Well... that was disappointing. I think most of you guessed from my Bucs offense preview last week that I expected us to lose but I really thought the offense would put up more of a fight.
Just a quick heads up, this is not an article about the Eagles long term or individual players, we have all offseason to do that. This is just going to focus on the Bucs game, so let’s get to the film!
Without being too critical of everyone on the offense, this felt the case of the entire offense (players and coaches) just being overwhelmed by a really good defense. From the very start of the game the offense just felt off. It felt like the Eagles started chasing the game really early on and I never really had any confidence at all in the offense after the first couple of drives. So what went wrong?
The Eagles seemed determined to run the ball early on and they just couldn’t get the running backs going. There were a lot of occasions when the Bucs played single-high and had everyone close to the line of scrimmage, yet the Eagles still chose to run. I think this type of offense will struggle against good defenses with fast, aggressive linebackers and the Eagles simply need more talent on the outside to throw against defenses on early downs and force the opposing defense back. Also, I felt the Eagles made a lot of basic mental errors in the running game and they didn’t play like the dominant run team we have seen previously. The occasion seemed to get to them.
Eagles All22 offense thread v. Bucs. This one could hurt... You knew it was going to be a bad one after this. Look how close to the LOS the Bucs are. That safety is 10 yards deep! Basically daring the Eagles to throw on 3rd down against obvious single coverage on the outside. pic.twitter.com/QNCE2oUHBt— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 18, 2022
I think everyone live thought Jalen Hurts missed one here and I would have to agree. None of us know exactly what Hurts is looking at or what he is coached to do but it looks to me like the first read is Dallas Goedert on the out and then the second read is the deep over from Watkins. I would imagine Hurts is coached to look at the deep half safety and if he comes down on Goedert, throw it over his head to Watkins, and if he covers Watkins deep route then throw it to Goedert on the out. Just isolate the deep safety and he can’t be right. For whatever reason, Hurts doesn’t make the throw, bails from an empty pocket and nearly gets picked. He has to get more aggressive at make these throws to get to that next level.
I think Hurts has to throw this to Watkins and this is a bad read. Clear 2 high man w/ Goedert running out and Watkins on the deep over. I would assume Hurts is told to read the deep left safety & if he comes down on Goedert throw it over him. For some reason he doesn't! pic.twitter.com/9sunDDXHAo— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 18, 2022
Miles Sanders still has a lot of snaps that make me wish he had a bit more patience and better vision when the blocking isn’t perfect. I was really surprised that Jordan Howard got no carries this game as I would have liked to see some early down runs with him to try and keep the offense and schedule but, they decided to go a different route. I bet if the game was closer we would have seen Howard more.
Eagles really tried to commit to the run early & got nothing going except designed QB runs. I would have liked to see some more Jordan Howard at times to try to stay on schedule. Also, Sanders needs to be more patient here and cut this backside - a late gap opens up. pic.twitter.com/CGfgdvuiXN— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 18, 2022
The Eagles offense was completely outmatched on 3rd down in this game. Todd Bowles cooked Hurts with a lot of complex blitzes that brought pressure from a variety of different places and Hurts kept dropping his eyes and was clearly rattled by the pressure early on. The inability to run the ball on early downs led to way too many 3rd and longs.
Bowles with a blitz. I wish the Eagles had more obvious hot routes against blitzes but if Hurts does stand tall in the pocket here Goedert comes open before Hurts is pressured. Hurts really did not look comfortable against this D and he dropped his eyes big time. pic.twitter.com/lS5cgmrqeI— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 18, 2022
Let’s talk DeVonta Smith. I read this on Twitter earlier and I just thought... YES. The Eagles call ‘plays’ based on the scheme but rarely ever just feed the ball to Smith. He was one on one a lot in this game and the Eagles basically never went to him.
Troy Aikman on @dfwticket on Cowboys WR CeeDee Lamb only having one catch vs. the 49ers: pic.twitter.com/sdIZD8dmpx— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) January 19, 2022
I would love this team to move around DeVonta Smith and get him away from press man coverage at times too. Smith is obviously a great talent and consistently beats man coverage but he did struggle at times this game and the Eagles did not do enough to get him involved. Yes, he is a very good ‘X’ receiver, but he can play in the backfield, in the slot, in motion. Just get the ball in this guys hands more because he’s too talented to only get a few catches each week. Next year there needs to be a real effort to scheme plays to this guy and get him 10 targets a week, minimum.
Just being honest... Smith struggled at times with close press man coverage this game. I LOVE Smith but the Eagles coaching staff need to use him in different ways. Get him in stacks, in the slot, in motion... He had to face a lot of press man this game and it was a tough matchup pic.twitter.com/ycmslnt3Pm— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 18, 2022
Just another example... Would have loved to have been more creative with Smith. He needs to be more involved and there's no shame at all in moving him around and getting off close press man. pic.twitter.com/6SIdNlisP7— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 18, 2022
The best plays the Eagles ran all game were designed QB runs. Hurts couldn’t scramble on passing plays as the Bucs basically left Devin White as a spy on him for most of the game and White is about as athletic as they come at the linebacker position. However, the Eagles did have success with designed QB runs and to be honest, I would have loved the Eagles to keep doing this and forcing the Bucs to stop them (or start layering some simple short throws off similar looks) but once they fell behind they sort of lost their way. This is a lovely pin-pull play and Landon Dickerson and Jordan Maliata make lovely blocks on the move as always.
Eagles best success was easily on designed QB runs. They caught the defense off guard and I would have loved to have tried to build more quick throws out of similar looks. I would have ran more of these as the Bucs didn't really stop them. pic.twitter.com/kqdrYzpTME— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 18, 2022
These stupid screens/short throws annoyed me this game. I get it, it’s just an extension of the run game. I get it, the Bucs were loading up the box. But this just feels like too ‘college’ against a proper NFL defense. It’s too basic and too easy to stop. There was at least 3 or 4 plays where they did something similar and every time it felt like a completely wasted play (except one later...).
These plays in my opinion are symbolic of the Eagles struggles on offense in general. I couldn’t help but have a feeling that the offense had the training wheels on this game. There were so many just short throws to the LOS that never had a chance to get any good yardage against a defense that is this fast, especially at linebacker. It just felt as if they were worried about Hurts dropping back against a Bowles defense which, whilst I understand, I do think you need to be more aggressive and trust him to do it. I don’t think this offense designed the way it is currently will ever be good enough to win serious playoff games. You can’t just run over elite teams and you will have to be more expansive in the passing game moving forward.
There were just way, way too many basic plays like this. So many short throws that had no chance against a fast defense like the Bucs. It was like an offense with its training wheels on. In the playoffs, I think you have to trust Hurts and do a bit more. Frustrating. pic.twitter.com/EgppDXzuTd— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 18, 2022
Another play I just think... Why? What's the goal? This defense (linebackers in particular) are way too quick for this stuff. There was at least 4 short throws like this and it gained good yardage once (because of Smith) and I just think it was such a basic passing attack. pic.twitter.com/XZ5sLBcOYf— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 18, 2022
Hurts best throws as usual were intermediate outside the number throws to Goedert who is simply awesome.
Goedert is so so good against man coverage. Developed into an elite TE and Hurts seems to trust him to win consistently. I'm expecting him to have a huge year next year. pic.twitter.com/zw02eP8kpE— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 18, 2022
Next big, big step for Hurts: throwing with anticipation. These type of throws are on but he needs to release the ball earlier, especially without having an elite arm. If you watched Justin Herbert absolutely destroyed the Raiders defense in Week 18, nearly every comeback was a laser and it was thrown before the receiver was out of his break. Hurts has to get better in this area in order to make the next step. Whether he can do this or not, probably determines his ceiling as a franchise quarterback.
I would never throw to Reagor on 4th down on a comeback as he rarely ever comes back to the ball... But Hurts need to just be a beat faster. Gotta throw this ball with more anticipation because Reagor is open if this ball is there just a second earlier. pic.twitter.com/5c6jiqNjM8— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 18, 2022
Throwing with anticipation will also help open up the Eagles passing game over the middle of the field which is harder to do. One thing that this offense simply must do next year is attack the middle of the field more. Bowles is an elite DC and you could see on tape how often the Bucs crowded the sideline and dared the Eagles to throw it inside. It is obvious at this point that Hurts’ best throws are intermediate throws to the outside and teams will start to take this away in the future which should open some opportunities to the middle of the field and the Eagles need to try and take advantage of this. The offense just cannot keep eliminating 1⁄3 of the field due to the quarterback next year and Hurts needs to work on this.
Great example of the Bucs taking away the outside. The Eagles passing game (largely due to its QB) just ignores the middle 1/3 of the field consistently. Defenses know this. Just a rare bad turnover by Hurts where he panics and sort of collapses in the pocket. pic.twitter.com/TLlvPFzgtJ— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 18, 2022
However, Hurts did hang in the pocket and make a few big throws this game. I really like how he completes this with White charging at him.
Can see here how good Bucs defense is at taking away routes but heck of a play out of structure here by Hurts. Big boy throw with Devin White literally charging at him at lightening speed. pic.twitter.com/M2mE6cwbZC— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 18, 2022
Despite moaning about the silly short throws earlier on, this one did actually work! I don’t think schematically it worked as the defense swarmed to the ball quickly but Smith just made an elite play with the ball in his hands. Give him the ball more!
Let's end on a high... Another play I think the Bucs actually shut down due to their team speed BUT this time they throw it to their best playmaker and guess what - he makes a play! Get him more involved!!! pic.twitter.com/VIB8KTxvfR— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 18, 2022
Lets just get this out the way early on - I thought this was a really good game plan by Jonathan Gannon and the defense played pretty well. There. I said it. The Bucs are an elite offense and they scored 17 points on their first 7 drives... I think that is pretty decent when you consider that the Eagles defense is clearly not that talented and it has some major weaknesses.
Despite what I just said, the first drive was bad. The Eagles just sat in cover 4 zone basically and the Bucs went with a quick tempo and it was almost like the Eagles couldn’t adjust. It was just short completion after completion after completion. However, without a rubbish roughing the passer call, maybe the drive would have stalled earlier. We all know that Gannon is a safety first DC who doesn’t want to give up big plays and I think he was too passive early on.
Eagles all22 defense thread v. Bucs - let's go. We all know the first drive was too passive on the back end. On 3rd and 2, dropping this deep in zone coverage is just basically giving up a first down. I feel like the Bucs tempo really stopped the Eagles from making any changes. pic.twitter.com/QQhN3iVtn3— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 19, 2022
This passive defense did not last long though. The Eagles got surprisingly very man aggressive after the first couple of drives. There was a lot of single-high press man coverage. I wrote last week that this is what the Saints did and I worried that we wouldn’t do it... but we certainly tried and had some success. They don’t have as good personnel as the Saints though.
However, the Eagles mixed it up immediately after the 1st drive. We saw press man coverage with safety rotation. Epps on Gronk and Slay on Evans. Nelson can get in trouble here as you can see and Brady is so quick to eliminate what isn't there and get to his 2nd read. pic.twitter.com/h7pyL01bSx— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 19, 2022
Just a personal opinion (which goes against what most people think about the Eagles not being aggressive enough) but I actually didn’t like the Eagles rushing 5 in this game. It just never seemed to work and Brady got the ball out too quickly. I would have rather had the extra man in coverage. Especially when Harris was on Gronk as he couldn’t really cope with him.
Gronk was always going to be a tough matchup and when the Eagles went man then he won a fair few times, here he beats Harris. I was surprised how often the Eagles rushed 5 on this game... It was more aggressive than I thought live. Too often Brady just got it out immediately. pic.twitter.com/XAUApLYzUn— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 19, 2022
The Eagles made the decision not to move Slay into the slot to cover Evans in man coverage (which I understand - we haven’t seen Slay inside much and Maddox struggled on the outside last year) but that decision cost them a number of times on the day. I highlighted this being a big matchup problem last week too.
Evans in the slot was a nightmare for the Eagles. Maddox has had an awesome year but Evans is too good for him to deal with in single coverage, especially single-high with no real safety help to the outside. Saw a lot of cover 1 hole with a LB taking away short stuff underneath. pic.twitter.com/IB25qRN0s9— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 19, 2022
The Eagles really did throw a lot at Brady this week. We saw 5 man rushes with Cox standing up. We saw a variety of cover 1 coverages (cover 1 robber with safety roaming or cover 1 hole with a linebacker roaming mainly) with a lot of last second safety rotation. I don’t think I saw Brady get fooled once. He was locked in.
Its a tough job as a DC against the Bucs when your best CB also gets beat by the opposing teams WR1. Didn't happen often (Slay played well) but you can't just put Slay on Evans and assume everything is fine. They are a really good offense. Again, cover 1 w/ late safety rotation. pic.twitter.com/t0AFVXbCQ9— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 19, 2022
After the first few drives the Eagles had a few really good ones on defense. We saw them stop the run early on then come after Brady on 3rd down with quite a lot of success. Look at all this press man coverage with Evans and Gronk bracketed! Lovely, lovely stuff. I don’t know what the numbers say but I would guess this was the most press man the Eagles have played all season long.
Love this in the RZ. Eagles had the Bucs number on 3rd down after the first couple of drives. Man coverage, Slay on Evans, Epps on Gronk, bracket both of them and leave everyone in single coverage. Then hope your front 4 win... Barnett and Hargrave did! Good team defense. pic.twitter.com/CiLAv6YOiE— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 19, 2022
I thought the defensive line done a decent job, especially on 3rd down. Fletcher Cox played really well as he normally does and Kerrigan took advantage of some backup offensive tackles to ensure he gets a contract from someone next year... smart man! Maddox battled with Evans all game and did have some success.
Again, cover 1 robber w/ late safety rotation. The Eagles studied the Saints game! Maddox deals with Evans well & does a good job funneling him to the inside defenders. Singleton never looks comfortable in man but surprisingly the Bucs didn't attack him much and he played well. pic.twitter.com/muro4a4JRz— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 19, 2022
The Eagles trusted Marcus Epps in man coverage on Gronk more than anyone else and I thought he did a very good job all game. It is a hard matchup and they played him very well. Remember last week I wrote extensively about Gronk on seam routes... well he didn’t get any this game! So you have to give credit to the defense for taking away those plays.
Man coverage single high again! Great job showing blitz, Cox ruins the RG and Kerrigan does the backup RT. Eagles trusted their CBs a lot and for the most part I thought the defense held up really well after the first drive. Epps in particular impressed me against Gronk. pic.twitter.com/GDttwqXz1B— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 19, 2022
When you go man coverage a lot, you have to accept that this will happen and sometimes the offense will get the matchup they want.
Once again, Evans in the slot was a bad bad matchup for the Eagles. With Slay on that side I'm surprised they didn't let him travel with Evans but we haven't seen Slay in the slot very often. Still, this felt too easy once the Eagles started playing more man. pic.twitter.com/bXNQtsTCoJ— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 19, 2022
This touchdown felt too easy and it came right after the Hurts interception and you defense did feel deflated by this point. This was too easy but credit the Bucs coaching staff for once again getting Evans in a good matchup and taking advantage of it.
Didn't see much of this in the second half but this was the bad Eagles zone I don't like. No contact on Evans at LOS. Ends up with Evans on McLeod basically as Harris gets caught up with eyes in the backfield and Brady will spot this 100 times out of 100. Sadly, too easy. pic.twitter.com/rBTvEiWM4R— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 19, 2022
Thank you for checking out all the breakdowns this season! I am not going anywhere and I should still have weekly articles breaking down a number of different things. Thanks for all the lovely comments and if you have anything you would like to me look at, please let me know on Twitter @JonnyPage9 or in the comments and I will see what I can do. Until next time...