Assessing the Philadelphia Eagles Secondary Through Six Games

US PRESSWIRE

Last week, John Breitenbach took a look at the offensive line, today he puts the secondary under the microscope.

Asante Samuel really split opinion but there was no denying his coverage ability. That was what made the organisation's decision to trade him for virtually nothing and move on with Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie a contentious one. DRC was clearly miscast in the slot and had played better outside but he also had a terrible year with the Cardinals playing exclusively on the perimeter. Asomugha, meanwhile, was coming off a poor season where he'd been burned numerous times especially by Victor Cruz of the Giants.

At safety the situation was more stable. Nate Allen was one starter along with probably Kurt Coleman. Also in the mix were a former second round pick in Jaiquawn Jarrett and veteran OJ Atogwe. The preseason dashed any hopes of either player proving an upgrade, as Jarrett continued to struggle and Atogwe couldn't get on the field. Coleman got the job a little by default in my mind as none of the candidates stepped up.

Related: Evaluating the Eagles offensive line at the bye

Cornerbacks

Dominique Rodgers-Cromarite

There was a lot of trust put in Rodgers-Cromartie by the coaches and he proceeded to reward them with a very positive start to the season. He's clearly suited to the press man style the Eagles use and has done a good job of preventing points and taking the ball away. Let's see how his pass coverage compares to others around the league:

Targets

Receptions

Catch %

Yards

`TD

INTs

PDs

QB rating

33

15

45.5 (3rd)

211

0 (1t)

3 (2t)

5 (2t)

28.7 (1)

*All statistics courtesy of PFF

*Rankings represent standing amongst corners playing at least 50% of their team's snaps

DRC has performed incredibly well statistically this season, ranking in the top three in five out of the main six categories. He's consistently covered well and been winning 1-1 battles on the outside. The only issue so far has been penalties, as Rodgers-Cromartie has been flagged five times. Only one player has more (Ike Taylor, 7).

Nnamdi Asomugha

So much was expected of Asomugha after he came over in free agency from the Raiders but he really didn't live up to it. There were periods of good play but they were too often interspersed with big plays he allowed that ultimately lead to the Eagles' failure to make the playoffs. Let's take a look at how he's fared so far in year 2:

Targets

Receptions

Catch %

Yards

TD

INTs

PDs

QB rating

27

13

48.1 (6th)

216

1 (19t)

1 (22t)

4 (17t)

72.5 (21st)

While Asomugha hasn't been as impressive as his starting partner, he's still played better than in 2011. He's around average in all the major categories and has done an especially good job forcing incompletions. The recent improvement is cause for optimism in a secondary that needs its veteran cornerback to step up.

Brandon Boykin

There was a lot of amazement when Boykin fell to the fourth round. He was seen as one of the better corner prospects and had enticing versatility with his ability to play in the slot and return kicks. Boykin always had a chance to unseat incumbent Joselio Hanson because of his superior upside but it was still somewhat of a surprise that the coaches made the decision to go with him. Here are his numbers:

Targets

Receptions

Catch %

Yards

TDs

INTs

PDs

QB rating

34

18

52.9 (21t)

200

1 (30t)

0 (58t)

4 (18t)

80.5 (40th)

*Rankings based on cornerbacks who have played 25% of snaps

Boykin was really impressive in his early couple of games but has struggled a little since. He's done a good job of preventing completions and making athletic plays but has given up significant gains when he has been beat. Boykin looks much more assured in man coverage than zone which should be one of his focus areas moving forward.

Safeties

Nate Allen

Allen really come on at the end of his second year and looked primed for a breakout in 2012. That hasn't happened however and Allen's inconsistencies continue to haunt him. His sloppy tackling is of particular concern and I think one of the reasons for Castillo's firing was his failure succeed in teaching the fundamentals he so loved to talk about. First let's take a look at the negative side of Allen's game, run defense:

Tackles

Assists

Stops

Missed Tackles

Tackle %

12

2

6 (19t)

5 (4t)

73.7

The South Florida product is actually very good when he diagnoses plays early and is able to come down to the line and make a play but too often he's missed open field tackles this year leading to big plays. Allen has actually been good in coverage but not so much you'd excuse his poor run D:

Targets

Receptions

Catch %

Yards

TDs

INTs

PDs

QB Rating

30

13

43.3 (4th)

110

0 (1t)

0 (40t)

2 (12t)

53.5 (8th)

Clearly Allen has carried his form 2011 in coverage into 2012. He's been very active getting in throwing lanes and generally showing good positioning. More big plays would be nice but with his ability in both man and zone coverage Allen gives Todd Bowles a lot of flexibility on the back end.

Kurt Coleman

As you can probably tell I'm not convinced Coleman is a starter in this league and I think this year's gone a long way to proving that. It's not even his average to poor coverage that is the major problem but his tackling deficiency. A hard hitting, athletically limited safety needs to be good fundamentally, and Coleman simply isn't. Let's take a look at this numbers:

Tackles

Assists

Stops

Missed Tackles

Tackle %

16

3

6 (19t)

5 (4t)

73.7

The Eagles' safeties have combined to miss ten tackles in just six games which is very concerning. Coleman is occasionally good in the box when unblocked, but struggles with diagnosing and is often a step late. Here's how he's fared in coverage:

Targets

Receptions

Catch %

Yards

TDs

INTs

PDs

QB rating

14

9

64.3 (37t)

177

1 (28t)

2 (6t)

2 (12t)

92.0 (38th)

Obviously Coleman ranks poorly in most of the major categories, the main saving grace being a pair of interceptions. Still those weren't particularly impressive plays and on the whole Coleman hasn't proven to be more than a special teamer in my view.

The Eagles defensive secondary under new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles has played decently thus far. The corners are improved from a year ago and Boykin offers an upgrade over Hanson. The safeties have been much more disappointing as each has missed a number of tackles and Coleman continues to struggle against the pass. If Allen can improve his run defense this unit could be very good but, until then, there's still a crucial weakness.

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