Welcome back to the Eagles Film Room. As usual, Jonny Page and myself will be splitting the film room pieces into the offense and defense, and I’ll be taking the defense this week. I was very encouraged by what I saw on the defensive side of the ball on Sunday. I know the final score leaves the impression that the team gave up points, but it was a 13-13 game in the 4th quarter, and may have been different with a few personnel decisions, but I’ll dive into that later.
Before we get into the film study, let’s take a look at a few stats I charted.
- The Eagles were in a 4-3 package for 20 out of 51 plays. In those 20 plays, I had Michael Kendricks in for 19, with Najee Goode taking the other snap. The other 31 plays were all out of the nickel package.
- The Eagles blitzed against the pass four times from what I noticed, and Alex Smith went 2-of-3 for 15 yards and took a sack. I’m not going to harass Jim Schwartz for not blitzing in this game because the front four was consistently generating pressure on their own. Something else that had to factor into that was the injuries the Eagles suffered in the secondary. With Rodney McLeod and Jaylen Watkins exiting early, the Eagles couldn't afford to take guys out of coverage.
The unfortunate thing about an offense with dangerous weapons is that you have to pick which one you want to negate. It appeared the plan was to eliminate wide receiver Tyreek Hill from the game, and for the most part, the Eagles did that. They came out in a lot of Cover 1 and Cover 3 shells with one deep man. This allows a deep safety in the middle of the field for help, but also brings an extra man closer to the line of scrimmage to help out with running back Kareem Hunt.
On the play above, the Eagles come out with one deep safety, but the Chiefs notice a mismatch in Malcolm Jenkins on Travis Kelce. The receiver closest to the formation on the left runs something similar to a slant — likely a short over route — and that brings safety Rodney McLeod up to help on that receiver. Kelce does an excellent job of jabbing and producing a nice head fake to get separation to the outside.
This feels like deja vu , like I've seen this bef—
Yep, I know exactly where to find every negative Jaylen Watkins play.
It’s funny how the two most memorable Tyreek Hill plays both involved Jaylen Watkins ...
It wouldn't be fair if I didn't point out how well Rasul Douglas played in his first career game. He stepped up on third down and came up with a big pass break up. I originally thought this was dropped, but Douglas actually made a good play on the ball and got his head around. That length came in handy, but there were a few other plays where he came up and made solid tackles and click and closed pretty well.
I still don't think the Eagles trust the rookie cornerback’s speed because he was always giving his receiver 10 to 13 yards of cushion pre-snap, even when he wasn't lined up across from Tyreek Hill. The last thing I want to point out about this play is again how Schwartz is generating pressure and 1-on-1 matchups for his players. Jordan Hicks is lined up over the right guard who has to respect he might blitz. This holds the right guard and the center is pushed back into Smith’s lap by the DT who is in a 1-on-1 situation. The Eagles show a blitz, possibly Cover 0, but it’s easy to identify that’s not what they're going to do. Cover 0 would require the safety to play closer to the LOS. Again, Schwartz was creative with how he generated pressure, and didn't need to blitz.
This was a well designed play by Andy Reid. The window dressing and motions confuse the linebackers as their trying to make sure everyone is aligned right. Bradham goes really wide when the guard pulls in an attempt to eliminate and outside option. It’s ideal he stays in a little more, but i completely understand he’s not trying to give up the play to the running back who would be open in the flat. Jordan Hicks seems to hesitate and get caught on the wrong side, taking him out of position to potentially make a tackle on Kelce.
This play was the final straw that was going to end things in my opinion. Jalen Mills really slows down and losses ground when he turns his head around. I’m not sure if he has to slow down to process what’s going on, but a corner has to be able to get his head around without this happening. The throw was a good one from Alex Smith, but the issues that we talked about limiting him are still there and don't seem to be improving. Outside of this play, it was a relatively quiet day for Mills, which is good, but as I mentioned with Rasul Douglas, the Eagles were playing off coverage for majority of the day. This made them susceptible to the quick throws and screens the Chiefs employed to neutralize the pass rush at points in the game. With any luck, Sidney Jones and Ronald Darby will be on the outside playing well.
Generating a pass rush
In a clinic that Jim Schwartz participated in, he mentioned that against good offensive lines, you want to rush four. Against bad ones, you want to rush five so that way they can't help each other. The Chiefs are believed to have one of the top offensive line units in the league, but on Sunday, with four man rushes, the Eagles were able to consistently generate pressure.
On third down, all of the developing routes are to the right side of the field, crossing to the left. The lone one that crosses to the right is the one he takes that’s incomplete, and it’s ultimately rushed by pressure off the edge from Derek Barnett and Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox up the middle. I like how Schwartz is bringing pressure in creative ways. Off the edge, he has Jordan Hicks who helps to occupy the right side of the line, forcing a 1-on-1 for Cox in the middle. Credit to Malcolm Jenkins for sticking with this route and giving Smith nowhere to go with it. There were several occasion throughout the game where the secondary and front seven worked in unison well to eliminate plays.
This was unique, but ultimately it worked. The Eagles rushed Bradham and dropped their defensive tackle into coverage. Bradham trips but almost gets there, and Banrett doesn't come in wide enough to account for Smith’s athleticism. I understand the the thought process of not wanting to allow him to escape up the middle, though. The play ends in an incompletion out of bounds, but the Eagles left a few sacks on the field Sunday. The best quarterbacks in the NFC all posses this sort of escapability — Dak Prescott, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Cam Newton and even Matt Stafford to an extent. These are plays the Eagles need to finish to end drives, because when quarterbacks avoid sacks, that extends the play and allows for a higher chance of a coverage bust, similar to how Nelson Agholor capitalized on a touchdown against Washington.
In the defensive breakdown last week, I pointed out Fletcher Cox’s strip sack that he generated from the edge. Here the Eagles do something similar. Brandon Graham drops into coverage and Jordan Hicks rushes up the middle. Give credit to the back end for holding the coverage as well. They forced Smith to hold the ball and Cox was able power his way inside the defender and drop Smith for a sack. 300 pound men shouldn't be able to rush from the edge like this, but Schwartz is doing some creative things to help put his guys in the best positions to win up front, even if it isn't a blitz.
Again, look at the coverage at the top of Smith’s drop. There’s no where to go with the ball and the rush forces him to climb the pocket and he drops his eyes, trying to scramble before being sacked on the second consecutive offensive play.
This was where the game could've went either way. Fourth quarter, tied game with 7:52 remaining. The Chiefs are deep in Eagles territory, on the cusp of the redzone; it’s third down. Vinny Curry puts a swim move on the left tackle and has a free run on Alex Smith to drop him for a sack. Based on where Smith was when Curry made contact with him, he would've been dropped at the 35-yard line, forcing what would've been around a 52-yard field goal. Instead of finishing the sack, Curry misses Smith who scrambles for a first down. Two play later, the Chiefs score a touchdown, breaking a 13-13 tie. One of the narratives of this offseason was that the defensive line acquisitions would allow for more one-on-one matchups and opportunities to sack the quarterback. That’s exactly what happens here as Tim Jernigan draws the double-team in the middle, leaving Curry with his matchup. I mentioned earlier that these are plays the defense has to make, especially if they want to contend with the mobile, athletic quarterbacks that the NFC has to offer. Vinny Curry had a really good game outside of this play, but this was one of the back breakers for what was a stellar unit for most of the afternoon.
Limiting Kareem Hunt and Defending the run
Minus the big run, which I’ll explain in a moment, the defense did a good job of eliminating Kareem Hunt in the run game. I’ve been a fan of Vinny Curry and what he can do if he gets starter snaps. In the run game he was dominant on Sunday with plays like this backing that up. In what appears to be a zone run, the left guard is blown up and pushed back into Hunt’s pathway. Nigel Bradham closes off the edge and Curry disengages to close the running lane. Brandon Graham comes flying in to help finish the play off, but the defense as a whole did an excellent job of closing off running lanes.
It wouldn't be fair if I didn't mention how good Michael Kendricks was in his 19 snaps on Sunday. He produced a sack, played well in coverage and was a heat seeking missile against the run, like the play above. Kendricks takes a great angle on this and strings the play out for Jenkins to help finish on. For a guy, in Hunt, that consistently forces missed tackles, the ability to swarm him and take away running lanes was huge in the early part of this game and helped keep it a low scoring affair.
I love this play from Jernigan because the Chiefs are targeting him with the trap. The right guard pulls across the formation to try and trap Jernigan to open a running lane in the middle and Jernigan just absorbs the contact, sheds his block and makes the tackle. I tend to stay away from the cap situations, but I really hope the Eagles can find a way to re-sign. Only two games in and he's already making the impact that fans anticipated.
Another zone run from where Vinny Curry really helps to set a hard edge. I tweeted out yesterday that Brandon Graham destroying plays from the backside is becoming my favorite weekly occurrence and it happens again here. Curry sets the edge and Graham comes to finish the play.
Schwartz whole swapping the DL for a breather was questionable last year and is even more so this year https://t.co/lA5ELnksfc— tom savage better (@Southern_Philly) September 18, 2017
Dave pretty appropriately summed this up. In in this play were Chris Long, Beau Allen, Derek Barnett and Elijah Qualls. Not great. The Chiefs again pull the guard across the formation and he gets to the second level and takes Malcolm Jenkins out of the play. The defensive line flows with the offensive line and a hole big enough for four Kareem Hunts to run through open up towards the end zone. In addition to the substitutions, I’m going to shift some blame on Jordan Hicks for this. He should be shifting over more if he sees the guard pulling that way, but the deep safety should be able to come down and help make this play. I understand the first down swap to get your guys a breather on longer downs, but swapping out the entire unit leaves a huge drop-off and the Chiefs make the Eagles pay. Maybe it would've made a difference, maybe not, but that unit had been outstanding against the run all day.
That’s all I have for the defense. It got rough at the end, but I thought the defense played really well overall and I liked the wrinkles that they're throwing in. There’s no shame in losing to a team like the Chiefs in a tough away game after the way they played the Patriots the week before.
As always, if you have any questions, feel free to tweet them to me on Twitter: @TJackRH. If you saw something I didn't, I’m open to discussion on that as well. If you want to hear myself and Jonny breaks down the Eagles’ film from week-to-week, we do that on our podcast which you can find here. Make sure to keep on eye on the Wentz report that will be dropping later this week!