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Eagles Defense All-22 Film Review: Takeaways from the loss to the Commanders

NFL: NOV 14 Commanders at Eagles Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

As I said in the offense post, I am going to split the A22 posts into 2 separate posts each week now. This one is going to be interesting. I have so many things to say about the defense I hope I can put across my viewpoint clearly! Let’s get into it.


Let’s start with the basic EPA numbers. The Eagles run defense was not bad at all in this game, especially on early downs. This is a common theme I will get back to throughout the article, this does not mean the Eagles defense was good against the run as the Commanders still had some good runs but overall it was the pass defense that was a bigger issue.

Passing Defense

Washington just seemed to have a really good feel for the Eagles' coverage in this game. When the Eagles went man they had excellent concepts, however, as this play highlights, players > scheme as Josiah Scott makes an excellent play on a ball that is slightly underthrown by Taylor Heinicke.

The Eagles also had some uncharacteristic mistakes in the secondary too. This is an excellent cover 4 beater, but the Eagles are normally good at matching these routes and not giving this much space. This looks like straight-up cover 4 to me which means that Bradberry and Epps both end up covering the post and the over route is wide open. The Eagles play a lot of zone coverage and holes will always appear if the pass rush doesn’t win quickly and they didn’t in this game. This was 3rd down and it was one of many 3rd downs the Eagles gave up in the air.

The Eagles did learn from this and Marcus Epps made a fantastic play later on against the same concept. This time, Epps comes up from safety to take over the deep crossing route. This doesn’t mean that he was at fault earlier, but it does show the Eagles did adjust after they got beat earlier in the game which was good.

Here’s another example of an uncharacteristic mistake with the Eagles' zone coverage. I have no idea what Slay is doing or whether someone else is at fault but it’s clear this is not how the coverage is supposed to look. With Slay being one-on-one on the outside, I would assume Slay is expected to cover this receiver (known as MEG) wherever he goes, whether they are in man coverage or a form of zone match here. Regardless of who is at fault, this is another error. This play was on 3rd and 8 and it can’t happen. The Eagles' defense is built around winning on obvious passing situations and these mistakes are brutal.

This is another play that just looks wrong. This is WIDE open on yet another 3rd down. This was 3rd and 6. The Eagles' defense has not given up easy plays like this all year. Edwards, White, and Scott look way too close to me and I don’t understand the coverage design. I’ve said this before but I do not trust Scott in zone at all. It looks again like standard zone and I am surprised that one of the linebackers or Scott are not running with the intermediate routes, especially when the safeties are both very deep. It’s too easy and you can’t blame the pass rush here as Hargrave gets straight through!

The Eagles were getting killed in zone and they went to more man coverage and that failed too. The Eagles do not like to move Slay around because the idea behind the Eagles' defense is that everyone in the secondary can cover so you aren’t fearful of any one matchup. CGJ was an excellent slot cornerback but Terry McLaurin had the beating of him a few times in man coverage. Credit to the Commanders for moving McLaurin around but I do wonder if the Eagles would have been smart to let Darius Slay travel with him at times in man coverage. The issue with this is that it becomes easier for the offense to predict man or zone coverage. Overall, I won’t criticize Jonathan Gannon too much here as CGJ is more than capable of covering receivers in man coverage, but he couldn’t handle McLaurin on Monday night. Oh and guess what? This was another 3rd down. 3rd and 5. The Eagles run defense gave the secondary chances to win.

This is the same thing. McLaurin beats Scott in the slot and picks up 9 yards on 3rd and 10. 3rd and 10 should favour this defense massively but they just couldn’t get it right in the secondary. I would love to see Wallace playing higher here and providing real help inside as McLaurin will beat Scott very frequently. It just felt too easy too often and I haven’t said that about the Eagles' pass defense much this year.

This wasn’t 3rd down, but it’s 2nd and 12 and it’s McLaurin winning against man coverage again. 2nd and 12 is perfect for this defense and it’s frustrating to see everyone just blame the loss of Jordan Davis when the pass defense had ample opportunities to get the Commanders off the field.

You know it’s not your day when McLaurin just burns Slay deep. You can blame Jonathan Gannon all you want but sometimes your players just get beat. Slay had his worst game of the season and McLaurin was too good for this defense. You rarely see Slay get beat like this and it’s an absolute dime by Heinicke too. Sometimes you just have to say fair play and move on rather than analyze absolutely everything.

I’ve spoken a bit about mistakes, I noted 2 plays where the Eagles had 10 men on the field. This one was obvious to spot because you can see Fletcher Cox is bemused. This is not on Gannon but the positional coaches. The Eagles have been an extremely well-coached team this week but they just didn’t look it this week.

I’ve been rather negative today, so let’s finish this section with a good play because why not. CGJ has a knack for the ball and this is a brilliant interception. It’s an awful decision by Heinicke but CGJ does a great job of backpedaling and making a play on the ball. He looks a natural back there when the ball is in the air.

Run Defense

It’s the bit you’ve been waiting for! Before we get some run defense clips (there were literally 40 I could have shown) let’s just talk about the Eagles' approach. The Eagles, under Jonathan Gannon and Nick Sirianni, have prioritized stopping the pass. That is a fact. The system they play is designed to play light boxes and prevent big plays. Whatever you personally think of that system, it has undoubtedly been successful this season, and losing Jordan Davis is a major issue. It is very easy to complain but the Eagles have built their team around stopping the pass.

They have a former slot cornerback at safety in CGJ. Kyzir White is better in coverage than against the run. Their defensive lineman are better at rushing the quarterback than stopping the run (except Jordan Davis). I can’t get too annoyed about the run defense in this game because overall the Eagles' defense was aggressive against the run (5 man fronts a lot of single-high) but I do share the concern about the inability to be dominant against the run without Jordan Davis. It is worth remembering that this defense was bad against the run WITH Jordan Davis in the line-up. This team chooses to play light boxes and 2 linebackers so they can do more from a pass coverage perspective. I think we just have to get used to some frustrating weeks where teams run the ball well, but this particular game was more about the pass defense than the run defense. End of rant!!

The Eagles played a ton of 5-man fronts which meant a lot of Marlon Tuipulotu. I thought he wasn’t very good, but he was nowhere near as bad as some made him out online. I wasn’t surprised to see none of Marvin Wilson as I mentioned last week he really wasn’t good. The Eagles had multiple plays, like the following, where they played the run really well. I thought TJ Edwards was good and he attacked downhill quickly as he did on this play.

I hate to join the bandwagon... but I think the Eagles have a Fletcher Cox problem. He really got moved in this game as you can see in this play. This was one of the worst plays against the run but even here you can see that the Eagles are really aggressively playing the run and with some better tackling Robinson would have had an even more difficult day.

Marlon Tuipoluto actually makes a good play on the ball carrier here, but it’s another example of Cox really getting moved in the run game. He played a lot of snaps and the Commanders had the ball a lot so I’m hoping some of it was fatigue, but I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing more Milton Williams who I thought played a lot better in this one.

Sorry Cox, but this one doesn’t look great either. Kyzir White also had a few bad angles and it is worth remembering he is better in coverage than against the run. I did wonder whether Nakobe Dean could see some more snaps but we haven’t seen any proof at all that he can fit the run better than White can currently. This play also doesn’t look great for Marlon Tuipoluto and it’s clear that Davis is a huge, huge miss.

Here’s another example of some excellent run fits by the Eagles, preventing a 1st down on 3rd and short. It was not all bad at all. Robinson only averaged 3.3 yards per carry!

I did think Milton Williams played well at times against the run, as he did here. I did not think Hargrave played very well against the run as a nose tackle and I am not surprised the Eagles signed Linval Joseph because they will need someone else to replace Marlon Tuipoluto. I just hope Joseph has something left or this run defense could become worse.

Let’s end it there. Overall, this was a really poor defensive performance but it is far, far too simplistic to just blame it on Jordan Davis injury and the secondary was more to blame than the run defense, in my opinion.

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