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

Philadelphia Eagles v Washington Commanders Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

This was a really exciting and enjoyable game on offense, but a tough watch on defense. Sam Howell shredded this Philadelphia Eagles defense pretty badly. Let’s get into why.

Defense

The Washington Commanders came out with a lot of quick game. Sam Howell was decisive and it prevented the Eagles’ pass rush from winning. There were a lot of stick routes, slants, and screens in order to slow down the Eagles’ pass rush. I also think this set up a lot of the deep shots they took later on in the game, so you have to credit the Washington staff and Eric Bieniemy who appears to have a really good feel for a Sean Desai-led defense this season.

We also saw Sydney Brown start in the slot on early downs, and it was a bit of a rollercoaster. But it was fun! He definitely was not great in coverage, especially on quick slants and in breaking routes, but he was so good in run defense. More on that later!

I saw a lot of comments online about the Eagles playing too much off-coverage, especially as Washington was running a lot of quick throws. I don’t entirely agree, as I thought the Eagles got beat when they played more press coverage too but I do not understand why you have to stand 10 yards off a running back who is lined up at receiver. Is James Bradberry really concerned about Brian Robinson beating him down the field?! This kind of stuff was too easy for Washington and it happened frequently on the first few drives.

I think it is pretty obvious to anyone who has watched the Eagles this year that the run defense is just not the same without Jordan Davis on the field. He may have been active for this game but I think it’s pretty obvious that he wasn’t fully healthy and didn’t play much. This run was a bit worrying, as it reminded me of last year. The Eagles have survived with light boxes this year due to the defensive line being dominant, but this is 2nd and 3 and the Eagles are heavily outnumbered in the box. This allows them to double Fletcher Cox then get to Nicholas Morrow (who plays this poorly) and then kick out Zach Cunningham. This leaves Darius Slay as the unblocked defender and we know he isn’t great at this, and he takes a horrible angle which leads to a 29-yard gain. This sets up the touchdown on the next play.

I thought the Eagles’ cornerbacks had some bad snaps in this one. The first touchdown was a bad rep by James Bradberry. I saw some people live complaining about Reed Blankenship as it looked like he was late getting over, but when you see the all22 you can clearly see this isn’t the case. It looks like a snap of quarter-quarter-half and Blankenship has to deal with Jahan Dotson running up the seam, meaning that Blankenship cannot get over to help Bradberry. Washington had run a lot of quick game stuff early on, and you can see James Bradberry expects a slant or curl and tries to jump it and gets done by the double move. It’s great offense by Washington, but also not great defense from Bradberry.

This was a really concerning play from Slay, who was saved by a fantastic pass rush by both Jalen Carter and Nakobe Dean. I am not sure getting beat by 5 yards down the field by Byron Pringle is a great look. Slay’s positioning is all over the place, and I understand that Washington had run a lot of quick game, but you still have to expect a deep shot (especially from Pringle). This is pretty rough, and he’s incredibly lucky that Carter has a fantastic swim move and destroys the left guard quickly. Nakobe Dean was a fantastic blitzer in college, and it shows up here. Dean blows up Gibson and prevents Howell from being able to step into this throw which has a huge impact on the outcome of this play. Slay got very lucky here because this would have been a big touchdown. I did see him come out on Twitter and say that because it was an all-out blitz, he wasn’t worried about the deep shot. I understand that but you are only blitzing 6 and Washington has 6 in protection, it’s a bit risky just ignoring anything deep.

I’m not making excuses for Sean Desai (well, I am, to an extent) but the secondary changes every single week and I notice errors occur weekly. You can moan all you want about it, but the sad truth is that it will happen when this happens...

The second touchdown is an example of miscommunication. Washington runs some sort of four verticals and the Eagles rotate from two-high to single-high and play a form of cover 3. I do not know who is at fault here because nobody can unless they are in the room, but I would strongly guess that this is on Sydney Brown. Kevin Byard has only just joined the Eagles, so it could be him at fault, but I would guess that the deep safety is told to take any deep over routes as Byard does here. These deep over routes used to destroy defenses and the deep safety carrying that route has helped to stop them around the NFL. I would assume that Sydney Brown is supposed to carry his route vertically, rather than pass him off to safety. Either someone is at fault, or this is just straight-up cover 3 with no match principles which would be a pretty terrible way to run a defense in the modern NFL.

This is a bit of a minor complaint but I am really not convinced by Nolan Smith when he drops into coverage. It’s easy to say that Desai should just let him line up and rush the quarterback, but I think a big reason why he was drafted was his ability to be versatile. I would like to see him get some more snaps to start to develop as he just feels very raw at everything, but the Eagles aren’t blessed with great depth at EDGE currently.

Sydney Brown in run support... WOW! You will not find many better at playing downhill and helping against the run. He had some fantastic reps coming downhill that did make me wonder about what he could do as a slot defender on early downs in the future.

The thing that really concerned me from this one was the inability to deal with bunches on offense. This has been a problem all year and it continued in this game. There were a number of examples where the Eagles couldn’t handle bunches. I know I normally post these articles in chronological order, but I’ll post the couple of plays I filmed where the Eagles had problems against bunches because it was a real issue.

I thought the player that surprised me the most on film was Dean. I expected him to be pretty bad based on the comments I saw online and my gut feeling when watching live, but he was a lot better than I thought. He struggled at times in pass coverage but I thought he had some really good snaps against the run. This one stood out in particular. The speed and burst to get into the backfield and make the tackle behind the line of scrimmage is outstanding. I’m looking forward to seeing him continue to develop over the second half of the season.

It just felt like Washington had a brilliant feel for what the Eagles were going to call on defense. This touchdown is a simple double slant against man coverage (which happened a lot), and Blankenship is beaten by Logan Thomas. I think Reed Blankenship will be disappointed here as he starts off with inside leverage, but Thomas does a really good job opening up Blaneknship and then cutting across him. It’s hardly terrible coverage, but it’s a really good throw and catch. Sometimes you have to say fair play to the offense! Blankenship had one of the worst games I’ve seen him play, and I thought he largely struggled in man coverage but he did have some tough coverage assignments too.

The Eagles’ defense got better in the stats column as the game went on... but I don’t think they got much better on film. If I’m honest, most of the positive plays came from mistakes from Washington’s offense. I wish I could talk about a cool schematic adjustment that Desai made but, if there was one, I didn’t see it!

It’s been a pretty negative thread so far... so let’s talk about Reddick! He is so clutch at the end of games and it feels like he has a lot of huge sacks in the past year in the 4th quarter. This is as good as a rush as you will see and it feels like he gets to the quarterback instantly.

I mentioned earlier that sometimes you just have to say fair play to the offense... here is another example. I have no idea why Sam Howell plays so well against the Eagles but he was fantastic again. This is a dime. The Eagles rotate from two-high to single-high and it looks like another snap of cover-1 man coverage. I have pointed out in recent weeks that the Eagles' backside safety (it was Terrell Edmunds) has struggled to pick up these deep-over routes. It looks like Blankenship is supposed to carry the deep over, as James Bradberry is clearly playing with outside leverage and he fails to get into perfect position. Despite all of that, Jamison Crowder is hardly wide open, and it’s an absolute dime by Howell once again.

As always, thank you for all the lovely comments on these posts. I do appreciate it! If you want even more analysis, remember to check out the podcast on the BGN feed!

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