“What if I told you that a team with no corners backed into a corner……cornered the cornerback market.” Ok, maybe it isn’t something you write a documentary out of. And even if it was that certainly wouldn’t be the start.
Regardless after a thrilling, down to the wire victory against the Falcons in the season opener, one thing that is obvious about this 2018 team is how much talent Jim Schwartz and Corey Undlin have to work with inside the cornerback room.
Don’t let the stat line of Julio Jones confuse you. The secondary was impressive Thursday night and the once weak point of an elite defense suddenly seems like a strength.
Ronald Darby stood out the most of the group, and of the entire team but Jalen Mills, Sidney Jones, and even Rasul Douglas popped on numerous occasions in the film.
Play #1: Mills crashing on the ball
The best trait of Jalen Mills is his aggression. Especially when it comes to closing on the ball and making tackles. Mills and Hicks crash on the ball here and blow through Ridley who can’t hang on.
Play #2: Sidney Jones recognizes the screen pass
One of the best parts of Sidney Jones’s tape at Washington was his ability to wreck a screenplay. Here Jones recognizes Ryan is coming to Freeman after an RPO (offensive line is run blocking so it isn’t a play-action) and sits on the route. Even if it was a completion Jones would have immediately brought Freeman down. His patience and route recognition was impressive in this game.
Play #3: First example of Darby’s close-in speed
Atlanta catches Darby too deep off the line of scrimmage as Sanu comes back inside. Luckily for the Eagles Darby is one of the fastest cornerbacks in the game so he can make up for the ground lost. Matt Ryan throws to Sanu’s outside and Darby breaks it up.
Play #4: Jalen Mills against the run
Mills is a corner but he often looks like a mini-linebacker on the field. Atlanta leaves Mills untouched so he needs to shoot through the D-gap to take down Tevin Coleman. Mills gets through and finishes the play. Extremely important part of being a corner in this defense.
Play #5: Sidney Jones plays the pass over the run
This was a good run by Ryan but I like how Sidney Jones played this. Jones is all over Sanu, sees Ryan flushed out of the pocket rolling right and instead of pursuing he tries to get in front of Ridley who Mills is behind. Most likely he assumes Graham in the middle will break off and go after Ryan. Like the decision.
Play #6: Darby shows off tackling ability
Another example of corners having to make tackles in open space. Everyone is blocked except for Darby who is one on one with Coleman. Darby shoots down, gets the push on Coleman’s legs and forces him out of bounds for a three-yard loss. That is something Darby has improved on.
Play #7: Blanket Coverage
This was perfect coverage from all three. Ryan’s first read is Jones trying to beat Darby on a double move cutting inside then immediately out. Darby doesn’t let it fool him, then Ryan looks to his right where Mills is trailing Ridley, and Jones jammed Sanu in the middle of the end-zone allowing no separation. This coverage allowed the pass rush up the middle to push Ryan back and back until he was too far to make a play.
Play #8: More speed from Darby
Another example of Darby’s recovery ability. Jones has the inside leverage and a step on Daby over the middle, Darby closes in and makes an athletic breakup.
Play #9: Mills plays the run perfectly
Because Mills was beat deep a few times it seemed like the third year corner wasn’t having a sharp 2018 debut. He didn’t have the game Darby did but he was rock solid. Here he once again plays the run very nicely. Another strong combo play with Hicks who keeps Coleman running sideways not pursuing too hard. Mills also recognizes the play is coming his way, knows Hicks has the inside so he pushes off his block to the left, forcing Coleman out.
Play #10: Jones and Darby shut it down
Matt Ryan fakes the handoff and immediately looks for Freeman on a swing, Jones recgonized it and buried in on the play then quickly got back up to Sanu down the field. Darby was already there covering the top and the ball sails out of bounds.
Play #11: No.Where.To.Go.
Jordan Hicks gets the highlight play on the sack as the Eagles brought five but take a look at the coverage from all three corners. Mills locks down Hooper, Jones is all over the inside route, Darby has Julio deep, Ryan has no time.
Play #12: Darby denies Julio again
Darby sees Julio cutting inside, has a little hesitation to read if it is a double move, and when it isn’t he makes a play that a lot of corners would have no chance at getting at. Jones also all over his man on that one.
Play #13: Mills gets beat on a familiar route
Hate to put one of the bad plays in here but this is a route Mills and the secondary has struggled with for two years. More hesitation is needed when reading this Sluggo because that should have been a catch. Mills doesn’t have the long speed Darby has to catch up. He is quick and fast side to side but that is a play he will get burned again and again with.
Play #14: Another near coverage sack
There were many plays where Matt Ryan had nowhere to go with the ball. Ryan has to throw it away and gets a penalty rather than take what would have been a coverage sack. Darby is on Jones like white on rice, Sidney Jones is not allowing anything inside, and Mills keeps Ridley at arm’s length.
Play #15: Darby makes a CB1 play
Darby was really good on Julio. Reads the out route, closes inside and punches it away. That is a CB1 play right there.
Play #16: Darby Island
Very next play they come right back at Darby. The Eagles trusted him enough one on one with Jones that they sent a blitz with McLeod. Ryan sees it and targets Julio deep but Darby is running stride for stride.
Play #17: Sidney Jones forces run inside
Love this awareness for Jones on the reverse. Sees it coming, takes on his block outside. Made the runner stay inside where Darby takes him down before a big gain.
Play #18: Douglas only needs one snap
Probably my favorite play. The young guns are alone on the outside as Douglas checks in for Darby who was dealing with cramps. Communicating who takes who since it isn’t exactly man on man, Jones takes the shorter out which gives Douglas Julio deep. He recognizes the route, turns at the perfect time and does what he does. Ballhawks.
Play #19: Sidney the screen killer
Jones was so good at stopping screens at Washington. Here he knows it is coming, sheds his block perfectly and makings another nice tackle which he did all summer.
Play #20: Streetball
23 seconds left, red zone. Man coverage, Graham pushes inside and forces Ryan to roll out and this is when you need your corners to just play street ball. Pickup football where you just run with your man. Darby has Julio in the left corner, Jones is all over his route in the slot, and Mills tracks the outside perfectly giving Ryan no options. Another example of perfect play with the pass rush and coverage.
Pick #21: Standing tall
Julio is doubled with Graham and McLeod in the slot, and even if Ryan went elsewhere there was nowhere else to go. Sidney Jones’s first game he is thrust into a goal-line stand situation to win the game and he had one hell of a drive
Pick #22: Darby is a hero
Last year it was Mills. This year it was Darby. One play to win the game. Julio catches the ball but is high in the air to catch it so Darby makes sure he forces Julio out before he can get his body down. The game ends the way it should. With Darby making a play. Hey, at least Julio caught it this time right Atlanta?
*Bonus Play: Jones vs Jones
Long makes an amazing play here but the coverage on this play was excellent. Jones on Jones in the slot sees Julio go out but plays it deeper which was the right move as Julio broke up the field.
Wentz vs Star Quarterbacks
In just three seasons, Carson Wentz has gone from a young, promising future star to an actual star in the NFL.
Most objective NFL fans (not looking at you Cowboy fans) would go through their top 10 QB list and have Wentz there.
NFL players have the same belief as they voted Wentz the #3 overall player on the 2017 NFL Top 100 list.
As the Eagles head to New Orleans to take on the 8-1 Saints, Wentz is set to take on another star QB, and future hall of famer in Drew Brees.
In three seasons, how has Wentz fared against opposing star quarterbacks?
Week 3 Eagles vs Steelers: Wentz vs Ben Roethlisberger
Result: Eagles win
Wentz statline: 23/31 301 YDS 2 TD 0 INT
Roethlisberger statline: 24/44 257 YDS 0 TD 1 INT
Week 10 Eagles vs Falcons: Wentz vs Matt Ryan
Result: Eagles win
Wentz statline: 25/36 231 YDS 0 TD 0 INT
Ryan statline: 18/33 267 1 TD 1 INT
Week 11 Eagles vs Seahawks: Wentz vs Russell Wilson
Result: Eagles lose
Wentz statline: 23/45 218 YDS 2 TD 2 INT
Wilson statline: 18/31 272 YDS 1 TD 0 INT
Week 12 Eagles vs Packers: Wentz vs Aaron Rodgers
Result: Eagles lose
Wentz statline: 24/36 254 YDS 0 TD 1 Rushing TD 1 INT
Rodgers statline: 30/39 313 YDS 2 TD 0 INT
Week 4 Eagles vs Chargers: Wentz vs Philip Rivers
Result: Eagles win
Wentz statline: 17/31 242 YDS 1 TD 0 INT
Rivers statline: 22/38 347 YDS 2 TD 0 INT
Week 6 Eagles vs Panthers: Wentz vs Cam Newton
Result: Eagles win
Wentz statline: 16/30 222 YDS 3 TD 0 INT
Newton statline: 28/52 239 YDS 1 TD 3 INT
Week 13 Eagles vs Seahawks: Wentz vs Russell Wilson
Result: Eagles lose
Wentz statline: 29/45 348 YDS 1 TD 1 INT
Wilson statline: 20/31 227 YDS 3 TD 0 INT
Week 14 Eagles vs Rams: Wentz vs Jared Goff
Result: Eagles win
Wentz statline: 23/41 291 YDS 4 TD 1 INT
Goff statline: 16/26 199 YDS 2 TD 0 INT
Week 3 Eagles vs Colts: Wentz vs Andrew Luck
Result: Eagles win
Wentz statline: 25/37 255 YDS 1 TD 1 INT
Luck statline: 25/40 164 YDS 1 TD 0 INT
Week 7 Eagles vs Panthers: Wentz vs Cam Newton
Result: Eagles lose
Wentz statline: 30/37 310 YDS 2 TD 0 INT
Newton statline: 25/39 269 YDS 2 TD 0 INT
Total record: 6-4
Wentz total statline: 2,672 YDS 16 TD 6 INT
Opposing star QB total statline: 2,554 YDS 15 TD 5 INT
Overall not a bad resume for Wentz against other star QBs. A winning record, more yards and touchdowns. The Eagles defense plays a big part in the opposing signal caller’s numbers but even in 2016 when Wentz had virtually no help on offense, he has played up to the level of competition from the star quarterback on the other side of the field.
Turning the season around with snow?
On this Friday edition of Locked on Eagles, Louie dives into how perhaps a day of practice in the snow can spark the Eagles second half run.
Is not playing loose enough a problem for the Eagles? What match-ups are key against the Saints?
All that, thoughts from Locked on Saints Host Ross Jackson, and more!
An honest evaluation of Rasul Douglas
Step aside Jalen Mills. Rasul Douglas is the new public enemy #1 on Eagles Twitter.
All season long Eagles fans have called for Douglas to get playing time as starting corners Mills and Ronald Darby have played up and down all season.
The #FreeSul campaign got their wish on Sunday Night as Douglas started on the outside against the Cowboys.
The results did not totally destroy the brand….but it certainly didn’t help it.
To the film room we go.
Douglas didn’t have a good game by any stretch of the imagination. But he also didn’t play bad enough to believe he is the next Bradley Fletcher like some have him set to be.
On this play Douglas does a good job of staying with Cooper in the end zone, keeping him close to the sideline. Good leverage and he put himself in a position to make a play on the ball if it came his way.
Douglas has been strong in the red zone this year.
When Douglas plays up, he has more success when jamming at the line. It allows him to use his length and stop receivers from opening him up. Here, Douglas does a good job of bumping the receiver who stumbles and can’t gain any separation.
Gallup couldn’t create any separation from Douglas who once again does a nice job tying up the receiver.
Douglas didn’t have a great day when it comes to tackling but a lot of that came from hesitation and getting caught in the wrong spots. On this play Douglas reads Prescott going to the out route at the 50 and closes in to make a great open field tackle. When he wants to be, Douglas can be a very forceful tackler for a CB.
More examples of that tackling ability when Douglas takes the right angle and shoots to the ball.
Douglas shows a lot of patience against Amari Cooper on this play. Cooper tries to turn Douglas inside but Douglas doesn’t bite and runs toe to toe down the sideline, keeping Cooper on the outside with little room to work with.
Despite showing some positive signs, Douglas didn’t instill confidence in fans that he could replace Darby who most likely won’t be in Philadelphia after this season.
There were too many plays were Cooper manipulated Douglas’s hips to go wherever he wanted them to.
In a previous play shown Douglas did a good job not quickly biting on Coopers first step. This play was a different story as Cooper turned Douglas outside and then cut inside into the end zone. Luckily Dak Prescott isn’t Carson Wentz or this might be a touchdown.
Two more examples of Cooper beating Douglas with a good sell on his first cut. Cooper once again gets Douglas to commit outside with his hips while making another move inside. It is tougher for Douglas to get caught in these situations as he doesn’t have the quick footwork and hip movement to recover as well as someone like Sidney Jones or Avonte Maddox.
This was a brutal play for Douglas. On this screen, Douglas has a responsibility to protect the outside. Instead, he stays inside and has no shot of getting back to his spot with blockers already set up. Truthfully it looked like Douglas had cinder blocks attached to his feet. He didn’t move his feet and was badly out of position. Gotta fly to the ball.
Blame should go to Douglas for his play, but Jim Schwartz shouldn’t get a pass either. A coaches job is to put his players in the best position to succeed. Douglas isn’t the most athletic corner and he needs reps to grow his patience and route recognition.
Schwartz knowing that, should have allowed Douglas to get his hands on receivers at the line so he could better position himself to make plays on the ball and stay with receivers.
The way Douglas was getting turned inside-out with these first steps, Schwartz should have adjusted his gameplan. Instead, Dallas moves the chains on a crucial drive late in the game because Douglas gets put on ice skates.
Once the NCAA leader in interceptions, Douglas has a knack for making plays on the ball when he is in the right position.
The coaches have to do a better job of getting him in positions to make those kinds of plays in man coverage which West Virginia rarley used with Douglas.
Against excellent route runners like Amari Cooper (and Michael Thomas coming up), his weaknesses can be exposed.
When he was able to get his hands on Cooper or play off in man or zone, he was much more effective. That should have been the game plan all night long.
With Darby out for the season after tearing his ACL, Douglas is going to get 7 crucial games to prove he can be a starter in 2019.
It wasn’t a great first step against Dallas but it wasn’t a catastrophic performance that has sealed Douglas’s fate.