Film review: Eagles' defensive studs and duds

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Film review: Eagles' defensive studs and duds

October 1, 2013, 9:00 am
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Cary Williams is stiff-armed by Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas during the Eagles' 52-20 loss on Sunday. (AP)

The Eagles gave up 472 total yards and were picked apart by Peyton Manning in their 52-20 loss to the Broncos on Sunday in Denver.

Despite the eyesore defensive effort, there were some Eagles who actually played well. Just not very many.

Here’s a film review breakdown of studs, duds and other notables from the Eagles’ defense.

(To read the offensive film review, click here.)


Bradley Fletcher
Left cornerback Bradley Fletcher played his best game of the season and the best of any player in the second level. The quiet veteran corner matched up against a variety of Broncos wideouts but didn’t give up any long balls in his 64 snaps. He successfully defended a Peyton Manning pass to Andre Caldwell in the end zone on the fifth play of Denver’s opening drive. In the third quarter, the refs whistled him for a bogus pass interference on Demaryius Thomas that set up Thomas’ one-yard touchdown catch on the next play. Replays showed Fletcher was in coverage, but the touchdown wasn’t his fault. Thomas made a ridiculous one-handed grab on a perfectly thrown pass.

Cedric Thornton
Right defensive end Cedric Thornton, who played 47 snaps, spent most of the night as a pass rusher, which isn’t really his thing since adding weight and converting to a two-gap defensive end with run-stopping responsibilities. Still, he picked up his first sack of the season, dropping Manning for a six-yard loss near the end of the half to help push the Broncos out of field goal range -- which didn’t really matter in the long run, but still seemed positive at the time. Thornton has two career sacks, one against Manning and one against Matt Ryan. Not a bad duo.


Mychal Kendricks
Inside linebacker Mychal Kendricks continued his disappointing trend of failing to wrap up tackles and taking himself out of game-changing plays. It’s scary how athletic he is, but likewise scary how he can’t harness all that athleticism into becoming a playmaker.

In the second quarter, with Denver moving toward the red zone, Kendricks shot through scrimmage and had Manning in his crosshairs but somehow let the concrete statue quarterback elude his pass rush with a slight step up into the pocket. Manning instead found running back Ronnie Hillman in the flat for seven yards. Four plays later, Denver went up 21-13 on Knowshon Moreno’s four-yard touchdown.

Later, Kendricks sprawled out to corral Julius Thomas along the right sideline but missed and let the tight end gain seven yards. In the third, Kendricks shot through the B gap and had a chance to tackle Hillman two yards behind scrimmage but again left his feet and couldn’t make the stop.

“We have talked to Mychal about that,” Chip Kelly said Monday. “And [inside linebackers coach] Rick [Minter] has worked with them on that and that's some of the things -- I think Mychal thinks a little bit too much and doesn't let himself go play and just kind of pull the trigger and go.”

Cary Williams
Right cornerback Cary Williams will see Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas in his nightmares. Williams was beaten badly by Decker on the 52-yard reception before the half -- although he didn’t have safety help -- and was lost several times by Thomas, who caught nine passes for 86 yards and two TDs.

Even worse, the fiery and tough-talking Williams missed several tackles, including one that led to running back Moreno’s 16-yard gain in the second. Clearly, he was worn down in the third, when he was blocked to the ground by 5-foot-9, 185-pound slot receiver Wes Welker on Thomas’ 15-yard touchdown screen.

Billy Davis
Defensive coordinator Billy Davis said he needed to be creative in finding a way to stop Manning, but the Eagles were hardly innovative in their approach, unless screaming “Papa John's” and mimicking Manning’s hand motions -- tactics employed by the linemen throughout the game -- were the tricks up Davis’ sleeve. Not much stunting by the linemen or creative personnel packages, like Sean McDermott did in 2010 (see story). And how does Vinny Curry get just 13 snaps?

Earl Wolff
In his first NFL start, Earl Wolff showed he’s still a rookie fifth-round pick who’s learning the game and not the savior of the secondary that some have anointed him to be. Wolff, who played 64 snaps, took several bad angles and missed tackles. He also was late in coverage on the Welker touchdown that came when Brandon Boykin blitzed from the slot, and again later on a Julius Thomas 10-yard catch with Boykin again rushing the passer. His instincts just aren’t there yet.

Not bad, not great
Outside linebackers Trent Cole, Connor Barwin and Brandon Graham were each held without a sack, but they weren’t total non-factors. Cole and Barwin generated pressure at times but were negated by Manning’s quick trigger. Graham hurried Manning into a third-down incompletion on Denver’s second possession, a three-and-out, but played just 20 snaps.

Defensive end Fletcher Cox and DeMeco Ryans just didn’t make any impact plays. Ryans got cut-blocked badly by left tackle Chris Clark on Moreno’s 16-yarder.

Strong safety Nate Allen played 64 snaps and, for once, made it through an entire game without an egregiously bad play. Improvement, maybe?

Boykin had his blitzed negated on consecutive rushes by Moreno and got burned by Welker on a six-yard TD catch in the third.

The rest
Nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga didn’t play much early because of the Broncos’ passing attack. He finished with 24 snaps and didn’t offer much.

Defensive lineman Clifton Geathers played 25 snaps with the second-string defensive line and struggled in run defense.

Rookie tackle/end Bennie Logan generated little push in his 26 snaps and got pushed back some.

Inside linebacker Jake Knott played 10 downs. On his first snap, he took an excellent angle to Hillman and dropped the Broncos' running back for no gain.

Inside linebacker Casey Matthews was a non-factor on 14 snaps.

(To read the offensive film review, click here.)

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