November 25, 2012, 2:00 pm
Kurt Coleman made a curious little comment in the minutes after the Eagles lost their sixth straight game last weekend.
“It’s frustrating,” the third-year safety said. “Because we have what I feel is the best back end group in the National Football League.”
The best back-end group in the National Football League.
If that’s the case, the best secondary in the NFL has allowed 13 touchdown passes while intercepting just one pass during the Eagles’ current six-game losing streak.
If that’s the case, the best secondary in the NFL is the first in NFL history to allow four straight quarterbacks to complete 70 percent of their passes and throw for two or more touchdowns without being intercepted once.
If that’s the case, the best secondary in the NFL is now the first in 28 years to yield a passer rating of 120 or higher ... four times in a row.
If that’s the case, the best secondary in the NFL can’t stop anybody.
“You coach it until you’re blue in the face,” defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said. “But you can’t play it for them.”
How bad has it gotten?
Since the Eagles’ last interception – Nnamdi Asomugha picked off Lions quarterback Matt Stafford in the second quarter back on Oct. 14 – opposing quarterbacks have passed for 1,168 yards and thrown 12 touchdowns.
How bad has it gotten?
Bowles has been defensive coordinator for four games, and opposing quarterbacks have thrown only 10 more incomplete passes against the Eagles in those four games (21) than touchdowns (11).
How bad has it gotten?
Five QBs have fashioned a quarterback rating of 120 or higher against the Eagles in their last eight games. In 160 games during Jim Johnson’s 10 years as defensive coordinator, only seven did it.
The Redskins’ game was a low point for the Eagles’ defense in general and secondary specifically.
Rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III threw four touchdown passes, including bombs of 49 and 61 yards, and had just one incomplete pass. Statistically, it was the best game ever played by a rookie quarterback.
“I don’t think it’s just miscommunication, and I don’t think it’s just the secondary,” Bowles said. “Some of them are scrambles, some of them are missed coverages, some of them are just [guys] getting beat.
“You can’t have that. You have to bear down and play better. With expectations and Pro Bowl players, it’s a new year every year and you have to prove yourself every week in this league. No one is going to give you anything.
“Those guys understand that, and we understand that. You just have to come out and fight. You have to come out and make plays, that’s what this game is all about.”
They haven’t made plays. They haven’t made plays in a long, long time.
Even with a four-interception season opener in Cleveland, the Eagles are on pace to allow 3,715 passing yards, 28 touchdowns and 60 percent accuracy with just 11 interceptions.
Is that bad?
Only five NFL defenses have ever been that bad in a season: The 1984, 2004 and 2011 Vikings, the 2009 Lions and the 2004 Raiders – with 23-year-old Nnamdi Asomugha in the lineup.
The 3,715 yards would be the second-most the Eagles have ever allowed (behind 4,147 in 1988), the 28 touchdown passes would tie for fourth-most ever, the 11 interceptions would be the seventh-fewest in franchise history, and the 60.4 completion percentage would be third-worst ever by an Eagles team.
The first two weeks of the season, the Eagles picked off five passes and allowed just one touchdown pass in wins over the Browns and Ravens.
Since then? In their last eight games, opposing quarterbacks have completed 65 percent of their passes with 17 touchdowns and two interceptions. Not coincidentally, the Eagles are 1-7 in that stretch.
Roll that around in your brain for a minute: 17 touchdowns and two interceptions.
Certainly these numbers also reflect a lifeless pass rush and linebacker issues in coverage as well.
But the secondary has been the most disappointing position group on the team.
The Eagles have two former Pro Bowl cornerbacks, a free safety who was a second-round pick and played well as a rookie before getting hurt, a strong safety who is limited physically but plays hard all the time and a rookie nickel corner who has all the tools.
Asomugha has become the poster child for this underachieving team. Although his coverage has been mediocre, his tackling and pursuit have been awful.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie got off to a hot start but hasn’t made a play in two months.
Nate Allen, Brandon Boykin and Coleman all seem to have regressed.
Are these guys really this bad or are they just victims of coaching turmoil – they’ve had three secondary coaches in three years – and a lack of pass pressure up front? Probably a combination of both.
But what the Eagles believed going into the season was a strength of this team has been exposed as a glaring weakness, and the decision to fire Juan Castillo and replace him with Bowles has solved nothing.
It’s obviously not all Bowles’ fault, but in four games since the long-time NFL safety replaced Castillo, opposing quarterbacks have completed 78 percent of their passes (76-for-97) for 910 yards with 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions. A 143.6 passer rating.
Whoever winds up with the task of trying to rebuild the Eagles this offseason will have to find a quarterback, determine which defensive linemen have any football left and figure out which offensive linemen can still play.
But one of his biggest challenges will be rebuilding a secondary that isn’t the best in the NFL, but sure might be the worst. Ever.
E-mail Reuben Frank at email@example.com