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

NFL: OCT 01 Commanders at Eagles Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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.

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,

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Quick Notes

  • 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.

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