In­com­plete cov­er­age

Ea­gles must fix pass de­fense in a hurry or face the con­se­quences in com­ing weeks

The Morning Call - - SPORTS - By Nick Fierro

PHILADEL­PHIA — Mal­colm Jenk­ins wasn’t hav­ing any of it. The vet­eran safety — and heart and soul of the Philadel­phia Ea­gles de­fense — bris­tled at the the­ory that the 27 points his team gave up against the Washington Red­skins on Sun­day could have been more if quar­ter­back Case Keenum didn’t over­throw Terry McLau­rin, who was run­ning all alone on a fly pat­tern, in the third quar­ter.

The Ea­gles had just bat­tled back from a 17-0 deficit to go ahead by one point when it hap­pened, and they held the lead the rest of the way.

“Al­most doesn’t count in this game,” Jenk­ins said. “So for us, we gave up one big play [on a McLau­rin 69-yard TD pass in the sec­ond quar­ter] and we’re not pan­ick­ing about that. That was just us be­ing ag­gres­sive. No­body was beat or no cov­er­age was blown. They’ve got a good, fast guy, they threw it into his space, we va­cated the back end of the field and they made a play.”

What Jenk­ins can’t dis­pute is that play­ing at home against a one-di­men­sional of­fense with­out its top line­man,

the Ea­gles gave up 380 pass­ing yards and 27 points while not get­ting a turnover and log­ging only one sack.

He also can’t deny that when they go on the road Sun­day night against a des­per­ate and more bal­anced At­lanta Fal­cons squad, they’ll be up against much more po­tent weapons, start­ing with quar­ter­back Matt Ryan and ex­plo­sive wide re­ceiver Julio Jones.

To be sure, the Ea­gles know they’ll need a bet­ter de­fen­sive ef­fort to keep their of­fense from hav­ing to score half a hun­dred to get out of there with a win.

Jenk­ins and his team­mates be­lieve they’ll ex­e­cute the game plan to con­tain their op­po­nents bet­ter than they did in Week 1.

Nev­er­the­less, a re­view of Sun­day’s most dam­ag­ing plays by Washington’s of­fense re­vealed some alarm­ing short­com­ings.

On McLau­rin’s 69-yard TD re­cep­tion, the blitz was de­layed, giv­ing Keenum ex­tra time be­hind a max-pro­tec­tion scheme right at the start. And the cov­er­age plan to try to have their slow­est cor­ner, Ra­sul Dou­glas, match up against a rookie re­ceiver who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.35 sec­onds at the NFL scout­ing com­bine was sus­pect, at best.

Ear­lier, when tight end Ver­non Davis rum­bled to the end zone with a 48-yard re­cep­tion, he hur­dled over Ron­ald Darby and then broke tackle at­tempts by An­drew Sen­dejo and Rod­ney McLeod, who ar­rived with al­leged help at the same time.

On a 22-yard com­ple­tion to McLau­rin that helped set up a field goal as time ex­pired in the first half, Darby had tight cov­er­age us­ing in­side lever­age, but McLau­rin rose up and made the play any­way.

The Ea­gles de­fense tight­ened con­sid­er­ably af­ter in­ter­mis­sion, but there were still some break­downs that likely would be costly against bet­ter teams.

On the play that Jenk­ins boasted did not count, Sid­ney Jones was spun around like a top in sin­gle cov­er­age with­out even bit­ing on the play-fake. The Ea­gles lined up on that first­down play with nine men in the box and McLeod in deep cen­ter field. But when wide re­ceiver Paul Richard­son started in mo­tion to his left to cir­cle be­hind the line of scrim­mage, McLeod came sprint­ing out of his spot to cover him in the left flat, leav­ing the mid­dle of the field free for McLau­rin to run straight past Jones, whose hips were made to look stiffer than they are be­cause he was in­de­ci­sive on which way to turn. McLau­rin had three steps on Jones by the time the ball sailed over his head, just out of range of his fin­ger­tips.

A touch­down there likely would have changed the en­tire com­plex­ion of the game.

“First game, ev­ery­body has some­thing to im­prove on, whether it’s tack­ling, cov­er­age or men­tal er­rors,” Jones said. “But that’s all fix­able. We’ve just got to go back and ex­e­cute it and come out next week and prove it.”

Jones didn’t have one play in train­ing camp as bad as that in­com­ple­tion on Sun­day, so he could be right.

Fi­nally, the Red­skins con­verted a fourth-and-12 late in the fourth quar­ter on their way to a touch­down that would en­able them to cover the 10-point spread and make those who gam­bled on the Ea­gles fu­ri­ous.

The big gain hap­pened when run­ning back Chris Thomp­son went 18 yards with a screen pass af­ter be­ing able to get out­side due to poor pur­suit an­gles by Nigel Brad­ham and Dou­glas.

“It wasn’t a great game for the de­fense,” Jones ad­mit­ted. “We’ll get it right. First-game jit­ters, first-game stuff, what­ever it is, get­ting the calls, set­tling in. We know our stan­dard, we know we have to start faster and keep that same en­ergy.”

ROB CARR/GETTY

Ver­non Davis of the Red­skins scored on this play Sun­day when he hur­dled the Ea­gles’ Ron­ald Darby, right, and broke the tackle at­tempt of An­drew Sen­dejo.

MITCHELL LEFF/GETTY

Ver­non Davis of the Red­skins runs past Ra­sul Dou­glas of the Ea­gles on his way to a touch­down in the first quar­ter on Sun­day.

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