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.

Jake Thompson left searching for answers after latest rough start

Jake Thompson left searching for answers after latest rough start

BOX SCORE

CHICAGO — On the whole, the Phillies have made steady progress in their rebuild this season.

Cameron Rupp has improved. Maikel Franco has had a nice year. Odubel Herrera, even with his recent inconsistency, has had more ups than downs. Cesar Hernandez has been on a good roll. Freddy Galvis has 36 extra-base hits, and Tommy Joseph has opened eyes with his power. In the bullpen, Hector Neris and Edubray Ramos have shown that they just might be future studs.
 
For a good chunk of the season, the young starting pitching has shown promise, as well.
 
But lately, that corner of the team has taken some hits. Aaron Nola and Zach Eflin were both ruled out for the remainder of the season last week with elbow and knee injuries, respectively, and hard-throwing Vince Velasquez has been tagged for 19 earned runs in 16 1/3 innings over his last three starts.
 
Jake Thompson’s first four major-league starts haven’t exactly inspired confidence, either. The 22-year-old right-hander was hit hard in a 9-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday night (see Instant Replay). He gave up eight hits, including five for extra bases, and seven runs as his ERA swelled to 9.78. Only Mike Maddux (9.98) in 1986 had a higher ERA for the Phillies in his first four big-league starts.
 
“I’m not used to this,” Thompson said after the defeat. “I feel certain that I’m a lot better than my performance has indicated.”
 
Few pitchers come to the big leagues and dazzle right away. There is a learning curve and occasionally growing pains. But no one expected Thompson to have this much trouble out of the chute, not after what he did in his final 11 starts at Triple A Lehigh Valley.
 
Thompson went 8-0 in those 11 starts and recorded a 1.21 ERA while allowing just 10 earned runs in 74 1/3 innings. He gave up just 52 hits and 18 walks over that span while striking out 42.
 
In four starts with the big club, he has given up 22 hits and 21 earned runs in 19 1/3 innings. He has walked 13 and struck out 13.
 
He was advertised as a control and command pitcher. He has yet to show that in the majors.
 
“A lot of it has to do with his age and, I think, the fact he’s in the big leagues for the first time trying to make a good impression,” manager Peter Mackanin said. “He probably feels like he needs to make perfect pitches every time. All he’s got to do is keep the ball down. He doesn’t have overpowering stuff. He relies on command and control and he hasn’t shown that. I attribute a lot of that to his youth and inexperience.”
 
So does Rupp, the catcher.
 
“How many guys do you see come to the big leagues at 22 years old and just flat out dominate every time they go out?” Rupp said. “Not very many. He's young. It was his first time in Triple A this year and he pitched really well and now he's got a chance in the big leagues. I'm sure he feels like there's pressure. When you come up and you pitch so well all year and then you finally get your opportunity, you want to impress. It puts a lot on you. And as a kid, you've got to be able to control it and it's tough. It's hard.

“Nobody wants to see anybody fail. It's hard to go through. It's something that's going to make him better when he does finally figure it out."
 
Two of the walks Thompson gave up Tuesday night became runs. He gave up back-to-back homers to Jose Abreu and Justin Morneau in the fifth inning as the White Sox turned it into a rout.
 
“Just too many pitches up in the strike zone,” Mackanin said. “Everything he threw was thigh high, waist high. He couldn’t get the ball down. It’s as simple as that.”
 
Thompson concurred with his manager.
 
“The issue is pretty evident,” he said. “I'm not throwing strikes and when I am throwing strikes, they're not good strikes. It’s a frustrating thing because it's a relatively easy thing to do. I don't really have the answer right now to fix it.”
 
The game moves fast at the big-league level and confidence can become bruised quickly. Thompson said his confidence was unshaken. Still, Phillies officials have to be careful that this difficult baptism to the majors does not snowball and become something that adversely impacts Thompson's growth.
 
“It’s something that you’re concerned about and I’m concerned about,” Mackanin said.
 
Concerned enough that Thompson might not make his next start?
 
Mackanin said he expected Thompson to stay in the rotation, but added that he would speak with general manager Matt Klentak on the topic.
 
“I don’t want to see him keep getting beat up and keep struggling like this,” Mackanin said. “We’ll talk about it and see what Matt wants to do.”

Best of MLB: Royals shut out Marlins for 9th straight win

Best of MLB: Royals shut out Marlins for 9th straight win

MIAMI -- Yordano Ventura escaped two threats while pitching six innings, and the Kansas City Royals extended their winning streak to nine games by beating the Miami Marlins 1-0 on Tuesday night.

Ventura (9-9), who reached 101 mph on the scoreboard radar gun, allowed six hits and one walk while striking out six. Royals starters have an ERA of 1.69 during the winning streak, Kansas City's longest since June 2014.

Three relievers closed out the win and extended the bullpen's streak of 32 consecutive shutout innings since Aug. 10. Kelvin Herrera pitched a perfect ninth for his eighth save.

The Marlins had won three straight but were shut out despite totaling seven hits. They went 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position (see full recap).

Nova, Pirates beat Astros to snap 4-game skid
PITTSBURGH -- Ivan Nova took a shutout into the ninth inning and finished with a six-hitter while Gregory Polanco hit two home runs to lead the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 7-1 victory over the Houston Astros on Tuesday night.

Nova (10-6) struck out six, walked one and threw 69 of his 98 pitches for strikes while improving to 3-0 in four starts since being acquired from the New York Yankees in an Aug. 1 trade.

It was the fourth complete game of the right-hander's seven-year career with the others coming in 2013.

His bid for his third career shutout ended when Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve led off the ninth with consecutive doubles.

After the Pirates scored four runs in the first inning, Polanco hit solo shots in the third and fifth off Joe Musgrove and Tony Sipp to extend the lead to 6-0 and raise his season total to a team-high 19 homers (see full recap).

Gausman, Jones help Orioles roll over Nationals
BALTIMORE -- Kevin Gausman scattered six hits over six shutout innings, Adam Jones went 4 for 5 and the Baltimore Orioles breezed past the Washington Nationals 8-1 on Tuesday night.

Chris Davis hit his 30th home run for the Orioles, who won two straight over Washington to conclude a 3-5 homestand.

Baltimore is 34-24 against the Nationals in a rivalry that began in 2006. The series shifts 38 miles south to Nationals Park on Wednesday for the first of two games.

Gausman (5-10) walked two, struck out two and permitted only one runner past second base. He's 5-1 at home and 0-9 on the road.

The 25-year-old Gausman outpitched Nationals rookie Reynaldo Lopez, a 22-year-old making his fifth major league start. Lopez (2-2) yielded six runs, four earned, and seven hits in 2 2/3 rocky innings (see full recap).

Instant Replay: White Sox 9, Phillies 1

Instant Replay: White Sox 9, Phillies 1

BOX SCORE

CHICAGO — Jake Thompson’s difficult big-league baptism continued in the Phillies’ 9-1 interleague loss to the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday night.
 
The rookie right-hander was tagged for seven runs in five innings. He allowed eight hits and walked four as his ERA in four starts since coming up from Triple A swelled to 9.78. Only Mike Maddux (9.98) in 1986 had a higher ERA for the Phillies in his first four big-league starts.
 
Offensively, the Phillies did little against White Sox lefty Carlos Rodon. They had just five hits for the game.
 
The Phillies have lost five of their last seven and are 58-68 on the season. They have been outscored 18-1 in their last two games.
 
Starting pitching report
Thompson, 22, has been a much different pitcher since coming to the majors than he was in his last 11 starts at Triple A Lehigh Valley. He went 8-0 in those 11 starts and recorded a 1.21 ERA while allowing just 10 earned runs in 74 1/3 innings. He gave up just 52 hits and 18 walks over that span while striking out 42.
 
In four starts with the big club, he has given up 22 hits and 21 earned runs in 19 1/3 innings. He has walked 13 and struck out 13.
 
Two of the four walks that Thompson gave up in this game became runs.
 
Five of the eight hits he allowed were for extra bases, including a pair of homers.
 
Rodon, 23, was the third pick in the 2014 draft, four ahead of Aaron Nola. The lefty held the Phillies to three hits over 6 2/3 scoreless innings. He walked one.
 
Bullpen report
David Hernandez was tagged for two runs.
 
At the plate
Freddy Galvis broke up the White Sox’s shutout bid with a solo homer off reliever Chris Beck in the seventh. Galvis has 13 homers.
 
Jose Abreu and Justin Morneau hit back-to-back homers against Thompson in the fifth inning to help the Sox pull away.
 
Abreu has homered in three straight games.
 
Minor matters
Pitcher Alec Asher, who serving an 80-game suspension for testing positive for a PED, has begun a minor-league rehabilitation assignment with the Phillies’ Gulf Coast League team. Asher is expected to be activated by the big club during the second week of September and he could make several starts down the stretch as the club watches the workload of several pitchers.
 
Up next
The two-game series concludes on Wednesday night. Jerad Eickhoff (8-12, 3.91) opposes right-hander James Shields (5-15, 5.98).