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.
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!
If you read my stats previews, you knew the Packers would run a lot of screens. They did an excellent job with these screens on the edges and took advantage of the Eagles emphasis of stopping the run on early downs. pic.twitter.com/1Hg0YAjngk— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) November 30, 2022
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 a great throw by Rodgers, but the more I see Scott the more I am slightly underwhelmed. I know Scott is only a backup but Maddox coming back healthy could be big for this defense. pic.twitter.com/h6MN5qoHVE— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) November 30, 2022
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.
Slightly worrying to see these huge zones pop up in the defense too. 5-man fronts do have a weakness - 1 less defender in coverage! Not sure if White is supposed to leave this zone here but it's a massive open space in the middle of the field which is less than ideal! pic.twitter.com/rFW4sQqpYw— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) November 30, 2022
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.
Thought the Eagles emphasis on stopping the run causes issues on the edge overall, especially when the Packers played in 21 personnel. This is a simple numbers game, with no-one following AJ Dillon and 2 deep safeties you are outnumbered on the edge. pic.twitter.com/vD5AwtZkKw— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) November 30, 2022
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.
Final negative... This is almost certainly a mistake/miscommunication. There's no way the Eagles should be playing single-high man coverage with Scott covering the RB and Epps covering the slot WR. Just shouldn't happen, ever. A hugely costly mistake too. This can't happen. pic.twitter.com/4thdGOqKf5— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) November 30, 2022
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.
Sometimes you just accept that great players can make great plays. Rodgers/Jones are outstanding players who made a fantastic play here. pic.twitter.com/ienp2EuUGQ— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) November 30, 2022
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.
Onto some good stuff! Fantastic disguise from the 2-high into cover 1 robber hole coverage. Outstanding coverage all around, especially from Slay, and it results in a great early interception. Epps also does really well coming down from the deep safety position. pic.twitter.com/QdxLx9dCCB— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) November 30, 2022
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.
This is a fantastic disguise. I love this play. Epps travelling with the WR signals single-high man coverage. It's actually 2-high and Blankenship reads it perfectly. Rodgers does not expect Blankenship to be here and he picks it off. What a fun play! pic.twitter.com/5V0kXlxPxP— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) November 30, 2022
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.
Outstanding zone coverage here too. 3v2 on both sides with Edwards in the hole. Slay locks up his side of the field and the 4 man rush gets home. This is the benefit of rushing 4 and still getting pressure. Great team pass defense all around. pic.twitter.com/TlaoDC05LL— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) November 30, 2022
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.
That is a hell of a 5 man front to rush the QB. From left to right: Sweat, Reddick, Hargrave, Graham & Cox. Phew. That's a tough matchup for any offensive line. Combination of speed, power and quickness. pic.twitter.com/i10gAhg2uj— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) November 30, 2022
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.
Eagles all22 defense thread vs. Packers. Tough game to analyze. I'm a little concerned by how frequently the Packers got to the edge of the Eagles defense. It's also getting to the point where the Eagles just can't play 4 man fronts unless it's an obvious passing situation ever. pic.twitter.com/XDTnakAPhY— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) November 30, 2022
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.
Cox has come under some criticism but I said last week he was great and this was easily his best game of the year. He was a force in the run game and the lower snap count seems to be helping him. pic.twitter.com/oUMAKrOMvJ— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) November 30, 2022
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 thought the whole Eagles secondary (in particular Slay who was noticeably bad) were really bad in run defense. It's a 'stop the pass first' secondary so it's understandable but still an area of weakness. The 4 man fronts just got killed on the 1st few drives. pic.twitter.com/yBHf65DHJp— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) November 30, 2022
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.
Credit Slay here for making the tackle. We saw this last week too, the 3 WR set opposite Slay forces him into the box as a run defender when he's in zone. I expect other teams to continue to do this against the Eagles defense. Suh gets moved here quite easily. pic.twitter.com/2pCspVpYmo— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) November 30, 2022
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.
Packers 20 personnel against a 5-1 front resulted in Edwards tracking AJ Dillon which left Epps as the only defender behind the defensive line in the box. Eagles DL (Milton Williams) played it well but I thought the Packers use of 2 RBs asked questions of the Eagles defense. pic.twitter.com/FIeKuiWVzo— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) November 30, 2022
The Eagles are 10-1 so let’s finish with a great play by Blankenship because, why not?
Except for the long TD which wasn't really his fault anyway, Blankenship had some excellent reps! Love his quickness and diagnosis of this run play and Aaron Jones is not an easy open field tackle. Obviously not good that CGJ is injured but I am excited to see Blankenship play. pic.twitter.com/rWvYCE8AiJ— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) November 30, 2022
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.