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A rocky time for Chung

Larry Fitzgerald caught the ball over the middle a step ahead of a lunging Brandon Boykin, but was 3 yards short on third down and 20.

Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald bounces off the attempted tackle by Eagles defensive backs Patrick Chung (23) and Brandon Fletcher (on ground) to score a touchdown. (Clem Murray/Staff Photographer)
Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald bounces off the attempted tackle by Eagles defensive backs Patrick Chung (23) and Brandon Fletcher (on ground) to score a touchdown. (Clem Murray/Staff Photographer)Read more

Larry Fitzgerald caught the ball over the middle a step ahead of a lunging Brandon Boykin, but was 3 yards short on third down and 20.

It was unclear if Boykin had a chance to tackle the Cardinals receiver, but just before the Eagles cornerback had the opportunity, Patrick Chung flung himself at Fitzgerald and missed. The safety knocked down Boykin, who was probably falling to the turf anyway, and Fitzgerald waltzed the rest of the way for a 43-yard TD.

"I was going for the ball," Chung said this week. "We just ran into each other - just two guys trying to make plays. I just have to try and be a little more sure about it and then go from there."

A quarter later, Fitzgerald ran a slant. Cornerback Cary Williams had him blanketed, though, and broke up the pass. But Chung came barreling in at the last second and hit his teammate instead of the receiver. Williams was visibly upset and could be seen chiding Chung.

"I was upset, I'm not even going to lie, because we had an incident like that early on in the game, and it kind of amplified the situation," Williams said. "It's no disrespect to Chung, but it was one of those things - 'Hey, man, keep your head up.'

"But he then said, 'Hey, man, he ducked.' And I said, 'You're right, he did duck.' "

The two previous seasons, Eagles defensive players seemed to run into each other on a weekly basis. This season - not so much. After a slow start, coordinator Bill Davis' unit has been sure and sound.

But when it hasn't, Chung - playing a position where mistakes are often magnified - frequently has been involved. With so few targets, he has become the whipping boy for fan discontent. Chung was asked to assess his performance this season.

"Me? A couple setbacks," he said. "But I think the defense as a whole is just playing really good. We're forcing turnovers. We're holding guys to field goals instead of touchdowns on most drives. That's really the best you can do."

Chung opened the season as the de facto starting safety, while Nate Allen had emerging rookie Earl Wolff slicing into his playing time. But Chung injured his shoulder in Week 3, and while he was out, Allen's play improved and Wolff made fewer errors.

He returned briefly in Week 6, but reinjured his shoulder. When Chung was back for good in Week 9, he had lost his spot with the first team. A week later, though, Wolff injured his knee, and Chung was thrust back into the starting lineup.

Eagles coach Chip Kelly said a few weeks ago that Chung still was adjusting post-injury, but the fifth-year safety said that was no excuse and that he was 100 percent healthy.

"There's no shoulder problems anymore," Chung said.

Chung has often been around the ball when the Eagles have allowed touchdowns and other long gains. Three passing touchdowns have been charged to him, according to Pro Football Focus. Two games back against the Redskins, he missed a tackle, collided with teammate Trent Cole, and a short pass turned into a TD.

"When we make mistakes on the back end, it's usually a touchdown or a huge play," Chung said. "If a linebacker makes a mistake, every once in a while that will be a touchdown, but we can at least save them."

Wolff is not expected to play Sunday against the Lions and said that the following week's game against the Vikings was a long shot. If Chung were to get hurt again or even benched, Kurt Coleman would be the first safety off the bench, followed by Colt Anderson.

Before the season, Chung seemed more likely than Allen to return in 2014. The Eagles signed him to a three-year contract with about $1 million guaranteed beyond the first year. But Allen, who is a free agent, has been steadier of late. Chung, who had an up-and-down, injury-marred, four-year stay with the Patriots, said that he wants to be back.

"I'm finally getting back into - I really can't say I'm getting back into my old self - but I'm happier now," Chung said. "I can just go out here and play and not really worry about other things. I can just go out and play football."


Brandon Graham is playing less this season, but the Eagles linebacker doesn't have anywhere near the angst he had through the first 12 games of 2012.

After missing most of 2011 as he recovered from knee surgery, Graham arrived the following year healthy and ready to deliver on the expectations of being a former first-round draft pick. But he played hardly any snaps initially and only marginally more as the season progressed, even though the numbers suggested he was producing at a higher rate than the starters.

Jim Washburn was in his second season as defensive line coach, and the controversial figure, who brought his wide-nine scheme and Jason Babin to the Eagles, often did little to hide his affection for the defensive end.

"It was hard because it felt like he wanted his people to shine, and that was it," Graham said. "It was just a messed-up situation. The whole situation was just a mess in our [defensive line meeting] room.

"There was a lot of stuff going on that a lot of people didn't know about."

Graham didn't go into detail, but little snippets leaked when Andy Reid fired Washburn a week after Babin was cut last December.

Washburn and Babin had turned the meeting room into a frat-house-like atmosphere, and Reid had their mini-refrigerator and coffee maker removed. While Washburn and coordinator Juan Castillo had an amiable relationship, the line coach sometimes called his superior "Juanita" in front of the players.

Washburn didn't have a hard time finding work this offseason, though. He landed in Detroit with Jim Schwartz, whom he had worked with for several years in Tennessee.

"He is unequivocally one of the best position coaches in the NFL," Schwartz told Philadelphia-area reporters this week.

While Jerry Azzinaro isn't Graham's position coach, per se, he does often work with the outside linebackers. He's vocal, like Washburn, but the players said the two line coaches are like night and day.

"There's not as much yelling for no reason," Graham said. "And there's not as much, 'Attack, attack, attack.' It's still pretty intense, but at the same time [the new Eagles coaches] don't get in my head as much. I can still hear Washburn. I'm going to hear him for the rest of my life."

Defensive ends Fletcher Cox and Cedric Thornton, who are having strong seasons, said that they still keep in touch with Washburn and that they planned to talk with him before the Eagles host the Lions on Sunday. Washburn played a role in both coming to the Eagles.

Graham, after a frustrating first three seasons, is still trying to find his way. He came on like gangbusters after Washburn and Babin departed late last season, but his position changed with the switch to a 3-4 and he's been behind Trent Cole.

But Graham notched two sacks last week in only 13 snaps and said that he remains positive that his time will come.

"We're winning, and at the same time I still get my chances here and there," Graham said. "Last game, it just felt good to be able to have a two-sack game, because I know I can probably get that many a game if I was to really play."


When he played only two snaps on offense in the opener, tight end James Casey couldn't help but voice his frustration. The Eagles had signed him to a three-year, $12 million contract during the offseason and he had been a regular with the Houston Texans, filling many roles.

But the Eagles already had Brent Celek and had drafted Zach Ertz in the second round, and Chip Kelly didn't initially use as many two tight-end sets as some had thought he would. So while Casey contributed on special teams, his offensive snaps remained low through the first half of the season.

"It's just something I've adapted to," Casey said. "You got to understand your role on the team. You're always trying to get playing time. I've been working really hard in practice. I'm always the first guy here. I'm trying to do as much as I can."

Whether it's his hard work or Kelly's trying to exploit various defenses, Casey has seen his playing time marginally increase. He played 12 snaps on Sunday, three games after he was on offense for 16. He has only three catches for 31 yards this season, but Casey was on the field for two of Nick Foles' three touchdown passes to tight ends against the Cardinals.

"Each week we're putting in new things that they haven't seen," Casey said.

Before Celek caught his 1-yard touchdown pass, he slapped receiver Riley Cooper as they ran by each other on crossing routes.

"We were just high-fiving saying, 'Good luck on the other side,' " Celek joked.

Cooper's route slowed the safety who was playing man defense on Celek and popped the tight end free. Celek suggested that a reporter ask Kelly the real reason behind the low-five.

"They like each other," Kelly cracked. "Ask Brent."

More than likely, Kelly had his receivers slap hands so that they knew they were running routes close enough to rub out the defender who was guarding each.

Kelly said in June that the one statistic he monitors most is points off turnovers.

The Eagles are tied for eighth in the NFL in plus-minus turnover ratio, but they are sixth in net turnover points. They have scored 60 points off takeaways and allowed 30 points off giveaways for a 30-point net.

The Chiefs (68), 49ers (65), Cowboys (60), Seahawks (59), and Panthers (56) are ahead of the Eagles.


Chip Kelly likes to have fun with the media during his news conferences. He'll sometimes crack jokes, make sarcastic remarks, or give dry answers to obvious questions.

"Like when he said '[Nick] Foles is the quarterback for the next 1,000 years,' " Eagles linebacker Casey Matthews said. "You just hear it and you have to laugh. That's just how Chip is."

But is Kelly like that with his players? Matthews, who played for Kelly at Oregon, said his coach is mostly serious, especially on Tuesdays as the week of game-planning begins. But he does like to have the occasional fun at a player's expense - especially running back LeSean McCoy.

"McCoy is usually the butt of the jokes," Matthews said.

For instance, when McCoy scored one of his touchdowns against the Redskins last month, he dunked the ball over the crossbar - barely. Kelly opened Monday's meeting by showing the celebration on film and informing McCoy that Buccaneers tackle Donald Penn had recently scored on a tackle-eligible play and dunked the ball.

"And Chip said, 'Maybe you can learn from him how to dunk,' " Matthews said.

A few days later, Kelly showed the clip of the 340-pound Penn dunking, to the amusement of the team.

"It was hilarious," Matthews said.



Zach Ertz's yards per route run, sixth-best among NFL tight ends, after Rob Gronkowski (2.87), Jimmy Graham (2.55), Vernon Davis (2.51), Jordan Reed (2.19), and Julius Thomas (2.01).


Missed tackles by Mychal Kendricks, tied for worst among inside linebackers (Curtis Lofton).


Nick Foles' completion percentage when he throws in 2.5 seconds or less, third in the NFL behind Drew Brees (79.1 pct.) and Aaron Rodgers (75.8 pct.).