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October 04, 2018

Eagles report cards through the first quarter of the season: Defense edition

Eagles NFL
100418FletcherCox Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports

Fletcher Cox has been a beast for the Eagles this season, but a number of other Eagles defenders have disappointed.

The Philadelphia Eagles came into the 2018 season with high expectations, because, you know, they won the Super Bowl last year. Through the first four games, the team has gotten out to a disappointing-but-deserved 2-2 start, and have not looked like the powerhouse that they were a year ago.

Yesterday, we handed out individual grades at the quarter mark to the offense, on something of a curve, based on each player's individual roles and expectations. Today, we'll do the same for the defense.

DE Brandon Graham: Graham was perhaps still hampered some by an ankle injury that caused him to miss training camp and the preseason, and it showed, as he is fifth in quarterback pressures and hits on the team's media guide.

 PlayerPressures and hits 
 Fletcher Cox25 
 Michael Bennett13 
 Chris Long13 
 Derek Barnett
 Brandon Graham


Graham said this week that his ankle is beginning to feel good, so he should be better going forward, but he has not generated much pressure so far this season.

Grade: C-

DE Derek Barnett: Timing and luck can be everything. In Week 1 against the Falcons, Barnett had two offsides penalties that negated sacks, and could have been devastating, but the Eagles' defense tightened up and saved him on both occasions. Against the Colts, Barnett picked a great time to have his best moment of the season when he sacked Andrew Luck to end a potential game-winning drive. Through four games, while Barnett has 2.5 sacks and is building on a good rookie season, he could be more consistent.

Grade: B-

DE Michael Bennett: Bennett has been a nice addition to the Eagles' defensive line rotation, as he has gotten pressure when given opportunities to rush the quarterback.

Grade: B

DE Chris Long: It feels like Long has been quiet so far, due to the lack of the big plays that he was able to make a year ago, but he has gotten pressure, and those game-changing plays will come eventually.

Grade: B

DT Fletcher Cox: It feels like the rest of the league's elite defenders are playing for second place behind Khalil Mack for Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2018, but Cox has been an absolute monster. 

Grade: A

DT Haloti Ngata: It's hard to judge Ngata, because at this stage of his career he's a run-stopping defensive tackle, and teams haven't really even bothered trying to run on the Eagles' defense yet. Still, with Fletcher Cox next to him, Ngata should be taking more advantage of his pass rushing opportunities. That's where the Birds miss Timmy Jernigan, who is more of balanced DT, who can rush the passer and play the run, while Ngata is more one-dimensional.

Grade: C+

DT Destiny Vaeao: Vaeao has been on the field for 84 snaps, and he has one tackle. He's just a body, and the Eagles need DT help, in my view.

Grade: D

LB Jordan Hicks: Hicks has been a solid player in the middle of the defense, but he has not forced any turnovers yet (or even come close, really) after showing a flair for making big plays early in his career.

Grade: B-

LB Nigel Bradham: After having such a good season last year, Bradham has been quiet, though his usage is down. Last year, Bradham almost never came off the field. This season, he's playing 77 percent of the snaps (not including the game he was suspended). 

Grade: B-

LB Kamu Grugier-Hill: I like what I've seen of Grugier-Hill so far, particularly in the opener, when he made a great play near the goal line to help seal a win. His snaps have been way down the last couple of weeks, however, as opposing offenses have forced the Eagles to use more nickel and dime looks. On the season, he has 13 tackles on roughly one game's worth of snaps (77).

Grade: B+

LB Nate Gerry: Gerry hasn't played much. Just 31 snaps. 1 tackle.

Grade: Inc.

CB Jalen Mills: There's no way to sugarcoat it. Mills simply hasn't been good, and he's a liability against the deep ball. Opposing offensive coordinators have set their sights on him and fired at will. He has given up several big plays, and he is second in the NFL in penalty yardage.

Grade: D

CB Ronald Darby: Darby hasn't been much better, frankly, and his effort as a tackler isn't good enough.

Grade: C-

CB Sidney Jones: Jones has shown some nice early signs in his first few games as a pro. He's been beaten some, but there's been nothing egregious, and he flies to the football when there are tackle opportunities to be made. If Jones continues to progress and Mills continues to falter, the calls for Jones and Mills to flip-flop roles are going to become louder.

Grade: B+

CB Rasul Douglas: Douglas has played on six snaps so far this season, and he has a pick. I can't imagine he's happy only playing special teams while seven other defensive backs clearly have bigger roles.

Grade: Inc.

DB Avonte Maddox: He may be the starting safety soon, because the team likes his quickness and instincts. Against the Titans, there was some good and some bad, but we'll forego grading him on just 20 snaps this season.

Grade: Inc.

S Malcolm Jenkins: With the exception of one really bad play against the Buccaneers in which he vacated the deep post area of the field on a long DeSean Jackson touchdown, Jenkins has been excellent. He nearly won the game for the Eagles on his own against the Titans in overtime, but couldn't get much in the way of help from his teammates.

Grade: B+

S Rodney McLeod: McLeod is now likely done for the season with a torn MCL, but he was very good before he got hurt. You saw what happened to the defense with McLeod missing.

Grade: B+

S Corey Graham: I though Graham was solid in his first three games, but his limitations at the age of 33 were on full display Sunday in Tennessee.

Grade: C-

GPA

Eagles D 1Q 2Q 3Q 4Q GPA 
 DE Brandon GrahamC-    1.7 
 DE Derek BarnettB-    2.7 
DE Michael Bennett    3.0 
 DE Chris Long   3.0 
 DT Fletcher Cox   4.0 
 DT Haloti NgataC+    2.3 
 DT Destiny Vaeao   1.0 
 LB Jordan HicksB-    2.7 
 LB Nigel BradhamB-    2.7 
 LB Kamu Grugier-HillB+    3.3 
 LB Nate GerryInc.    N/A 
 CB Jalen Mills   1.0 
 CB Ronald DarbyC-    1.7 
 CB Sidney JonesB+    3.3 
 CB Rasul DouglasInc.    N/A 
DB Avonte Maddox Inc.    N/A 
 S Malcolm JenkinsB+    3.3 
 S Rodney McLeodB+    3.3 
 S Corey GrahamC-    1.7 

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