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Eagles All-22 Film Review: Observations from the playoff loss to the Bucs

A closer look at Jalen Hurts, DeVonta Smith, Jonathan Gannon’s defense, and much more.

NFC Wild Card Playoffs - Philadelphia Eagles v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

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!

OFFENSE

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Hurts best throws as usual were intermediate outside the number throws to Goedert who is simply awesome.

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.

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 13 of the field due to the quarterback next year and Hurts needs to work on this.

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.

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!

DEFENSE

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

FINAL WORD

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...