Perhaps no play portrayed the state of the Eagles defense Sunday better then the first quarter touchdown run by Ryan Torain.
On the play, the Eagles defensive front was pushed back. The linebackers over pursued the run and had to turn around to try to make a play. Once Torain got into the secondary, he through Saftey Quiten Mikell like he wasn’t even there. Touchdown, Redskins.
This play not only was typical for the day, but for the season so far when it comes to the defense-their to make the play, but unable to finish. This defense is one that will succeed with its speed. It has no big bodies on the line, and it’s linebackers are also under sized. The corner backs and safeties are ball hawking players that will rarely put a lick on a receiver coming across the middle. This puts them in position to make a game changing hit or tackle- but their size prevents them from doing so.
On Sunday, the defense was beaten and bruised up and down the field. Clinton Portis, a player who was considered washed up the week before, ran through tackles like he used to in his prime. He shed the smaller Eagle’s arm tackles like they weren’t even there. Multiple times the Eagles used their speed to get to him in the backfield, but were unable to finish the play. Their lack to do so really highlighted the problem this defense will face all year- they are simply not big enough to beat an offense man to man. They can blitz and scheme their way to an occasional big play, but cannot win the one on one battles when it matters most.
The defense lacks any toughness what-so-ever. The only player that strikes any semblance of fear into players is MLB Stewart Bradley. Other then that, the unit has no intimidator. This is one area where the team really misses Brian Dawkins. Defensive Coordinator Sean McDermott tries to use Quiten Mikell in that Saftey/Blitzing LB role Dawk excelled in, but he lacks the size and toughness to mix it up like Dawk did. Ask Torain if he is afraid when Mikell comes running at him.
When the Eagles defense was at its best, it had players who would knock the daylight out of an opposing player. Jeremiah Trotter and Brian Dawkins punished players through out the game to the point where they would wear down as the game went on. By the fourth quarter, the players were so physically beat up, they could not run like they did when the game started.
One player who became available this week that might help is Saftey Michael Lewis. Lewis was asked to be released by San Francisco, and is now a free agent. For all of his liabilities in coverage, Lewis would bring an attitude and toughness to this defense it lacks. People said Dawkins could not cover when he left, but he brought enough to the Denver defense that he earned a Pro-Bowl Bid. Clearly Lewis is no Dawkins, but the Eagles are thin at safety already, and Lewis would not have been knocked over like Mikell was on that play.
This unit has talent. It can create turnovers and only gave up 17 points on Sunday. But if it wants to move to that next level and really become a defense that can win a game, it needs to toughen up, start winning the one on one battles, stop being pushed around.