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

New Orleans Saints v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Dustin Satloff/Getty Images

This was an interesting one from a defensive perspective. It seems some people think this was a great defensive performance, and others think it was terrible. I’m sort of in between. I feel like the defense didn’t help the offense early on, but the offense really didn’t help the defense overall either! This feels like a game where whatever you thought about the Eagles’ defense going into the game, you probably still feel the same way now.

Eagles Defense

The EPA numbers highlight it was a pretty average defensive performance overall. I thought the run defense was much better on film than the numbers suggest, but some of the problems against the run came on 2nd and long where the Eagles' 4-man front didn’t work again.

Pass Defense

The Saints have one major threat in the passing game and he didn’t really do a lot. We all know that the best way of attacking this Eagles’ defense is to put your best receiver in the slot, and sadly I’m still not sure the Eagles have the perfect answer when they are in man coverage. However, they did a good job with their zone match later on taking away any easy throws to Olave.

This was a weird game for the Eagles' pass defense. Overall, I thought the secondary was much improved after a strange game last week. The communication at times was outstanding, unlike last week, but they did still have some coverage busts. I love the communication on this play and both safeties do a fantastic job taking away the post/cross combo. This is the benefit of zone match, as this play is usually excellent against cover 4 but the Eagles zone match means the outside cornerback doesn’t have to cover the post route by himself as he gets help from the other safety.

The Eagles definitely played more man coverage this week, but the idea they went to man coverage frequently after the first drive and that was the reason for the defensive performance is just not true. Most of the Eagles’ sacks still came out of zone match and not straight-up man coverage, but it was good to see the Eagles mix up their man and zone looks which they didn’t do enough last week.

I thought this was another poor Kyzir White game, especially against the run. He did have some good reps in zone coverage but this wasn’t one of them. I have no idea if he is at fault here and I’m not going to pretend I do. I have a feeling he is responsible for carrying the #2 deep because there is no other option on that side of the field except for the outside receiver, but it’s possible it’s a mistake by the deep safety. Personally, I would guess this is on White though.

The Eagles’ defense is built around not giving up big plays and the cornerbacks normally do a fantastic job not getting beat deep. But every cornerback will get beat, and this week it was James Bradberry’s turn to give up a big play. The outside cornerbacks haven’t been as good the past couple of weeks as they were at the start of the season, but they are still playing very well overall. Cover 3 invert is where the defense shows a split-safety look but then post-snap goes to cover 3 (single-high) with K’Von Wallace dropping back as the single-high safety. It’s a good throw and read by Dalton, but you must also credit Bradberry for making the tackle.

This is the kind of play I love watching. I know not everyone enjoys Gannon style for obvious reasons, but I do enjoy watching the communication on these zone match snaps. Watch Bradberry call the ‘under’ here and watch White pick up the drag route. The Eagles usually use their weak safety as an extra defender on the strong side as you can see here (Fangio guys would call this Trix) which means that they end up 5over3 on the passing strength side and do a good job taking away the Saints receivers.

The Eagles run the same play the very next play and Josiah Scott gets the interception. This is perfect by Scott who had a decent game overall. Scott is responsible for carrying the #2 to a certain depth before letting Slay take him. Dalton will know this, and obviously thinks he can squeeze the ball in the gap before Slay can come up. However, when Scott passes the #2 off he gets his eyes back to the quarterback quickly and stays in excellent technique which enables him to backpedal and get the interception.

The play above reminded me a lot of this interception from Maddox earlier in the season against the Vikings.

As I said earlier, the Eagles ran a good combination of man and zone coverage and I enjoyed this play from DIME with K’Von Wallace covering the slot. It’s good to mix up the coverages to keep opposing offenses guessing.

I didn’t really highlight the pass rush much in this one, because I mentioned it every week. But my goodness it was good. Graham, Cox, Hargrave, and Reddick were both outstanding at getting after the quarterback. I had to show you this rush by Reddick... the combination of speed, explosiveness, and quickness is elite. I cannot believe how well Reddick is playing. What a signing.

Run Defense

I can’t talk about this game without talking about TJ Edwards in run defense. I thought he was outstanding and he didn’t get much help from his partner. TJ Edwards is the perfect example of how better play recognition leads to you looking faster on the field. TJ Edwards used to look too slow to be a starting linebacker, but he’s had a really good year. He can play sideline-to-sideline and is about as good of an open-field tackler as there is in the league currently.

TJ Edwards got some help from Milton Williams here, but it’s still a great tackle by TJ Edwards who jumped out time and time again. This inside move by Milton Williams is making an offensive lineman look silly every week at the moment.

The biggest schematic issue with the Eagles’ defense is still the inability to stop the run without using a 5-man front. The good news is that the Eagles' 5-man front is working very well against the run in recent weeks. Linval Joseph was good again but this rep also looked really promising for Jordan Davis. He still isn’t back to where he was at the start of the season but this is a good sign.

However, as I referenced earlier, the Eagles' 4-man fronts were a bit of a disaster against the run. When the Eagles get a team into 2nd and long, they get the 4-man front out and Cox and Hargrave go charging upfield. The Saints knew this was coming and they ran this draw play a couple of times and both times it worked. Kyzir White feels like a non-factor on these plays as he can’t get off blocks and isn’t quick enough to avoid them. I think White is still a good player and benching him at this stage in the year would be risky, but I think Nakobe Dean needs to get some more snaps and I personally would like to see him used in these 2nd and long 4-man front looks.

Overall, I thought this was a pretty good defensive performance. It wasn’t perfect, and the first drive was certainly not great. But it also included 3 3rd and short conversions and a 4th down conversion. Whether you like it or not, we know that Gannon will not mind that and as long as the Eagles are stopping explosive plays, he will be content. It is not always pretty, and it’s very point to argue that the talent is making the scheme look better than it is, but I was happy with this performance after a really bad game against the Cowboys.

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