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

Closer look at Philly’s aggressive passing attack, stingy coverage, and more.

NFL: SEP 25 Eagles at Commanders Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This was one of my favorite games I’ve watched as an Eagles fan in a long time. This reminded me so much of the Eagles Super Bowl season where the Eagles were just simply much better than their opponents and way more talented. I don’t think the Eagles did anything particularly brilliant schematically but they just simply beat up on inferior players in multiple one on one situations. It was fun! You know the drill by now, let’s get to the film.

Passing Game

This was the most aggressive was passing attack I’ve seen in a long, long time. We continue to see the Eagles take advantage of Jalen Hurts’ mobility with a lot of package plays/read option/RPOs to keep the offense ticking along, but I’m not going to focus on these plays too much as other things stood out more.

I thought there were two areas of this game that really stood out to me. Firstly, the use of empty formations. Secondly, the aggression that Hurts showed vs. single high coverage and the trust they put in their wide receivers. The Eagles have two extremely good receivers and they trusted them to win in one on one situations. This was the best game I can think of for two Eagles starting wide receivers for a long time.

Before we get into any clips, I just want to ask you all to watch the Eagles pass protection in these clips. The offensive line was phenomenal. The pockets they gave Hurts at times were almost laughable. You can’t help but smile a bit when you realize how jealous Carson Wentz would have been on the other sideline... (sorry Carson).

Let’s start with empty. Empty formations are fantastic if you have offensive linemen who can hold up in pass protection in one on one matchups, wide receivers who can get off press coverage and a quarterback who can beat free rushers if a defender gets through quickly. The Eagles tick all 3 boxes and they are excelling in empty right now. Empty makes it pretty impossible for the defense to hide what they want to do and it makes it an easier read for a quarterback. Let’s look at some examples. This one highlights how easy empty makes the read for the quarterback as defenses can’t disguise coverage at all.

The other thing you can do with empty is make a defense declare what they are doing by how you line-up your players. For example, when the Eagles put a running back at outside WR and the Commanders counter by putting a linebacker over him, the Eagles can pretty sure it’s going to be man coverage. Mesh is therefore an easy call, although this play doesn’t develop without elite pass protection.

The Commanders also made it really easy and are not very good on defense right now. Plays like this are just simply too easy. Rather than have the slot cornerback pass off Smith to the safety so he can help the outside cornerback on AJ Brown, they just line up and cover the guy right in-front of them which makes it so easy for Hurts to know where to go with this ball.

I expect to see the Eagles continue to run a lot of empty moving forward as Hurts was excellent throwing the football out of empty this week.

The other thing that really stood out from Sunday was the Eagles and Hurts aggressiveness throwing the ball down the field. The phrase ‘single-high, let it fly’ came to mind. The Eagles consistently threw it to DeVonta Smith and AJ Brown down the field and both of them were outstanding. If anything, Hurts was slightly too aggressive but I will absolutely take an aggressive quarterback over someone who plays it safe. Big plays when games.

This is one that I’m sure you all remember as it was a hell of an effort from Smith. Hurts was extremely quick and decisive at reading the Commanders deep safety and it seemed like every time he saw a single-high safety in the middle of the field he just took a shot to the outside receivers.

This is just an elite wide receiver dominating a one on one matchup. Hurts was superb at giving his guys a chance to go up and get the football, but I thought the offense made things really easy for Hurts this week. Having these two wide receivers would help any quarterback.

I actually thought Hurts missed a couple of deep shots he would like to have back but overall he had a really good game and was so decisive with his decision making.

This is the one clip where I think Hurts is being too aggressive. You should never really throw a post against single-high coverage but to be fair to Hurts the safety is playing this terrible so why not! He just misses AJ Brown on what would have been another huge play.

These two plays are not against single-high but I had to throw them both in there because the pass protection is just so so good.

I also wanted to highlight this play for two reasons. Firstly, this is an elite throw by Hurts and the ball placement is perfect and he throws it when the defensive back has his back turned which shows excellent timing. Secondly, the route from Smith is exceptional as getting open on an out route against outside leverage is very difficult. The ability to climb the ladder and highpoint the football is also outstanding. This is a true WR1 catch. The Eagles have two legit wide receiver 1’s. It’s fun!

Final one from the passing play today, I wanted to mention this one because it’s a fantastic play call and it also shows just how bad the Commanders were. What is the safety doing here when he tries to tackle Dallas Goedert?!

I don’t want to get into it in this particular article as I have mentioned it a lot already this season, but the Eagles continue to struggle against the blitz and I’m sort of confused by their approach to it. The plan seems to be to let Hurts run around and make a play against free rushers rather than have an obvious hot route on the play. I noted at least 2 examples where the Eagles had no easy answer vs a blitz and both resulted in incompletions (one in the RedZone to Smith on a post and one where Hurts escaped the pocket to his right and threw downfield). I still want them to do more against the blitz.

Rushing Attack

The Eagles passing game was exceptional Sunday. The Eagles running game was a bit of a disaster. The Eagles EPA per play on runs was -0.52 which is in about the 3rd percentile. That is bad. As I highlighted in the pregame stats piece, the Commanders run defense has been awful this year too. The Eagles came out and wanted to establish the run but gave up pretty quickly. Then in the second half when they wanted to run out the clock they just couldn’t do it effectively. There were a few issues, but let’s start with the running back.

This was not a good Miles Sanders game. He was indecisive and his vision seemed a bit all over the place. He takes a really bad wide step here and can’t recover and just sort of stumbles into his own lineman when there is a clear hole for him to follow.

This play is just flat out poor and not something you want to see from an experienced running back. I understand he reads the safety and sees the space but the play just isn’t designed for his. I understand that if he does make the linebacker miss in the hole then maybe it’s a great play, but I think with this offensive line you should just follow your blocks and good things will happen.

However, this was absolutely not on Sanders alone. The Eagles run blocking was pretty poor at times, Dallas Goedert in particular was really bad (I am assuming he was hurt) and Jonathan Allen absolutely blew up a few plays. There were quite a few times when Sanders had nowhere to go.

Last year the Eagles ran a lot of under center downhill plays with Jordan Howard running behind a strong offensive line. Due to the read option/RPO game, the Eagles are now a shotgun team pretty much all of the time. They haven’t yet figured out how to effectively run the ball from the shotgun consistently and this is something they absolutely need to work on.

Pass Defense

I know you all expect me to start with the pass rush, but I want to talk Eagles coverage first. I was so impressed with the Eagles secondary against a good passing attack with two really good receivers. As I break down the coverage you will see some pass rushing snaps too, because the two things worked perfectly together!

I said this a lot last year when I defended Gannon, but I think the Eagles secondary is just so well coached. How often do you see a miscommunication leading to a big play? The Eagles coverage is so disciplined and it was excellent on Sunday. I thought every single member of the secondary was really good in coverage and so were TJ Edwards and Kyzir White. Considering Epps is a new as a fulltime starter, CGJ hasn’t played safety for a while and Bradberry/White are new additions, this is an extremely good look for the coaching staff.

As the Eagles get more comfortable, I expect to see more coverage disguise post-snap too. This is something we saw towards the end of last season as the secondary got more comfortable with the Eagles concepts. It’s a good sign we are seeing it in week 3 this year.

Compare this Eagles match coverage to Washington’s static zone coverage. It’s significantly better and it’s not really close. This is not easy to do, it takes a lot of communication, discipline and versatility to be able to do this consistently.

As good as the Eagles secondary has been in coverage too, TJ Edwards deserves a massive shoutout for how well he is playing right now. He’s not a fluke, he’s just a really good linebacker and he’s proved me completely wrong. I never thought he would be this good and I imagine he has worked very hard so credit where credit is due.

The theme of this article has been that the Eagles just won one on one matchups all over the field. Here’s another example of one!

Before we get to the pass rush, I have to give a mention to Marcus Epps too. Partly because he actually retweeted this, but largely because he is just a seriously good defensive player and he’s so fun to watch on film every week.

The Eagles pass rush was exceptional this week and the defensive line just one their one on one matchups time and time again. Let’s get to some specific examples. If you want some bonus content, turn your sound on and listen to my British accent on BGN Radio break down one of the sacks straight after the game! (Also go and have a listen and let me know what you think!)

The Eagles defensive lineman just won these one on one matchups over and over again. Washington simply could not block them one on one and I have no idea what you do as an offense if you just cannot block anyone. Jordan Davis got involved in the pressure party for the first time this season too.

They had so much confidence, we even saw some much maligned Tampa 2! It’s a fine coverage if you get after the quarterback quickly.

The Eagles pass rush and coverage were really excellent this Sunday and the coaching staff deserves a lot of credit but this defense is also just really, really talented.

Run Defense

The Eagles run defense was also pretty good this Sunday. I thought all the defensive lineman played well and the gap discipline was good for the second week in a row. Jordan Davis and Fletcher Cox were really good, but I thought I would highlight this play because it shows the strength in depth that the Eagles have on the defensive line.

I don’t even want to know how many times I have mentioned Brandon Graham being an elite backside run defender over the years but... Brandon Graham is still an elite backside run defender. At 34 years old. Earl Thomas who?

I almost just want to mention every single Eagles defensive player this week because they deserved it, so I had to throw this play of Maddox just flying into the running back in there. I could have also highlighted him blowing up Logan Thomas on the goal line. He’s a fantastic slot cornerback in so many ways.

We will leave it there for this week. This was a fun one. Keep an eye out for this week’s stats articles towards the end of the week but spoiler alert... the Jags are pretty good! This Sunday could be a tough one and I’m excited.

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