Timmy Jernigan and Malik Jackson both played really well…until they suffered injuries. In fairness, Akeem Spence has played very well, as has Hassan Ridgeway.
The man shouldering the load has been Fletcher Cox, who has 2 QB hits and 1 TFL on the season but has been held without a sack thus far.
While the whole pass-rush has been able to bake the cake, they’ve all suffered from an inability to put the icing on and create the finished product. However, conceding just 97 yards on the ground in 4 games is simply outstanding and can largely be attributed to the run-stuffing prowess of the defensive tackles.
We’re finally seeing some flashes of explosiveness from Josh Sweat after a quiet preseason, but while the finished product, like the DT’s, isn’t there yet, one cannot fault this unit for its hustle.
Derek Barnett and Brandon Graham are doing all they can to force QB hurries and rank toward the top of the league in pressures. Strip-sacks and Derek Barnett go together like Jam and Cream (I’m British, remember) and sealing the edge has become a specialty for this paring.
The numbers aren’t sexy, the analytics are good-looking, but the film is straight-up saucy. Limited by quarterbacks getting the ball out at a rapid rate, this unit is doing all it can with the setbacks it will naturally encounter.
Nigel Bradham has been woefully inconsistent, Zach Brown is beginning to settle in nicely, and Nate Gerry will demonstrate the Football IQ of Belichick on one play, before losing it the next.
As far as tackling goes, Bradham and Brown have combined for 41, which is about as good as you could ask for, but it’s the positioning that’s becoming a concern for the former. As run defenders shooting gaps, they’ve been excellent, but Brown is rapidly becoming the most consistent linebacker in a very light corps.
The less said about Ronald Darby the better. The Eagles secondary has been torched over the first four games and have yet to survive four quarters without allowing a receiver to break over the 100+ yard mark.
The good news is, in a bitter twist of fate, that Rasul Douglas and Sidney Jones seemed more reliable…somewhat. Schwartz looked more insistent on allowing them to play press-man against Green Bay, something that ultimately hurt Sidney Jones against Devante Adams, but that’s the risk you run.
It’s really hard to grade the corners, because are we grading the players themselves, or the schematic setbacks they naturally have to burden? I think it’s unfair to bury the whole unit under the Bus, but in the same breath, the numbers don’t lie. Yes, there have been glimpses of excellence, but without Avonte Maddox or Sidney Jones, the position is scarily light on depth and it doesn’t look as though fortunes will change anytime soon.
Rodney McLeod is the team’s MVP…and I whole-heartedly believe that. I said before the season that if the Eagles get a version of Rodney McLeod back that played even half as well as he did in 2018, the secondary would be transformed. The latter part might not be true, but he’s certainly holding it together.
Malcolm Jenkins has been in-and-around the ball as he always is, but Andrew Sendejo is playing with a little too much chaos right now. The hit that injured Maddox was on him and it’s not the first time he’s cost the team.
Overall, the unit is playing well and had it not been for Sendejo flying around the field like a rogue RC car, the grade would be even higher.
Jake Elliott has been money, Cameron Johnston has a leg made of Iron and Miles Sanders returned a kick for significant yardage. Yay.
Clement fumbled on a kickoff return to start the second half two weeks ago, and the Eagles allowed a kickoff return for a touchdown against Detroit.
Some good, some bad, some ugly.
What would you grade this team through four games? Let us know in the comments!
Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports