One month ago, what was the narrative that defined the Eagles season? Some would argue that it was organizational misjudgments, others would argue it was injuries, some said that Andy lost his locker-room. But who was the overriding villain of the 2011 Philadelphia Eagles? Juan Castillo. But suddenly, the narrative has changed. Why? Because the Eagles have had 3 good games.
If you look at the stat sheets (and everyone does), you’d be well within reason to think that Juan Castillo wasn’t half bad. But there is something that stat sheets fail to give you: context.
Here is a list of QBs and RBs the Eagles faced the past 3 weeks: Matt Moore/JP Losman, Reggie Bush, Mark Sanchez, Shonn Greene, Stephen McGee and Sammy Morris.
In addition to that, it should be noted that the Dolphins were missing Jake Long and Vernon Carey for most of the game. But that list of names means absolutely nothing if I don’t qualify it. Lets take a look at the résumés that these players have put together.
Matt Moore is hardly an accomplished player and according to Football Outsiders, he’s the 26th most valuable QB in the NFL. And it should be noted that Matt Moore only played 44 snaps in that game, JP Losman played the other 23. The same JP Losman who was ran out of Buffalo he was so bad and has more interceptions than touchdowns on his career. Beating up on these two is not something that Philadelphia Eagles fans should hang their hats on.
Mark Sanchez is a former top pick who shows promise at times, the past few games have not been one of those times. His career to this point has been mediocre and this year he has been the 27th most valuable passer in the game according to Football Outsiders. In December, Mark Sanchez had a QB rating of 73.8, a completion percentage of 55% and a yards per attempt of 5.5. Beating up on a mediocre QB who was on a cold streak is nothing to hang your hat on.
Stephen McGee had 2 games of regular season experience prior to stepping in for Romo on Sunday. And do you see how much his career stats are boosted by what he did against the Eagles? He has a deceptively high QB rating and completion percentage, those numbers would lead you to believe he is a good passer. All you need to do to see how good McGee is, is look at his YPA (5.1 on his career). That is horrible, that is “You don’t belong in this league” bad. Beating up on McGee is nothing to hang your hat on. And do you know how good those running-backs are? Not very.
|2011||Reggie Bush||Shonn Greene||Sammy Morris|
|DVOA||.8% (28th)||3.4% (25th)||-12% (NR)|
|PFF Grade||-3.8 (130th)||2 (58th)||1.8 (59th)|
The Eagles have faced a cup-cake schedule over the past 3 weeks and somehow, performing against these cup-cakes has clouded our judgement. Lets re-focus things and remember just how bad we were before we faced these 3rd tier (at best) players.
|2011||Pre-Softies||Post-Softies (3 xtra gms)|
|Points Per Game||23.5 (24th)||21.2 (12th)|
|Yards Per Game||344.8 (17th)||321.4 (8th)|
|Yards Per Play||5.7 (25th)||5.3 (13th)|
|DVOA||3.6 (17th)||-1.5% (12th)|
DO NOT LET THE PAST 3 GAMES CLOUD YOUR JUDGEMENT. Unfortunately, respected Eagles blogger, Tommy Lawlor, has taken the bait.
Lawlor starts out by citing experienced defensive coaches whose defenses have allowed more yards than Juan Castillo’s defense. That’s kind of an easy point to make when you consider that you’ve got your pick of any defensive coach in the NFL considering Juan Castillo WAS OUR OFFENSIVE LINE COACH LAST YEAR. Moot point.
The secondary struggled early on as very talented players adjusted to new roles. They have done that now and Samuel, DRC, and Nnamdi have played their best football in the last month.
Nnamdi Asomugha, Asante Samuel and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Two first round draft picks. 3 pro-bowlers. 8 combined pro-bowl appearances. 2 all-pros. 3 combined all-pro seasons. 23 combined seasons of experience. The corners struggled in the early season, Lawlor concedes that. But what he fails to acknowledge is that never should have happened. With those three big names, all their experience and talent, there should be no need for these qualifiers like the one Lawlor puts forth when he says they’ve “played their best football in the last month”.
The Safeties are better than people think.
This makes my head want to explode. Really. Our safeties are better than people think? People must have really low opinions of our safeties if they’re BETTER than people think.
Kurt Coleman clearly lacks the necessary athleticism to be a full time starter in the NFL. Noted NFL analyst has said that Kurt Coleman lacks “short area quickness” and I would argue that’s not the only thing he lacks. He lacks the short area quickness to consistently break on the ball and make plays. He lacks the speed and fluidity to consistently hold up in man coverage. And he lacks the size to bring down powerful running backs consistently. The Seahawks game is perfect evidence to all of this. Marshawn Lynch probably got one quarter of all his yardage with Kurt Coleman on his back. Kurt Coleman also gave up 3 receptions of at least 20 yards in the Seahawks game and was consistently a step behind his man in coverage. He’s a tough, gritty player who works hard and has a desirable mentality and approach but he’s really more of a back-up and special teams player. Kurt Coleman has put up a bunch of stinkers this year. Just look at the tape against the Falcons, Bills, Patriots, Cardinals and Seahawks.
Nate Allen is the polar opposite of Kurt Coleman, and not in a positive way. Kurt Coleman is tough and gritty and Nate Allen is about as soft as Osi (I kid, I kid, Nate Allen isn’t that tough). Nate Allen has starting athletic ability, he’s got the natural range and short area quickness that you look for from your safety in coverage. Nate Allen is a noted tape studier who has received some national attention for his study habits but you can see on the field that he doesn’t process information quickly and often times you’ll see him react slowly or late to the action. He lacks awareness in coverage, the perfect example of this is when Wes Welker went streaking through his zone (and caught the TD pass) and Nate Allen didn’t even touch him. The funny thing is that Nate Allen has one interception this year and that came on a play were he was beaten badly but Rex Grossman under-threw his receiver. And Nate Allen is not a very active run defender, he’s got 54 tackles this year (82nd of all DBs in the NFL) and ProFootballFocus attributes him with 6 missed tackles. His game against New England was one of the worst games for a safety that I can recall.
And Jaiquawn Jarrett looked good when he saw the field? You mean when he was busy getting abused by Larry Fitzgerald? I understand that it’s unfair to hold that against him but surely you can’t lie to yourself and say that he looked “good”. That was a bad match-up against one of the best receivers in the NFL and Jarrett really struggled. Oh and Jarrett played 1 snap against the Seahawks. Do you know what happened on that play? Marshawn Lynch took it to the house after Jaiquawn Jarrett took a bad angle and ran into Asante Samuel, eliminating both defensive backs that had a shot at Lynch.
The LB corps still needs a lot of work, but they are playing better than any other time this year.
At least he can acknowledge that the linebackers really aren’t very good.
How many shootouts have we won? ZERO. That’s not on the defense. That’s on Vick, Shady, DJax, and the crew. GB and NE have won several shootouts this year.
Well isn’t this some muddled thinking. If the defense did their jobs, there would be no shoot-outs.
The blown 4th quarter leads weren’t huge leads. The only big lead was in the SF game. The defense fell apart in that game, but the offense had plenty of chances and couldn’t make a key play or hold onto the ball.
They weren’t huge leads so it’s okay to blow them? Uh… What? And he seems to be forgetting that the Eagles had a double digit lead in the 4th quarter in the games against the Falcons, 49ers and Bears. If the defense does it’s job and holds those leads, the Eagles are 10-5 right now and in the playoffs. That’s a fact.
And the offense did it’s job in those games. In those 3 games where the defense blew double digit leads, the Eagles offense scored 31 points, 23 points and 24 points. That should be enough to win games.
And his closing statements essentially amount to “The Eagles are 8th in yards per game and 12th in points per game. Shut up.” However, as I pointed out earlier, those numbers are heavily skewed by the poor competition the Eagles have faced.
You just don’t have a lousy GM, lousy DC, and lousy players and get to 8th/12th. That’s not reality.
Using those numbers without any context sure makes that argument look good, right? A top 10 defense? WOW. Wrong. Good defenses don’t get owned by every good player not named Tony Romo. Every defense can beat up on bad players, the true measure of a defenses’ worth is how they perform against good ones and the fact of the matter is, we haven’t.
- Steven Jackson: 2 carries, 56 yards, 1 TD
- Matt Ryan: 195 yards, 4 TD passes Michael Turner: 21 carries, 114 yards, 1 TD
- Frank Gore: 15 carries, 127 yards, 1 TD
- Fred Jackson: 26 carries, 111 rushing yards, 1 TD, 6 receptions, 85 yards
- Eli Manning: 254 yards, 4 TD passes
- Jay Cutler: 208 yards, 2 TD passes
- Matt Forte: 24 carries, 133 yards
- Larry Fitzgerald: 7 catches, 146 yards, 2 TDs
- Tom Brady: 361 yards, 3 TD passes
- Marshawn Lynch: 22 carries, 144 yards, 2 TDs
And that doesn’t even account for performances by middling players like Ryan Fitzpatrick, John Skelton and Alex Smith.
Good defenses do not fall flat on their faces against every good player they face (minus Romo and Eli’s 2nd game). The 8th/12th rankings that Lawlor so desperately clings to are not true indicators of how bad this defense truly is.
And nobody should let performances against cupcakes late in the year cloud their judgement. Our defense is still bad and Juan Castillo still has to go.
And just a quick footnote before I finally end it, I find it interesting that Lawlor talks about the struggles of the safeties and linebackers but he then exonerates the people who put the groups together (Castillo & Roseman) of any blame.