Eagles Rewind: No sacks for Eagles against Lions

Eagles corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie allowed only three catches for 37 yards, but two of those receptions were killers.
Eagles corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie allowed only three catches for 37 yards, but two of those receptions were killers.
Posted: October 17, 2012

Here are some observations and notes after reviewing the Eagles' 26-23 overtime loss to the Lions on Sunday:

On second thought

The same excuses were there after the game, but there didn't seem to be as much passion behind the Eagles defensive line's claims that it is not getting sacks because opposing offenses are in maximum protection and quarterbacks are making quick throws.

The extra blockers and chip blockers were there on occasion, but Matthew Stafford was taking plenty of chances downfield. The line had its chances to pressure the Lions quarterback. It just didn't get there. It was dominated by Detroit's unspectacular yet workmanlike offensive line. The Lions defensive line, meanwhile, manhandled the Eagles' O-line.

After another game in which they failed to record a sack - their third straight - the Eagles were 30th in the NFL in sacks per pass play through Sunday's games. Only Jacksonville (three sacks) and Oakland (four) had fewer sacks than the Birds' seven. Both teams are 1-4.

Eight NFL players - J.J. Watt, Clay Matthews, Cameron Wake, John Abraham, Geno Atkins, Justin Houston, Robert Quinn, and DeMarcus Ware - have more or as many sacks as the Eagles' defensive line (six).

The unit is on pace to record 16 sacks this season, 30 fewer than a year ago. What could have changed? It is possible the starters aged dramatically in one year? Andy Reid disputed the notion on Monday. But Jason Babin (32), Cullen Jenkins (31), Trent Cole (30), and Derek Landri (29) have not played at the level they did in 2011.

Some have suggested dressing rookie second-round pick Vinny Curry for his first NFL game. At this point, Curry is unable to beat out Phillip Hunt, which speaks volumes about where the rookie stands in terms of being ready.

Rewind the tape

Like LeSean McCoy's heroic fourth-and-1 run against the Steelers, Michael Vick's 70-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Maclin will be lost in the aftermath of the Bungle Before the Bye. But it was a play of beauty and exemplified Vick's continued improvement against the blitz.

The Lions rushed seven defenders. The Eagles had six men in to block. McCoy picked up the outside blitzer. The rest of the offensive line clogged the middle. Maclin ran an inside slant to his right out of the slot as Jason Avant ran outside on a switch route. The Lions got mixed up and two defensive backs went with Avant. Maclin was so wide open that he raised his hand to Vick. The quarterback spotted his receiver, made the throw in stride, and Maclin had an unimpeded path to the end zone.

The Eagles had Maclin open again on a key third down later in the fourth quarter as he ran a similar short route. Vick flicked a sidearm pass to Maclin, but Ndamukong Suh batted it down.

In the spotlight

A replay of the game confirmed initial analysis that right guard Danny Watkins struggled against Suh and Nick Fairley. Both Lions crushed Vick after Watkins made very poor blocking attempts. In the first quarter, Suh penetrated and knocked the quarterback to the ground. In the third, Vick threw a short slant but was clobbered by Fairley after he released the ball. The Lions rushed only four, but Watkins did little to impede the second-year defensive tackle's path. The second-year guard wasn't much better as a run blocker. In the fourth quarter, Fairley blew by Watkins and tackled McCoy for a 4-yard loss. Watkins had a few good moments in space - once pulling on a McCoy 6-yard gain and getting out in front of the running back on a 17-yard screen.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie allowed only three catches for 37 yards on six targets, according to Pro Football Focus, but two of those receptions were killers. Both came with Rodgers-Cromartie in the slot lined up opposite Lions receiver Calvin Johnson. As the corner pointed out many times this offseason, Rodgers-Cromartie did not enjoy playing in the slot last year. Johnson, one of the best in the game, caught two 17-yard passes at critical junctures. The second came in overtime.

What's wrong with Trent Cole? The end has been one of the Eagles' most consistent players on defense over the last half decade, and yet he has looked ordinary this season. Cole has only 11/2 sacks and 14 tackles. He averaged 101/2 sacks a season from 2006-11. Cole had no tackles against the Lions.

Stat sheet

The Eagles are 30th in NFL with just 4.51 yards a play on first down. On Sunday, they averaged just 3.46 yards a play, with a run-pass ratio of 10 to 25 on first down.

This and that

When the Eagles got the ball back with 3 minutes, 32 seconds left and their lead trimmed to three, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg called for a short pass to McCoy on first down. The play went left and McCoy ran around the end down the sideline. He stepped out of bounds, however, before he fell to the turf. McCoy could be heard on the telecast yelling at the officials to mark him in bounds so that the clock would run. It was not a heady play from the running back.

It's difficult to quantify how much defensive tackle Fletcher Cox's ejection affected the defense, but after he left, the Lions rushed six times for 35 yards in the fourth quarter. Most of the runs were up the middle.

Point after

Many are wondering if Reid will make changes to his coaching staff or at quarterback during the bye. It's more likely he'll change the personnel on the field in front of Vick. The problem with shuffling the offensive line is that the Eagles don't have much depth there. That's how Dallas Reynolds and Demetress Bell came to start at center and left tackle in the first place.

Here are the Eagles options: They could start King Dunlap and bench Bell at left tackle. They could try and see if rookie Dennis Kelly has what it takes to play on the left flank. At center, they could promote Steve Vallos. There isn't an obvious replacement at right guard for Watkins, but maybe Reynolds would fare better there. Dunlap has started at guard before.

Whatever moves Reid makes, there aren't likely to drastically improve a unit that may be the worst in the coach's 14 years.

What Andy said

On how aware he is of the fans' frustration:

"I feel the frustration. I mean, I understand. I've got it. My job and responsibility is to get it better, not only for them but for this football team, to get it better. They have my word that I'm going to do that. I'm going to get it right."

What Andy meant

They have my word right now as a stand here that I'm going to get it right. And then a couple of weeks later, right then as I stand there, I won't get it right.

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