McMullen: ‘Fixing’ the Eagles’ Secondary Will Take Some Parts
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Philadelphia woke up to a dreary day Monday with the belief that the pride of the city remained Super Bowl champions in name only.
Even the eternal optimist Merrill Reese, the voice of the Eagles, was stunned after the powerful New Orleans Saints dismantled a defense that was taking applications on the back end after an already full MASH unit added Avonte Maddox, the always-injured Sidney Jones, and Rasul Douglas during a 48-7 drubbing.
The moral of the story for Doug Pederson was a simple one: don't trounce Sean Payton on the golf course if you have the foresight to know you will be down your top five cornerbacks during the next visit to the Superdome.
In hindsight, instead of green jerseys as payment for dominance on the links perhaps Pederson should have asked for mercy as Payton dialed up an Alvin Kamara go-route on 4th-and-6 to throw more salt into the Eagles' already painful wounds.
Maybe the best defense of the day came after Kamara torched Malcolm Jenkins, the ex-Saint who was overmatched on the play. Jenkins, maybe the only competent defender Philadelphia has left on the back end, unfurled his middle finger and directed at Payton, although it was more a good-natured "you got me" than anything all that devious.
"I'm a competitor. I love Sean to death. I know what type of guy and coach he is. That was more so personal between me and him," Jenkins told NBC Sports Philadelphia. "We talked after the game. It's all good. I know Sean. They're going to go for it. I was more so upset that it was on me."
Theoretically, Jenkins and the Eagles are still very much in the NFC East race with a three-game stretch against division foes starting on Sunday against the New York Giants.
The frontrunners, the 6-4 Redskins, lost much more than a game Sunday when Alex Smith suffered a Joe Theismann-like broken leg to end his season while Dallas moved a game ahead of the Birds with a win in hand, and the supposedly moribund Giants are now perilously close at just a game back.
If you want to take the glass-is-half-full approach, the overreaction to Sunday's loss is not going to play up the context that the sixth-ranked scoring defense in the NFL fell apart against the sixth-best scoring offense in NFL history because the longest-tenured CB on the roster once Douglas exited was undrafted rookie Chandon Sullivan.
Sullivan was promoted on Oct. 25 and the other options were Cre'Von LeBlanc, claimed off waivers Nov. 5, and De'Vante Bausby, promoted from the PS the day before the game.
"You put it together, you piece it together," coach Doug Pederson lamented. "We brought guys up off the practice squad this week. It's hard when you're going against a Hall of Fame player like Drew [Brees], and the weapons they have on offense. It's a difficult task."
With Ronald Darby already gone for the season with a torn ACL, Jalen Mills, typically a punching bag for the Philadelphia faithful, likely has a new-found respect and needs to be back next week for the Eagles to have any chance moving forward.
Douglas would seemingly be next in line to help after hurting his knee late against the Saints because Maddox's knee injury looked far more serious and it may be time to sound the bell on Jones and realize he's just going to have a difficult time staying on the field after another hamstring injury chased him.
The Eagles are on life support with Odell Beckham Jr., Saquon Barkley and yes, even Eli Manning licking their chops and ready to kick the plug out of the wall. Pederson can't afford to take Reese's morose tone so the coach took the only path he could.
"I walked around the locker room on the offensive and defensive side and to every man, I told them, 'Don't hang your head. Let's go,' " Pederson said. "We're obviously in a rough spot right here, but I believe in those players and believe in those coaches, and we'll get it fixed."
Perhaps that's a tangible goal when it comes to the issues on offense. In the secondary, however, you can't fix anything until you have the parts to do it.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen