Eagles grades vs. Giants: Cox, Thornton dominate

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Eagles grades vs. Giants: Cox, Thornton dominate

Breaking down Eagles' offensive woes

October 29, 2013, 10:00 am
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Cedric Thornton (right) on Sunday made six solo tackles, a phenomenally high number for a defensive lineman. (AP)

No more “studs” and “duds” and separate breakdowns of the Eagles’ offense and defense in film review.

In the revised and reformatted film review, game balls are handed out out to the best players, while those who didn’t make the grade are bound for extra sprints after practice. Kelly’s coaching decisions and other themes from the game are also addressed.

Not surprisingly, most of the game balls from Sunday’s 15-7 loss to the Giants went to the defense.

Here we go...

Game balls

Fletcher Cox
He was an absolute beast against Tampa and dominant against Dallas, but Cox may have been at his best against the Giants. He beat the snot out of guards David Diehl and Kevin Boothe all game and finished with a sack and several hurries. He should have had two sacks but blew one when he shot into the backfield so quickly that he ended up flying past Manning instead of pouncing on him. His combination of run-stopping and pass rush made him the team’s best all-around defensive linemen of the game.

Cedric Thornton
There might be an interior defensive lineman stopping the run as well as Thornton is, but I’m hard-pressed to believe there’s one doing it better. Thornton once again owned the guy across from him, whether it was the guard or center. His six solo tackles were third on the defense, a high number for a lineman. He continues to be the most pleasant surprise of the defense. He and Cox are making it tough for opponents to establish the run and work honest play action. Thornton’s pass rush is also improving.

Cary Williams
After a good game against Dez Bryant last week, Williams came up big again. Matched up mostly against Hakeem Nicks, who went for a season-high 142 in the first game, Williams helped hold Nicks to just 51 yards on seven catches and 12 targets.

James Casey
Made a difference on special teams while getting only seven offensive snaps. Had a nice lead block on Keith Rivers to clear a path for Damaris Johnson’s 22-yard kickoff return. On punt coverage, he tackled Rueben Randle to keep the dangerous returner from springing a longer return after Brandon Boykin had missed Randle on a diving tackle.

Bradley Fletcher

Played a strong game mostly matched up against Randle, who had no catches after going for 96 yards and two touchdowns in the first game. Fletcher got flagged for a 19-yard pass interference against Cruz on a field-goal drive, but that’s the price he pays for being a physical corner.

Clifton Geathers

He played just 14 snaps but was a force up front against the run. Easily his best game of the year.

Donnie Jones
For a guy with a bad foot, his punts didn’t show it. Only two of his six punts were returned, as Jones did a good job with either high-arcing punts that gave his coverage enough time to get downfield or directional kicks that pinned returners to the sidelines.

Bill Davis
Made several adjustments in the rematch, playing more man-press and conjuring up some quirky blitzes (which I discuss later in this story). After the Giants struck a lot of underneath routes in the first game, Davis made sure his defensive backs played tighter coverage and found better ways to get pressure against Manning.

Extra sprints

Lane Johnson

The up-and-down season for the rookie continued. Johnson really had trouble against Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka, in both pass protection and run blocking. It’s the same song: leverage and technique. He’s not manhandled or overpowered, but he gets off balance and has trouble finishing after the initial punch.

DeSean Jackson

He wasn’t terrible, but two plays really stood out. In the second quarter, he missed a chance to pick up more yards on a left-side screen when he danced behind Jason Avant’s lead block instead of getting to the outside immediately and turning upfield. The hesitation led to just a three-yard gain. His most egregious error came in the third, on a 3rd-and-8 slant he caught from the right slot. Jackson was headed for the first down but hesitated when he saw the safety coming in. He tried to skirt the tackle and ran laterally instead of forward and then got dropped short of the first down and the Eagles were forced into another punt.

Jason Peters
Surprisingly, Peters had a lot of problems handling Jason Pierre-Paul in the run game. Pierre-Paul’s inside penetration on Peters re-routed several of McCoy’s runs and limited the running back’s lanes. Peters wasn’t dominant in pass protection either. He’s been bothered by a shoulder and finger injury, but Peters has managed to push through each one and be effective. This time, he looked far from an elite tackle.

Chip Kelly
Too many questionable play calls that either border on ultra-conservative or curiously over-aggressive. Down to his third-string quarterback, Kelly didn’t make enough adjustments to give his offense a chance to get on the board while his defense took the game on its shoulders. Hit the sprints, Chip.

Passing grades

Matt Barkley
He wasn’t great by any stretch, but his play validated Kelly’s assertion Monday that there’s a foundation to build on. He had two turnovers, a lost fumble coming on an iffy play call and an interception on the final drive where he just tried to make a play with time winding down. Other than that, he played a smart game against a Giants defense that brought third-down blitzes and generated a good front four rush.

It’ll be interesting to see how one week of first-team reps impacts Barkley’s performance. There were times where he didn’t see open receivers and times where it appeared he should have kept the ball and ran on the zone reads to keep the defense honest. Barkley has enough mobility to get to the outside if the lane is there.

Mychal Kendricks

Kendricks really should get a game ball. He led the defense with 12 tackles and used his quickness and athleticism to get around blocks instead of getting swallowed up by bigger offensive linemen. But his coverage struggles held him back. His failure to stick with tight end Brandon Myers on the Giants’ last drive hurt the Eagles’ chances of a comeback. On 3rd-and-7, Myers ran a quick-in and pushed off Kendricks to create separation as he cut to the outside and caught a 10-yard pass for a first down that enabled the Giants to get the clock down under a minute. This is a move other tight ends have used against Kendricks to get freed up. He needs to start recognizing it and playing with better leverage to keep from getting beaten.

Earl Wolff

The rookie safety made some nice tackles and continued to show improvement. His best play came on the first series of the second half, on a 3rd-and-4 pass from Manning to Nicks across the middle on a crossing route. Wolff had helped Boykin on Cruz but left Boykin just in time to pursue Nicks and smother the receiver a few yards shy of first down.

Brandon Boykin

Had the toughest assignment of the day, matching up on Cruz in the slot and left alone many times. He got a beat a few times, but some were just great throws by Manning. Boykin made a beautiful sprawling breakup of a right sideline pass from Manning to Nicks on 3rd-and-5 in the third that forced a punt.

Under the radar

Nate Allen

Made a good form tackle on Myers across the middle on 3rd-and-7 in the third, holding the tight end to a five-yard again. Allen had a few good one-on-one tackles, which used to be his weakest asset.

Connor Barwin

Had just one tackle, but disrupted three passes at scrimmage.

Vinny Curry

Curry played only 12 snaps as the Giants tried to establish the run and played from ahead most of the game. Still, he had two hurries.

Damaris Johnson
Made better decisions in the return game. Splitting his time with Jackson may have had something to do with that. 

Nothing special

Todd Herremans

He looked shaky early. On the third drive, Herremans got pushed back by defensive tackle Linval Joseph into Mike Vick, who had to unload the ball and was flagged for intentional grounding. He got slightly better as the game went on.

Trent Cole
The stat sheet said he made one tackle and finished with one pass defended. I counted three plays where his pressure forced Manning into a hurried throw. Still, three isn’t enough when you’re mostly going up against Will Beatty.

DeMeco Ryans
Not his best game. He made six tackles but had some trouble in coverage. On one play, he lost Myers in coverage and allowed the tight end to pick up 27 yards, the longest reception by a Giants receiver.

Brandon Graham

He played just 18 snaps and really didn’t produce very much. The coaches were much more intent on stopping the run than having their pass rushers out there, evidenced by low snap totals from Graham and Curry, compared to Isaac Sopoaga’s 47 snaps.

On second thought…

• People have questioned why Kelly didn’t run with McCoy on 1st-and-goal at the 2 at the end of Barkley’s first drive, when he was strip-sacked and fumbled the ball away. Maybe the question should be: Why didn’t Kelly have Barkley roll out the right side, so he doesn’t have to make an across-the-body throw? You almost wonder if the coaches forgot to switch the direction of the play given that Vick is left-handed and Barkley’s a righty.

• I understand Kelly’s defense on eschewing a 49-yard field goal because of windy conditions and semi-understand his decision to onside kick with more than four minutes to go. I don’t necessarily agree with him, but I get his points. But I’m still puzzled by punting on 4th-and-4 at the Giants’ 47-yard line when trailing 15-0. What did he have to lose? There just seems to be no validation for that one.

This and that ...

• There were too many cries about no pressure after the game. I know Manning got sacked just once, but the Giants’ game plan was much different this time from four weeks ago. They took far fewer shots downfield and several of Manning’s passes were three-step drops designed to get the ball out quickly. Cox and Thornton supplied a good interior rush and Cole and Barwin were able to collapse the pocket from the outside. There were very few throws where Manning had all day in the pocket.

• We’re accustomed to seeing odd formations and unbalanced lines from Kelly’s offense, but Davis got creative on a 3rd-and-long in the third when he had defensive linemen Cox and Bennie Logan split wide, along with corner Brandon Boykin. All three were lined up against three Giants wide receivers before the snap, with only Cole on the line of scrimmage. After the snap, all three rushed from Manning’s left side, forcing the quarterback to roll to his right and hit Jerrell Jernigan for a 12-yard gain when the Giants needed 29.

• I’m not killing McCoy and the tight ends for their lack of impact on the offense. McCoy, who rushed for just 48 yards, was the victim of subpar blocking, especially to the outsides, and of seven- and eight-man boxes. The Giants never feared Barkley as a runner or passer and made it their mission to take McCoy out of the game. As for the three tight ends who combined for 33 yards on four catches, there just weren’t a lot of opportunities as the Giants frequently dropped into coverage and rushed four, congesting the areas where Celek and Ertz usually roam.

More Team Talk

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