Amidst the multitude of struggles that have defined the 2011 Philadelphia Eagles, the ineptitude at the safety position has emerged as a serious challenger to the linebacker corps for the honor of the biggest weakness on this team.
During the Andy Reid tenure, the linebacker corps has been an annual revolving door of incompetent player after incompetent player. After 13 years, the only linebacker Reid ever acquired that amounted to anything was Carlos Emmons.
Jeremiah Trotter was a product of Reid’s predecessor Ray Rhodes, so Reid was just lucky to have him. But other than Emmons and Trotter, the rest of the Eagles’ linebackers have been mostly players who would be lucky to play special teams for any of the NFL’s other 31 teams.
However, after watching the Eagles this season, I am noticing that the play of safeties Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman has been nothing short of horrendous. And if Jarrad Page was cut from this group, how bad must he have been?
When it comes to the secondary, most of the focus has been on the play of the Eagles’ “big three” cornerbacks: Asante Samuel, Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
While their play hasn’t exactly been stellar, the play from the safety position has been the real killer.
Since the Eagles have been running mostly zone defense this season, the safeties are more responsible for help over the top. This also includes being responsible for specific areas of the field and to take a receiver that is, in essence, being “handed off” by the cornerback.
Other times, the safeties come up for run-support. They help load the box and are often the guys that come running up with the clearest path to the runner.
In both cases, against the pass and versus the run, Kurt Coleman and Nate Allen are constantly out of position to make the play. And I mean c-o-n-s-t-a-n-t-l-y!
There have been countless times where Allen or Coleman are late getting to the ball or, even worse, nowhere near the ball because of a busted coverage.
How many times have we seen an opposing receiver wide open in the middle of the Eagles’ secondary? Far, far too many if you ask me.
When receivers are that wide open, it’s due to a lack of cohesiveness, grasp of the scheme, lack of confidence, bad coaching, and physical ability.
There is a reason why they term the position as “safety.” They are the last line of the defense and therefore are the safety net to prevent opponents from scoring.
Well, the Eagles’ safety net is apparently made out of yarn; it’s soft and falls apart at the first sign of stress.
Then, there is the aspect of missed tackles. The Eagles are the second-worst team in the NFL when it comes to tackling, according to Pro Football Focus. That is the epitome of a bad defense as tackling is the most basic of skills for defensive football players.
The entire defense has suffered from poor tacking but, because of their position, missed tackles by the safeties are the most blatant.
Coleman and Allen are consistently being shrugged off by runners with relative ease. This is mostly because they just take poor angles to the ball carrier or are completely out of position to make a solid tackle.
Then, at other times, they just flat out miss!
On Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch’s first touchdown run last night, I replayed it in slow motion several times to see exactly who was doing what on that play. If you don’t recall, it was the play in which Lynch ran into a pile and would seemingly be tackled for a one or two yard gain.
However, he never went down and came out of the pile and ran for the score. It was perhaps one of the most blatant examples of incompetent tacking you will ever see.
Two things stood out to me on the play: DE Jason Babin was completely manhandled, and, Nate Allen came running up to the pile and had a clear path to Lynch. Allen proceeded to slow down and then go to the inside of the pile just as Lynch broke to the outside.
Why Allen went to the inside, I’ll never know. But it just goes to show you that he apparently lacks any real instinct as a player. He might suffer from bad coaching but you can’t coach instinct.
However, to further illustrate that the Eagles’ safeties either suffer from bad coaching or terrible talent evaluation, rookie safety Jaiquawn Jarrett seems to be falling right in line with Allen and Coleman.
On Marshawn Lynch’s second touchdown run, Jarrett was in the game. He came in for that one play while Kurt Coleman was adjusting his equipment on the sideline.
And what did we see for that one play? A 40-yard run for a score in which Jarrett took a terrible angle in pursuit of Lynch.
Apparently, Jarrett wants to fit in with his peers and not stick out like a sore thumb. I mean, who wants to be the only guy who can tackle on defense? Talk about awkward…
I know Jarrett is just a rookie so he still has a little bit of leeway. However, if he doesn’t develop into a solid player, the Eagles will have all but wasted back-to-back second round picks on two safeties who can’t cover or tackle.
The Eagles have been inept at the safety position ever since the tandem of Brian Dawkins and Quintin Mikell was broken up following the 2008 season. They’ve attempted to address it by spending two high draft picks, though at this point the future is not looking bright.
Allen has shown flashes of skill here and there but they’ve been sparse. Coleman has had exactly one good game. Jarrett is a rookie from a college not known to produce many quality NFL starters.
Andy Reid and his brilliance has assembled a decent defensive line but negated their effectiveness with a horrible linebacker corps. Then he effectively negates having three quality cornerbacks with two terrible safeties.
It’s like Reid tried to build a Ferrari but chose to install a four-cylinder engine and hired Stevie Wonder to drive it.
Maybe a better defensive coordinator and scheme will allow Allen, Coleman and/or Jarrett to realize their true potential.
Or maybe the Eagles’ personnel department just really stinks.