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

Green Bay Packers v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

This may not be a popular article this week, because I seem to be more down on the Eagles' defense this week. I have defended Jonathan Gannon a lot this year and I’m normally very positive about the defense but this game just felt off. The defense was unlucky and faced a lot of short fields, but I was a bit concerned by what I saw this week. Let’s get into why!


The EPA numbers back me up. This was not a great defensive performance, especially on early downs. The Eagles' defense was pretty awful on early downs but they were excellent on 3rd down when the pass rushers could really get after the quarterback.

Pass Defense

The Eagles' pass defense was uncharacteristically poor at times in this game. I think the issue revolves around their run defense though. The Eagles currently cannot stop the run without a 5-man front. The obvious issue with this is that they now have 1 less body in coverage. I also think the Eagles' defense is focusing heavily on stopping the run which leaves them susceptible to screens and play-action too. If you read my stats preview, you would know the Packers run the highest % of screens in the NFL. They worked this week for them!

Josiah Scott has done well overall for a backup. I think we are starting to see the drop-off between him and Avonte Maddox each week, though. Scott is still playing fine and I wouldn’t say he’s a liability, but each week he seems to give up a big play or two that costs the Eagles. I think Maddox's ability to come downhill and help out against outside runs and screens was missed in this game too.

This is where I get a little concerned about the defense. We haven’t seen zones like this much this season. This play confuses me because I can’t really work out why Kyzir White goes after the running back unless he thinks it’s man coverage, but it leaves an absolutely huge empty space in the middle of the field. This is also the danger with a 5-man front, you lose a man in coverage and I think it cost the Eagles at times this week.

I was really interested in watching how the Packers’ use of 20 or 21 personnel caused the Eagles’ issues in this game. I am slightly scared about the Cowboys watching this film and running some of the same stuff with Zeke and Pollard. The Eagles seemed really focused on stopping the run but that left some easy plays such as this one to AJ Dillon. This is a really easy way to pick up yards and I think it revolves around the focus the Eagles are putting on stopping the run at this moment in time.

There was also just some bad play all around by the defense. This was one of those plays. I can only assume this is a miscommunication or a misunderstanding of the offensive formation because this play is awful. Scott is covering the running back whilst Marcus Epps ends up one-on-one with the Packers' best receiver. He looks lost and Reed Blankenship takes a horrible angle, but Christian Watson is a freak who will probably score from this position anyway. You can’t have mistakes like these because they can really cost you. I would rather the Eagles call a timeout in the future if they end up in this position because I cannot believe this is by design.

However, it’s also worth noting that sometimes great players just make great plays. Not every good offensive play is a disaster for the defense. This is an exceptional play by a great quarterback and a great running back.

It’s all been negative so far so let’s get to some positives. I loved both interceptions. This play is exactly why Gannon wants to start from a 2-high shell because it is really easy to disguise your coverage and move to single-high. The Eagles move from 2-high to cover 1 hole and it’s fantastic man coverage by everyone in the secondary and a poor throw from Rodgers under pressure.

This was the play of the game, it’s such a perfect disguise that I have never really seen the Eagles do before. When you see a defensive back travel with the receiver in motion you assume man coverage, but the Eagles actually play zone coverage and the safeties just swap sides. It’s really clever and it’s fantastic game-planning by the Eagles staff because the Packers love to use motion. It catches Rodgers out because he thinks Blankenship is in single-high coverage but he’s actually in 2-high and he can jump the route. It’s also a great play by Blankenship and it shows how well-coached the Eagles' defensive backs are. This is teach tape.

The Eagles' pass defense was not all bad either, we did see some outstanding zone coverage at times. This was one of my favorite reps and it highlights the importance of getting home with 4 rushers only. Cox does a great job getting to the quarterback after the stunt and this play highlights he is still pretty athletic.

The key to this defense is winning on early downs because they are a nasty defensive front on 3rd and long. This is an elite 5-man front and not many offensive lines will be able to handle this much individual talent coming at their quarterback.

Run Defense

The Packers’ offense clearly targeted the edge of the Eagles' defense and it worked. When the Eagles were in a 4-man front this week it just felt like they could not stop the run at all which is an obvious concern.

I didn’t think any particular defensive lineman was bad, although Suh and Linval Joseph were not as good as they were last week, but Fletcher Cox had himself a game. He looked the best he has looked all season and he made a couple of huge plays, including this fantastic tackle in the backfield.

The biggest issue with the 4-man front is that it relies on players in the secondary, often cornerbacks, having to play the run. I say this every week, but this defense is not built to stop the run. Both cornerbacks are far better in pass defense as are both safeties. Slay has been fantastic this year but he had a number of really poor reps against the run, including this one. I think he will get a little bit of criticism from the coaches in some meetings this week. I give Epps a lot of credit each week but he didn’t cover himself in glory against the run this week either.

I pointed this out last week too, but when the Eagles play zone coverage, opposing teams can force Slay to play as a run defender by lining up 3 wide receivers to the opposite side (leaving him on a tight end). He actually does well here but I expect other teams to continue to do this. It’s good game-planning by the Packers.

I mentioned the Packers' use of 2 running back sets earlier and I found this play fascinating. To stop the easy completion to AJ Dillon, TJ Edwards follows him. The issue is, the Eagles need to have a 5-man front which means against nickel they only play 1 off-ball linebacker. By moving TJ Edwards out of the box, the Eagles only have Marcus Epps in the box to stop the run. This play only gains 6 yards due to Milton Williams making a play, but this is a really excellent design by the Packers and they get the Eagles to move their only off-ball linebacker out of the box which is less than ideal.

The Eagles are 10-1 so let’s finish with a great play by Blankenship because, why not?

It was not all negative this week and I am not panicking at all, I just saw a couple of worrying signs this week and it was not the cleanest defensive performance I have seen this year. It is going to be really interesting to see how this defense prepares for a very run-heavy Titans offense. I can’t wait for that game.

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