Eagles 2018 First Quarter Report Card: Defense and Special Teams

A position-by-position examination of how the Eagles' defense and special team have fared four weeks into the 2018 NFL season.

Offensive grades can be found here

Defensive line 

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Outstanding
Opponents are unable to run the football against this front. The Eagles rank No. 1 in the NFL on the ground - again - and tied for second in terms of yards per attempt.

Outstanding
Fletcher Cox (14 TKL, 3 TFL, 3.0 SK, 8 QH) is off to a monster start and should best his totals from either of the last two seasons with even a mild finish. Derek Barnett is quietly becoming a star, too. The second-year end leads the team with four tackles for loss and is second to Cox with 2.5 sacks and seven quarterback hits.

Satisfactory 
Veterans Michael Bennett (3 TFL, 1.0 SK, 6 QH), Chris Long (1.0 SK, 7 QH, 1 FF) and Haloti Ngata (2 TFL, 1.0 SK, 2 QH) are solid, each playing around 50 percent of the snaps.

Needs improvement
Brandon Graham is a non-entity, particularly rushing the passer with only one quarterback hit and zero sacks. Is he healthy? Regardless, Bennett should probably see more playing time.

Grade: B+

Linebackers 

Outstanding
Only five linebackers in the league have more solo tackles than Jordan Hicks with 25. And among that group, only one bests Hicks' line of 1.5 sacks, two tackles for loss and three pass breakups.

Needs improvement 
Nigel Bradham (15 TKL, 1 TFL, 1.0 SK) isn't around the ball much since returning from a one-game suspension. He's playing fewer snaps than previous seasons, but has made little impact with those opportunities.

Grade: B+

Defensive backs

Satisfactory
The secondary is more middle-of-the-road than bad. Quarterbacks are completing 64.4 percent of passes (17th) for 7.3 yards per attempt (18th) with seven touchdowns and three interceptions for a 92.7 rating (19th).

Needs improvement
Too many big gains either over the top or stemming from poor tackling. The Eagles are tied for 10th with 14 completions of 20 yards or more and tied for eighth with three for 40-plus. That's not including multiple Jalen Mills pass interference penalties downfield, either. While Mills has earned the brunt of the criticism, the issue is secondary-wide.

Unsatisfactory
The worst play of the season thus far, without question, is Corey Graham's mental error on 4th-and-15 against the Titans. A stop there wins the game, period. The Eagles miss Rodney McLeod (10 TKL, 4 PD), who was off to a nice start.

Grade: C+

Special teams 

Satisfactory
Cameron Johnston has booted a few too many touchbacks with five, leading the league by two, but he's also third with a 44.0 net average. Directional kicking could be better, but he's really booming the ball.

Satisfactory
After struggling a bit from close range in 2017, Jake Elliott is perfect from inside 40 yards with eight extra points and six field goals. He's also missed both attempts from 40-plus, though, which is something to keep an eye on.

Unsatisfactory
Too. Many. Penalties. How many decent returns were negated by penalties? How many times was an opponents' field position aided by a flag? It's turned around somewhat, but was on the verge of becoming an epidemic the first few games.

Grade: B-

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