Quarterly report card: Grades and analysis for the Eagles defense with 4 games remaining

After breaking down the improvement and regression of the Eagles offense during the last quarter of the season, the attention now turns to the defense. A unit that on one hand held Chicago to just six rushing yards…and on the other have endured some setbacks over the last few weeks. Here’s a closer look at how they grade out.

Quarterly report card: Grades and analysis for the Eagles Offense with 4 games remaining

Defensive tackle:
The extension of Timmy Jernigan was the perfect cherry on the icing of what has been a formidable year. Fletcher Cox and his running-mate have been dominant all season long and it hasn’t stopped during the last four games. Cox had a season-high three tackles against the Cowboys, while Jernigan has 8 tackles in four games, both having 1 sack during that span. What really stands out is the depth however. Cox and Jernigan have both missed time this season and a combination of Beau Allen, Elijah Qualls and Destiny Vaeao have all filled in to ensure the team don’t lose production.

Q1 Grade: A
Q2 Grade: A
Q3 Grade: A

 

Defensive end:
Derek Barnett has had a breakout and now has 2.5 sacks in his last four games. It’s stunning to think that while Brandon Graham continues to prove his worth as one of the league’s most exciting defensive ends (8 sacks), Barnett and Chris Long have given offenses no time off at all when the rotations begin.

One man who has been on a complete tear is Vinny Curry. A huge part in the Eagles prolific run defense, Curry has racked up tackles for a loss consistently all season but has been an absolute motor when breaking into the backfield as he begins to finish the opportunities he starts. This group is just absolutely tenacious and a joy to watch each and every week.

Q1 Grade: B
Q2 Grade: A
Q3 Grade: A+

 

Linebacker:
The injury to Jordan Hicks was tough to stomach, but props have to be given to both Nigel Bradham and Mychal Kendricks for minimizing the impact of the loss. Kendricks actually leads the team in tackles through the 12 games so far, tying with none other than Nigel Bradham. The duo have been outstanding and with both futures uncertain, the Eagles will need to ensure that they keep as much stability at the position as possible.

Beneath the duo, Joe Walker (until his injury last week) and Najee Goode have both done excellent jobs in holding down the fort over the middle. There have been some wobbly moments along the way for this linebacker group, but overall, they’ve done brilliantly.

Q1 Grade: A-
Q2 Grade: B
Q3 Grade: B+

 

Cornerback:
Perhaps the most improved position group of the year only improved further over the last few weeks. The presence of Ronald Darby has injected even more electricity into the Eagles cornerback group and though his return has featured some stumbles, the overall play of the position has again been outstanding. Jalen Mills has proven his salt as a starting cornerback in this defense and Patrick Robinson has defied expectations at every turn. The corners have combined for 9 total interceptions this year, but its their passes defensed and sheer abundance of tackles that make the most noise.

Q1 Grade: C+
Q2 Grade: B+
Q3 Grade: A-

 

Safety:
Rodney McLeod has had a topsy turvy season so far, but the versatility of Corey Graham has been relied upon more and more as the year has progressed. Graham has made several big plays himself, but his ability to hold down the back-line has allowed Malcolm Jenkins to play inside the box and give the Eagles a lifeline without Jordan Hicks. Jenkins is playing the best Football of his career and there is no doubting his impact on this defense. He lines up everywhere…and he produces everywhere.

Q1 Grade: C+
Q2 Grade: B+
Q3 Grade: B+

 

Special teams:
Losing Jake Elliott stung the Eagles, but they managed. Somehow, Kamu Grugier-Hill (who also leads the team in ST tackles) filled the void. Some big returns have impressed, but the Birds have been able to prevent kicks or punts going to the house all season long. The Eagles have seen the emergence of some unlikely candidates as great gunners and special teams tacklers, a true credit to Fipp’s dedication to creating the best unit in the league.

Q1 Grade: A-
Q2 Grade: B+
Q3 Grade: A

 

Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Liam is a 22 year old sports journalist and die hard Philadelphia sports fan from the UK and founder of the Philly Sports Network. In just 24 months he turned a hobby into one of the fastest growing Philadelphia sports sites in the world, amassing 3,000,000 views and writing over 2,000 articles.
Drawing attention from the likes of CSN, NJ.Com and Bleacher Report in the process, Liam is set on changing the way Philadelphia sports teams are reported on forever.

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