I want to wait until Game Rewind has the coaching tape up for a full evaluation, but these are my initial thoughts on the Eagles 31-13 win over the Rams:
The run defense was terrible.
As expected the Wide 9 technique the linemen play created huge gaps for the linebackers to fill, and as expected they didn’t fill them. They were eaten up by blocks all day long, Casey Matthews was the worst of the group. He constantly ran straight to the blocker and could not disengage and make a tackle. There were other times when he ran into a pile of blocked players, which took him out of the play and essentially freed up a defender. On a Cadillac Williams run on the goalline in the 3rd quarter, Matthews did absolutely nothing. There was a pile of defenders and blockers as Williams was stuffed, and there’s Matthews standing outside the pile, contributing nothing. Matthews is just not ready to be a starting middle linebacker in the NFL. Right now he’s the new Mark Simoneau: small and quick but doesn’t make great reads, get easily overpowered and shouldn’t be starting. Moise Fokou was not much better, getting pancaked at the 2nd level all game long. He’s not a linebacker but Kurt Coleman provided no help, consistently being sealed by Danny Amendola before Amendola left the game with an injury. Antonio Dixon and Mike Patterson played well, but that only gets you so far when you’re weak on the outside too.
The linebackers accounted for only 1.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. I’m even being generous and not just counting tackles for loss, but counting tackles that were made behind the line of scrimmage where the running back managed to power himself back to the line of scrimmage. The Eagles had 6 all game, one each by Mike Patterson, Trent Cole, Darryl Tapp, Cullen Jenkins and Jamar Chaney each had a solo tackle, Trevor Laws and Moise Fokou combined for the 6th. The linebackers can’t cover the gaps and can’t get penetration. This is going to be the Achilles Heel all season, isn’t it?
The pass rush was as advertised.
Bradford didn’t get chased much, but chalk that up to him getting the ball out quickly. There are reasons he is a good QB, and one of those is that he makes quick decisions. There were plenty of knockdowns and the pressure was good. Recording 5 sacks, a fumble and knocking the QB out of the game against a respectable offensive line is a good day.
The offensive line wasn’t as good as you think.
Speaking of pass rushing, the Eagles beat writers were saying that the line got better as the game went on. I didn’t see it. What I saw was Reid and Mornhinweg calling plays that took advantage of the Rams pass rush over-pursuing. Lots of roll outs that got Vick outside of defenders blitzing inside, and lots of shotgun. Vick had 11 rushing attempts, which is too much.
By my count, Vick dropped back from center 21 times and was in the shotgun 25 times. I looked at plays negated by penalty as well, just because the play didn’t count on the stat sheet doesn’t mean it doesn’t count in the evaluation. If the RB holds a blitzing linebacker, that has no bearing on grading how a wide receiver did against a corner on that play.
Vick stayed in the pocket on 17 of his 25 shotgun snaps, as opposed to only 9 of his 21 drop backs from center. He rolled to his left only once in shotgun, under center he did it 6 times. He scrambled to his left 3 times under center and twice out of shotgun, scrambled to his right twice under center and never in shotgun, he scrambled twice up the middle on shotgun and never under center. Two of his three sacks came under center.
Grading Vick’s throwing is for another day, but today it’s clear that unless the line makes serious improvements, the Eagles are going to have to run a lot of shotgun to keep Vick healthy.