Eagles Defensive Grades

Photo Credit: Sporting News

In an Earlier article I gave out grades to the majority of the Eagles offense. Here are my grades for the Eagles defense.

Defensive Line:

LE Connor Barwin: Grade: D+

Stats: 34 Total Tackles, 5.0 Sacks, 1 Forced Fumble

Connor Barwin had trouble making the shift from a 3-4 Outside Linebacker to a 4-3 Defensive End. He had made the adjustments but really hasn’t been the same as he was under Chip Kelly. He had a sack in the final game of the season against the Dallas Cowboys, which very well could have been his final game as a Philadelphia Eagle. He had one of the worst seasons of his career and that’s why it’s really hard to give him anything other than a D+.

DT Fletcher Cox: Grade B+

Stats: 43 Total Tackles, 6.5 Sacks, 1 Forced Fumble, 1 Fumble Recovery

A lot of Eagles fans might think I’m crazy for giving Fletcher Cox a B+ with just 6.5 sacks. There’s no question that Fletcher has underachieved after having 9.5 sacks as a 3-4 Defensive End last season and was given a lucrative contract over the offseason. But a lot of it is not his fault, NFL offenses have realized that the one person on the Eagles defensive line that they cannot let hurt them is Fletcher Cox. Cox gets double teamed by offensive lineman play after play after play. He is also still managing to be top 5 in QB hurries by a Defensive Tackle. He has under achieved but it isn’t totally his fault.

DT Bennie Logan: Grade: C+

Stats: 24 Total Tackles, 2.5 Sacks, 2 Forced Fumbles, 1 Fumble Recovery

Considering the fact that he has missed 4 games this season his numbers have been pretty good. He has never been a guy that is going to put up huge sack numbers, but when healthy he is always one of the leaders at stuffs behind the line of scrimmage. Given the fact that he hasn’t done much since he came back from injury I cant really give him anything higher than a C+

RE Brandon Graham: Grade A+

Stats: 59 Total Tackles, 5.5 sacks, 2 Forced Fumbles, 1 Fumble Recovery

Brandon Graham leads all NFL Defensive Ends with 30 QB Pressures. He is third among defensive lineman in total tackles and all though he only has 5.5 sacks he has been great at stopping the run as well. For a guy making the move from a 3-4 Outside Linebacker to a 4-3 Defensive End no one expected him to do this well. Pro Football Focus ranked him the Number 1 Defensive End in football in 2016 (and he didn’t even make the Pro Bowl).

Backups:

LE Marcus Smith III: Grade B

Stats: 16 Total Tackles, 2.5 Sacks

Coming into this season Marcus Smith was seen as possibly the biggest Philadelphia draft bust since Mike Mamula. But after making the transition from a 3-4 Outside/Middle Linebacker to a 4-3 Defensive End he played very well. His improvement earns him a B.

DT Beau Allen: Grade B

Stats: 29 Total Tackles, 0.5 Sacks, 1 Fumble Recovery

When starting Defensive Tackle Bennie Logan went down with a hamstring injury earlier in the season Allen stepped in and did a good job for the three games Logan was out. He is very good at defending the run and had a key fumble recovery against the Vikings. He was also valuable as a back-up for when Logan or Cox need a break. He gets a B.

DT Destiny Vaeao: Grade: C-

Stats: 15 Total Tackles, 2.0 Sacks, 1 Forced Fumble

Vaeao was an undrafted Free Agent who made the team after an impressive preseason. He beat out veteran Mike Martin for a roster spot. He was very good as a backup recording 2 sacks and a forced fumble with a limited role on the defensive side. He didn’t have a very good second half of the season, and that gets him a C-.

RE Vinny Curry: Grade: D+

Stats: 26 Total Tackles, 2.5 Sacks

Vinny Curry was given a lucrative 5-year contract with the Eagles after recording 14 sacks in a limited role in the past two seasons under Chip Kelly. He was projected as the starter at Right Defensive End before the season started. He did not live up to his contract in his first season. He only racked up 2.5 sacks, the same as Marcus Smith. Only difference is Marcus Smith is getting paid way less. Until he proves he’s worth the contract he gets a D+

RE Steven Means: Grade: C+

Stats: 3 Total Tackles, 1 Sack, 1 Forced Fumble

Means is in the same group as Vaeao, he was signed as an undrafted Free Agent and made the roster after an impressive preseason. He was active for the first 5 weeks of the season, but got very limited playing time. He was hurt for the next 7 weeks, but was back in action for the last several games of the season. He has not been able to do much as he is still getting used to it but his early season performance, given the little amount of playing time he got, earns him a C+.

Linebackers:

SLB Nigel Bradham: Grade B+

Stats: 98 Total Tackles, 2.0 Sack, 2 Forced Fumble, 1 Interception, 1 Fumble Recovery

Bradham was signed to a 3-year deal from the Buffalo Bills this past offseason and was one of the Eagles best defensive players. He led the team in Tackles and was very affective both in coverage, and stopping the run. He has had his fair share of off field issues but has been the best Eagles Linebacker. His off field issues are the only thing keeping him from an A.

MLB Jordan Hicks: Grade A+

Stats: 85 Total Tackles, 1.0 Sack, 5 INTs, 1 Fumble Recovery

Jordan Hicks is a BEAST! He very well could be the best thing Chip Kelly ever brought to the Eagles. After an incredible rookie season that was cut short due to injury no one quite knew what this young man had in store for us in his second season. Not only has he become one of the leaders of the defense along with Malcolm Jenkins, he is one of the Eagles biggest play makers. He finished second on the team in tackles and led the team in Interceptions. He looks to be a very important part of the Eagles defense in the future. Easy pick for an A.

WLB Mychal Kendricks: Grade: D+

Stats: 30 Tackles, 1 Fumble Recovery

This is no longer the Mychal Kendricks that we thought we had a few years back under Head Coach Chip Kelly. That was a Pro-Bowl Caliber Linebacker, what we are seeing now is not the same person. Usually one of the better blitzing linebackers in the league, Kendricks did not record a sack this season. He just has 30 tackles on the season. That is the lowest amount by an Eagles starter that isn’t on the defensive line. I wouldn’t be surprised if he is gone after the season. Grade is a D+.

Back-up LB Stephen Tulloch: Grade C

Stats: 7 Total Tackles

Tulloch is just here to mentor the young guys and provide depth. He was often found talking to Jordan Hicks on the sideline and mentoring the young defensive players at practice. He only made 7 tackles and that was with less than one eighth of the Eagles defensive snaps this season. It’s hard to critic a guy with that little playing time. He gets a C.

CB Nolan Carroll III: Grade: D+

Stats: 55 Total Tackles, 1 INT, 1 Forced Fumble, 1 Fumble Recovery

Nolan Carroll has never been a player with first round talent, even though he was selected in the first round by the Miami Dolphins back in 2009. Throughout the season he was burnt in coverage by most, if not all, receivers he covered. There are times when he gets lucky and is in the right place at the right time, but that cannot mask how bad he was this season. If it weren’t for his high tackle total for a Cornerback he would be at an F.

CB Leodis McKelvin: Grade: C

Stats: 43 Tackles, 2 Interceptions, 1 Touchdown

If it weren’t for the fact that he came up with two key interceptions in games this season he, like Nolan Carroll would have an F as well. Eagles Cornerbacks were the worst in football this season and McKelvin was not an exception. He missed three games due to injury and was always the one that gave up the big play (then again so was Carroll). In both games where he got burnt for a touchdown he would go on the record a key interception that either clinched the game for the Eagles, or got them back in it. He was burnt by Taylor Gabriel in a game against the Atlanta Falcons for a 76 yard touchdown. Later in the game he picked off Matt Ryan to seal the win for the Eagles. A few weeks later against the Washington Redskins McKelvin gave up at 80 yard touchdown to Desean Jackson. Later in the game he intercepted Kirk Cousins and returned it 29 yards for a touchdown to decrease the Eagles defecit to 2. I also wouldn’t be surprised if he was gone at the end of the season. Grade C.

FS Malcolm Jenkins: Grade: A

Stats: 69 Total Tackles, 1.0 Sacks, 3 INTs, 1 Fumble Recovery, 2 Touchdowns

The Eagles had 3 Interceptions returns for touchdowns this season. One is mentioned in the paragraph above as Leodis McKelvin had a 29-yard interception return against Kirk Cousins and the Washington Redskins. The other two were by Eagles Free Safety/ Slot Cornerback Malcolm Jenkins. A 64-yard Interception return against Kirk Cousins and the Washington Redskins in Week 6, and a 34-yard Interception return against Eli Manning and the New York Giants in Week 16. Jenkins is so versatile that he would move from his Free Safety position to play Slot Cornerback. His numbers took a hit because of the switch. The only thing that matters is that he is on the field as the captain of the defense. Easy pick for an A.

SS Rodney McLeod: Grade: B+

Stats: 79 Total Tackles, 1.0 Sacks, 3 INTs, 1 Forced Fumble

McLeod was given a 5-year contract over the offseason and paid dividends for the most part. He finished third on the team in tackles, and was tied for second in Interceptions with Malcolm Jenkins. The only thing keeping him from an A was the controversy in the Week 14 game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Head Coach Doug Pederson said during the post-game press conference that not everyone gave 100% effort in the loss. McLeod was one of the few players that was named. That is truly the only thing keeping him from an A grade.

Back-ups:

CB Jalen Mills: Grade: B-

Stats: 61 Total Tackles

Jalen Mills was drafted in the 7th round of most recent NFL draft by the Eagles, after originally believed to have had 2nd round talent. He was considered by many to be the steal of the draft. He was most likely the Eagles best corner this year and he didn’t even start. He recorded 61 tackles, which led all Cornerbacks on the roster. He also allowed one touchdown the entire season, it came in Week 15 against Steve Smith Sr and the Baltimore Ravens. He could be an Eagles starter in the future, but a few big plays here and there, and some missed tackles earns him a B-.

CB Ron Brooks: Grade B

Stats: 14 Total Tackles

Brooks went down in Week 7 against the Minnesota Vikings with a Quadricep injury that kept him out for the rest of the season. He had some key tackles and a few passes defended early in the season but it is hard to give him anything higher than a B.

SS Terrence Brooks: Grade C+

Stats: 5 Total Tackles, 1 INT, 2 Forced Fumbles

Brooks was a star on Special Teams which is where he forced both of his fumbles, but his shining moment this season was his game sealing Interception late in the 4th Quarter of the Week 16 game against the New York Giants. When a guy only records 5 tackles its hard to give him above a C but his big play ability earns him a C+.

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