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.
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.
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.
#2 I thought the Eagles handed Olave really well, despite him moving around into the slot. We know the Eagles struggle without Maddox in man coverage and Scott will beat at times in the slot. I thought he had a good game though despite this 3rd down on the 1st drive. pic.twitter.com/ZyX8dnj3FI— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 3, 2023
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.
#4 Eagles secondary played really well after the 1st drive. The communication in the secondary for the most part was much improved. Watch how the two deep safeties communicate and take the post/over from each side. Fantastic rush by Hargrave too. pic.twitter.com/0Yko4hThuE— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 3, 2023
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.
#5 Eagles did play some man coverage! Form of 2-man here leads to the sack. Ironically, for all the excitement over some man coverage, Dalton has a wide open WR on the drag route but totally misses him. BG gets his 10th sack! pic.twitter.com/DbtA0mjLbC— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 3, 2023
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.
#6 Miscommunication with White here? I don't know how it's coached but I'm surprised he doesn't carry the TE here considering there's only 2 receivers to his side. Saints used Hill really effectively and they aren't an easy team to plan for on defense. pic.twitter.com/vP6yU2uZr2— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 3, 2023
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.
#8 Eagles run a cover 3 invert and Bradberry just gets burned. It happens to every CB at times. Huge credit to him for making the tackle though - it ends up saving the Eagles 4 points. He's not been as sharp in recent weeks though. pic.twitter.com/IjDohGsN5q— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 3, 2023
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.
#11 The play before the INT, fantastic zone match play. The communication is fantastic. Watch Bradberry call the 'under' and White pick up the drag. The weak safety comes across to help with the 3 WR side. It's great coverage that results in another sack! pic.twitter.com/xD4BEZlej4— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 3, 2023
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.
#12 The INT is also zone match and it's a fantastic play by Scott. He carries the #2 vertically until passing him off to Slay (who passes the post to the safety) but he crucially gets his eyes back on the QB so he can sink and take away the throw that Dalton is trying to fit in. pic.twitter.com/aw6BtEF7Ms— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 3, 2023
The play above reminded me a lot of this interception from Maddox earlier in the season against the Vikings.
This is a perfect play by Maddox, who was also brilliant. The Vikings try to Hi-Lo him and he does a fantastic job baiting the quarterback into throwing the route behind him while backpedalling and tracking the football in the air perfectly. pic.twitter.com/SgpF4CfEGa— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) September 21, 2022
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.
#13 Also saw some cover 1 from DIME £ we got a lovely play from K'Von Wallace in coverage! I thought the Eagles ran a really good mix of different coverages and made it hard for the Saints passing game after the 1st drive. pic.twitter.com/3wCuuiMQuG— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 3, 2023
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.
#14 Haason Reddick is playing out of his freaking mind right now. The quickness and speed of this spin move is nasty. Eagles played zone match on this play (as they did on most of their sacks fyi!) and the pass rush was simply outstanding after the first drive. This play is nuts. pic.twitter.com/n2JEGNOtuM— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 3, 2023
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.
Eagles defense all22 thread vs. Saints. #1 I thought TJ Edwards was fantastic against the run and especially against Taysom Hill. His tackling in the open field is outstanding and his play recognition has come on so much the past couple of years which has made him much faster pic.twitter.com/YedsFijXG6— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 3, 2023
#7 It's that man again! TJ Edwards is too quick for 2 blocks and then makes the tackle on the sideline. Phew. This is a big time play. pic.twitter.com/Lm6rRRZTKc— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 3, 2023
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.
#9 Milton Williams does these incredibly quick moves on lineman each week and they can't get a hand on him! He blows up this run and prevents the TD, but only because TJ Edwards is following it up as always. He was so good at avoiding blocks and making tackles in this game. pic.twitter.com/Rv1jkxuRVx— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 3, 2023
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.
#3 Jordan Davis! He still doesn't stand out like he did early on in the year and cannot rush the QB (hence why he's getting little snaps at 3-tech) but this is a really good play and exactly what you want to see from him at NT. Eagles run D from 5-man fronts was good again. pic.twitter.com/xa3DnMTCNz— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 3, 2023
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.
#10 The Eagles 4-man fronts were a bit of a disaster against the run. Especially on 2nd long situations where the Saints ran draw plays really well. The 2 DTs fly upfield and White is so weak at times against the run in space. He can't shed blocks or avoid the TE here. pic.twitter.com/GTmZeEHtdu— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 3, 2023
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.