October 04, 2017
The Philadelphia Eagles have made it through the first quarter of the season atop the NFC East at 3-1, with a 2-0 record in the division, and at least a game lead on all their division rivals.
Yesterday, we handed out grades to the Eagles' key players on offense. Today we'll grade the defense.
• DE Brandon Graham: Graham was downright dominant in the Eagles' Week 1 game against the Redskins, and was perhaps the best player on the field that day, beating quality RT Morgan Moses like a rented mule for four quarters. Through four games, Graham has 2.5 sacks, and has been good against the run, as always.
• DE Vinny Curry: Curry has done some nice things in the run game, but playing on the edge on the blindside of the quarterback, you want impact plays, and Curry has made none so far this season.
Update: I was reminded by a reader that Curry was heavily responsible for the Eagles' goal line stand against the Giants, which was a huge factor in the outcome of that game. So I'm going to upgrade him to a B-.
• DT Fletcher Cox: I think this stat pretty much says it in terms of Fletcher Cox's importance to the team, via Jeff McLane of the Inquirer:
Since the defensive tackle suffered a calf injury late in the second quarter of the Giants game, the Eagles have allowed 48 points over six-plus quarters and 7.5 yards per play. In the just-under ten prior quarters, they allowed 37 points and 5.9 yards per play.
In three games, Cox has 2 sacks, a forced fumble, and two fumble recoveries, one of which he returned for a score.
• DT: Timmy Jernigan: Jernigan is looking like a smart pickup by the Eagles, as he has been a penetrating force on the interior of the defensive line. A concern heading into this season was that the Eagles might be giving up something in the run game going from Bennie Logan to Jernigan, but that hasn't been the case at all.
• DE Derek Barnett: Barnett was dominant during the preseason playing mostly against second-team offenses. In the games that matter, Barnett has been quiet statistically, but if you watch him closely, he has shown flashes of being a quality starting NFL pass rusher. The sacks will come, but it's been a slow start playing roughly 40 percent of the snaps.
• DE Chris Long: Long is a solid veteran backup defensive end at this point in his career, who has had ups and downs. On the downside, he missed what should have been an easy sack of Kirk Cousins Week 1 against the Redskins. On the bright side, he got the Eagles' defense off to a great start Week 4 against the Chargers with a hustle strip sack.
• DT Beau Allen: Allen is certainly not Fletcher Cox, but when he has gotten opportunities, he has played well. Against the Chargers, Allen had a sack and a tackle for loss with Cox on the shelf.
• LB Jordan Hicks: Eagles fans have become accustomed to Hicks making splash plays, as he had 7 interceptions, a forced fumble, 4 fumble recoveries, 2 sacks, and 14 pass breakups in the first 24 games of his career.
So far in 2017, Hicks has no interceptions, forced fumbles, pass breakups, or sacks.
• LB Nigel Bradham: Like Hicks, Bradham hasn't made any plays yet this season either.
• LB Mychal Kendricks: Prior to the start of the season, I didn't think there'd be much of a dropoff, if any, from Kendricks to the next guy up at linebacker. Welp, that was clearly wrong. Kendricks has rejuvenated his career so far this season. Through four games, he has 18 tackles, a sack, and 3 pass breakups, while only playing 48 percent of the snaps on defense. He's been more productive in far less time on the field than Hicks or Bradham.
• CB Ronald Darby: Darby had a nice first quarter against the Redskins, I suppose, but there's not enough to grade him on.
• CB Jalen Mills: The finger-wagger extraordinaire has been targeted more than any cornerback in the NFL, and as a result, he leads the team (and all NFL corners) in tackles, with 27. After Ronald Darby went down, Mills has typically drawn the most difficult assignments every week, including trailing Odell Beckham for four quarters. Mills is not a No. 1 corner by any stretch, and he's probably most ideally suited to be in the slot, but he has made legitimate improvements from last year and held his own so far this season.
• CB Rasul Douglas: Douglas has shown early on that his instinctive and aggressive ball-hawking play could carry over from college into the pros, though he has had his shaky moments as well.
• CB Patrick Robinson: After a brutally bad start to training camp, Robinson has been one of the most pleasant surprises on the team, playing at the nickel corner spot. His coverage has been good, as he already has four pass breakups and a pick.
• S Malcolm Jenkins: Statistically, Jenkins hasn't had his best season, which is understandable, considering he's played next to three different safeties already this season. What he has done is make a number of clutch plays, with his third-down tackle for loss against the Giants being the most memorable.
• S Rodney McLeod: McLeod may have been responsible for a couple of big gainers by the Chargers on Sunday, though that is unconfirmed. We'll assume he was and change his grade later if incorrect.
• S Corey Graham: Graham was battling a hamstring injury against the Chiefs, and he was unable to make a play on Kareem Hunt in the open field, as Hunt blew right by him for a long TD run.
• S Chris Maragos: Maragos is a star special teams player, but clearly a liability when he has to play safety in the regular defense.
|Eagles D||1st Q||2nd Q||3rd Q||4th Q||GPA|
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