There’s a lot to get into this week from the Philadelphia Eagles’ win over the Washinton Commanders, both good and bad. Here we go...
I hated the defense during the first couple of drives. The zone match stuff doesn’t seem to be working that well and it looked so passive early on. Darius Slay is still a very good cornerback. He shouldn’t be giving up 15-yard slants like this. The Eagles made it so easy early on for Washington. This is just as easy as it gets for an offense. Line up your number 1 receiver alone and throw him a slant as the cornerback is 15 yards deep. It’s easy money for an offense.
Eagles Defense All22 vs. Washington. 1) I found some of the off-coverage (especially from Slay) just too passive throughout the game. This is just so easy to get 15 yards. It happened too often. I don't just see all 'Fangio defenses' as passive like some but this is annoying. pic.twitter.com/MAdNDj5hth— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) October 4, 2023
The Eagles really need to work on how they handle stacks and bunches too. Once again, this is just too easy for the offense. Slay and James Bradberry are both so deep, and it’s pretty easy to see pre-snap that this is going to be open. When you are playing young quarterbacks, you want to make it hard for them to settle and put pressure on them. The Eagles did the exact opposite on Sunday and let Sam Howell get into a rhythm,
2) I also found the Eagles still struggle with stacks, bunches etc. I'm not a coach so can't give answers, but Slay/Bradberry's positioning just feels very deep. This completion seems very easy based on the leverage. pic.twitter.com/oMe4JN7juv— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) October 4, 2023
Even when the Eagles tried to mix it up coverage-wise early, it still looked awkward. The spacing in zone coverage was really bad. I am all for blitzing linebackers in the A gap, but it is hard to drop into zone after lining up in the A gap, especially for someone like Nolan Smith who isn’t used to doing it. He looks lost on this play. I don’t want to go after individuals, but every time I see Terrell Edmunds near the football bad things seem to happen. The gap between the two zones here and just not good enough. Once again, this is easy money for Washington.
3) Then you got some weird stuff like this. Nolan Smith looks a bit lost dropping, but in his defense it is hard to get depth after faking a blitz. Edmunds is playing SO deep despite no one being around him. The spacing is just off. You don't see many guys this open in the NFL. pic.twitter.com/Ps1fxWSGM5— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) October 4, 2023
Once again, I am not in the room so I don’t know the call here. I just don’t get it. If you have 4 receivers on one side of the formation, and Slay one-on-one with the outside receiver, surely Edmunds is being told here to leave Slay and help out against the quads side of the field? Either he isn’t playing this very well at all, or he’s being told to provide safety help for Slay one-on-one. Washington has good receivers, but Slay is a top cornerback and he should be trusted to win in these situations. Whether it’s on Edmunds or the scheme, I just don’t like the way this looks.
4) Would also love to know Edmunds call here. There's quads to the left, yet Edmunds is staying over to Slay's side and doesn't seem to have a call to move to the strong side of Washington's attack. I don't think Slay needs the help one-on-one so I'd rather Edmunds be checking… pic.twitter.com/fyFHKU4sfL— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) October 4, 2023
Right, that’s the main part of me moaning done. From this point onwards, I actually thought the defense adjusted and played OK. It started with some great work upfront on this play, from Jalen Carter and Brandon Graham. If Edmunds could catch, this becomes a massive turnover and we are probably all talking about Carter all week again. The defensive line continues to show up and win every week.
5) Despite a terrible start, the defense improved a lot as the game went on. This has to be an interception. Just look at the speed to power from Carter and Graham on this rush. This is perfect and it should have been a massive turnover. pic.twitter.com/AX3n3Ge8Vs— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) October 4, 2023
I haven’t seen a double-A gap blitz for a while, but the Eagles relied on this look against Washington. It was like watching an old-school Mike Zimmer defense at times! It certainly provides a headache for quarterbacks, especially young quarterbacks, and I thought Sean Desai did a good job mixing up the looks and going to more aggressive man coverage after the first couple of drives. This defense just doesn’t communicate well enough at the moment in their zone match coverage and man coverage just seems to simplify it for everyone.
6) The double A gap blitz is something I have not seen for a while! I loved it! I love how Cunningham tries to take the attention away from Morrow rather than running straight for the QB. I thought Eagles coverage got better when they went to a more man heavy approach. pic.twitter.com/B3Xy2Ed8D6— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) October 4, 2023
Speaking of communication... this can’t happen. It’s week 4 now, and this stuff needs to get cleaned up or it’s going to cost the Eagles. I’m not in the room so I can’t tell you who is at fault, but it doesn’t look good for Slay who didn’t have a great game and had a few lapses in concentration. This is the stuff that is frustrating. Every team will give up big plays, but make the other team work for it. The big plays that Washington had weren’t anything special, it was just bad defense.
7) Eagles still struggle to sort out bunches. I'm pretty sure this is on Slay but I can't be certain. Morrow does an outstanding job showing blitz in the A gap and then getting depth to help out in coverage but it's a terrible miscommunication and you just can't give up 30+ yards… pic.twitter.com/H9oc3ngYfr— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) October 4, 2023
The refs did not help the Eagles in this game, at all. I hate talking refs because it’s something I can’t exactly analyze, but I will say that if you are being critical of the Eagles’ defense in this game, you do have to consider the impact that the refs had. Some of the holding calls look weak on film, including this one.
8) I literally never ever complain about refs on these threads but I really want to know what a cornerback is meant to do if this is called PI now. I don't want to talk about refs but some of the holding calls absolutely made the performance seem worse than it was on defense. pic.twitter.com/DQEqNYXeg8— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) October 4, 2023
I cannot say enough good things about Reed Blankenship. He turns up every single week. He’s an excellent player already, not just a good one. This is as good as it gets. Post-cross is the most common shot play in the NFL and it’s designed to put the single-high safety in a bind where he can’t really be right. Blankenship seems to stay with the crossing route long enough to make Howell think he has the post available, but then turn and run with the post and stop the completion. This is my favorite play I watched this week and I bet the Washington coaching staff was furious that this play didn’t come off. This was the perfect call against the Eagles' more aggressive single-high man coverage, and Blankenship still made the stop. Love it.
9) This is unreal by Blankenship. The classic shot play from Washington, post cross from under center play action. The crossing route should take the single-high safety and then the post is open. Blankenship sees it, somehow redirects and makes a play on the post. This is… pic.twitter.com/Rx5X27ViBC— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) October 4, 2023
The defensive line wasn’t elite as a unit this week, but the main individuals still all turned up. How about Nicholas Morrow too?! I told you he was good when I watched him in the off-season! He can play and he was fantastic blitzing in this game. Credit to Zach Cunningham too, who is just a really good run defense who can’t play in space. There’s a role for them both though.
10) Feels like Fletcher Cox is back to playing really well this year. Look at this for a rush! Morrow was excellent at blitzing from the LB position and I loved how he left his zone here when he knew Howell was struggling to escape. pic.twitter.com/xtthlPu82g— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) October 4, 2023
This is not something I can prove, but I have a feeling the Eagles EDGE rushers are lining up closer to the tackles this year due to the lack of 5-man fronts and increased emphasis on stopping the run. I think this is one reason why Reddick and Sweat haven’t had the production they had last year. Despite this, when you see them both line up in a wide stance and get after the quarterback, there aren’t many teams that have a better duo than these two. This is a nasty rush.
11) Not many better EDGE rushing duos in this league than Sweat and Reddick when they are flying. Look at these rushes. Reddick's ability to rush from a wide angle and still get after the quarterback is rare. No matter the issues in the secondary, this pass rush is going to make… pic.twitter.com/oOOfSLnlhe— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) October 4, 2023
I’ve defended Desai after the first drive but... I can’t say I understand this. I may be terribly wrong, but I can’t imagine many defensive coaches asking their defensive backs to line up in their end zone in a situation like this at the end of the game. I understand if you are too high that you can get beaten over the top, but that is a tough throw and the Washington receivers aren’t the biggest anyway. Giving up a curl like this feels like the worst-case scenario.
12) Would love to know what defensive coaches think about the position of the DB's here. Do you really want them in their own end zone? Is that not asking for trouble with curl routes on the goal line? Make no mistake, this is a hell of a throw and catch. But I'm unsure about the… pic.twitter.com/MsxLzwviAG— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) October 4, 2023
We have to end with Blankenship because why would we not? This is a hard play for any safety to make, and it’s no surprise that Blankenship is beaten by McLaurin in man coverage, but he does such a good job forcing McLaurin out of bounds and getting the ball back for the Eagles. The Eagles are lucky that they hit on Blankenship or this secondary would look even more troubling than it already does.
13) We have to end with this play by Blankenship. One-on-one with McLaurin is not easy for a safety but he times his hit so well and just about gets him out of bounds. Also, check the pass rush. Graham is at DT and forces Howell off his spot. pic.twitter.com/c82Ow36T93— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) October 4, 2023
- I am glad the Eagles signed Bradley Roby, as I have said for a while that they need another veteran presence who has played in this system. However, I do think Jobe played OK.
- Slay wasn’t great in this one and I still think Bradberry is soft against the run. I am not panicking yet about either of them, but I’ll be watching Slay closely moving forward.
- The Eagles run defense is still really sound. Washington had some success due to some missed tackles, but I remain impressed by the run fits.
- I didn’t hate the defensive game plan overall after a terrible start, but the Eagles zone coverage just looks off right now. Defensive backs coach D.K. McDonald needs to make adjustments quickly, or this secondary could just keep getting worse and worse as opposing coordinators continue to target them with stacks and bunches.