Eagles Defense Thinks 'It Wasn't That Bad,' But Jaiquawn Jarrett Might Be

Eagles Defense Thinks 'It Wasn't That Bad,' But Jaiquawn Jarrett Might Be

When the starters came out 20 minutes into last Thursday's preseason opener versus the Steelers, the Eagles were down 10-zip. The offense went three-and-out on each of its two possessions, but the sample size is small, their track record relatively strong, so most of the concern there was contained to Michael Vick managing to hurt himself already. Don't worry, he's fine.

The defense, on the other hand, was not so fortunate to deflect criticism. Pittsburgh controlled the ball throughout the majority of the first quarter, then moved right down the field and punched the rock into the end zone for six on their second series. At first glance, it looked like an unmitigated disaster for defensive coordinator Juan Castillo's group, which has been picked apart ad nauseum since his promotion last year.

Castillo and his troops made headlines in recent days, their side of the story boiling down to, "It wasn't that bad," which turned a few heads. When you go back and examine it though, there is actually a little bit of truth to their line of thinking. There were a pair of dreadful performances by individuals -- none more outstanding than Jaiquawn Jarrett -- but collectively the unit did some good.

Take the opening series for example. A 16-play drive that goes 52 yards, requires a fourth-down conversion to continue, and ends in a field goal isn't exactly ripping it up. The Steelers also required Ben Roethlisberger to escape some heavy pressure on a pair of third downs and make plays on the move in order to keep things going. They didn't just march down the field, and there was only one really big gainer, a 17-yard passing play -- all of this without two starting defensive ends in the lineup.

I don't have any problem with this series, particularly against this offense and quarterback, and I'm not entirely sure why anybody else does for that matter. The defense bent, but didn't break, and did not go without their own opportunities. Here's the play-by-play if you're interested (note: ad/video plays immediately), but to put it in simple terms, the Eagles limited Pittsburgh to 3.25 yards per snap.

Something tells me that stop would have been viewed favorably had the second series not yielded far more in the way of breakdowns. However, even on the following possession, the defense had the Steelers' offense on the ropes until a penalty kept the drive alive.

The Eagles had Pittsburgh pinned on a 3rd and 16, and once again the quarterback was in trouble. Byron Leftwich pulled a Big Ben though and broke the pocket, only Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was on to him. Unfortunately, the 182-lbs. corner launched himself through the air at the 250-lbs. quarterback, which drew a personal foul penalty as a desperation pass harmlessly hit the turf.

The play was officiated properly, but everything up to that point was going fine, and as for the hit itself, it wasn't nearly as dirty as some have made it out to be. He led with his shoulder and did not appear to initiate contact at the head, but under the rules, leaving your feet is a yellow flag every time.

Here's Where Things Get Ugly...

The remainder of the series was the Jaiquawn Jarrett show, and network execs might have to consider pulling the plug on that production after all. Jarrett looked Jarrad Page-esque while taking bad angles to ball carriers on consecutive runs, resulting in a pair of big plays.

Three plays after the penalty, the Eagles had Pittsburgh in a 3rd and 13. The Steelers called a draw, and with linemen on their backs, neither Derek Landri or DeMeco Ryans could get a clean shot at the back. Jarrett came charging in from his safety position, whiffing badly on the runner, who then found enough room on the outside to pick up the first down. Had Jarrett been under control and forced the back to the inside, he had help from Kurt Coleman, and they could have shut this down short of the sticks.

The very next play, Jarrett did essentially the exact same thing. The Steelers bust another run into the Birds secondary, and Jarrett comes barreling in completely out of control once again. This time, not only does he miss the ball carrier completely, he takes out his own man -- Vinny Curry -- who was close to chasing the play down from behind. The run goes for 33 yards, all the way to the 3-yard line.

Sadly, Jarrett wasn't finished yet. The Eagles do a nice job stuffing the next two runs cold to set up a third down, but now Pittsburgh is going to exploit the safety in the passing game. The Birds are in zone coverage, and the Steelers run a couple of slants to Jarrett's side. Apparently confused over his assignment, Jarrett simply doesn't slide into his area, and it's easy pitch and catch in the end zone.

Obviously this was disappointing to watch, but it's not difficult to see where the source of the problem was. Everything negative that happened on this drive following the personal foul can be traced back to, or at the very least, was compounded by Jarrett, and that's not an exaggeration. Many believed the 2011 second-round pick was in danger of missing the final cut to begin with, and it's hard to argue any longer after a performance like this. With Nate Allen back from injury, Jarrett is already splitting time between second- and third-string.

As for the defense as a whole, I suppose we have no choice but to judge them based on what was out there, even if Jarrett's chances of ever seeing meaningful action again are dwindling. That said, I agree with their own assessment that they weren't that bad, particularly taking this into consideration. The Eagles' first-team defense had Pittsburgh in 3rd and long on five occasions, and while they were able to convert three of them, this is generally a recipe for defensive success in the NFL.

The pass rush was relentless, overall the linebackers were an improvement, and the corners looked comfortable. Despite all the criticism, there were indeed some positives to build on here.

Instant Replay: Coyotes 5, Flyers 4

Associated Press

Instant Replay: Coyotes 5, Flyers 4


Two bizarre goals less than two minutes apart ruined a special night for the Flyers on Thursday at Wells Fargo Center.
Martin Hanzal scored a tie-breaking goal simultaneously while teammate Jakob Chychrun was being pounded in a fight with Brayden Schenn during a 2-2 game.
Then, rookie defenseman Ivan Provorov tackled Brad Richardson, who fell into goalie Steve Mason for a shorthanded goal that counted after review for interference.
That’s one way of losing as hockey game, 5-4.
Notable goals
Brandon Manning, who has been outstanding on both sides of the puck, tried an ill-advised clearing pass up the high slot and it was picked off by pinching defenseman Oliver Edkman-Larsson for a quick turnaround shot to make it a 2-0 lead.
Goalie report
A huge save on Anthony Duclair in the first period by Mason after a turnover from Andrew MacDonald. Mason didn’t look great on the fifth goal. Rushes to the net were a problem in front of him.
Power play
The Flyers scored three against Buffalo. In this one, they had five scattered shots over their first three power plays. That's not going to get it done. But they did get it done on their fifth power play with Schenn diving with his stick extended hit the ice as he tipped Shayne Gostisbehere’s point shot home to tie the game, 2-2. The Flyers were 2 for 8 on the power play.
Power-play points
Claude Giroux leads with six overall.
Penalty kill
There was no Boyd Gordon in this one to take PK draws. That went to Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. Roman Lyubimov had a nice shorthanded move for a possible scoring chance but couldn’t complete it.
Big hit
You've got to like Sean Couturier upending Duclair during the opening minutes of play along the left boards. Duclair later had a fine assist on Jamie McGinn’s goal that gave the 'Yotes a 1-0 lead.
Ryan White had a goal that made it 5-3 late in the game.
Third line
The new third line with Nick Cousins centering Schenn and Dale Weise scored in the second period. All three picked up a point with Cousins banging home the Schenn rebound to make it a 2-1 game.
Chychrun lost to Schenn, who had sent Michael Stone to the boards hard with a legal shoulder check. Stone still assisted on Hanzal's goal that began the madness that saw Arizona get two quickies.
Injured: Forwards Scott Laughton (knee) and Michael Raffl (abdominal pull), defenseman Michael Del Zotto (knee). Healthy: forward Gordon and defenseman Nick Schultz.
Up next
The Flyers will practice Friday at Skate Zone in Voorhees, N.J., and host the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Center.

Report: Sixers exec Jason Wiley led meeting on national anthem issue

Report: Sixers exec Jason Wiley led meeting on national anthem issue

The Sixers' meeting on Thursday to address the national anthem situation on opening night was led by VP of Content and Integrated Marketing Jason Wiley, John Gonzalez reported.

Wiley and team executives decided not to have Sevyn Streeter perform the national anthem because she wore a "We Matter" shirt, according to the report. The team had concerns Streeter would have further protests. 

A member of the Sixers' dance team performed in her place.

Wiley helped book Streeter, according to the report, and had previously worked for Bad Boy Records and had music industry contacts.

CBS3 reported Thursday that Streeter had signed a contract that barred her from making a political statement during the performance (see story).

The Sixers discussed the incident and are considering options on how to address it (see story).

“I think the team, not only do we want to speak up on the matter that happened yesterday, but I feel like we’re now starting to push, like it’s not just about saying something, it’s about making a difference,” Nik Stauskas said. “It’s about going out there and doing something. So we don’t really know what we’re going to do yet, but I know a lot of guys on this team are eager to go out there and make a difference one way or another.”