the frontcourt in addition to a more offensively-minded Okafor (11 points, two rebounds). 

“I think he played unbelievably good in both ways,” Saric said. “Everybody knows he’s an elite guy finishing around the rim, and he stepped in Nerlens’ place, he replaced him unbelievably good. I hope he will get the same minutes for the next game because we have Jahlil, who is more like a post-up player, who likes more to score from the low-post block, and we for sure need some guy like Richaun who will play in both ways." 

Perhaps the person least surprised by Holmes' game was Holmes himself. It was the result he puts in long hours to produce.

“It’s all about the grind,” he said. “All about keep working, keep trying to move up, keep trying to get better every second and it’ll pay off.”