Last Thursday was a tough day for two former Patriots players, Ellis Hobbs and Asante Samuel. Both , now playing for the Philadelphia Eagles, allowed Indianapolis Colts receivers to catch touchdown passes in Thursday night's preseason game.
Samuel signed a 6-year $54 million deal with the Eagles in 2008 after spending his first five seasons in Foxboro as part of the Patriots Super Bowl teams. The former fourth round pick by New England cashed in via free agency with his deal. Ellis Hobbs was traded to the Eagles on Draft weekend for a pair of Fifth round draft picks. What the Eagles thought they were getting with Hobbs and Samuel were former Super Bowl starters worthy of being top corners. What they're finding out about their new cornerbacks is something slightly different.
On Thursday, Peyton Manning carved up the Eagles secondary much the same way Tom Brady was able to in the Eagles' first preseason game. On one play Colts WR Reggie Wayne ran by cornerback Ellis Hobbs who let him go without maintaining underneath coverage. Hobbs thought he handed the WR off to the safety Quintin Demps, instead Wayne was wide open for an easy score.
|Asante Samuel the $54 million solution? (getty images)|
"There was a little problem on that one, obviously," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "We can learn from that one. The corner and the safety have to work together along with the linebacker."
The defense was designed for Hobbs to hand the receiver over to Demps or the linebacker, but a breakdown in communication, combined with Hobbs' decision to look into the backfield instead of checking that his teammate had the coverage, led to the mishap.
Hobbs' mistake only magnified an earlier one by Samuel who allowed Anthony Gonzales to get past him for the Colts first TD reception.
With Brady's two TD performance in Week One, and Manning's pair in Week Two, the Eagles have shown vulnerability to the pass. Hobbs, and his former Patriot teammate were supposed to address that problem. For Philadelphia the concerns of their revamped secondary could derail an otherwise promising season if they can't fix the lapses in coverage.
"Any time you go against an offense like the Colts', it's going to be a challenge," Demps told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "I'm pretty sure this was a wake-up call."
Hobbs needs no wake-up calls. His came in the Patriots loss to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII. The former third round Draft pick out of Iowa State allowed the game winning score when he let Giants WR Plaxico Burress get open in the corner of the end zone. Even with his supereior level of self-confidence Hobbs must realize his play could be trouble. Though he didn't comment on the mistake after the game, Hobbs' teammates did.
"That was terrible," Eagles safety Quintin Mikell told the Courier Post. "That's not Eagle defense and that's not what we do around here. Whenever you come out against a team like the Colts with a good offense, you have to be ready to go. We didn't come out ready."
Philadelphia is still trying to find a new identity on defense after losing long time coordinator Jim Johnson to cancer. Though he was in Philadelphia for only 10 years, Johnson's defensive philosophy garnered plenty of praise for being among the top 5 teams in sacks, third-down efficiency, Red zone scoring and Points per game. His replacement, Sean McDemott has big shoes to fill.
Hobbs and Samuel are part of the McDermott defense which is projected to help propel Philadelphia into the Super Bowl. McDermott, who took the reigns for the late Jim Johnson, is expected to keep Johnson's aggressive style. It is a style that places a high demand for man coverage when blitzes are called. With the plays they've had so far in the preseason, the Eagles may have more to worry about than their new defensive coordinator and his scheme. Though Vegas has Philadelphia at 11/1 odds to win the Super Bowl, if the secondary can't stop receivers from streaking downfield, the smart bet might be to pick another contender.
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