Their pass rush has been very effective - they're second in the league in sacks with nine - and so have their three marquee cornerbacks - Asomugha, Rodgers-Cromartie and Asante Samuel. They held the Falcons' wide receivers to just seven receptions for 47 yards in Sunday's 35-31 loss, and Asomugha and Samuel both picked off Ryan passes.
Offensive coaches aren't stupid, though. They attack your weaknesses, not your strengths. Why bother throwing in the direction of the Eagles' Pro Bowl corners when you can exploit their considerably less talented linebackers and safeties?
That's what the Falcons did. Ten of Ryan's 17 completions and three of his four touchdown throws went to tight ends and running backs. Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez was targeted by Ryan a team-high nine times and had seven catches for 83 yards and two TDs. All seven of his receptions went for first downs or touchdowns.
"I can tell you that we've got to do a little better job on the tight end," Eagles coach Andy Reid acknowledged at his Monday news conference. "[Gonzalez] made one spectacular catch there [on a 4-yard TD in the second quarter] that not a lot of people in this league can make. You've got to give him credit on that one. But the other ones, we've got to take care of business on, both schematically and, as players, physically."
Reid is right. Gonzalez did make an impressive back-of-the-end-zone catch on his first TD that few other tight ends in the league are capable of making. The problem is he shouldn't have been able to get to that spot in the first place.
Linebacker Jamar Chaney was supposed to jam him as he came off the line and delay his entry into his route. But Gonzalez slipped by him with a stop-and-go move.
Gonzalez' seven receptions came against both zone and man coverage. They came against Chaney and middle linebacker Casey Matthews. And they came against starting safeties Jarrad Page and Kurt Coleman.
Early in the third quarter, after a missed tackle by linebacker Moise Fokou resulted in a 32-yard catch-and-run by running back Michael Turner, Gonzalez beat Page with an inside move for a 17-yard TD.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Eagles were up 31-21 and had the Falcons in a third-and-12. Gonzalez caught a 13-yard pass for a first down against Page, who was in man coverage against him. On the same drive, Gonzalez caught a 14-yard pass from Ryan on a second-and-10 for another first down.
Later in the quarter, on a third-and-4 at the Eagles' 20 three plays after a momentum-swinging, 61-yard run by Turner, Gonzalez hauled in a 7-yard pass in front of Chaney for another key first down. An incompletion there and the Falcons would have had to settle for a field goal to tie the game. Instead, two plays later, Turner scored on a 3-yard run to put the Falcon ahead by four.
But for a case of bad hands, Rams rookie tight end Lance Kendricks might have done similar damage the week before. Kendricks had just one catch for 18 yards in the game, but dropped three passes, including one for what would have been a TD.
This tight-end problem hardly is new for the Eagles. Last year, opposing tight ends had 78 receptions and 11 TDs. The year before, 102 receptions for 1,079 yards and 10 TDs.
One of the reasons the Eagles' new defensive coordinator, Juan Castillo, moved Chaney from the middle to the strong side is because he felt he could cover tight ends. Chaney certainly is fast enough. Has 4.5 speed. But he's not really an instinctive cover guy.
Even last year, when he got a chance to start at middle linebacker late in the season after Stewart Bradley got hurt, he played much better against the run than he did the pass.
Rookie sixth-round pick Brian Rolle is supposed to be the second linebacker with Chaney in the Eagles' nickel package. But on Sunday, Castillo opted to keep Matthews on the field with Chaney much of the time when they went to nickel. Keenan Clayton, another 4.5 burner who played well in a limited role late last season, can't even get on the field this year.
Neither Page nor Coleman are particularly strong cover guys. Both are physical players who are more effective playing up in the box. The Eagles' best cover safety is 2010 second-round pick Nate Allen. But he still hasn't completely recovered from the ruptured patella tendon he suffered last December.
They should catch a break this week. The Giants lost their top tight end, Kevin Boss, in free agency (to Oakland). Neither of the two guys who will line up there Sunday - Jake Ballard and Bear Pascoe - are likely to do much pass-catching damage.
But there are plenty of other talented tight ends on the Eagles' 2011 schedule who can, including the 49ers' Vernon Davis, the Cowboys' Jason Witten, the Redskins' Chris Cooley and Fred Davis and the Patriots' Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski, to name a few.
Castillo needs to come up with a better solution for defending them than he did Sunday.
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