Eagles defensive grades: Fletcher, Boykin shine

Eagles defensive grades: Fletcher, Boykin shine

Lunch Break: Film breakdown with Ray Didinger

October 8, 2013, 10:00 am
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Here’s a breakdown of the Eagles’ studs and duds on defense from their 36-21 win Sunday over the Giants at MetLife Stadium, along with other interesting items that stuck out in tape review.

(To read the film review of the offense, click here.)

Studs

Bradley Fletcher
For the second straight week, the left cornerback earns this distinction. Eli Manning connected on several deep passes, but not many came on Fletcher, although Manning kept trying. Fletcher set the tone early, breaking up a bomb from Manning to Rueben Randle on the second play from scrimmage. Randle had the ball in his hands 45 yards downfield after getting a step ahead, but Fletcher used his right hand to jar the ball loose.

Fletcher broke up a third-down pass to Randle in the second quarter on a quick inside route and another to Randle late in the second half on a 40-yard bomb, although Fletcher got away with having his arms wrapped around the receiver’s ribcage midair. Although he did get beat by Hakeem Nicks in the third on a 3rd-and-7 catch for 14 yards, Fletcher came back the next drive and blanketed Victor Cruz on a 45-yard pass to the Eagles’ 5-yard line.

After five weeks, Fletcher has clearly been the team’s best defensive back and probably its best overall free-agent acquisition.

Brandon Boykin
Given the tough assignment of guarding Cruz in the slot, Boykin performed very well -- enough to forgive his special teams penalty. Boykin kept Cruz out of the end zone, which doesn’t happen often when these teams collide, and was effective at times as a slot blitzer. Cruz’s 48 yards were the fewest he’s had in five games against the Eagles and he was held to less than 100 yards for just the second time.

You be hard-pressed to find a better showcase of athleticism than his fourth-quarter interception (see story) on a Manning pass to Cruz that was first caught but somehow snatched away while Boykin was lunging at the receiver. Boykin was flagged for pass interference on a third-quarter pass deep to Cruz down the right seam but only because he slipped and made contact on the way down, and it wasn’t much contact.

It may have gone unnoticed on Mychal Kendricks’ fourth-quarter interception that Boykin’s pressure from the slot forced Manning to step up into the pocket, where he was hit -- facemasked, actually -- by Trent Cole, which caused Manning’s pass to bounce off his center’s helmet and into Kendricks’ hands.

Brandon Graham
Still just a reserve and situational pass rusher, Graham made the most of his 22 snaps. He abused rookie right tackle Justin Pugh twice on the Giants’ final drive of the first half to force Manning into incompletions, and again in the third on a Manning pass rushed to Cruz. His hurries-per-pass play ratio must be one of the team’s highest.

Duds

Just one guy truly worthy of the “dud” distinction.

Cary Williams
He was matched up against Nicks a bunch, and Nicks erupted for 142 yards on nine receptions. Williams still seems to get confused in coverage at times. On a 20-yard catch by Randle in the third, Williams for some reason left Randle wide open to help double-cover tight end Brandon Myers, who was already blanketed by Earl Wolff. Last week against Denver, Williams got completely lost by Demaryius Thomas on an outside route that Williams for some reason played to the inside and wound up about 15 yards away from the receiver.

Sure, Williams picked off Manning in the fourth quarter, but that’s mainly because Nicks decided to cut his route short and leave Manning’s pass headed straight for the corner. Manning completed several quick slants and quick crosses to receivers guarded by Williams.

The others
Cole and Cedric Thornton were close to earning “stud” distinction. Cole didn’t have any sacks but came close to a few and played the run well. Thornton, who rotated between end and nose tackle, should have been awarded a safety for corralling David Wilson in the end zone. Regardless, he pushed center Jim Cordle back about three yards on the play. He gave Cordle fits on several snaps.

Defensive end Fletcher Cox had an OK game. He didn’t really do anything special but provided the occasional pass rush.

Inside linebackers Kendricks and DeMeco Ryans were active in Billy Davis’ blitz plans. Davis dialed up a slew of five- and six-man pressures for his linebackers up the 'A' gaps. None had sacks but the blitzes forced Manning to unload quickly for hot receivers. Davis backed off in the third quarter but summoned them up again after the Giants scored 14 straight points to take a one-point lead. Kendricks got beat by Wilson on a wheel route early, but Wilson couldn’t make the catch.

Outside linebacker Connor Barwin did a decent job, occasionally rushing the passer and stopping the run, sometimes in coverage on Myers. He batted down a Manning pass to Cruz in the third.

Wolff continues to have up-and-down moments. The rookie safety showed great athleticism by jumping high to bat down Manning’s 3rd-and-6 pass to Myers on the left sideline in the third. On the next drive, he let Myers get wide open down the left seam for a 24-yard catch when he got sucked in by another route and didn’t get back. On that same drive, Wolff broke up a pass across the middle to Cruz near the goal line but then got caught out of position to wrap up Randle around the 10 on the receiver’s 26-yard touchdown catch.

Once again, Nate Allen didn’t make any negative plays, and that’s a plus. He didn’t make any impact plays, either, but did tag-team with Fletcher on some defended passes.

Vinny Curry played just 14 snaps and made the most of the limited action. Twice, he shot past right guard David Diehl to force Manning into a hurried incompletion. Manning was flagged for intentional grounding on one of them.

Reserve defensive end/tackle Bennie Logan played 19 snaps. He was pushed back about six yards by Pugh on a Brandon Jacobs’ second-longest run of the game, in the second quarter. He picked up a sack in mop-up time, but only because Curry’s pressure forced him into Logan’s path.

Isaac Sopoaga played 28 snaps. He shot through scrimmage to drop Jacobs for a three-yard loss. Other than that, not much production.

Clifton Geathers played 14 snaps on the line, and Casey Matthews played four at outside linebacker. Nothing much there.

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