Well, the Eagles won! It was hardly convincing, but this was a fascinating one to break down. This could be a long one, so get yourself a cup of coffee (or something stronger when watching the defense) and buckle up.
For anyone who has read my pieces for a while, it’s fair to call me a Jalen Hurts ‘skeptic’ or whatever that means. I don’t understand the discourse around his play this week. I thought he was fantastic. I saw clear progress passing the football from last year and I think he has taken a step forward. Let’s look at the positive and areas of development coming out of week 1. I will try and group plays together as usual rather than break it all down in the right order. Let’s first look at his movement under pressure and against the blitz.
Hurts is a phenomenal athlete. Yes, he absolutely bails from the pocket too much. I do not care about him bailing in this situation when he has a clear path to run into and he knows the defense is in man coverage. Especially early on in the game, you can force them to stop playing man and take away what they want to do by running. He could hit Goedert here on the crossing route, but it isn’t easy, and he has a clear path to run into.
Eagles Offense All22 thread v. Lions. Hurts mobility was a huge, huge part of this game. Yes, Goedert is slowly coming open on the crossing route but Hurts should absolutely run when teams play man cov consistently against him. His scrambling was outstanding in this game. pic.twitter.com/7OoSvKYQZH— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) September 13, 2022
Now with this one, I think he does bail too early. But I want to talk offensive design a bit today and I have some criticisms of Sirianni and the coaching staff. There were too many isolation routes against man coverage and the Eagles remain poorly coached when a play breaks down. Hurts could absolutely sit in the pocket for longer here, but no one is coming open and no one is really trying to get open when he breaks out the pocket. This play doesn’t look great for anyone, not just Hurts.
We all know Hurts bails from pockets and we see it here, but in his defense no-one is coming open. These plays look so unstructured and I really wish Eagles would work more on creating plays outside of structure. The WRs rarely seem to have a plan on how to get open. pic.twitter.com/Hh1yhTBWtb— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) September 13, 2022
Once again, no problem at all with this. No one is obviously open and the Lions brining pressure (as I said they would in my stats preview!) and not spying Hurts. Hurts does look to throw first here and wants to throw to his left, but no one is open so he picks up the first down with his legs. You can’t just ignore his mobility and athleticism when evaluating him as a passer. It was a massive part of the Eagles success on Sunday. I think his timing and pocket movement was really strong.
Again, I do not mind this at all. If you want to play man coverage against Hurts then he will do this to you all day unless you are excellent at containing him in the pocket. His mobility really is elite and you can't discount it when evaluating him. pic.twitter.com/YgaDS19TgZ— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) September 13, 2022
This is where Hurts is just outstanding. There was an OL miscommunication, and a lineman was coming through unblocked. Hurts avoids him, makes the linebacker look silly, and picks up the first down. A little note on the offensive line here too - no they were not great against the blitz. But they were actually decent on the whole in pass protection. Sometimes they were just simply outnumbered in pass protection, and you can’t blame them for all of the protection issues in this game. There was a variety of issues at time, which we will get it into.
This is a ridiculous play. Runs past an unblocked DL due to a miscommunication upfront then makes the linebacker look silly in the open field... Taking a few too many big shots though pic.twitter.com/hN9uECvp9O— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) September 13, 2022
Now, this is where he absolutely needs to improve. 100%. He must know where his hot route is and get it out to him quickly when facing a heavy blitz. The Lions overload the left and Hurts has an easy checkdown to Sanders open. It was 3rd and 6 and yes, it’s possible Sanders doesn’t make the LB miss and fails to get the 1st down, but you have to trust your offense and throw what is called. I do wonder if the route on the top of the screen is the hot route here, and if so, this is bad offensive design because that route is far too slow to develop. This is one where I think he tried to make a play rather than follow the design of the offense and it cost the Eagles. But, it also highlights I don’t think the problems against the blitz was all down to Hurts.
This is where Hurts must be more decisive against the blitz. Looking at the Lions front you know pressure is coming and this is on 3rd and 6. I am guessing the hot route is to Sanders here so he just has to dump it to him and hope he makes a guy miss. He doesn't even look there. pic.twitter.com/4dAR1pUxjn— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) September 13, 2022
This is the worst example of them all. Hurts just simply must take this short crossing route to AJ Brown when faced with this blitz. The Lions are sending a 0 blitz with 4 men in coverage against 4 receivers. The OL is simply outnumbered and Hurts has a clear option to throw the short crossing route. He hits his back foot but he does what he did against the Bucs last year and drops his eyes. Paused the video after 1 second, you can see he is already looking at the free rusher and trying to make him miss. This is a DB blitzing unblocked, not a DL, you can’t just run around those guys with easy. Hurts absolutely needs to trust the offense against the blitz and prove he can get it out quickly, or teams are going to keep doing this.
Last offensive one, this is one where Hurts HAS to get rid of it. Almost certain AJB is the hot route and it's right there. This is the one play vs the blitz I think Sirianni gave Hurts an out and he didn't take it. This is the next step or he's going to keep getting blitzed. pic.twitter.com/foMUlv415C— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) September 13, 2022
After criticising him... time to defend Hurts’ play against the blitz! I did not think the overall design of the offense helped Hurts against pressure. Too often I could not stop an easy hot route to use against pressure and there were too many isolation routes, rather than clear route combinations, to make it easier for the quarterback. There were some excellent calls by Sirianni (we will get to them) but on a few occasions I didn’t like the design of the play against pressure.
Here is an example of one of these plays. There’s not really a clear checkdown/hot route to throw to here. By the time the WR at the bottom of the screen is facing Hurts he is always under serious pressure. The cornerbacks are very deep, and it is clear pressure is coming. I would love to see the Eagles check to a quick screen or an easy pop pass and have Hurts just throw it straight to the WR at the bottom rather than having to wait for him to turn around and face him. All other routes haven’t even come out of their break when Hurts is already scrambling. I don’t think the poor play against the blitz was just the fault of Hurts.
I think the offensive design in general wasn't great against the blitz, not just Hurts. Clear overload from the left and I want Hurts to throw but don't really see an obvious hot route or answer to this blitz. Quite long developing routes in general. pic.twitter.com/8HfHPb7kqx— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) September 13, 2022
Let’s get to progress passing in the football. In my offseason preview of the offense, I said I wanted to see Hurts hit his back foot more and deliver the ball in stride. He absolutely improved in this area week 1. He was decisive and got rid of the ball at the top of his drop far more frequently. AJ Brown certainly helps, as he was absolutely superb in this game. His routes were so sharp and so fluid, the Lions simply could not handle him in man coverage.
I also thought we saw Hurts hit his back foot and release it more frequently than last year. He was pretty decisive. This is a tight window throw. AJ Browns route is just beautiful too, he had the Lions CBs on toast all game especially when they tried to press him. pic.twitter.com/PoUkpZPrag— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) September 13, 2022
This was obviously the best throw of the game. Not much else to say, it’s a bucket throw down the field in the perfect place for AJ Brown to go and get it. The timing and rhythm of his drop is just perfect. This wasn’t the only throw that impressed my from a timing perspective. A little note on DeVonta Smith here too - he had some good routes in this game but overall wasn’t great at getting off tight man coverage. When he did win, like in this clip below, the ball often went to AJ Brown and this is something he will probably just have to deal with some weeks. I am sure next week he will get some targets early and often.
Hit the back foot, launch a PERFECT deep ball to AJ Brown in stride. This is such a pretty throw. Smith's route down below is also decent but he's gonna have to get used to all these 1on1 targets going to AJB who is elite. AJB's use of arms to separate downfield is awesome too. pic.twitter.com/XWHwCyI29z— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) September 13, 2022
Sirianni had some great calls as the game went on to take advantage of the Lions man blitz scheme. This was probably my favorite of the bunch as it picked up a really important 3rd and 2. Hurts mobility makes these plays so much more efficient too as the defense really has to watch out for him running.
This is a fantastic call on 3rd and 2 against a heavy man coverage team. Pascal almost as a H-back gets him lined up on a LB and it's a great throw and throw by Hurts. pic.twitter.com/T5x7QEK6ll— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) September 13, 2022
This one is also outstanding. The Lions were blitzing on early downs too, not just 3rd down, so this TE screen call on 1st down was a brilliant way of taking advantage of the Lions aggressiveness. This is excellent game planning and awareness to use his on 1st down.
This is a great call from Sirianni too. Lions were constantly blitzing on 1st down so sensible to counter with a TE screen. Great job by Goedert/Hurts too with the timing of the throw. pic.twitter.com/iPoA8rcibJ— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) September 13, 2022
The Eagles running game was excellent, once again. It was more of a shotgun/zone run game with the QB playing a big part, and there was less of the heavy personnel under center stuff which we saw more with Jordan Howard last year. The offensive line was really good in the run game and MIles Sanders played one of his best games as an Eagles, in my opinion. It is easy to forget how talented Sanders is because of how unreliable he has been the past couple of years but every so often he has a run that makes you just go wow. This was one of them...
Every single week Sanders has a run that just reminds you how insanely talented he is. If he puts it together and stays healthy he has the potential for a big year. That cut he makes inside is so so smooth. pic.twitter.com/Angdxjj5UQ— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) September 13, 2022
The tight ends continued to be very effective as blockers in the run game, Goedert in particular showed off on this play just how complete of a tight end he is.
Look at the blocking on this (IZ or Duo, IZ I think), especially by Goedert! This is about as big as a hole as you will see at this level. The OL wasn't perfect but still had some outstanding plays. pic.twitter.com/jmbUN8ppOZ— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) September 13, 2022
This was my favorite run of the game. The Eagles run this pin/pull concept so so well and I was so glad to see Sanders hit the hole quickly rather than hesitate or bounce it out wide. The hole was not huge, but Sanders did what he needed to do to pick up a big gain.
Sanders at his absolute best on pin/pull concept. Rookie year Sanders bounces this outside but he was quick and bust through the whole. Excellent to see! pic.twitter.com/BjJq0L2jWa— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) September 13, 2022
Time for something strong, it’s time to look at the defense.
Let’s start with the more positive of the two aspects, the pass defense. Then we’ll get t the really bad stuff.
I thought the Eagles secondary in coverage where really strong this game. Bradberry and Epps looked excellent. Slay was really good outside of one big play to DJ Chark and although Chauncey Gardner-Johnson struggled a bit when matched up with TJ Hockenson, he looked excellent in zone coverage all day.
This play was one of the best of the day. I know you’ve all seen this but just look at how fast and instinctive Epps is at coming downhill. He reads this play perfectly and his speed is excellent.
I know we've all seen this play but the a22 is better. This is a hell of a blend of speed and instincts! pic.twitter.com/mYORh42AUT— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) September 13, 2022
I continue to be really impressed by the Eagles zone coverage and how they pass off routes together and stop big plays. Credit Jonathan Gannon and the DBs coach who have obviously drilled this unit really well. This was a great play by Slay and TJ Edwards.
I said this a lot last year, but I remained really impressed by Eagles in zone coverage and their ability to pass off routes and create tight throwing lanes. Slay is in a great position but superb instincts by TJ Edwards to read Goff's eyes and make a play on the ball. pic.twitter.com/seE2ihS1YD— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) September 13, 2022
This was the play that really stood out to me. Slay does a superb job and knowing his deep responsibilities and the two safeties do a brilliant job matching up to the deep crossing route and they were unlucky not to come up with an interception. The vertical route with the deep crossing route would normally beat a standard cover 3 defense easily and this play really impressed me. I think the Eagles are going to be strong on the back end if they continue to play with this level of discipline.
Again, I thought this was brilliant. Slay does a great job tracking the deep route and Epps/CGJ cover the deep over perfectly. Goff's lucky he wasn't picked here. Eagles DB coach has done a great job working on this secondary. pic.twitter.com/ep4NUXtZmP— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) September 13, 2022
Last one on the pass defense for now as I want to get onto the more important stuff, but this was lovely to see. People will moan about Reddick dropping into coverage, but he didn’t do it often and if he does it once a while to create an unpredictable front and one on one matchups for other players, then that is perfectly fine to me.
Let's end on a high... because we did win! 5 man front with Reddick dropping. Totally ok with that as it's unpredictable for the defense and it leaves Cox/Graham with 1on1 on the backside and it looked like old times! Great rushes by both of them. pic.twitter.com/c9RJEPcpd0— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) September 13, 2022
Whilst we are discussing the pass rush, I thought Sweat played well but Reddick really struggled. He didn’t really get many pass rushing opportunities and as I highlighted before the season, he is more of a splash player than a consistent pass rusher. The Eagles also lined up with Reddick as a linebacker and blitzed him up the middle a few times which doesn’t really make any sense when you consider his skillset. I’d rather rush Nakobe Dean up the middle than Reddick if I am honest.
Right, let’s get into this. The Eagles run defense was brutal and Gannon deserves a huge part of the blame. Sometimes, run defense is just a numbers game. The Eagles were frequently outnumbered in the box, and they asked a hell of a lot from their linebackers and a safety in CGJ who they only just acquired and was previously a slot cornerback.
The very first big run was a sign of what was going to happen. The Lions kept motioning a WR into the box to create an extra blocker. The Eagles kept playing a 4man front and the 2 linebackers couldn’t get off blocks. It always relied on a defensive back to make the key tackle, this time James Bradberry, and tackling Swift in the open field as a defensive back is not an easy job.
Eagles Defense All22 thread vs. Lions. Where to start here? Lions kept motioning a WR very tight to add an extra blocker. Ends up 7on7 in the box... Which is bad. Edwards going in wrong direction, White/CGJ can't shed blocks and Bradberry misses a 1on1 tackle. Not great all round pic.twitter.com/JjRjm7Rj70— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) September 13, 2022
This is the play that annoyed me so much. I just think it’s bad. The Lions are a run heavy team with a below average quarterback. It is first and 10. You have just given up a massive run. Why on earth are you running nickel personnel against base personnel AND having both safeties and cornerbacks 13 yards back. Just look at the pre-snap look of this play. Who would not want to run on this? It’s not the linebackers or lineman’s fault that they are outnumbered and outmatched. It’s just poor. I understand this approach against a Patrick Mahomes (sometimes), but it was Jared Goff!
This stuff just drives me nuts. I don't get it. 1st down v. a run heavy team with a subpar QB. 12 personnel Vs nickel (why not sub Maddox for Dean?)... Eagles secondary is 13 yards deep and Lions have 7 in box v 7 defenders + 2 WRs in very tight splits. Who wouldn't run on this?! pic.twitter.com/fbvk5aWhRV— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) September 13, 2022
Here’s the same again. Lions motion the WR into the box, creates a 7on7 with no DB help. Then the Eagles ask a newly acquired slot cornerback to come charging into the box and make a tackle on a very good running back. I really like CGJ as a player, but he couldn’t handle the responsibilities in the run game this week. But this is making it really hard on him. These are not easy plays he is missing, and he is having to make tackles after coming downhill quickly, rather than starting closer to the line of scrimmage.
Lions motion WR to tight split, creates 7 blockers basically. Eagles have 7 in box and 2 safeties 12-15 yards deep. It's just too easy. You also see CGJ take a slightly wrong angle and miss a tackle. If you're going to play this your safeties have to be excellent coming downhill. pic.twitter.com/9r81fT0pNM— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) September 13, 2022
You know the drill by now, it’s just the same thing over and over.
Again, not to pick on CGJ but when you play this passive defense you need your 2 safeties to come up quickly and make a play. It's a hard job and he misses another difficult tackle. Both Edwards/White really struggled to get off blocks in the run game too which was disappointing pic.twitter.com/n84dAij9z4— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) September 13, 2022
We all know what happened when the Eagles went to a 5 man front with Jordan Davis. We know they stopped the run better. The problem is, going to a 5 man front obviously limits your coverage. In simple maths terms, you can run more coverages with more defenders with a 4 man front than a 5-man front. But the Eagles weren’t playing Mahomes, it was Goff! Why not do more of this stuff. I totally understand the limitations of using a 5-man front but I just do not get why it wasn’t more of an option this week. Especially on early downs, against a run first Jared Goff led offense. My fear that Gannon is a good coach but is just naturally too passive and defensive to make this defense really good. It has to be better than this moving forward, the team is too talented to give up that many points to the Lions.
Jordan Davis crushed this run. Absolutely no surprise the 5 man fronts performed better against the run with Davis out there. I understand it limits your coverage a little bit but we were playing Goff!! I don't understand. Davis was basically only used in 5 man fronts too. pic.twitter.com/ROlr4eREkq— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) September 13, 2022
It was clear on Sunday that Davis played about the same number of snaps as he did in college and only played 0tech in a 5-man front. I seriously hope this is not the plan for him. If you are going to play 4-man fronts, getting Davis in on early downs as a the 1tech should be a priority moving forward. We said all offseason that it’s OK to play light boxes because you have Davis. Well, the Eagles played light boxes this Sunday, and they didn’t play Davis. And it went about as well as you expected.
The Eagles did win the game, so let’s end with a good play from in my opinion, the Eagles best defensive player on Sunday. Marcus Epps.
Marcus Epps is a superb tackler. I thought he was the best defensive player out there and made a few excellent plays, including this great hit on the GL to prevent a TD on this play. pic.twitter.com/8xapHAvhO9— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) September 13, 2022
Right, that will do for now. Glad I got that run defense stuff off my chest! The Eagles did win and there were some very good performances. It’s important not to forget that. Let me know your feedback as always and I’ll be back soon with some stats before the game next week.