I think this Eagles-Rams matchup might be one of the most interesting games I’ve watched in a while. There’s a lot of interesting stuff here. [Previously: All-22 offense takeaways from the Eagles-Rams game]
Just a warning, I focused heavily on how the Eagles dealt with Cooper Kupp in this game. I didn’t find too much interesting stuff in terms of the run defense that was new, so I wanted to really go in-depth on this specific matchup. Last year the Eagles really struggled against elite receivers so I wanted to focus a lot on Kupp.
The Eagles got off to a terrible start. Honestly, I have no real idea what the plan was. The Eagles ran more 5-man fronts this week, and they also seemed to blitz a linebacker a lot. This forces you into some pretty simple coverage, and we saw a lot of cover 1 where Kupp was lined up against defenders who simply were not good enough to stop him. The Eagles started out with Mario Goodrich in the slot and that just did not work, which is hardly a huge shock. I wasn’t thrilled seeing this.
Eagles Defense All22 threads vs. Rams. 1) I focused heavily on Kupp in this game. It was an experience. The Eagles started off by just lining up in man coverage with Goodrich one-on-one with him and it went as well as you would expect... pic.twitter.com/gSAGZKSfSa— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) October 10, 2023
Then it got a bit weirder. The Eagles started playing Eli Ricks in the slot, which I’m still not entirely sure why. Eli Ricks in the slot against Cooper Kupp with 0 help, on 3rd and 8, feels pretty mental to me. I was having flashbacks to last season when the Eagles just couldn’t stop an elite wide receiver when he moved to the slot.
2) Same drive, cover 1 man coverage again, but this time we saw Eli Ricks in the slot... if anyone can explain that to me then please do. I can only assume it was a matchup specific thing. But I have no idea what Desai was expecting, and it certainly didn't work. Ricks/Goodrich… pic.twitter.com/IusY7LPGGG— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) October 10, 2023
I said I wouldn’t talk about the run defense a huge amount in this game, but I couldn’t not show this play by Milton Williams. He has gone under the radar this year due to Jalen Carter and Jordan Davis, but he’s a really good player. The Eagles are going to have a good defensive line for a while.
3) Carter and Davis get the headlines, but Milton Williams is so good. He was outstanding on Sunday. Look how quickly he blows up this outside zone toss by getting into the backfield. Morrow was excellent all game too. The Eagles run D remains very, very strong. pic.twitter.com/AaP37SFRzd— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) October 10, 2023
I have some sympathy for Sean Desai after watching this one. The sad truth is that the Eagles don’t have a cornerback who could cover Kupp one-on-one. After the 1st drive, it felt like Desai had enough and asked Darius Slay to travel with him for a bit, but that didn’t work either. Basically, no form of man coverage was working but the Eagles couldn’t do a lot else as they continued to blitz a linebacker or play a 5-man front. I found the defense quite frustrating on the first couple of drives.
4) Desai kept the man coverage approach, but tried moving Slay around to follow Kupp. That didn't work either. It felt like any form of man coverage, no matter who was on Kupp, just didn't work. The Eagles were just getting killed by Kupp early on and couldn't do anything. pic.twitter.com/qtmorJw3BJ— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) October 10, 2023
I’ve seen some people say the Eagles’ defense didn’t get better and they just got lucky. I disagree. The Eagles did adjust and started playing more zone match coverage so they could get 2 defenders bracketing Kupp. This was the best coverage rep I saw all game. It’s a coverage known as ‘Box’ which is essentially 4over3 coverage, and it enabled the Eagles to double Kupp. It worked really well here and of course, Jalen Carter gets a sack. You can see Stafford wants to go to Kupp here and has to hold the ball for a beat longer, which enables Carter to get home.
5) We did see something work though! The Eagles are in a form of Box coverage (4over3) which meant they could essentially double Kupp in zone, and it worked! Stafford wants to go there but can't, and Carter makes sure he doesn't have enough time to get through his progressions. pic.twitter.com/KxN5NnXoAx— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) October 10, 2023
After one of the best defensive plays of the game, the Eagles end up giving a touchdown. I could go after James Bradberry here and say he should be able to cover Puka Nacua one-on-one, but sometimes you just have to say fair play to the offense. This is a fantastic throw, a great route, and a perfect catch. This is a very good offensive play rather than a bad defensive play.
6) I'll complain about Desai a bit, but sometimes you have to say fair play. Bradberry's in an OK position, but this is just a dime from Stafford to Nacua. I actually thought Bradberry played well overall but he got done by a perfect throw here. pic.twitter.com/25pkDmwWjd— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) October 10, 2023
As well as the box coverage from earlier, we also saw some triangle type of coverage (you can call it bracket too, or whatever you want!) but it enabled the Eagles to get 2 eyes on Kupp without having to defend him in man coverage. As much as I absolutely loved these zone match calls, the only thing I would love to ask Desai about is... why didn’t the Eagles do it more?! I would guess it’s because the Eagles wanted to keep rushing 5 and play these 5-man fronts which meant they couldn’t bracket Kupp as easily, but I still wish we had seen more zone match coverage.
7) As well as box, we saw some triangle coverage (3over2) to Kupp's side and that worked! It helps when Jalen Carter just walks past the center... but you can see Stafford have to get off his first read. The box/triangle calls by Desai absolutely worked. I would have done this… pic.twitter.com/I0ZgZgpuRq— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) October 10, 2023
As I hinted at above, the Eagles did go back to more man coverage, but we saw a lot more Bradley Roby in the second half. Now, this is where I do agree with some of the people who thought the Eagles’ defense got lucky. I think Stafford and the Rams missed a few throws in the second half that they would normally make. But, I also think you have to credit the Eagles’ pass rush because Stafford was not comfortable in the pocket at all in the second half.
8) The Eagles went back to man, and this time tried Roby in the slot more. I think we got lucky/the pass rush won. This rep by Sweat is fantastic and forces a very early throw. I think the Eagles went w/ more man because they wanted to rush 5 which they did a surprising amount. pic.twitter.com/kIO9Y4cAwo— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) October 10, 2023
I have no idea why and it’s pretty crazy considering he just signed for the team... but the Eagles blitzed Roby quite a lot in this game! I have no idea if blitzes from the slot are going to be a thing moving forward but it’s something to keep an eye on. It does feel like Desai is just running a ton of stuff at the moment, and I wonder whether this will be streamlined as the season goes on. The benefit of being a DC on a team that is 5-0 and has a great offense means you can try stuff, whilst still winning games!
9) Here's something I didn't expect... it felt like the Eagles blitzed Roby a lot! Keep an eye out for this moving forward. This is a fantastic breakup by Bradberry and it should have caused an INT. I think Slay's lucky Stafford wasn't looking to Kupp on this one... pic.twitter.com/g9uanjrTLJ— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) October 10, 2023
This is where I got a bit confused again by the game plan. There’s no motion here, the Eagles just straight-up line Slay in the slot over a tight end and have a safety on Cooper Kupp. This is a near-impossible cover for Reed Blankenship, and he’s probably bailed out by some poor pass pro and a bad throw by Matthew Stafford. I think you can argue the Eagles took away the short stuff and forced Stafford to beat them deep which worked, but you could also reasonably argue that if Stafford connects with one or two of these deep shots then we are all complaining a lot still.
10) I love Blankenship, but asking him to cover Kupp one-on-one from this position feels impossible. I don't get why we kept doing it. Luckily, the Rams screw up in pass pro and the free rusher causes an overthrow. You can credit Desai for being aggressive but idk. The Rams… pic.twitter.com/5SWyGVLymr— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) October 10, 2023
This was the worst miss by Stafford and it should be a touchdown. I’m pretty sure Justin Evans is at fault here for not carrying the receiver down the field, and it’s a reminder that this Eagles secondary has some real weak points. Evans has looked a lot better than Terrell Edmunds this year and I would start him too, but I really think the Eagles should add a safety before the trade deadline if they can. I do worry about this secondary competing with the best offenses in the later stages of the season.
11) Stafford absolutely started to play too fast and feel pressure in this game. I think it saved the Eagles defense. This should have been a huge TD. I'm guessing Evans should carry Atwell down the seam but he doesn't and it's a big miss by the Rams. The defense felt lucky imo. pic.twitter.com/EflQhMCQ3Z— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) October 10, 2023
If any of you can explain what the plan was at this point, please do tell me. I have nothing really to say... I totally understand that Roby wouldn’t have been ready to play the whole game but why not just play Josh Jobe on the outside against and kick Bradberry inside? Jobe has been fine, and Bradberry couldn’t have been worse in the slot against Goodrich or Ricks. I just found it a bit odd.
12) And just to drive me a little bit insane... we went back to Eli Ricks in the slot. Someone enlighten me as to why? Am I missing something obvious? pic.twitter.com/ggFfh7lUlD— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) October 10, 2023
Anyway, enough of me moaning. We did see this lovely play to end the game! The Eagles went back to man coverage, but this time they used a bracket to double Kupp on the outside which made me very happy. I was glad to see Haason Reddick end the game with a couple of sacks because I thought he played extremely well all game. The Eagles pass rush is going to have to save the Eagles defense in a lot of games this year.
13) Let's end with a positive. This looked like the first true form of a bracket on Kupp, and it was nice to see Reddick end the game with a sack. Reddick/Sweat were really good all game and the pass rush definitely bailed the Eagles secondary out in this game. pic.twitter.com/HlkDFI4mAN— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) October 10, 2023
- Whatever you think about the defense overall in this game, it was incredibly diverse. The Eagles ran a lot of stuff. When this defense faces some major problems in the playoffs this year, they are going to have a lot of answers to different problems (I can’t promise any of them will work though...).
- When Nakobe Dean is back, this rotation is going to be really interesting. The obvious thing to do would be to replace Zach Cunningham with Dean, but both Dean and Nicholas Morrow are very undersized and the Eagles did cut Morrow earlier in the season. I really like Morrow and think Cunningham is an elite run defender but basically useless in pass coverage. I hope Dean replaces Cunningham.
- Reddick and Josh Sweat were outstanding in this game.