Two days removed from the Eagles narrow loss to the Lions and there are still plenty of questions to be answered. Was the officiating to blame? Are there new areas of concern presenting themselves? Why is Carson Wentz not getting any credit for what was arguably his best performance of the year so far? While all of these and others are extremely relevant, the questions surrounding the Eagles cornerback corps are even more poignant.
For the first time all season, the cornerbacks were left without a lifeline to start the game. A run Defense that staggered and a non existent pass rush saw Stafford constantly find ways to get the ball down the field quickly and efficiently..challenging a cornerback corps that despite having McKelvin back, had shown a lot of inconsistencies in recent weeks but had escaped criticism due to such a dominant defensive line..so just how did they fare against the Lions?
Snap count: 56%
Pass deflections: 1
McKelvin’s first game since the season opener was cut short yet again due to a hamstring injury, but in the time he spent on the field..the Eagles were treated to two very different sides of the former Buffalo Bill. One, very confident, aggressive and physical cornerback..and another who seemed lost at times and looked a little rusty.
This first play isn’t really a fault as much as it is a slight “nit pick” at his lack of awareness. The look was zonal and McKelvin was tasked with stopping the potential screen as a receiver held his ground on the outside. However in doing so, he allowed a much taller target to slide straight past him into acres of space in the endzone. Nothing came of the play and Stafford took a shot over the middle, but McKelvin’s line of sight was in position with the pocket..so if he can see that a screen or dump isn’t the option, lifting his head to notice a mismatch nightmare slide through unnoticed wouldn’t have been the worst idea. It may not have been his task..but that could have turned very ugly. An interesting contrast is how Carroll reacts to an almost identical situation on the near side.
It didn’t take long for McKelvin to find struggles inside the endzone. Golden Tate made a beautiful cut to beat McKelvin and give himself breathing space in the endzone, but the Eagles number one corner was left on an island all by himself.
Awareness was a recurring theme for McKelvin, who continued to run the deep route, completely oblivious to the fact that his receiver had actually cut inside. Had it not been for a drop, the Lions would have had a first down and more due to McKelvin’s poor reactions allowing so much space to open on the right hand side of the field.
McKelvin was beaten off the line with ease toward the end of his snap count lost a step on his receiver as a result on a deep route. Stafford instead chose to throw it short and keep momentum on his side, but again..the war on the outside was rarely won by McKelvin.
It begs the question whether McKelvin was fully fit to begin with this game and if he was, how early into the matchup his hamstring began to play up..because this was not the play of a number one cornerback. We’re yet to really see a detailed look at McKelvin as an Eagle, but he looked like a shadow of his best on Sunday.
Snap count: 100%
Carroll has been inconsistent this season to say the least. From highlight plays to inexcusable mistakes, the 29-year old faced one of his toughest tasks to date on Sunday having already kept Antonio Brown and co at bay. Marvin Jones was second in the league in receiving yards before the week 5 matchup..but could Carroll find a way to stop him?
Things certainly didn’t start well for Carroll, who was taken for a ride by Marvin Jones in the early moments of the game. A misread route, sloppy footwork and a slow adjustment gave Stafford a perfect window to throw into, taking the Lions past midfield on their opening drive.
“Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me”. That’s how the saying goes and it rung true for Nolan Carroll who nearly fell for the same exact play just minutes later. The effect wasn’t nearly as destructive, but Jones’ ability to send Carroll in the opposite direction at the line of scrimmage was extremely impressive.
Carroll then went on to rack up two Pass Interference calls against Jones, who ended the game with just 4 receptions for 37-yards. As time progressed, Carroll began to calm down and settle in it seemed. He may not be the strongest corner in the league, but it was great to see Carroll hold his own against Jones after the initial outburst. After completely blanketing him on the play below, Carroll found a rhythm and was able to make that a regularity as the game progressed.
Again, there was nothing here that screamed “number one corner” and although there were some errors, the way he and the rest of the Defense rebounded in the second half has to be applauded. But it’s no coincidence that when support lacked, Carroll struggled early on. His play has been largely underwhelming this season and week 5 was no exception..but overall it was a much more complete performance with fewer errors.
Snap count: 62%
Surprisingly, Brooks had in my opinion his best game as an Eagle so far. Gone are the sporadic errors and inability to jam at the line of scrimmage and instead are more physical engagements and a better ability to track the ball. Take the play below for instance, playing slightly deeper than usual, Brooks is able to diagnose the play and cut inside to make a hard hit, dampening the impact of a successful Lions dump pass out of the backfield. Brooks has had a tendency to miss those tackles in the past, but made it count here.
Even more impressive, was his ability to track the ball on this play. Running around McKelvin, Brooks picks up the screen before it’s even been thrown and makes sure the play goes no further. Brooks was the lone man standing between the Lions receiver and a HUGE gain..but the amount of work it took to get to the outside and make that stop was commendable.
There were times where Brooks struggled in man-coverage situations, but his role in Schwartz’s Defense is rapidly unveiling itself as the season progresses. We know he was primarily a special teamer in Buffalo, but his development has exceeded my expectations after the questionable performance against the Browns. Brooks has come on leaps and bounds over the last few weeks and looks to really be emerging as a somewhat reliable nickel corner.
Snap count: 39%
The services of seventh round pick Jalen Mills were called upon once again following the injury to Leodis McKelvin and after a relatively impressive showing against the Steelers, confidence would have been high. Mills has a tendency to start nervously and find his groove as the game develops, but would this haunt him against a fighting Lions Offense when the game is on the line?
Mills is currently ranked second in tackling among all Eagles..and his high tackles numbers have always intrigued me. But then the penny dropped that the former LSU corner lacks awareness and can often lose a step on his man by having his back to the ball, being too reliant on his arms or simply misreading the route, so teams throw underneath on curls and comebacks to draw him into hot water.
It’s plays like this that make Mills such a concern. They don’t happen often, but enough to encourage Offenses to try and exploit. Mills lines up on the outside and immediately loses ground, picking up his receiver and falling for the cut outside and giving up at least a step in space before the second cut. Mills did well to recover and trace the path of the route to undercut it inside..but he was skating on very thin Ice by this point.
In what’s come to be expected however, Mills rebounded extremely well once he had settled in. He made a fantastic tackle here, reading the route in a similar fashion to the earlier Brooks play, sprinting past two players and never losing sight of his target, anticipating the pass and securing the tackle upon its completion.
But with every rise comes a fall in a rollercoaster, and that’s exactly what the second half was for Jalen Mills. An inside drag route caught Mills by surprise and as a result he ended up running into his own player, losing the assignment and allowing a huge play to develop. After arriving to the scene of the crime far too late, the Lions had moved their way deep inside the redzone for a 27 yard pass..something that could have easily been prevented if the reaction times of Mills were quicker.
Mills never really found a rhythm against the Lions and failed to show any improvement over his week 3 performance. The maturity of Mills is one thing that can be praised, but the hesitant play is still something that burdens him..and if the Eagles are to be without McKelvin due to injury again, it could be a tough road to go down.
Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports