Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Bowen: Holes in Eagles' defensive strategy

IT DIDN'T click in right away, but at some point while the Eagles were getting plucked for 230 rushing yards on 33 carries Sunday, I looked up at a FedEx Field monitor and it was 2012 all over again.

IT DIDN'T click in right away, but at some point while the Eagles were getting plucked for 230 rushing yards on 33 carries Sunday, I looked up at a FedEx Field monitor and it was 2012 all over again.

A back was romping into the secondary, unimpeded, while Eagles middle linebacker Jordan Hicks was being swallowed whole by a Redskins offensive lineman, who outweighed Hicks by about 100 pounds and had a running start.

I thought. "Oh yeah. Wide 9."

It was less than two weeks ago that Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz was telling reporters that they "probably owe an apology to Jim Washburn," after making defensive line coach Washburn's Wide 9 the scapegoat for the Eagles' terrible run defense in 2011 and 2012. (Washburn worked for Schwartz in Tennessee before Washburn came here, then again in Detroit after Andy Reid fired Washburn late in the 2012 season.)

"We can play the run," Schwartz said on Oct. 6, coming off the bye week, with the Eagles 3-0 and having held the Bears and Steelers to a combined total of 93 rushing yards in back-to-back wins.

Schwartz said his linemen's techniques "allow them to play the run and also be able to rush the quarterback."

All well and good until you get to an offensive line that is strong and savvy enough to make you pay for leaving giant holes in your alignment. The Redskins doubled up Fletcher Cox, and dared anybody else up front to make a play. As linebacker Nigel Bradham noted afterward, often their running backs would patiently wait for the Eagles to overpursue, then pick out a backside hole, which was nearly always there.

If your defensive linemen are always going to take their first step upfield, a good o-line is going to find ways to use that momentum against them. The Eagles are going to see a bunch of good offensive lines in the coming weeks. I look forward to further education from Schwartz on how he's going to overcome this, especially without starting defensive tackle Bennie Logan (groin) for the next week or two.

On a related topic, Schwartz needs to scheme the Eagles' most dominant player into better situations, and get Cox to stop letting his frustrations boil over into killer penalties.

That Cox flag for roughing Kirk Cousins was so costly. The score was 14-all, third-and-goal from the 4, Cousins had to throw it away, and Cox lowered his head into Cousins' chin while raising his left hand to Cousins' helmet. Instead of fourth-and-goal and a probable field goal, Washington got a new set of downs and a touchdown just before the half. Then Cox started the third quarter by jumping offside on the first snap.

Developing story lines

* First play of the game, Carson Wentz was sacked and his jersey torn after Brent Celek couldn't block Ryan Kerrigan and Ryan Mathews couldn't handle blitzing safety Will Blackmon. Coincidentally or not, Celek would go on to play just 13 snaps, Mathews just 11.

* The play after Nigel Bradham whiffed on tackling Kirk Cousins, who scrambled for a first down on third-and-long, Robert Kelley rambled 45 yards and the Redskins' second touchdown drive was cooking. Connor Barwin - who had an awful game, matched a lot against All-Pro left tackle Trent Williams - missed Kelley, Beau Allen and Jordan Hicks overpursued, and Mychal Kendricks missed.

* It was 14-14 - never mind how it got that way - with 3:41 left in the second quarter when Bennie Logan went down with the left groin injury that has left him "week to week," Doug Pederson said Monday. The next play, Matt Jones strolled 22 yards through Logan's former area, Allen and Barwin smothered. The Redskins were running well, 85 yards on 13 carries before Logan went down, but they did even better - 145 on 20 - afterward.

Who knew?

That the Eagles' defensive line thought "gap control" was about not spending too much money at the mall?

Obscure stat

The Eagles' average of 9.8 penalties per game is the NFL's highest.

Extra point

Center and guard Stefen Wisniewski signed here on a one-year deal he hoped would propel him to future free-agent riches. He'd started all 77 NFL games he'd played previously, so it's easy to understand Wisniewski's frustration over not getting a crack at a starting role in the wake of Lane Johnson's 10-game suspension.

When teams lose, frustrations mushroom. The Eagles could be facing one of the first personnel rough spots of "players coach" Doug Pederson's brief tenure.

Last week, when the plan to go with rookie Halapoulivaati Vaitai became official, I talked to Wisniewski, who said he was disappointed. Then I asked him if he could see the sense in wanting to make just one move instead of two - inserting Vaitai instead of moving Allen Barbre to right tackle and promoting Wisniewski to left guard.

"Some people want to get their best five guys in there. Other guys would rather make just one switch than two switches," Wisniewski said.

Then, when Vaitai got off to a horrible start Sunday, the smart play for Wisniewski probably would have been to appear supportive, as other teammates were, while making it clear he was ready and waiting if the team wanted to go back to the original plan.

Instead, Wisniewski told that his coaches "are smart. They'll watch the tape and make a decision. I don't think they need my input."

Asked why he thought the original plan changed, Wisniewski said: "I was told that (Vaitai) had been practicing really well, and they wanted to give him a shot."

There are two ways to take that. One would be that Wisniewski was saying "this is the rationale I was given." Another possibility is that he was saying, "they're pretending that this kid looks good in practice; I haven't seen it."

Either way, might have been good to do away with the "I was told" part of the sentence.