Eagles Better or Worse: Defensive Line

Eagles Better or Worse: Defensive Line

The Eagles famed complex and devastating blitzing schemes have made them one of the most feared defenses in the league during the Andy Reid era. Last season, they didn't have the personnel for it. It was either blitz and risk someone missing their assignment, or sit back and watch the defensive line minus Trent Cole attempt to rush the quarterback.

We all know that wasn't happening, so the front office set out to fix their pressure problems. Did they succeed?

BETTER

Left defensive end

When the Eagles traded up to 13th overall in the draft and selected Brandon Graham, it was a surprise, but the thought was they might have immediately upgraded their pass rush. With the news that Graham has already been promoted to first string, it seems any doubt will quickly begin to fade.

There's a good possibility Graham won't be ready to play at a high level in his rookie season, if ever for that matter, but even if he struggles or hits a wall late in the year, the Eagles still have Juqua Parker in the fold. This will be Parker's sixth year with the club, so you know what you're getting with him—solid but unspectacular play. Still, at worst the team stands to create a strong platoon featuring a capable veteran with a young spark.

At the end of the day, the Birds are counting on Graham to make an impact in 2010. When a team moves into the top half of the first round, that's typically not an unreasonable expectation.

Potential

Besides Graham, the Eagles used two more draft choices on potential defensive ends, another late pick on a defensive tackle, and traded for Darryl Tapp, a five-year veteran. Generally speaking, that number of young players on the roster at one position simultaneously would normally be worrisome. Along the defensive line, it means there's a lot of opportunity.

Like Graham, there's no telling what, if anything, they'll get from their latest crop of young linemen. They're not exactly replacing the most productive bunch of players we've ever seen either. Only Darren Howard has put up numbers in his situational role over the past two years, and he'll be 34 this year, so a decline was likely. It may be a case of throwing a bunch of stuff against the wall and seeing what sticks, but it's not a bad start.

Rush defense

This actually sort of belongs in the linebackers edition, because Stewart Bradley is the biggest reason why the Eagles will improve versus the run. However, it's going to appear at times Mike Patterson and Brodrick Bunkley are having better seasons than '09.

Patt and Bunk form one of the better interior tandems in a league that is trending more and more toward 3-4 defenses (over half the defenses in the league now), but usually not in a way that shows up on the score sheet. They fill gaps and hold the point of attack, which allows their linebackers to finish the plays. Problem last year was they didn't have any linebackers.

As we already noted, if Stew is back, the Eagles will be much improved in this area, but the defensive tackles deserve some of the credit for that as well.

WORSE

The unknown

It's easy to say they're going to be better based on sheer numbers. Realistically, we don't really know.

For starters, Brandon Graham looks like he could become a pass rushing force. Until he does it on Sundays, he's just another guy, albeit it a very high profile guy. Same goes for everybody else they added this off-season.

The Eagles made a concerted effort to improve the defensive line, and considering how lackluster the group was last season, chances are the new contributors will at least become the equivalents of their predecessors. Then again, maybe they won't, at that's the point. It's a tricky thing claiming the defense is better off with a group of unproven players over NFL veterans.

OVERVIEW

Here's a situation where it looked like all four starters would be exactly the same from the previous year, with all of them being at a point in their careers where there is minimal development. Then Brandon Graham jumped onto the scene and started impressing some people. He was brought here to pressure opposing quarterbacks, and if he's able to do that, the entire defense will reap the rewards.

Grade: Better

Instant Replay: Mets 5, Phillies 3, Oct. 1

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Instant Replay: Mets 5, Phillies 3, Oct. 1

BOX SCORE

Ryan Howard gave the fans a treat with a two-run home run in his penultimate game in a Phillies uniform, but that was the extent of the highlights Saturday afternoon as the Phils suffered a 5-3 loss to the New York Mets at Citizens Bank Park.

With the victory, the Mets clinched a spot in the NL playoffs as a wild-card team.

The Phillies clinched their sixth straight loss and eighth in the last nine games.

They are 70-91 heading into the final day of the season.

Starting pitching report
Phil Klein worked four innings for the Phillies and gave up one run.

Mets starter Bartolo Colon went five innings and gave up just two runs. Both runs came on Howard’s homer in the fifth.

Bullpen report
Patrick Schuster and David Hernandez gave up runs in the sixth as the Mets broke a 2-2 tie. Hernandez allowed a two-run homer and took the loss.

The Mets’ bullpen pitched four shutout innings. Jeurys Familia closed it out for his 51st save.

At the plate
Howard’s homer was his 25th of the season, tying him with Maikel Franco for the team lead. It was the 382nd homer of his career, tying him with Jim Rice and Frank Howard for 67th on the all-time list.

Howard has six doubles, 13 homers and 32 RBIs in 47 games since July 3.

Darin Ruf smacked a pinch-hit homer in the seventh inning.

The Mets scored single runs in the fourth and fifth innings. James Loney put them ahead for good with a two-run homer in the top if the sixth. It broke a 2-2 tie. Asdrubal Cabrera drove in an insurance run with a single in the top of the ninth.

Up next
The Phillies close out the season Sunday afternoon against the Mets. Jerad Eickhoff (11-14, 3.72) pitches for the Phillies. Noah Syndergaard (14-9, 2.60) is the Mets’ scheduled starter.

The game will start at 3:05. The Phillies will honor Howard at 2:30.

Instant Replay: Temple 45, SMU 20

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Instant Replay: Temple 45, SMU 20

Recent history suggested that Temple and SMU would display some offensive fireworks Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field
 
The Owls lived up to their end of the bargain with a potent first-half attack, while the Mustangs are still wondering what hit them.
 
Temple began its defense of the AAC East crown by overwhelming SMU with 368 yards of total offense and sprinkling in a fumble recovery touchdown en route to a 45-20 thrashing of the Mustangs in both teams’ conference opener. All but 10 of the Owls’ points came in the first half.
 
The Owls’ defense kept the Mustangs’ uptempo offense in check most of the day, allowing 288 total yards and recording four sacks and two interceptions. SMU came into Saturday’s game averaging 448 yards of offense per game.
 
Temple (3-2, 1-0 AAC) effectively set a tone for the rest of conference play at the expense of the overmatched Mustangs.
 
SMU (2-3, 0-1 AAC) won’t be forgetting its first trip to Philadelphia since 1946 anytime soon.
 
Turning point
After Walker threw a pick-six to SMU’s Jordan Wyatt on the game’s opening drive, the Owls came back out with another uninspiring, fruitless offensive effort. The Mustangs had every ounce of the early momentum. But then the Owls unleashed their secret weapon in punter Alex Starzyk, who uncorked one of his trademark rugby-style punts. The ball bounced off a SMU player’s leg and Temple recovered at the SMU 42-yard line.
 
Seven plays later, Jahad Thomas scampered in from 12 yards out for a touchdown to tie the game. Temple went on to score 35 straight points and never looked back.
 
Injury report
Temple junior safety Sean Chandler was a sudden scratch Saturday with what the team called a knee injury. Redshirt senior Nate L. Smith started in Chandler’s place and recorded a pick in the second quarter. Thomas took over the punt return duties for the day.
 
Senior linebacker Avery Williams was a game-time decision with an ankle issue. He started but didn’t see his usual helping of snaps. Redshirt freshman Chapelle Russell and redshirt sophomore Jared Folks saw the field most in place of Williams.
 
Owls sophomore wideout Ventell Bryant, the team’s top returning receiver from last season, returned to action after missing the last three games.
 
Big men on campus
Sophomore Ryquell Armstead carried the rock 15 times for two touchdowns and a career-high 159 yards. It was his first career 100-yard rushing game. Those 159 yards are the most by an Owl since Thomas rushed for 199 against UCF last October.
 
Another game, two more rushing touchdowns for Thomas. He now has six touchdowns in three games since returning from a dislocated left thumb that forced him to miss the first two games of the year. He finished the day with 80 yards rushing and those two scores.
 
Romond Deloatch continues to do it all for Temple. Not only did the versatile senior have a 34-yard catch, he scooped up a fumble and brought it back for a defensive touchdown after lining up at defensive tackle in the second quarter. He palmed the ball off the ground like a basketball and trotted in easily from eight yards out.  Haason Reddick forced the fumble when he decleated SMU freshman quarterback Ben Hicks. Reddick had another sack and forced fumble on a huge hit of Hicks later in the game. The quarterback will be seeing Reddick in his nightmares.
 
Bryant made an impact in his return with a 43-yard touchdown reception.
 
Ugly day for Walker
For all the good things Temple did on Saturday, Walker, the Owls’ senior quarterback, didn’t have a game to brag about.
 
He wasn’t sharp at all as he went 7 for 18 for 124 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions on awful decisions. He stared down his receiver and forced the throw on Wyatt’s pick-six. He forced another throw along the sideline later in the game that was picked and led to a touchdown for the Mustangs. SMU defender Rodney Clemons dropped another easy pick in the third quarter.
 
Rough field conditions
The playing surface at Lincoln Financial Field was not in great shape Saturday, to put it politely. It was brown and torn-up from 30-yard line to 30-yard line. Beware. This is what happens when you mess with the combination of Beyoncé and Mother Nature.
 
Style watch
Temple broke out some sharp new black jerseys for Saturday’s game and paired them with white helmets and white pants. It was the first time the Owls wore black jerseys in two years.
 
Up next
There won’t be much rest for Temple this week. The Owls have to travel to Memphis for a nationally televised Thursday night matchup with the Tigers at the Liberty Bowl.
 
SMU heads to Tulsa next Saturday night.