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Eagles' pass coverage needs re-evaluation

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Posted Nov. 18, 2011 @ 4:41 p.m. ET
By Eric Edholm

It's going to take more than hard work to make over the Eagles' broken pass coverage. New schemes and improved play might be what's needed most, but it's not clear if those will come this season.

Coordinator Juan Castillo was roasted for his approach against the Cardinals, failing to stick his top cover corners on WR Larry Fitzgerald for the duration of the game. According to media reports, and verified by PFW's count, Fitzgerald was covered by Nnamdi Asomugha on only 20 of the 46 pass routes he ran in the game.

On different occasions, he was covered by SS Jaiquawn Jarrett, who was making his first start; WLB Brian Rolle, who was replaced this week on the team's nickel unit by Keenan Clayton; and No. 4 CB Joselio Hanson. That means either the Eagles' "Big Three" corners — Asomugha, Asante Samuel and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie — aren't getting it done or Castillo is overmatched. Some say both are true.

In Oakland, Asomugha was used to covering the opponent's best receiver — left side, right side, in the slot, in motion, you name it. The Raiders played press-man coverage predominantly, and it was what he was best at. The Cardinals ran a similar scheme, though less often, with Rodgers-Cromartie. It's what the players do best: getting physical with receivers at the line.

But in Philly, they have been asked to play more off coverage and more zone. The Eagles also play their corners in one spot and don't move them to follow specific receivers. The result has been poor seasons from both.

Early in the Cardinals game, the Eagles pressed Fitzgerald with Asomugha and had success. Shockingly, they got away from it, also using Samuel on Fitzgerald in soft coverage, appearing to play for the interception. The receiver totaled five catches for 94 yards and a TD in the fourth quarter alone in the upset.

That had led many to speculate that Castillo simply doesn't have the requisite experience needed to be the defensive coordinator and that this experiment will be short-lived. Others have said that although that might be true, it's also clear that the secondary hasn't played up to snuff and that the entire defense is far too predicated on generating a pass rush to disrupt the opponent's passing game. Short of that, the results have been shockingly poor.

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