Earlier this week, we took a deep dive into the Eagles offense to see where the group is headed after four games of the season. It’s now time to do the same for the defense. Grab your boards and markers once more – it’s report card SZN.
Believe it or not, the Eagles actually lead the NFL with 17 sacks. The defensive line has been absolutely rampant through the opening quarter of the season. It took a few years, but the depth is finally strong enough to provide the rotation Jim Schwartz craves.
Malik Jackson is more than making up for lost time. He has 9 QB hits(!!!!) in four games, while Brandon Graham has 7, to go with 5 TFL’s and 3 sacks. Josh Sweat and Genard Avery have both pleasantly surprised too. The front four hasn’t just been a bright spot for the defense, it’s easily been the strongest unit on this year’s Eagles team and it’s tough to envision another position coming close anytime soon.
It’s almost easy to forget that Vinny Curry has been out with injury. All of the concerns surrounding DE depth have evaporated due to sheer dominance up front week in and week out.
The road gets tougher over the next few weeks, so it will be very intriguing to see how they get on against teams like Pittsburgh, who do a tremendous job of keeping Big Ben upright. But for now, they’re the pride of the Philadelphia Eagles.
N**e G**ry’s name automatically drags this grade down substantially by association alone. Now finding ways to offend off the field as well as on it, Gerry has really struggled this season. He’s given up 19 catches (3rd most in the NFL) on 19 targets (that’s right, not a single incompletion) and a passer rating of 148.2 (2nd worst in NFL) this season. What a vibe. How he still gets playing time, let alone reps as a starter is truly beyond anyone at this point.
Not all hope is lost, however. Alex Singleton balled out in week 4, amassing 2 TFL and a huge pick 6. With T.J Edwards now injured, this should lead to some more playing time for the former CFL standout.
This position is ultimately hampered by Nate Gerry existing, but if he continues to struggle and depth thins, that may not be the case for long. Will Parks returning to practice is a big step as one of the most versatile players on this defense, and we’re yet to see what guys like Davion Taylor can do. For now, though, it’s a poor grading,
The good news: Darius Slay is everything fans hoped he would be and is currently the glue keeping the group together. While that elusive first interception still evades him, Slay has been nothing short of excellent so far. As for the rest of the group?
The bad news: The rest of the group. Injuries, poor play, and a really disappointing start to the season from once-heralded nickel CB Nickell Robey-Coleman are doing their best to undo the work Slay is putting in.
The silver lining here is that the cornerback position is drastically better than it was this time last year, but they are sorely missing guys like Rasul Douglas due to (shock) more injury woes and some poor roster management.
Rodney McLeod’s 26 tackles are second on the team only to Nate Gerry, but he leads the team in pass breakups and plucked off his first pick of the year in week 4. He was all over the field that game and has once again proven himself to be a key cog in this defense. That was never a concern going into the season, though.
The big question facing this group was could they negate the loss of Malcolm Jenkins? 4 games in and that still remains unanswered. Jalen Mills was pulled back to his old stomping grounds at CB to negate injuries but had been fairly quiet until that point, while Marcus Epps had really struggled outside of one heroic pass breakup.
Much like Cornerback, this group is comprised of one standout and a lot of uncertainty. That may change with Will Parks looking set to make his Eagles debut in the coming weeks. But until then, it’s the same old story.
Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire