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Eagles All-22 Film Review: Takeaways from the win over the Cardinals

Syndication: Arizona Republic Michael Chow/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Eagles won again! But that didn’t feel very good. I have a lot to say on this one, both positive and negative, so let’s get straight into it. As always, I’ll try and touch on key themes throughout. I don’t think the game was as bad as some people made out, and the Eagles did win, but there are certainly some issues to touch on. Just a heads up, this is a long one, so enjoy!


Passing Game

This was a weird passing game. It felt incredibly limited, which made perfect sense early on! The Eagles started on fire and basically walked down the field. The first drive felt so easy. The Cardinals were playing a lot of off-coverage and wanted to keep an extra man in the box to stop the Eagles from running the ball. The Eagles just found it easy to simply fake a run and then throw it quickly outside because the Cardinals didn’t have the numbers to deal with it. It was working great at the start and it made sense to keep doing it. The quick screens early on were really good and effective. Here’s a great example to Dallas Goedert.

The Cardinals defense also played a lot of off-coverage and didn’t really help their cornerbacks against AJ Brown, so we also saw some easy comeback routes on the outside to AJ Brown. It was all going well!

The 3rd drive of the game was also really good. The Eagles scored 14 points with ease and they didn’t really have to do anything difficult at all. Except for this throw! This is possibly my favorite ever throw by Hurts. This is an insanely good throw. He hits DeVonta Smith on a backside dig while rolling out to his left. My goodness, this is big time.

Then the game got weird. The Eagles offense only had 5 drives after these 2 touchdowns. It started going wrong on the first play of the 4th drive with this terrible Hurts throw. 2 weeks in a row he has thrown a poor ball on a crossing route coming across the field. This week he failed to see the underneath defender on a sort of post/cross concept with Quez Watkins running the vertical route. Hurts is normally very safe with the football so I’m not overly concerned by this but it’s a bad throw.

The screen game actually remained pretty good into the 2nd quarter but when we got to the second half the Cardinals were ready for it and the Eagles didn’t adjust. It was obvious on the first passing play of the half, you can see the Cardinals safety come crashing down on the bubble screen. Quez Watkins actually makes the defender miss but it was a sign of things to come, sadly.

Overall, except for the blitz issues, I didn’t have any real issues with the Eagles game plan to begin with. They moved the ball OK but they didn’t adjust and the refusal to try and throw down the field is really weird to me. The whole point of the RPO/quick game stuff is to get the defense to bring defenders closer to the line of scrimmage and then throw it over their heads. The Eagles did the RPO stuff well but didn’t have a vertical element to their passing game which is strange when you have AJ Brown. There’s nothing wrong with just throwing him the ball when he’s one-on-one every so often. Hurts couldn’t stop doing it against Washington a few weeks ago so it’s weird it just didn’t happen at all on Sunday.

The Eagles had a few plays I really liked late on. Considering how good the Eagles run game is, I do not think the Eagles throw out of 12 personnel enough. Throwing out of 12 personnel is hugely underrated because you are likely to get predictable coverages due to the defense often bringing an extra defender into the box. I would have loved the Eagles to go 12 personnel more frequently and then take some shots on the outside. It worked perfectly here to Dallas Goedert.

Right, let’s get into it. Let’s talk about the Eagles against the blitz. If you have read this article each week, you will know I have highlighted this issue every single week. I have so many thoughts on this one. Firstly, it really stood out to me this week that the Eagles absolutely do not want their running back pass-blocking (I don’t blame them either). But it stands out in games like this when you see a 5 man rush get an unblocked rusher because the Eagles have 5 routes on the play. I understand Goedert is brilliant and you don’t want him blocking or chipping, but at some point, you may need to sacrifice someone at times (or get a running back who can protect on the field) because this stood out.

We also have to be fair when judging the coaching staff. They are not idiots and obviously have a plan for the blitz and the Eagles are 5-0! I am convinced this play below is the plan against the blitz. I think they trust Hurts’ mobility to get outside the pocket and find someone open. It works here! I do understand it, but I don’t think it can be the only thing you do. Especially when I don’t think the Eagles are that good outside of structure still.

I think this is the worst play of the lot. It looks almost comical. I have SO much to say. Firstly, the Cardinals have 8 (!) defenders on the line of scrimmage but they only send 5. Throughout the game, the Eagles lined up in reduced splits which I do not get from an offensive design point of view (in this game). This makes it really difficult to know who is blitzing because defenders can line up on the line of scrimmage and still drop into coverage quickly and cover the slot receivers. I understand that putting receivers in reduced splits helps with angles in the run game but on 3rd and long I don’t get it. Also, the Eagles actually use AJ Brown to help out in pass protection (which is one reason he may have been in a reduced split) but, do you really want to use AJ Brown this way?!

The Eagles offensive line and Gainwell actually pick this up reasonably well but Hurts has no intention of throwing this ball. His eyes are dropping basically immediately. He doesn’t even hit his back foot. This was a problem last year and it remains an issue for the Eagles. I think Hurts has a bit of Wentz ‘hero-ball’ mentality and sometimes against the blitz you just need to hit your back foot, check it down, and hope your receivers make someone miss. We can talk offensive design all we want but Hurts has to be more willing to stand in there and deliver against the blitz.

Due to these issues, the Eagles just started throwing screens against the blitz to get the ball out. It’s not fair to say the Eagles didn’t adjust, they did, it just didn’t work. The problem was, the adjustment was to throw screens, but they were doing this all game long so the Cardinals were prepared and flying to the football. They needed to do something else.

The Cardinals kept blitzing. The Eagles kept struggling. Especially on 3rd down. This one is also really frustrating. The Eagles continue to use these reduced splits rather than spread the defense out which I just do not get! It makes it nearly impossible to see who is actually blitzing here and the Cardinals actually send 2 defensive backs here who both could be in coverage or blitzing. They can’t do that if the Eagles receivers are spread out wide. The Cardinals bring 6 on 6 but the Eagles (in particular Gainwell) make a real mess with protection and both defensive backs are totally unblocked on the edge. Hurts is under pressure before he even hits his back foot and there’s nothing really he can do here. There’s no easy answer and the Eagles just couldn’t handle being blitzed on 3rd and long.

However, with the game on the line, we finally got an answer to a blitz on 3rd down! Firstly, notice the alignment of the receivers on the right. They are spread out and not aligned tight (finally) so the Cardinals can’t put 8 on the line of scrimmage. The Eagles still have 5 receivers which mean only 5 are blocking (I think this is really, really tough on Hurts) but Hurts does not drop his eyes this time, stands tall in the pocket, and delivers to Goedert short of the sticks. Throwing short of the sticks against the blitz is completely fine, it’s much better to give your guys a chance than simply take a sack. The Cardinals were running a lot of fake pressures where linebackers were showing a blitz and then backpedaling. The Eagles finally took advantage of that and threw at these linebackers. It’s not easy to drop back into coverage and know exactly where the receivers or the tight end is. Finally!

Before we move on, I just want to highlight a few plays that made no sense to me. Good NFL teams make mistakes, but some of the plays this week just seemed really weird. I couldn’t even work out what was supposed to be going on in some of them. Let’s start with one of the last plays of the game. What on earth is this? This is bad football by Hurts and also bad offensive design. This is the play you call on 3rd down with the game on the line?

That wasn’t the only play that I didn’t really understand though. There were a couple of others, unfortunately. If someone can explain this one to me then please do!

I am guessing someone screwed up here because I don’t understand the concepts with the boot action at all. You hope this kind of stuff doesn’t happen very often moving forward because it’s just wasting downs.

Running Game

This was not a good Eagles run game overall. I didn’t feel the Eagles really committed to it like they did last week. I was really surprised Trey Sermon didn’t get a single carry as Miles Sanders didn’t have his best game. There were no big plays in the running game and they didn’t have a huge amount of success.

One good thing, the Eagles ran well out of the pistol. I will write more about the pistol at some point, but I really like it when the Eagles do it. The Eagles don’t want to go under center as it signals to the defense that they want to run and they can’t do any of their read-option stuff. Running from the pistol is sort of like a middle ground between running from the shotgun and from under center. It means the quarterback can keep his eyes downfield so you can still run the RPO stuff, but it also allows the running back to get ahead of steam and get downhill quickly.

The best the Eagles ran the ball was on the final drive. They really committed to running it from 12 personnel and we saw the pistol formation come out again! I was surprised to see Gainwell get the carries on the final drive but he had a few nice moments. It seems like a good time to give Sermon the snaps but I know I am biased!


Pass Defense

Watching live, I thought the defense was sort of terrible. When I watched the tape and took a step back, and remembered they only gave up 17 points, I did think I was too harsh at the time. The Eagles had a few problems here that I will get into, but I think a lot of it stemmed from being scared to commit to playing man coverage due to Kyler Murray’s legs. We saw them spy Murray at times which worked well but obviously costs you a man in coverage (depending on his depth). I understand being cautious of Kyler Murray’s legs and although the defense wasn’t perfect, they did only give up 17 points and 5.3 yards per play which is not awful!

The Eagles used a lot more single-high coverage than I imagine they would want to in this one. I think they had to as they wanted the extra defender to spy Murray. I like it when this defense plays single-high due to the talent they have on the outside. The interception was an excellent play by Chauncey Gardner-Johnson who I think is playing the deep safety role really well. His issues have come with tackling and the different angles that a safety has to take, but in coverage he is playing really well.

Despite the Eagles defense playing a lot more single-high, it felt like quite a passive Eagles performance in the secondary. They did blitz and they did play some press coverage, but as the game went on I felt the Eagles got scared and started playing some pretty passive zone coverage that gave up a lot of space in the middle of the field in particular.

It’s so easy to blame Gannon who obviously sets up his team to be conservative and not give up big plays, but I think it is worth pointing out that Darius Slay didn’t play very well this week. I thought he was too afraid of Hollywood Brown’s deep speed and didn’t get close enough in coverage too often.

I felt the Eagles had some issues with their zone coverage in this game. The Cardinals prepared well and did a few nice things that tested the Eagles rules and communication in coverage. It was the first time this year I’ve seen the Eagles zone really tested from a schematic standpoint and you can bet that other teams will look at what the Cardinals did. The Eagles zone has been really good this year but it can be difficult to communicate effectively, especially when the offense goes no-huddle as the Cardinals did quite a few times in this game.

One thing they did quite consistently was use 3 wide receivers to one side of the field which almost always got the inside slot (in this case Hollywood Brown) lined up near TJ Edwards. This is tough for a linebacker and TJ was made to look silly a couple of times but the offense took advantage of what the Eagles wanted to do and the 5-man fronts isolate the Eagles linebacker in the middle of the field. This should have been a huge touchdown. The Eagles don’t like to use Slay to man receivers in the slot but this should have been an option in this one because their standard zone coverage was struggling to cope with Hollywood being moved around.

This is another example of the same thing. With 3 receivers to one side, the Eagles stay in their 2-high zone which means TJ Edwards has to basically cover Rondale Moore. That’s a really difficult ask for any linebacker in the league.

The Cardinals did their homework. As well as the 3x1 sets with Hollywood in the slot, they also used some 4x1 sets which is very rare and the Eagles struggled to handle it with their match zone coverage. Credit to Ben Solak who noticed this during the game but watching back the film it was so obvious. The Cardinals kept doing it over and over again at the end of the game because they knew the Eagles zone coverage didn’t have the answers! All 3 of these examples show 4 receivers on one side of the field and expect other teams to see this and test the Eagles with these looks in the future.

This in particular is the worst one because two defenders run with the guy in motion which just cannot happen. The defense rules were being tested.

I also thought the Eagles were quite passive toward the end of the game and scared of the big play. The Eagles barely gave up any explosive plays again so you have to credit Gannon and the defensive staff, but it felt a little bit conservative at the end at times and I felt the Eagles could have played a bit more man coverage and made things harder for the Cardinals receivers.

It wasn’t all bad in pass defense. The pass rush was really good at times, in particular, Haason Reddick was excellent, and I thought Epps, CGJ and James Bradberry all played well on the backend. This was an excellent play by Marcus Epps and it’s great to see his development this year.

Reddick is starting to win consistently as a speed-to-power pass rusher and not just a bend-the-edge guy too which is excellent. He deserved the sack on 3rd down here and it wasn’t the only time he got after the quarterback. He’s had a really good 2 weeks.

This was one of my favorite plays of the game. I know I go on about Marcus Epps but I think his development over the past couple of seasons has been fantastic. This is an excellent play and he knows it!

Run Defense

TJ Edwards had 1 really bad snap against the run, but I thought overall he was pretty good. I felt sorry for him as he was getting killed on Twitter (he did not have a good game) but I didn’t think he was terrible as I highlighted above. This was a fantastic play by him and it’s worth remembering that it is not easy being the lone linebacker in a 5-1 front. Not everyone can do it and he has played at a pretty high level this year.

Jordan Davis keeps getting better and better each week. This was his best game as an Eagle and he made a few offensive lineman look silly at times. He also had some good pass rushing which is something we all want to see. I am really interested to see if he gets to play as the 1-tech in the 4-3 fronts because at the moment he is still only playing in the 5-man fronts.

That will do for this week. This was a long one! As always, interested to hear your comments and I’ll answer any questions you have. It was an interesting game but 5-0 > 4-1!

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