Grading and analyzing performances of Eagles CB’s in season opener

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The Eagles stormed to a 29-10 victory over the Cleveland Browns in week one as Carson Wentz stole the show. On the surface, the Defense had a pretty good game, holding Robert Griffin III to 190 yards passing and allowing zero passing touchdowns..but on a closer look, the Eagles cornerbacks didn’t play as well as the stats suggested and no doubt will have had their their tails between their legs in the film room on Monday. Carrying on from the preseason series, here are grades and analysis on the play of every Eagles corner from week one.

 

Leodis McKelvin:
Snap percentage: 69%
Tackles: 2

The veteran cornerback was easily the best Eagles cornerback of the day until he picked up an injury deep into the second half. The coverage was solid from start to finish and it was very rare to see McKelvin make a mistake.

The only slight criticism I have is that he’s sometimes a little slow to read comeback routes and allows for a lot of space to emerge between himself and the receiver, as seen below.

However, McKelvin had a very nice game. For instance here in the redzone, you can see how well he mirrors Terrelle Pryor and keeps him completely shutdown, forcing Griffin to throw into a crowded right handed side of the field.

The Eagles cornerback position as a whole seemed to struggle, but it was McKelvin who balanced the scales.

Grade: B

 

Nolan Carroll:
Snap percentage: 98%
Tackles: 3

Nolan Carroll had a really bad game when challenged. It’s easy to look at the stats and say that the cornerbacks must have played okay for the Browns to be held to 10 points and out of the endzone through the air..but when Carroll was put on the spot, things often got ugly and helped spark the very few fires Cleveland created.

On the opening play, Carroll was beaten inside and that in itself very much set the tone for the afternoon. It seemed as though Carroll was being targeted more often than not and that the Browns had picked up on a potential mismatch. From being pushed in the gif above to completely missing tackles..

..to being burned on the route which resulted in this completion in triple coverage..

..Carroll simply struggled in every scenario. He couldn’t jam at the line, he misread routes that if not for drops would have punished him severely and had a tough time reacting to the quarterback’s eyes, unlike Leodis McKelvin.

In this play, Carroll gets completely burned by Andrew Hawkins in the slot after he was a step late in adjusting to the route. Luckily for him, RGIII threw elsewhere.but it wasn’t as if Carroll was watching the quarterback which have excused the sloppy play.

 

This was a persistent theme for Carroll as again he misread the route and jumped in the opposite direction. The height mismatch on top of this almost resulted in a touchdown but RGIII overthrew the pass.

In Zone coverage, Carroll was at his best and if it wasn’t for the missed tackle, would have had a rather stable game. But the Browns seemed to consistently throw his way, knowing that they had mismatches on the 6’1 cornerback.

There were times where Carroll looked stronger..surprisingly, the huge completion down the sideline was one of his strong points. The coverage was excellent, it’s just that Coleman was able to bring in a pass not many guys would have. When Carroll was on his game, he was impressive and completely removed a receiver from the play..but those instances were few and far between.

Considering Carroll played in 98% of snaps, this consistent level of mistakes is worrying. It’s this sort of play against an offense as inefficient as Cleveland’s that really makes you wonder how bad the team viewed Eric Rowe to be to trade him for a conditional fourth round pick. Against the Bears next week, Carroll simply has to be better..because a more reliable arm in Jay Cutler and formidable receiving corps will punish any mistakes made.

Grade: D-

 

Ron Brooks:
Snap percentage: 73%

I had my concerns about Ron Brooks coming into week one, hoping that he would prove me wrong. There were two sides to Ron Brooks against the Browns. A mentally impressive zone-coverage Ron Brooks..and a Ron Brooks was constantly burned in man-coverage. In fact if it wasn’t for a pair of overthrows and a more conservative gameplan, he would have been exploited massively.

One of the overthrows was a perfect scenario for the Browns. Brooks was beaten with ease underneath but Griffin just struggled to pinpoint the pass, saving Ron Brooks.

In Zone however, Brooks was surprisingly capable. Keeping his cornerbacks ahead of him and positioning himself well, Brooks made life very difficult for RGIII to complete a mid-long range pass, which also contributed to why the Browns were limited to passes of 6 yards or less in the first quarter.

In the Nickel role, Brooks had mixed success but the mistakes made were not nearly as detrimental as those committed by Nolan Carroll. Brooks sank under the radar in this game and while there were times he was burned or beaten, those plays were never capitalized on. Brooks did well in forcing the Browns into a short-passing game, eliminating the deep routes by sitting ahead of the Safety and allowing cornerbacks to fall into the clutches of Jenkins and McLeod while he ensured screen passes, hits over the middle were kept to a minimum.

He may not have registered a single tackle, but Brooks had a sound game in comparison to Carroll. There were mistakes, but for the most part, Brooks was not tasked with man coverage unlike in preseason and as a result played more efficiently.

Grade: C

 

Jalen Mills:
Snap percentage: 23%
Tackles: 2
With McKelvin leaving the game early due to injury, seventh round pick Jalen Mills was forced into the game prematurely. Jim Schwartz stated in his presser that the development of Jalen Mills was a large part of the decision to trade Eric Rowe..so, how much better/worse did Mills look in comparison to the shambolic preseason display against the Bucs and his wobbly games after?

Surprisingly, Mills really impressed me. For those that have followed the preseason CB analysis series, you’ll know how heavy I came down on him..but it was beyond pleasing to see how much more patient and instinctive his play was when it really mattered. Mills seemed to resemble the Training camp hero portrayed by just about every beat writer ever as opposed to a nervous seventh round pick.

Mills was thrust into the game during the fourth quarter and made a splash immediately. Playing zone coverage, Mills processed the comeback much quicker than McKelvin or Carroll, closed down faster and forced the receiver out of bounds.

With the Browns stacked up deep inside the five, the intention was to air it out down the sidelines. Mills reads the eyes of the quarterback, picks up his man and goes stride for stride with Pryor. The ball was eventually overthrown, but the coverage by Mills  (and a rare instance by Carroll on the opposite side) was excellent.

To top off his day, there was “that hit” on RGIII. At first glance, it looks like Griffin III just runs into Mills awkwardly as he tried to fight off a block. But on closer inspection, Mills reads the play well, let’s his man go to be picked up by the Safeties and then gets blocked. Mills fights through the block, instinctively knowing Griffin is coming and puts his head down to make contact and end the play..something you don’t see on TV.

Mills may have only played in 23% of snaps, but in my opinion made more impact than any other cornerback on the team with the exception of McKelvin. Riding him against the Bears isn’t favorable due to how tenacious their passing attack can be, but it could be the only option if McKelvin is listed as inactive. There are enough promising signs however to finally reaffirm the faith that was placed and lost in Mills before preseason. The former LSU defensive back had a solid rookie debut and finally showed why Jim Schwartz placed so much trust in a seventh round pick.

Grade: B

 

Mandatory Photo Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Gif Credit: NFL

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