Postgame View: Linebacker Play Costly For Eagles In Loss
The Eagles' linebacking corps committed an array of coverage gaffes last week, but Washington failed to capitalize. Among the few units at full strength, all six linebackers were active for the second consecutive week. However, with Alex Singleton and rookies Davion Taylor and Shaun Bradley primarily serving as third phase stalwarts, Nathan Gerry, T.J. Edwards, and Duke Riley shouldered much of the defensive snaps. Although it was initially expected that Gerry and Edwards would play the bulk of the snaps, with Riley in rotation as the third linebacker, Riley stunningly finished second behind Gerry in snaps (57).
The former LSU standout, lauded for his range and coverage acumen, performed admirably in his first extensive duty as an Eagle. Washington’s presumably lackluster rushing attack likely mitigated Edwards, the team’s top run defending linebacker. Aside from conceding a wide-open touchdown to tight end Logan Thomas, who caught four passes for 37 yards, the dynamic running back tandem of Antonio Gibson and J.D. McKissic yielded just three receptions for nine yards. On Sunday in the home opener at the Linc, the Rams had the Eagles’ linebackers on skates for much of the afternoon, taking advantage of their penchant for over-pursuing with a heavy dose of misdirection. The running back trio of Malcolm Brown, Darrell Henderson and Cam Akers combined for 26 carries for 141 yards and two touchdowns. When Rams offensive linemen weren’t climbing into the second level to conceal the undersized linebackers, quarterback Jared Goff exploited their deficiencies in coverage, tossing three touchdowns to tight end Tyler Higbee, although not all three touchdowns were at the hands of the linebackers. Higbee, who has a knack for finding the soft spot in the zone and has established an inherent rapport with Goff, often made plays as the linebackers helplessly watched from a trail position. In the fourth quarter, Goff nearly connected on a fourth touchdown. However, he overshot a streaking Henderson – who had about three steps on Riley – in the back of the end zone. The result is a unit absent of instincts, discipline, and football intellect. It appears the perpetual lack of investment in the linebacker position has finally caught up to the Eagles. They boast an assortment of marginal, complementary players who can be exploited any given week. – Andrew DiCecco (@ADiCeccoNFL) is a contributor to InsideTheBirds.com. He also writes for Pro Football Network.