It was hard to sit there and watch Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots win the Super Bowl with former Eagles cornerback, Eric Rowe, who supposedly wasn’t good enough to play on the Eagles defense. Add to that safety Patrick Chung, who was run out of Philadelphia, but now he has two Super Bowl rings. So, there you have it. Two of the five defensive backs on the field for New England against Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, couldn’t play for the Eagles. That is an indictment of the Birds defensive coaches. The Patriots defense was able to hold that explosive Falcons offense to only 21 points with Rowe and Chung on the field for nearly all of the defensive snaps.
How did they do it?
First of all, you never know what New England is going to do defensively. They don’t sit there in the same defense like our past two defensive coordinators, previously Billy Davis under Chip Kelly and now Jim Schwartz under Doug Pederson.
Belichick always believes in taking away what the offense does best, but there’s no telling how he’s going to do it. He keeps the opposing offensive coordinator and quarterback guessing. In this year’s Super Bowl, the game started out with the Pats being unable to even slow down the Falcons, but when the game was on the line, the New England defense made all the plays. Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia made the correct adjustments during the game and that made the difference. They started blitzing Matt Ryan. That’s something which Schwartz seems very reluctant to do.
Ryan, a seasoned quarterback made some big mistakes by hanging onto the football and getting sacked. It contributed to Atlanta’s demise. Ryan got hit by Dont’a Hightower and fumbled, which proved to be the momentum swinger that changed the game. Belichick and Patricia were playing to win, not sitting in the same defense like Davis and Schwartz have done the last few years. Now the Pats have another Super Bowl title.
As for the Eagles cornerback situation, I’m very concerned about the Eagles corners because they don’t have the personnel to sit their cornerbacks out there on an island. Veteran Leodis McKelvin has already been shown the door, so that leaves Nolan Carroll, Jalen Mills, Ron Brooks Aaron Grymes and C.J. Smith.
Carroll and Brooks have some experience, but are they capable of succeeding in the Schwartz scheme if the front four isn’t forcing the quarterback to get the ball out of his hands quickly. There are playmaking pass catchers on every team in the NFC East, except the Eagles. The Birds cornerbacks will do well in training camp, but once the season starts they’ll get torched.
The Eagles are sure to draft a cornerback or two and they could sign a free agent corner, but I still want to see the Eagles mix things up more with their coverages and blitzes, especially on third down. They don’t have the cornerbacks to be able to play straight man-to-man 80% or 90% of the time. They’ve got to start changing things up more often. The Patriots didn’t’ ask Rowe to cover wide receivers man-to-man all day long.
The Eagles must make some tough decisions on their defensive line with defensive tackle Benny Logan and defensive end Conner Barwin . Logan is likely to get a substantial offer or two on the open market. Add to that information, the fact that the Birds have already given Cox a deal worth north of $100 million dollars, along with substantial deals to Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry.
The Eagles can’t afford to add another big contract to their defensive line. Birds defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz will need to find a way to get the job done with Beau Allen and Destiny Veaeo playing bigger roles.
As for Barwin, he’s already let it be known that he will take a pay cut to stay with the Eagles. I would like to see Schwartz utilize Barwin’s versatility and show offenses some different looks on third down. I know he believes in turning the front four loose on third down, but you must have adjustments if they’re not getting there.
At the linebacker position, don’t be surprised if Mychal Kendricks doesn’t return to play for the Birds. He was signed a couple of years ago to a substantial contract, but he didn’t even play 30% of the Eagles defensive snaps. Jordan Hicks and Nigel Bradham were the linebackers the Birds had on the field the majority of the time. I’ll get into some depth of the Kendricks situation on a later article.