The Eagles won another game! This was a game of two halves so plenty of positives and negatives. Let’s get to it.
This was easily one of Jalen Hurts best performances as an NFL QB. He just made good decisions, read the defense well, processed things pretty quickly and was very accurate. This was a game where Hurts had to put the team on the back a little bit as the run game struggled to get going early on (more on that later!).
I do this in chronological order so I am going to start with an out of structure play by Hurts but this actually isn’t the stuff that impressed me the most. Anyway, you simply can’t coach plays like these. There are a handful of QBs in the NFL who can make plays like this on 3rd and long. It also highlights why so few teams play man coverage against the Eagles because Hurts can just do this when defenders have their backs turned. This means the Eagles often get pretty predictable coverages which helps Nick Sirianni to call good plays against zone coverage. This is just a crazy athletic play.
Some of Hurts' out of structure plays were so good. Big 3rd and long here. Reads a Hi-Lo to his left but nothing is open against tight man coverage so just picks it up himself. Risky strategy to bring 5 with man coverage against Hurts because he has the ability to do this. pic.twitter.com/RVKy52KnrQ— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 4, 2022
Not a negative necessarily, but I think for the Eagles offense to get to the next level, they need to start taking advantage of how much MFC (middle field closed, single-high, whatever you want to call it) that they get. Washington actually played more 2-high than most teams do against the Eagles, but the Eagles get a lot of single-high coverage due to teams wanting an extra man in the box against the Eagles run game. This means explosive plays have a chance outside the numbers and the whole offense (not just Hurts, I think DeVonta Smith ever so slightly gets redirected here and slows down) needs to improve this, especially if they want to be taken seriously as an actual playoff contender this year. This is the next step for the offense and Hurts.
With how good Hurts' is in the run game, next step for him and the whole offense has to be hitting more explosive plays outside the numbers when they get the chance to do so v. MFC like here. Only just misses and Smith does get slowed down slightly too. pic.twitter.com/AYi59gEosJ— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 4, 2022
Sirianni ran a lot of 3 level concepts as always this week and Hurts read it well as he normally does. I love this throw. When Hurts reads the coverage correctly and isn’t surprised by anything post-snap, he is one of the coolest and calmest QBs when facing pressure. He shows no fear here, stands up and delivers a strike on time and accurately. Personally, this is the stuff that gets me more optimistic about Hurts as I know he makes freaky plays out of structure but these accurate on time throws was not something I was ever sure he would be able to do consistently well but, he is doing it pretty well right now. It looks like Goedert is his 3rd read here as it looks like he is reading the Hi-Lo 1/2 in the middle of the field first and then works his eyes and feet to the right but who knows, just because he looks at it doesn’t mean it is first in his progression! But if it is his 3rd read then this is even better.
This is a beauty. Washington ran a lot of MFO (or 2 high) so Eagles tried this Hi-Lo on the outside a lot. Hurts fits this one perfectly into Goedert. When Hurts gets the right route/coverage he is very calm in the pocket. Stands tall with pressure up the middle here. Great job. pic.twitter.com/aX2pZ15A0Q— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 4, 2022
Speaking of freaky out of structure throws... what more can you say about this play? Just enjoy it. After having some debates last week in the comments about Hurts arm strength - this is a play that impressed me too as this is not an easy throw to make across your body. Whether or not I was looking at it closer this week due to discussions last week, I was more impressed with Hurts arm talent this week than I have been in the past. He made 3/4 really nice off platform throws where he had enough juice to get the ball where it needed to go and some of them surprised me to be honest!
Even better on the All22. Wants to throw but nothing open on the two curls. Doesn't panic. Extends the play and releases an absolute beauty for the first down. Not an easy throw to make while running to your right across your body. Big time throw! pic.twitter.com/qy93msrDbF— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 4, 2022
It may be slightly unusual to show an incompletion and compliment Hurts’ accuracy but I thought this was another super accurate ball. He is very accurate in the intermediate level outside the numbers or on out breaking routes. Sirianni builds a lot of these routes into the offense which is good coaching.
Hurts accuracy was really good this week. This isn't completed due to great coverage on Smith who cant get open but Hurts still delivers a really good ball. If he throws this slightly behind then it's getting picked off. Shows the confidence he has to deliver into a tight window. pic.twitter.com/JG5CV0HJXE— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 4, 2022
Another really clean throw, good timing, reads the coverage well, perfect accuracy. Again, this is the stuff that makes me more optimistic on Hurts future than the crazy outside of structure stuff as there is a limit to how successful you can be if you rely on these types of throws too much (think Carson Wentz...).
Just a really professional performance from Hurts as a pocket passer. It's easy to get excited by the wow plays but this is just as important imo. Read 1on1 with your best WR, hit your back foot, deliver a perfect strike on time for the first down. Just good simple QB play. pic.twitter.com/oIjcZVX4sO— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 4, 2022
Technically, I would argue he probably shouldn’t lock onto Dallas Goedert here and his lack of field vision means he misses a wide open DeVonta Smith but... he makes a great throw and completes an off platform throw while facing pressure. Every QB misses some reads, it happens, lets not nit-pick too much!
Another throw that shows progress. Yes, he does miss Smith underneath as he's locked onto Goedert BUT rather than roll to his right when he feels pressure (remember he used to do that a lot) he keeps his eyes downfield and manages to deliver a strike off balance. pic.twitter.com/5RdWfedpE5— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 4, 2022
This was a really interesting game to study in terms of running the ball. Before we get into the scheme part, can we just appreciate that ‘talent > scheme’ sometimes... not much you can do as a defense schematically here when a quarterback turns a bad play into a 6 yard gain!
Eagles All22 Offense v. Washington thread. When discussing the Eagles run game, despite how good the OL has been, you cannot remove the importance of Hurts' mobility. Washington plays this perfectly, gets a LB 1on1 with the QB, and Hurts just eases past him for a 6 yard gain. pic.twitter.com/kSFQzMShZc— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 4, 2022
So, onto the running game. The Eagles started out with a lot of heavy personnel (2 or 3 tight ends) and ran a lot of inside stuff with the TE’s being heavily involved (split-zone was used a lot) and the Eagles could not move the Washington defensive line. Jonathan Allen was constantly in the backfield and it was a real struggle to run the ball. I think Sirianni continued to run the same stuff that has worked recently and Washington were too good to move and the run game struggled. Personally, I think Sirianni was too slow to change as the first few drives told a similar story. Some examples below.
Was very impressed with Washington's run D early on. Eagles went heavy a lot on 1st 2 drives but they struggled to move the DL. 3 TEs here (Wash still played 2High interestingly) but asking a TE to block Jonathan Allen is near impossible. Allen wrecked a few early runs. pic.twitter.com/3YFqY8FU8m— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 4, 2022
Tactically, I think Sirianni got it wrong early on with the run game. The Eagles ran a lot of split-zone and Stoll (who has been great this year) could not block the Wash DL. Allen was barely ever moved either, he played a big role in the Eagles struggles early on. pic.twitter.com/FXeeRw7ADK— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 4, 2022
However, what we saw later on was the Eagles stop running from heavy personnel and start to spread Washington out with a lot more 11 personnel. They also stopped charging up the middle and started running some outside zone where they could avoid Washington’s interior line (mainly Jonathan Allen!). When the Eagles made this change, they had much more success and whilst I am glad that Sirianni made this change, it would be nicer if he made the change slightly earlier to help the Eagles in the first half.
Boston Scott deserves a shout-out. What a role player he is. Tough and physical competitor. Eagles stopped going as heavy after the first 2 drives and we saw some more outside runs to get away from the Washington interior line. Nice little adjustment from Sirianni which helped. pic.twitter.com/BVXYuuZ1hd— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 4, 2022
Again, another example of more outside runs from 11 personnel rather than running inside against Washington's front as they started the game by doing. Sirianni continues to impress me with his in-game changes. pic.twitter.com/PxgdNUjeUj— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 4, 2022
This was such a disappointing game from my point of view. I have defended Jonathan Gannon a lot and have been really happy with the improvement of the defense in recent weeks and I have outlined here how the Eagles have changed the way they have played and been a lot more aggressive on defense. For whatever reason, this was back to the bad, passive, 2-high on every snap, no disguise, zone coverage that I really disliked at the start of the season. I would say something around 80% of the snaps in this game were 2-high zone. There were obviously reasons why but I didn’t like it. Lets get into what I saw.
Beginning with a positive... Josh Sweat was a beast this game. He was great against the run and had a few great rushes too. He’s been excellent the past few weeks and is playing at a pretty elite level right now. He’s an all round good EDGE defender in another scheme where he consistently lined up outside he’d have elite numbers to match his talent, in my opinion.
Eagles All22 Defense thread v. Washington. First half might not be pretty. The one positive early was Josh Sweat. Coming out, most people knew he had talent as a pass rusher but he was great as a run defender in this one too. He's now a well rounded EDGE starter. Impressive! pic.twitter.com/h5k4SG8JJR— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 4, 2022
Back to the scheme, this is what I mean by the passive, zone coverage. You all know what I mean because you remember the first weeks of the season.
Scheme wise, the first half was much more of the early Eagles D which played a lot of cover 2/4 zone. Everything underneath seemed open frequently. Would love to ask Gannon why they went back to this so frequently in this game. Obviously a game specific thing but it went wrong. pic.twitter.com/efAIqoUyxa— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 4, 2022
Here is another example. I find it frustrating as in recent weeks there has been loads of disguised coverages in recent weeks or combo with man/zone and there was just none of it in the first half at all. This is just too easy to play against.
Sigh... No disguise, obvious 2 high soft zone look. Easy completion followed by missed tackle in the open field. Why did we go back to this style early on? This gives me bad flashbacks to the passive zone D we used to see. pic.twitter.com/vArwylrjJX— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 4, 2022
I mean... what is this? Both safeties are so far back - you can’t even see McLeod despite absolutely no one threatening him deep. 1 cornerback against 2 wide receivers with Avery sort of shading over to that side.
Once again, clear 2 high with McLeod standing miles back despite no real threat. Only 1 CB against 2 WRs & Avery sort of out there but he gets done by the play fake. Weird and too easy to beat. pic.twitter.com/ULNx5V9yWB— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 4, 2022
It wasn’t all Gannon or the scheme’s fault to be fair as Taylor Heinicke made about 3/4 absolutely nuts throws in the first half of this game. Heinicke is one of those quarterbacks who just makes plays that make you just sit there and say ‘wow’ at times.
Not defending Gannon for the first half but Taylor Heinicke made some absolutely absurd throws early on. Sometimes you just gotta take your hat off and say fair play to the opponent. How the hell does he complete this ball? pic.twitter.com/AvogJgUuL8— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 4, 2022
As well as passive zone coverage, they were also a little passive in the run game early on. They did get this sorted later (I thought Alex Singleton was really good but I know this won’t be popular) and ended up playing the run much better as the game went on.
Eagles run D got worked a little early on too. Number 59 gets sealed off by the LG and Edwards gets totally lost and can't get across quick enough. Not sure if Singleton was hurt but not a fan of going with a 5 man front if it means playing 59 and having Singleton on the side pic.twitter.com/VdrNsP6S7R— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 4, 2022
Someone else who plays the run really well every week is Milton Williams. What a nice player this guy is becoming. I remember having discussions on Twitter after we drafted him about whether he would have the strength to play the run as a DT. How he is getting double teamed and still making plays. I can’t wait to look at this film in more detail this offseason.
How damn strong is Milton Williams?! Gets pushed by back a double team but manages to maintain his balance then gets off his block AND makes the tackle! pic.twitter.com/c6w4LC4NHK— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 4, 2022
Before we all totally kill Jonathan Gannon, he did make some adjustments by disguising his coverages in more in the second half and even playing some man! The Eagles didn’t give up a point in the second half and only allowed 16 points, so it did get better.
Little adjustment from Gannon to stop the underneath routes killing the Eagles in the pocket 2nd half was bringing a safety up late. Still deep zone coverage but at least Harris rallied to the ball quickly. Thought it was probably his best game of the season! pic.twitter.com/lH6yOKMyu8— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 4, 2022
This was one of my favorite examples of disguised coverage and I love how aggressive the Eagles rush is here. In particular T.J. Edwards just charged the running back and allowed Sweat to get 1 on 1 with the tackle who couldn’t handle him all day. Avery isn’t very good at dropping into space but he is athletic enough to do it and I don’t mind doing it every so often to try and confuse opposition quarterbacks.
Eagles started to disguise coverage more later. Edwards w/ late blitz and 48 (Johnson) dropping out. Avery drops into coverage and does a good job stopping early. McLeod ends up in the middle and Maddox takes the deep half. Superb rush by Sweat - he was awesome this game. pic.twitter.com/IGhoC6GaA9— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 4, 2022
*Insert weekly insane Genard Avery play*. For real though, the coaching staff deserve credit this year for getting something out of Avery who has been a total bust before this season. He does continue to make 1 or 2 splash plays each week.
Avery is explosive and I love the idea of lining him up inside on 3rd down and letting him go at the QB. Look at the power to push back the OL! I feel like I mention him here a lot because he has a freaky play weekly it seems. Great job by the staff to find a role for him. pic.twitter.com/yxWj4Z19kP— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 4, 2022
What do you know, with the game on the line, the Eagles started to play more single-high man coverage and Slay was even used to shadow Terry McLaurin around the field! The main man was Avonte Maddox however, who continues to absolutely ball out this year. He made play after play at the end of the game.
Eagles on the 2nd to last drive: a lot more single high and we even saw the man coverage with Slay lined up on McLaurin! Maddox was the star of the show at the end, he had multiple plays where he had great coverage. The whole D was quicker to jump on underneath stuff too. pic.twitter.com/nQekVK0W9t— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 4, 2022
Game on the line, right at the end, Eagles go man coverage and put Darius Slay on McLaurin. Someone explain the first half to me. Anyway, great coverage by Slay on McLaurin and Alex Singleton on the left. Anthony Harris (28) has great coverage on the tight end and does a great job undercutting the route which forces the ball to be overthrown slightly and then Rodney McLeod makes a superb pick.
Final one for this week: the game clinching pick was a rare example of single-high man coverage with Slay following McLaurin. Small sample size but it worked well when they went to it. (Thinking ahead but if the Eagles get the Bucs - more snaps with Slay travelling with Evans?) pic.twitter.com/54bVABzxwM— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 4, 2022
Hopefully next week I am breaking down lots of backups and we get a look at some interesting young guys! Should be fun.