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.

Former Flyers coach Bill Dineen dies at 84

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The Associated Press

Former Flyers coach Bill Dineen dies at 84

Bill Dineen, who had the distinction of being Eric Lindros’ first NHL coach, died early Saturday morning at his home in Lake George, New York. He was 84.
 
“Such a wonderful person, who got along with everybody,” Flyers president Paul Holmgren said. “I never played for him, but worked with him in scouting. Just a great guy.” 
 
Dineen succeeded Holmgren as head coach during the 1991-92 season.
 
“When I got fired, a lot of our guys were squeezing their sticks,” Holmgren said. “They were tight. It shouldn’t be hard to play the game. When things got tough, they were a little under stress, Billy coming in, he loosened things up.”
 
Dineen coached parts of two seasons here from 1991-92 through the 1992-93 season, which was Lindros’ first year as a Flyer.
 
“Bill treated everyone with the utmost respect,” Holmgren said. “He was the perfect guy for Eric coming in here. That respect goes both ways. He was almost a grandfatherly figure for Eric at the time.”

Dineen served as a scout with the organization from 1990-91 until succeeding Holmgren as coach. He then returned to a scouting role in 1993-94 and remained with the Flyers as a scout through 1996-97.
 
Mark Howe, one of the greatest Flyers defensemen of all-time, played for Dineen as an 18-year-old rookie in the WHA with the Houston Aeros (1973-74), and also had him during his final year as a Flyer in 1991-92.
 
“He was one of the best people I ever met in the game of hockey,” Howe said. “He was a real players coach. Of all the guys I ever played for. Maybe a little Paul Holmgren, too. 
 
“If you lost the game, he was one of the very few people if you went for a bite to eat or a beer after the game you lost, you actually felt poorly for letting the coach down.”
 
Howe said Dineen’s teams weren’t all about skill.
 
“He picked people that were about ‘the team,'” Howe said. “He made me earn my spot that first year in Houston.”
 
Dineen posted a 60-60-20 record with the Flyers. His son, Kevin, played on both of those teams before assuming the captaincy from Rick Tocchet in 1993-94. 
 
A gentleman behind the bench, Bill Dineen was much the same person as a player. A former right wing who spent the majority of his six-year playing career with the Detroit Red Wings, he had just 122 penalty minutes in 322 games, scoring 51 goals and 95 points.
 
“I knew Billy for a long time," Flyers senior vice president Bob Clarke said. "He was a player and coach at the minor league level and the NHL level, but I think more importantly he was a really, really good hockey person and really good person.” 

Dineen won two WHA titles coaching the Aeros and two Stanley Cups as a player with the Red Wings. A member of the AHL Hall of Fame, Dineen also coached the Adirondack Red Wings from 1983 through 1988-89.
 
Three of his five sons — Gordon, Peter and Kevin — played in the NHL. Sons Shawn and Jerry had their roots in the AHL. 
 
“His boys are scattered all over the map,” Holmgren said. “Just a tremendous hockey family.”
 
Dineen is part of Flyer folklore trivia. He, along with Keith Allen and Vic Stasiuk, were all Red Wings teammates during 1953-53. They also shared something else in common: all three later  became Flyers head coaches.

Instant Replay: No. 1 Villanova 74, No. 23 Notre Dame 66

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The Associated Press

Instant Replay: No. 1 Villanova 74, No. 23 Notre Dame 66

BOX SCORE

NEWARK, N.J. – Villanova wasn’t ready to surrender its No. 1 ranking that quickly.

Despite trailing No. 23 Notre Dame for the first 30-plus minutes of action Saturday, Josh Hart and the Wildcats kept the Fighting Irish at striking distance and stormed ahead late for a 74-66 win in the Never Forget Tribute Classic at the Prudential Center.

The Wildcats wouldn’t take their first lead of the game until the nine-minute mark of the second half, which would put the teams on the seesaw for the next few minutes of action. Trailing the Fighting Irish, 62-61, with over six minutes remaining in the game, Villanova went on a 12-5 run to close out its 10th win in as many tries.

Hart continued his spectacular senior season, pouring in a career-high 37 points, pulling down 11 rebounds and dishing out four assists, all team highs. Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges and Eric Paschall each chipped in eight points behind Hart. 

Colson Bonzie and Matt Farrelll each scored 18 points each for the Fighting Irish.  

Turning point
Leading 68-66 with under two minutes remaining, a Kris Jenkins three pointer clanked off the back of the rim and fell to the ground as a loose ball. Jalen Brunson corralled the ball before it went out of bounds and was fouled by Matt Farrell. Brunson hit both free throws to extend the Wildcats’ lead to four. 

Bonzie missed an open look at a three on the other end and Darryl Reynolds was fouled after grabbing the rebound off the miss. Reynolds sunk both free throws to put the game on ice.

Big men on campus
Villanova: Josh Hart 

Hart kept Villanova in striking distance in the first half, scoring over half of his team’s points (19) and chipping in four rebounds and three assists. Hart continued his dominance in the second half with another 18 points and seven rebounds. The senior was 10 of 14 from the field, three of four from deep and a perfect 14 for 14 from the free throw line.  

Notre Dame: Matt Farrell

The Bridgewater, New Jersey, native had an impressive homecoming. Farrell gave Villanova’s defense fits all afternoon with his scoring and playmaking abilities out of the pick-and-roll, as he finished with 18 points on 8 of 13 shooting from the field and six assists.  

Inside the box score
• Both teams struggled from deep. Notre Dame shot 6 of 22 and Villanova hit 4 of its 16 attempts

• Notre Dame led for 30:54 of playing time.

• A lot of the game was played in the half court, as both teams combined for just 13 fast-break points.

Up next
Villanova returns to The Pavilion for its fourth Big Five matchup of the early season, as the Wildcats play host to Temple on Tuesday.