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Pretty boys are making the Eagles defense look ugly

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Posted 09 November 2012 - 05:50 AM


Pretty boys are making the Eagles defense look ugly

11:28 PM, Nov. 8, 2012

PHILADELPHIA — The statistics show that the Eagles’ defense has regressed in the two games with Todd Bowles as the new defensive coordinator.

But Eagles cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie said it’s not the coaching. Rather, he said the Eagles have the perception around the NFL as “a pretty defense,” which is perhaps the most insulting label a defense can have.

“Everybody looks at us as a pretty defense,” he said. “Guys don’t want to be physical ... That’s all around the league — y’all guys are talented, but y’all don’t want to hit nobody.”

He was asked if that’s a fair assessment.

“When I look at film, it’s fair,” he said. “It’s not like we’re just going out there (whiffing) on tackles. You’ve got to wrap up everything. You’ve got to go back to fundamentals. Take it back to fundamental stages and just tackle.”

The Eagles have given up at least 140 yards rushing over the last two games against teams that were ranked at or near the bottom of the league.

As a whole, the defense has dropped from eighth in the NFL after Week 5 to 15th going into the Eagles’ game Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys.

Poor tackling has been the main culprit. The Saints, for example, had seven plays of 20 yards or more in their 28-13 win Monday night. Yet on three of those plays, the Saints had at least 10 yards after the catch. Two other big plays came on runs.

That’s why defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said bad tackling is a mindset that could take over the rest of the team.

“It could be that things are going bad, and it’s not happening right now, it starts to maybe become normal, and guys are accepting it being normal,” Jenkins said. “We have to make sure we don’t let it get that way ... You’re going to have times where someone is not in the right assignment or you have a missed tackle, but you’ve got to know that’s not normal.”

Jenkins said the blame lies with the players. Bowles replaced Juan Castillo on Oct. 16, two days after the Eagles blew their second straight fourth-quarter lead in the final seconds.

Those seem like the halcyon days, however. The Eagles have fallen so far behind early in games — 24-7 to the Falcons and 21-3 to the Saints — that they haven’t had a chance to blow a fourth-quarter lead.

“You can keep changing coaches,” Jenkins said. “You can find the best coach in America … but if the players don’t step up and do the things you’re supposed to do, it’ll make any coach look bad.”
Bowles said the tackling issues are fixable.

“There are players who are going to miss tackles who are good tacklers and then there are some players who just aren’t good tacklers,” he said. “You can fix that with fundamentals. You can fix that with attitude. Attitude is the main thing.”

The Eagles said they have the right attitude.

SafetyPosted Image Kurt Coleman was perhaps the epitome of this in the season opener when his helmet flew off as Cleveland’s Trent Richardson barreled into him. Yet Coleman, with scrapes and cuts all over his face, held on and brought Richardson down.
Now, the image is of players grabbing at the ankles of opponents and watching helplessly as they slip away.

“It’s really just the will-to and the want-to,” Coleman said. “Your technique will take you so far. Then you have to have the will-to, to run through a guy and not try to break down, and say, ‘Look, I’m going to take this hit, and so are you, but I got to get you down by any means.’”

Rodgers-Cromartie said he’s convinced that “want-to” is still there. But until the Eagles show it, opponents are going to keep pounding the ball at them.

“It’s working, so why not?” he said. “That’s one thing about this league: Until you fix it, it’s always going to show itself.”

Reach Martin Frank at mfrank@delawareonline.com