Philadelphia Eagles: Jordan Poyer

PHILADELPHIA -- The Eagles’ coaching and personnel staffs are in Mobile, Ala., for the Senior Bowl practices. In the past, the annual all-star game as featured many of the players the Eagles would go on to draft.

That may be changing, however.

In the 2010, 2011 and 2012 drafts, the Eagles selected 19 players who appeared in the Senior Bowl. They included Nick Foles, Brandon Boykin, Danny Watkins, Riley Cooper, Brandon Graham and Nate Allen.

Last year, though, the Eagles took just two Senior Bowlers, first-round pick Lane Johnson and seventh-round pick, Jordan Poyer. In the second and third rounds, they took tight end Zach Ertz and defensive tackle Bennie Logan, two of the record 73 underclassmen who declared for the 2013 draft.

This year, that record has been shattered again. A total of 98 underclassmen have declared themselves eligible for the 2014 draft.

There is a reason for the trend. The NFL’s newest collective bargaining agreement, carved from the lockout of 2011, was not especially kind to incoming rookies. There are limits to what teams can pay their draft picks, and players are stuck with those rookie contracts through at least the first three seasons.

That is why Foles, for example, can’t receive a contract extension until after the 2014 season, at the earliest.

For players, that means coming into the league earlier makes more financial sense in the long term. The real money is now in the second contract, even for high first-round picks. If the player can get that second contract at 25 instead of 26 or 27, that means adding a prime earning year or two to their careers.

For teams, it means adding a year or two of prime performance. Running back LeSean McCoy, for instance, turned 21 in July before his rookie season in 2009. He’s only 25 after completing his fifth season. That means the Eagles can get a full 10 years of McCoy’s best before he hits the dreaded 30 barrier.

McCoy is only two years younger than Johnson and Matt Barkley, two of the Eagles’ 2013 rookies, but he has four more seasons of NFL experience and earnings.

All 98 of the underclassmen who declared this year won’t get drafted. Using last year’s numbers – 52 or 71.2 percent of the 73 underclassmen were selected – would translate to about 70 sophomores and juniors being taken in the May draft.

That’s nearly a third of the typical draft class. The NFL isn’t at the point reached by the NBA, where seniors are suspect because most of the really elite players come out early, but it is heading in that direction.

So the Eagles will work the Senior Bowl as always. Jimmy Kempski of Philly.com noted a few of the players they seemed interested in talking with Monday, notably Nebraska cornerback Stan Jean-Baptiste. Just don’t be surprised if they don’t draw as heavily from this talent pool as they have in the past.
PHILADELPHIA -- There was a time a rookie offensive tackle would be eased into NFL action. He might even start out at guard and gradually move outside as he became more comfortable.

Of course, there was also a time a quarterback might sit for all or most of a season before becoming a starter.

That time, in the ever faster-moving NFL, is gone.

So it should be no surprise that Lane Johnson, the fourth pick in the 2013 draft, played 1,103 of a possible 1,104 offensive snaps for the Philadelphia Eagles in his first season. Johnson was given one down off to catch his breath in the first game against the Giants in October.

It still takes more than a season to evaluate a draft class, but the process is being sped up all the time. Here’s a look at Johnson and the rest of the Eagles’ rookies -- or as first-year coach Chip Kelly puckishly dubbed them, “My favorite draft class for the Philadelphia Eagles.”

Johnson
First round: Lane Johnson, offensive tackle, Oklahoma. The fourth overall pick, Johnson was one of the three offensive tackles taken at the top of the draft. He arguably had a better overall rookie season than No. 1 pick Eric Fisher (Kansas City) and No. 2 pick Luke Joeckel (Jacksonville).

Perhaps inevitably for a guy who had played quarterback and defensive end before being shifted to the offensive line in college, Johnson had some growing pains. According to Pro Football Focus, he allowed seven sacks in the first eight games of the season but just three the rest of the way. He was solid in run blocking, as well.

It’s worth noting, too, that few rookie tackles (if any) are asked to line up split wide and block on bubble screens. Johnson took everything thrown his way with a smile and a shrug. He’s got a chance to be anchored at tackle for this franchise for a decade.

Also on board: Almost everyone.

Good pick or bad pick? Very good pick.

Ertz
Second round: Zach Ertz, tight end, Stanford. Taking Ertz here, 35th overall, was an expression of GM Howie Roseman’s commitment to taking the top-graded player regardless of need. The Eagles already had signed James Casey in free agency and and had Brent Celek on the roster.

Would they have improved their overall team more by drafting cornerbacks Darius Slay or Johnthan Banks, or linebackers Manti Te’o or Kiko Alonso, or running back Giovani Bernard?

Maybe. But Ertz is going to be making plays in Kelly’s offense for years to come. He’s smart, driven and possesses excellent hands and good size (6-foot-5, 250). Like most young tight ends, he has to improve as a blocker and said he plans to spend time in the weight room in the offseason.

Also on board: Slay, Bernard, Te’o, Geno Smith and Tank Carradine were the next five players drafted. Alonso, who earned defensive rookie of the year consideration, went 11 picks later to Buffalo.

Good pick or bad pick? Good pick.

Logan
Third round: Bennie Logan, defensive tackle, LSU. The 6-foot-2, 309-pound Logan’s development allowed the Eagles to trade veteran Isaac Sopoaga at the deadline. Logan started at nose tackle the last eight games, which corresponded with the overall defense’s improvement.

Oddly, Logan had his only two sacks in the first half of the season, when he was playing limited snaps. It remains to be seen if he’s the true anchor/nose tackle of the future, but he has enough versatility to play in different fronts as needed.

Also on the board: Tyrann Mathieu, Mike Glennon, Terrance Williams, Terron Armstead, Keenan Allen.

Good pick or bad pick? Good. Best possible? A few of the guys taken right after Logan look pretty good, too.

Barkley
Fourth round: Matt Barkley, quarterback, USC. The Eagles traded up to take Barkley at the top of the fourth round. It seemed an odd move at the time -- everyone thought Kelly would prefer more mobile quarterbacks -- and is still easily debatable.

It wouldn’t be fair to read too much into Barkley’s limited playing time. He was pressed into service when Nick Foles and then Michael Vick were injured. Barkley had little practice time to draw upon. He threw four interceptions and zero touchdowns in 49 attempts.

If he’s the No. 2 quarterback here or eventually flipped to another team looking for a potential starter, he was worth the 98th pick in the draft. If he winds up starting here some day, he was a steal.

Also on board: Nico Johnson, Akeem Spence, Ace Sanders, Josh Boyce, Ryan Nassib.

Good pick or bad pick? Curious pick.

Wolff
Fifth round: Earl Wolff, safety, NC State. By this point in the draft, there’s an element of luck involved. The Eagles desperately needed safety help and took a shot on Wolff with the 136th pick. It was a good shot.

Wolff took the starting job from veteran Patrick Chung early in the season. He had his growing pains, but was starting to settle into the job when he hurt his knee Nov. 10 in Green Bay. Wolff made one brief appearance after that, aggravated the knee and didn’t play again.

Also on board: Jesse Williams, Tharold Simon, Montori Hughes, Stepfan Taylor and Oday Aboushi were the next five players taken.

Good pick or bad pick? Good pick.

Seventh round: Joe Kruger, defensive end , Utah. He spent the season on injured reserve. Should be an interesting guy to watch in training camp.

Seventh round: Jordan Poyer, cornerback, Oregon State. Poyer made the team coming out of camp, but was released when the Eagles needed to clear roster space for a running back in October. Cleveland claimed Poyer off waivers and he finished the season with the Browns.

Seventh round: David King, defensive end, Oklahoma. Released in camp.

Also on board: A bunch of guys.

Good picks or bad picks? Oh, come on.
PHILADELPHIA -- We looked at the Philadelphia Eagles' 2013 free-agent signings Thursday. Today we turn to the draft class, with the upfront acknowledgement that you can’t truly evaluate players in their first year.

It’s a little different with the veterans, since they’re meant to be plug-and-play pieces. So we’re not here to make conclusions about the draft picks, merely to assess how they’re coming along and whether we have any better idea if the selections made sense.

• First-round pick Lane Johnson (fourth overall) has played every single offensive snap, mostly at right tackle. He is the beneficiary and victim of the NFL trend toward throwing high draft picks at every position into the fire immediately. There’s hardly any such thing as easing first-round picks into the lineup.

With that in mind, Johnson has been just fine. When he makes a big mistake, it had big consequences. Plays, and teammates, get blown up. Pro Football Focus has him on the hook for seven sacks, five quarterback hits and 30 hurries. He is much stronger in the run game, which typically comes first for offensive linemen. With his size, athleticism and demeanor, you get the feeling Johnson will be a solid player for years here, and that’s ultimately what a first-round pick should be.

Good pick, bad pick: Good pick. Maybe one of the defensive linemen that went in the first half of the round would have been a good call, too, but locking down a tackle spot is vital to building any team.

• Second-round pick Zach Ertz (35 overall) may turn out to be a great player -- there’s no knock on the kid’s size, skill set or football savvy -- but he is arguably the most questionable pick the Eagles made in the 2013 draft. GM Howie Roseman’s declared approach, choosing the best player regardless of position, explains the decision to choose a tight end after the team had invested $12 million in free agent James Casey.

But was it a wise use of the third pick of the round? Chip Kelly just hasn’t used his tight ends the way we expected when the Eagles loaded up at the position. Ertz has 14 catches for 201 yards. By comparison, Washington’s third-round tight end, Jordan Reed, has 34 catches for 388 yards and two touchdowns. Is Reed a better player or is he just being utilized more often? Point is, if you’re not going to utilize the tight end, it makes sense to use such a high pick to address one of the many other needs a 4-12 team has.

Good pick, bad pick: Mystifying pick. This is a case where a guy could be a good player, but not a good pick.

• Third-round pick Bennie Logan (67 overall), a defensive tackle from LSU, hasn’t really distinguished himself yet -- although he does have two sacks. That’s OK, because the Eagles signed veteran Isaac Sopoaga to man the nose tackle position as they switched to a 3-4 scheme. With Sopoaga traded away, Logan should get more playing time and a chance to make more of an impact.

Good pick, bad pick: Good because it was the first pick dedicated to a defense in dire need of talent. Of course, if the Eagles had used that second rounder on defensive tackle Kawann Short (Carolina) or linebacker Kiko Alonso (Buffalo), they would have been free to scoop up one of the third-round wide receivers (Terrance Williams, Keenan Allen) or even defensive back Tyrann Mathieu.

• Fourth-round pick Matt Barkley (98 overall) was another curious choice. The Eagles traded up in the round to take the quarterback from USC. That wouldn’t seem out of place except that Barkley seems like an odd fit in Kelly’s offense. The explanation at the time was that Kelly didn’t need a mobile quarterback, but the coach’s subsequent choice of Michael Vick doesn’t really support that.

Barkley has been forced to play the past two weeks because of injuries. It has been eventful, to say the least. He turned the ball over on his first four possessions, an unprecedented feat, but had stretches where he got the ball out quickly and accurately. He may be able to play in this league, but he’d be much better off in a different system.

Good pick, bad pick: Again, strange pick. Nothing wrong with adding young quarterbacks at this point in the draft, but the Eagles had plenty of other holes to fill.

• Fifth-round pick Earl Wolff (136 overall) personifies the development of the Eagles' defense. He was initially meant to play occasionally as he learned, but was forced to start when veteran safety Patrick Chung injured his shoulder. Wolff still makes mistakes, but he has come a long way and continues the Eagles’ tradition of pretty solid fifth-round picks -- Trent Cole and Brent Celek come to mind.

Good pick, bad pick: Good pick. If he recedes into a backup/special teams role, Wolff already has given the Eagles more than many fifth-round picks give their teams.

• Seventh-round picks Joe Kruger (212), Jordan Poyer (218) and David King (239) are non-factors this year. Kruger, who was seen as a developmental guy, is on injured reserve. Poyer was released to create a roster spot for running back Matthew Tucker, then claimed off waivers by Cleveland. King was released at the end of training camp and is on Cincinnati’s practice squad.

Good picks, bad picks: Seventh-round picks. They are what they are.

• Undrafted rookies: Jake Knott, a linebacker, had been a regular on special teams until injuring his hamstring two weeks ago. His absence led to the signing of Emmanuel Acho, so it will be worth watching whether Knott gets his job back when he’s healthy. Tucker was on the practice squad until injuries required his elevation to the 53-man roster. He hasn’t been a factor. Defensive lineman Damion Square, inactive the past six weeks, is one of the players who could get more playing time in the wake of the Sopoaga trade. Offensive lineman Matt Tobin is a project who has been inactive all eight games.
PHILADELPHIA – The Philadelphia Eagles let two young cornerbacks go as part of the roster shuffling made necessary by injuries at other positions. Naturally, with their depth depleted at corner, they have an injured starter at that position.

Bradley Fletcher hyperextended his right knee in the first quarter of Sunday’s loss to the Dallas Cowboys. He remained in the game, but experienced swelling Monday and Tuesday and did not take part in practice Tuesday and Wednesday.

Fletcher
With the long-tossing Eli Manning and the New York Giants coming up, that could be a bad sign.

“I’ll have myself together for Sunday,” said Fletcher, who missed the second game of the season with a concussion. “I feel like I’ll be fine.”

When the Eagles and Giants played three Sundays ago, Manning tested the Eagles’ revamped secondary with plenty of deep throws. He completed a 49-yard pass to Hakeem Nicks early, and hit Rueben Randle for a 26-yard touchdown.

“I think it comes with attempts,” Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis said. “Shots on goal. They threw 11 or 12 deep on us and you're going to hit a couple. Right now, we're averaging 45 passes against us a game, and we're glad that we're keeping all these deep ones off of us. But the Giants threw a lot deep and hit a couple.”

Fletcher, Cary Williams and nickel corner Brandon Boykin give the Eagles three solid cover guys. The only backup corner on the roster right now is Roc Carmichael, a special-teamer who has played only 11 defensive snaps. Safety Patrick Chung, who missed three of the last four games with a shoulder injury, can play nickel corner if needed.

The Eagles waived rookies Jordan Poyer and Shaun Prater in the past week when injuries forced them to create roster space for running back Matthew Tucker and linebacker Emmanuel Acho. Poyer was claimed by Cleveland, Prater by Minnesota.

“All the different injuries that happen to the team affect the bottom of the roster and who is on the practice squad and who is not,” Davis said. “Each week we go into it with a plan of saying, who can step in? Who has played corner? Who hasn't played corner? We train different guys in nickel positions because you always have an issue there that you have to be on top of. So it's a moving target. Every week it changes, and this week we have a couple things we're working on.”

With Polk out, Eagles sign RB Tucker

October, 19, 2013
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PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Eagles made a minor roster tweak Saturday, adding running back Matthew Tucker to their active roster a day before their NFC East showdown with the Dallas Cowboys.

Tucker will dress in place of Chris Polk, who injured his shoulder last week in Tampa. Polk has been active for all six games, but has played mostly on special teams. He has been on the field for just nine offensive plays.

But the Eagles have only two other running backs on their roster: starter LeSean McCoy and backup Bryce Brown. Coach Chip Kelly said he didn’t want to go into a game without a third running back active.

To clear roster space, the Eagles released rookie cornerback Jordan Poyer. A seventh-round draft pick from Oregon State, Poyer was inactive last Sunday. He is the second of the Eagles’ 2013 draft picks to be released. Seventh-rounder David King was the other.

Tucker was an undrafted free agent who played college ball at TCU. He had 25 carries for 89 yards and two touchdowns in the preseason.
PHILADELPHIA -- The sign posted near the players' exit was unintentionally funny. Read one way, it was a simple reminder of a seminar scheduled for Friday: “Mandatory Rookie Success,” it read.

Read another way: Ah, if only it were that easy.

The Philadelphia Eagles have six rookies dressing for games (most weeks), but this is really only about two of them. That's because, frankly, not all positions are created equal when it comes to learning on the job in the NFL.

Defenses will cover rookie tight end Zach Ertz because he's on the field and he's eligible to catch the ball. Offenses will block nose tackle Bennie Logan when he's in because he's lined up over the center. Linebacker Jake Knott and cornerback Jordan Poyer are playing mostly on special teams.

But being a rookie means being a target for right tackle Lane Johnson and safety Earl Wolff. That's because of who they are and who they are not.

If you're a defensive coordinator, you can line up your best outside pass-rusher across from Pro Bowler Jason Peters, the left tackle, or across from Johnson, who has played four NFL games. It isn't a tough choice.

“They do flip (defensive ends and linebackers),” Johnson said. “It's just kind of the process for rookies. It's like if a quarterback sees a rookie cornerback. He might attack him.”

Same for a rookie safety like Wolff. Quarterbacks can go after veteran cornerbacks Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher or freeze Wolff with their eyes and then throw where he's supposed to be. Wolff made his first start against Peyton Manning and could make his second Sunday against Eli Manning. Even if veteran Patrick Chung (questionable, shoulder) plays, Wolff will see considerable action.

“I feel like I'll be more prepared and more ready, just knowing what happened last week,” Wolff said. “Everything I did wrong -- small things like getting leveraged on a couple plays, not being deep enough in coverage -- I've been working on all that this week.”

Wolff was supposed to be deeper on Peyton Manning's 52-yard pass to Eric Decker on Sunday. Considering deep threats Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks, that is an important area to shore up against the Giants.

“I see improvement in Earl,” coach Chip Kelly said. “But you're not, in the short amount of time since he's been here, able to put him through every single route combination, sets, recognition, all those things that a guy who has been in the league for two or three years can recognize.”

Likewise, Johnson said he has gotten better at studying film of the players he's likely to face. But there's still dealing with that player's quickness and strength in the flesh, and then there's the twists and stunts defenses do to confuse young blockers.

“I think Lane knows exactly what to do,” Kelly said, “but at times, the game has to happen just a little bit quicker for him.”

Every rookie has to go through that process. It's just that, at certain positions, opponents will apply extra pressure on rookies until they prove they can deal with it.

“You have no choice,” Johnson said. “You just have to go through it.”

Examining the special-teams breakdowns

September, 30, 2013
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PHILADELPHIA -- You know it was a rough game when the head coach resorts to comments like this the next day:

“And I think in special teams, aside from the punt block and that kickoff return, we are getting a decent job and decent effort out of those guys,” Eagles head coach Chip Kelly said.

And aside from that iceberg, the Titanic had a decent first voyage. Kelly has stressed the importance of special teams in everything from roster building to practice time allotted. So it is especially galling to have his kicking game blow up on him during a 52-20 drubbing in Denver on Sunday.

The kickoff return was a 105-yard sprint by speedster Trindon Holliday. Holliday fielded Alex Henery’s kick slightly to the Eagles’ left. Several players, including Najee Goode and Casey Matthews, drifted toward that side and got caught up in a crowd of blockers when Holliday made a decisive cut to their right.

Jeff Maehl, part of Kelly’s Oregon alumni club, had the outside edge. He was wiped out by safety Duke Ihenacho. That allowed Holliday to build up speed. Rookie cornerback Jordan Poyer ran right into a block by Steven Johnson, who body-slammed Poyer. That left Henery, who made a feeble effort as Holliday blazed by.

The punt block in the fourth quarter was simple carelessness.

“You can’t make mistakes like that,” Kelly said. “It wasn’t even a designed punt block. We had a guy trying to escape and get down the field too quick trying to cover the punt and not take care of the little things.”

The “little thing” in this case was blocking Johnson, who lined up between long-snapper Jon Dorenbos and Brandon Graham, who was at right guard. Colt Anderson was the up back on that side.

At the snap, Graham fired toward his right, allowing Johnson to run right by. Johnson grazed Dorenbos, who fired to his left to make a block. Anderson, who is likely the player Kelly described, ran downfield without noticing a defender rushing right past his spot. Johnson made the block easily, then scooped up the ball and ran it in for a touchdown.

“It's not like we put in a new scheme or something special for the Broncos game,” Kelly said. “And then you look at it, that scheme kind of backfired. It's base fundamental coverage and base fundamental protection and then coverage that we didn't get done on those two particular plays.”

Quick thoughts on Eagles' inactives

September, 29, 2013
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DENVER -- It wasn't surprising when the Philadelphia Eagles announced that safety Patrick Chung will be inactive for today's game against the Denver Broncos. Chung injured his shoulder against Kansas City and didn't practice all week. Rookie Earl Wolff will start in his place.

There was a little intrigue in the rest of the secondary. The Eagles are desperately trying to develop some depth with their young cornerbacks. Roc Carmichael, who was signed off the Texans' practice squad last week, will dress for the first time. Seventh-round pick Jordan Poyer is also in uniform. Both of them were inactive for the Chiefs game. Shaun Prater, who dressed last week, is back on the inactive list this week.

Carmichael and Poyer are likely to see most, even all, of their playing time on special teams. But there is always a chance they will be pressed into action due to injury. Poyer was forced to play against Washington and was immediately targeted by Robert Griffin III.

Offensive lineman Dennis Kelly is inactive for the fourth time. The first three weeks, he was unable to practice because he was recovering from back surgery. Kelly practiced this week, but is behind Allen Barbre, who backs up at both guard and tackle.

Matt Barkley, Matt Tobin, Damion Square and Emil Igwenagu are the other inactive Eagles.

Cornerback Champ Bailey (foot) in inactive for the Broncos. It will be interesting to see if that means Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is assigned to DeSean Jackson wherever he lines up.

With Carmichael, Eagles add depth at CB

September, 18, 2013
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PHILADELPHIA -- It is hard enough to fix a secondary in six months, as the Eagles have proven the hard way. It is impossible to fix one in the three days between Sunday's 33-30 loss to San Diego and Thursday night's matchup with Alex Smith and Dwayne Bowe of the Kansas City Chiefs.

Cornerback Roc Carmichael, signed Wednesday from the Houston Texans practice squad, isn't going to cover Bowe. He'll be inactive for this game. But the move adds to a pool of young defensive backs the Eagles hope will be able to contribute as the season goes on.

The Eagles will get starter Bradley Fletcher (concussion) back after one week. But Brandon Hughes is injured again. After breaking his hand in training camp, Hughes returned Sunday and pulled a hamstring. The Eagles placed him on short-term injured reserve to make room on the roster for Carmichael.

"We've had concerns since we got here with depth at the cornerback spot," head coach Chip Kelly said. "So that is a big concern for us overall. Didn't have Brandon in the first game, didn't have Fletch in the last game, and now Brandon's out again."

Carmichael, 25, was a fourth-round draft choice by the Texans in 2011. He played in six games last season, but was released at the end of training camp. There was a report the Eagles were interested in claiming him, but that never happened and he signed with Houston's practice squad.

He joins seventh-round pick Jordan Poyer and waiver-wire pickup Shaun Prater in development. Poyer was pressed into service in both games because of injury to other corners. He was immediately targeted for a touchdown pass by Washington's Robert Griffin III. Prater has been inactive in both games as he gets a crash course in Bill Davis' defensive playbook.

"He's coming along," Kelly said. "We picked him up after the cut down to 53, so I know those guys are working very hard with him. Shaun’s working very hard himself. So we're hoping to get a chance to get him acclimated. But it's also not fair to him to throw him in the field if he doesn't understand what we're doing and expect him to make a play on a Thursday night or Sunday and turn around and say we haven't had a chance to cover that. But Shaun's coming, and we hope to have a chance to get him involved here soon."

The Eagles have the second-worst pass defense in the NFL and were helpless against San Diego's Philip Rivers on Sunday. Over the next three weeks, they face Smith, Peyton Manning and Eli Manning.
The Philadelphia Eagles will be without starting cornerback Bradley Fletcher (concussion) for Sunday’s game against the San Diego Chargers.

That raises a couple of issues.

The most obvious is how defensive coordinator Bill Davis replaces Fletcher. He can move nickel corner Brandon Boykin outside and likely will much of the time. But that could mean putting the 5-foot-9 Boykin on the 6-5 Malcom Floyd while also weakening the Eagles in the slot.

“I get this so much,” Boykin said. “Regardless of what your height is, you have to go out and get it done. Every week, I’m going to face people that are taller than me. They switch their guys up. I might have to go against Antonio Gates, their tight end. That’s not a challenge to me. I’m ready for it. I demand greatness from myself when the ball is in the air.”

Davis said Wednesday the Eagles would “practice it a couple different ways, but that would be our first move, probably.”

The other options are problematic. Brandon Hughes practiced this week, but he has been sidelined for nearly three weeks with a broken hand. Rookie Jordan Poyer has shown promise, but he was immediately targeted for a Robert Griffin III touchdown pass when he came in Monday night. Shaun Prater has been with the team only two weeks and was inactive Monday.

“All the guys that we just picked up are doing a great job of studying,” Davis said, which suggests Prater isn’t ready to play yet.

That brings us to the other issue. It is almost unfair to compare this year’s defense to last year’s. It is an entirely new scheme with new starters at six positions. So it probably wouldn’t mean much that Philip Rivers is exactly the kind of quarterback that destroyed the Eagles the past couple of years -- smart, accurate, able to spot the weak link and exploit it.

Passer ratings against the Eagles last year looked like IQ scores at a Mensa meeting: Griffin (158.3), Tony Romo (150.5), Matt Ryan (137.4), Eli Manning (134.5), Drew Brees (137.4).

Take a starting corner out and those problems seem more likely to carry over into this game. The Eagles defense was impressive in the first half against Griffin, but he completed 25 of 38 passes for 276 yards (93.8 rating) in the second half.

Davis moves his corners around as needed, so he could try to get the 6-1 Cary Williams on Floyd and Boykin on the 5-10 Eddie Royal. Hughes (5-11) and Poyer (6-0) are likely to play based on their effectiveness.

Eagles defense makes encouraging debut

September, 10, 2013
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LANDOVER, Md. – Bill Davis made a remarkable admission last week, as he prepared the Philadelphia Eagles defense for Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris.

“I don’t know what’s coming,” Davis said.

He meant that he couldn’t really gauge the state of his squad until he saw it against a real NFL offense with a real game plan.

It's a good starting point for us. They executed the plan. I won't say it was a surprise, but it was nice to see that against a great offensive team.

-- Bill Davis, Eagles defensive coordinator
After one quarter, in which the Eagles created two turnovers and a safety, Davis might have thought he had the 2000 Baltimore Ravens on his hands. After a full game, a 33-27 victory at Washington, he knows there is work to be done, but he can still feel encouraged.

“It’s a good starting point for us,” Davis said. “They executed the plan. I won’t say it was a surprise, but it was nice to see that against a great offensive team. It was a fun night and the guys did a great job.”

Trent Cole, the veteran defensive end transitioning to outside linebacker, forced a Morris fumble on Washington’s second play from scrimmage. Cole lined up with his hand on the ground at times, as an OLB at other, but had consistent pressure on Griffin.

Cary Williams, the ornery cornerback known more for scuffling in practice, made a great diving interception. He sacked Griffin on a blitz from the slot. And, in maybe the biggest play of all, he broke up a fourth-quarter, fourth-down pass that temporarily derailed Washington’s comeback.

Second-year linebacker Mychal Kendricks, who recovered Morris’ fumble, had a team-high 10 tackles. He and DeMeco Ryans handled the middle as Morris was held to just 45 rushing yards on 12 carries.

Those were the positive highlights. In the second half, Griffin led his team to 20 unanswered points. Williams was sidelined with cramps for part of that, allowing Griffin to pick on rookie cornerback Jordan Poyer for one touchdown.

“The game changed,” Davis said. “I probably pressured a little bit more than I should have. The second-to-last score was on a couple of multiple pressures back-to-back. I wanted to let them know that we aren’t going to sit back and play prevent, and I got burned on it. Sometimes that happens. They made some plays and we played a little softer.”

That was another encouraging sign: Davis was as willing to explain what went wrong as what went right.

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