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Eagles Film Analysis: All-22 defense takeaways from the Dolphins game

Looking at how Sean Desai bested Mike McDaniel in Week 7.

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Miami Dolphins v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

This is the most fun I’ve had watching a game on defense in a long time. This Philadelphia Eagles vs. Miami Dolphins battle was awesome. Just a quick reminder that I am joining the podcast game, and if you want even more analysis on this game (as well as my British accent) then please check out the ‘On the Shane Page’ podcast!

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This Eagles’ run defense was so good in this game. The defense got off to a great start when Haason Reddick made a couple of outstanding plays in the backfield, including this one. The defense was so focused on stopping the run and they came out with this 5-man front. The majority of the time on early downs, it was Fletcher Cox - Jordan Davis - Milton Williams and they were elite. Stopping the run may not seem particularly exciting in the modern NFL, but it is still hugely important. The gap discipline that this team shows is extremely good and I can’t say enough good things about Sean Desai and the defensive line coach Tracy Rocker.

The Eagles' use of the 3 linebackers was really interesting in this game. This didn’t always happen, but a lot of the time it was Nakobe Dean - Zach Cunningham together all the time except when the Dolphins were in the redzone when it became Nicholas Morrow - Cunningham. It’s weird to see Cunningham play 100% of the snaps, but he is such a good run defender and I think the Eagles want him out there because of this. Once again, this is a fantastic rep of run defense and Morrow is so good at coming downhill fast. I can’t say enough about this run defense, and I’m pretty sure I spent a good few minutes just getting more and more excited on the podcast this week about it!

I’ve pointed out a lot just how aggressive the Eagles are at coming downhill, so it was awesome to see plays like this on film too. If you are over-aggressive, then you can get done by play-action and this did happen to the Eagles at times in this game. However, they also had some outstanding reps such as this one, whey they remained disciplined and did their job effectively without getting distracted by all of the Dolphins' backfield action. It was a really disciplined performance against a very good offense.

Just watch the defensive line. How good is this? It doesn’t get any better. There were multiple reps in this game where the Eagles didn’t even need their linebackers because the defensive line just flat-out dominated the Dolphins’ offense. Watch Jordan Davis and Milton Williams on this play. They do not move an inch! Jordan Davis anchors against a double team like it’s nothing! Everyone has been talking about Jalen Carter this year, for obvious reasons, but I continue to think that Davis and Williams are weirdly going under the radar. They have both been fantastic all season long.

As well as the run defense, I was really impressed with the way that Desai adapted to the Dolphins’ pass game. The Eagles had 2 backup safeties out there, and they simplified things for them by playing a lot and a lot of cover 2 this week. This was obviously a matchup-specific thing because it is not something they have done a lot of at all this week. The cover 2 defense worked really well against the Dolphins' pass game and although the Dolphins did have some success throwing over the top of the Eagles' linebackers, overall the game plan was outstanding and the Eagles executed it really well.

I think you could make a case that Nakobe Dean was a bit too aggressive against the run and wasn’t great in this game. But, this play gets me very excited. This is why the Eagles drafted him and why many people thought he was a very first talent. The Dolphins do a fantastic job of making you cover every blade of grass, and this is a great way of getting Tyreek Hill in space with blockers in front of him. Just look how quickly Nakobe Dean reads this play and how fast he is at getting out there to make the tackle. This is a fantastic sign and he’s the only linebacker on the Eagles roster who can make a play like this.

Remember what I said earlier about the Eagles being aggressive but maintaining their discipline? Here is another great example. I expect it from Darius Slay as a veteran, but I was really impressed to see Sydney Brown also maintain his depth and prevent the shot play. I haven’t spoken about Brown much in this one, but I thought he did his job well and looked comfortable as a starting safety. Obviously, the Eagles have added another safety this week in Kevin Byard (you might get a bonus film room at the end of the week...) but I hope Brown continues to get some snaps as I think he can develop into a good starter.

This was another really cool play design from the Eagles’ defense. Watching live, I assumed this was a terrible miscommunication by the Dolphins’ offensive line but it was actually a really good sim pressure by the defense who dropped Brandon Graham into coverage whilst bringing Cunningham on a blitz from the opposite side. It’s a bit of an easy sack for Nolan Smith, but it was awesome to see everyone celebrate with him and you can tell he really enjoyed that one. Hopefully, that will be the first of many!

I actually had a long discussion with Shane Haff on the podcast this week and he convinced me that it’s harsh to blame Terrell Edmunds for this play. I still think Edmunds plays this poorly, but this kind of in/out bracket can be susceptible to vertical routes. I think the Eagles are expecting Tyreek Hill to run inside as he had done all game, but he actually went vertical here and just sped past both James Bradberry and Edmunds. It’s easy to criticize Desai for this call in hindsight, but it’s important to remember that absolutely no defensive call is perfect and there are flaws to every play. Sometimes the opposition makes a great call too, but overall I thought this was a fantastic gameplan by Sean Desai.

This highlights a really good job by the Eagles’ two linebackers (Morrow and Cunningham) at getting depth and taking away that shot over their heads. Slay also plays Tyreek Hill well and he is outstanding at this form of double coverage where he knows he has help over the top (more on this later). This is just outstanding team defense, including by Reddick who does a great job getting depth and then rallying to the football.

I don’t really have anything else to add about the Eagles’ run defense. Just watch and enjoy!

This was an example of the Eagles’ linebackers getting slightly too aggressive and being unable to get depth to stop the throw going over their heads and in between the gap between them and the safeties. However, I think you can blame this one on Desai for having them line up over the A-gap in a double mug look. I understand why the Eagles want to do this and I love the aggressiveness, but I think it’s pretty impossible to expect the linebackers to be able to get depth after lining up over the A-gap.

The Eagles ran a lot of cover 2 in this game, but the biggest play of the game came from cover 1-man coverage. This is possibly pass interference (probably is but it’s a bad throw anyway so) by Cunningham but it’s a really heads-up play by Slay. Slay does a really good job staying in man coverage whilst getting his eyes back toward the football so he can make a play on the football. This was a huge moment in the game and Slay deserves a lot of credit for living up to his nickname

Let’s end with this play because I think it’s a cool play to end on. Earlier on, we saw the Eagles get beat by Tyreek Hill when playing a standard out/in bracket. This is the type of bracket (known as Ring) that means that Slay can undercut the route and is responsible for anything short, whilst knowing that he has safety help over the top if he needs it. This is different from the bracket that was used earlier on Tyreek Hill, and it was good to see the Eagles recognize what went wrong with the bracket earlier on in the game.

This is definitely part of the Eagles' toolbox against elite receivers, as we saw the same coverage earlier on against the Rams when the Eagles doubled Cooper Kupp, and that play also resulted in a sack!

I really enjoyed how the Eagles’ defense adapted and started playing more man and bracket coverage when it was obvious that the Dolphins had to start throwing the ball down the field. Their use of cover 2 was perfect for the early parts of the game, but I was glad to see them mix things up at the end rather than get predictable. This was such a good defensive performance and I enjoyed watching the Eagles shut down a really good offense. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did!

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