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McDermott still shuffling Eagles' D

All season, Sean McDermott has said every defensive player that dresses for him should expect to play on game day.

And all season, his actions have backed up those words.

Nine-men rotations along the defensive line. Six different linebacker combinations in a single game. Shuffling three different guys in and out at free safety.

But is McDermott shrinking his rotation and settling in on certain combinations now that we're approaching the "win or go home" portion of the schedule?

In certain cases, yes.

But for the most part, no.

I took a detailed look at the Eagles' defensive snaps against the Broncos, charting the personnel, and here's a breakdown on each positional group.

Defensive line

Nine different players saw time here for the Eagles. We all know the base front four: Juqua Parker, Mike Patterson, Brodrick Bunkley and Trent Cole.

But Darren Howard, Chris Clemons, Victor Abiamiri, Jason Babin and Antonio Dixon were also rotated in.

How much? Here's the number of plays:

Howard - 23
Abiamiri - 16
Dixon - 9
Babin - 9
Clemons - 8

It should be noted that several of Dixon's snaps came when Bunkley left the game with an injury. It looks like Dixon will rotate in less than he had previously. Patterson and Bunkley playing at a high level might have more to do with that than anything else. Dixon may give Patterson or Bunkley an occasional breather, but look for him more when the Eagles go with an extra lineman in goal line or short yardage.

Howard was used all over the line. At times, he would replace Cole at RDE, and Cole would move inside. Other times, Howard would play inside, which is more typical, and I believe he saw time at LDE also.

Abiamiri was more active than we had seen in recent weeks. A good sign going into this weekend and the playoffs.


This was an interesting one. Did anyone notice that Jeremiah Trotter did not see the field at all in the second half? Instead, it was Akeem Jordan in the middle in the base defense. This is an interesting nugget because while Jordan saw some time in the middle when he returned against the Giants a couple weeks ago, he did not play there at all last week against the 49ers. And it's not as if the Eagles' defense was getting gashed in the first half against Denver with Trotter in the middle.

Here's the number of total plays:

Will Witherspoon - 62
Akeem Jordan - 39
Moise Fokou - 26
Jeremiah Trotter - 12
Tracy White - 10

As I mentioned, all 12 of Trotter's snaps came in the first half. Jordan saw his most action since returning from injury. Against the Giants, he played 16 snaps. And against the 49ers, 26.

Fokou was the only strong-side linebacker in the base defense, with Chris Gocong not getting on the field at all for the second straight game.

And White's contributions are pretty remarkable when you consider he was only on the field for 10 plays.

The Eagles used six different combinations at linebacker. Here they are, with the number of plays for each:

Witherspoon and Jordan - 23
Witherspoon, Fokou and Jordan - 15
Witherspoon, Fokou and Trotter - 11
Witherspoon and White - 10
Witherspoon - 3
Trotter and Jordan - 1

When the Eagles go with one linebacker, it's to get Dimitri Patterson on the field as a fourth cornerback.


At cornerback, the roles are defined. It seems like years ago when Ellis Hobbs was rotating with Sheldon Brown opposite Asante Samuel, doesn't it?

Brown and Samuel are on the field pretty much at all times, although there was a stretch of about five plays in the third quarter when Samuel was on the sidelines. Not sure if that was an injury issue or what.

Hanson is the nickel back. He played 38 snaps Sunday, and we all know that McDermott likes to blitz him from the slot at least a couple times each game.

Patterson gets on the field as the sixth DB, although it will be interesting to see how they use him against Jason Witten this week. Patterson did a good job covering Vernon Davis a couple weeks ago.

Which brings us to the safety position.

To call last week's shuffling at free safety a "rotation" would probably be overstating it. It was mostly Macho Harris' job. He played 53 snaps, compared to 10 for Jones.

Jones' role was primarily run support. Seven of his 10 snaps were on 1st-and-10. Two of the others were on 3rd-and-1 and 4th-and-1. This is interesting because the previous week against the 49ers, Jones saw most of the snaps at free safety and Quintin Demps (who was inactive with an injury against Denver) rotated in, mostly on third downs.

Jones had turned in two poor performances in a row before last week. It is pretty clear that McDermott is trying to patch something together here, but no option seems desirable.