This was a tough watch on defense. I was not a huge fan of the game plan overall for the Cowboys, and I’ll try to explain why the best I can! Luckily for the Eagles, they got the win despite some poor play, and I expect to see some changes after the bye. (Previously: Eagles-Cowboys offense takeaways).
I really did not understand the Eagles’ game plan for CeeDee Lamb at points in this game. They played a lot of man coverage but didn’t make a great deal of adjustments for Lamb in the slot. This is just standard cover 1 man with Ricks on Lamb. It’s a really good route by Lamb but it just feels a bit too easy. It’s too easy for opposing teams to get easy matchups by putting their best players in the slot. It feels like sometimes the Eagles adjust and sometimes they don’t, but I thought they were too slow to adjust in this game. You can’t let CeeDee Lamb go for 191 yards when he’s by far their best weapon.
Eagles Defense All22 vs. Cowboys. 1) Eagles came out early on with Ricks on Lamb on 4th and 1 and it went as expected. It's a great call by the Cowboys as the Eagles are expecting something underneath, but I'd love to know what the Eagles thought would happen with Ricks on Lamb pic.twitter.com/1pNFIq40fF— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) November 7, 2023
I will talk a lot about coverage in this game, but it’s important not to forget some of the work that the pass rushers did. You barely ever see Haason Reddick fail to complete the sack when he wins and he does a fantastic job bringing down Dak Prescott here. This isn’t a hot take, but I really do think Josh Sweat and Reddick are vital to this defense. I am a little concerned about how many snaps they are playing but I am glad to see how well they are both playing.
2) This is a fantastic rep by Reddick and the finish is really impressive. It's not easy to get QBs like Dak down like this. When Reddick gets his hands on QBs he rarely misses. I have no data to back this up but I feel like the Eagles were much better in zone coverage than in… pic.twitter.com/bB6INnsZ0k— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) November 7, 2023
I find this call a little bewildering, to be honest. I do not mind playing 2-man on 3rd and 14. I’m totally fine with that. But, if you know you are going to play 2-man, why don’t you move Darius Slay around to follow Lamb? I thought the Cowboys’ offensive staff won the battle against Sean Desai in this game and they were able to create favorable matchups consistently, which was really disappointing from the Eagles' point of view. I went on a little rant about this on this week’s On The Shane Page podcast for BGN Radio, but I do not understand why the Eagles do not currently have a Dime or Dollar package in this defense. If you are going to play man coverage on 3rd and 14, why do you need to have 2 linebackers on the field, especially when neither of them are good in pass coverage?! I can only assume the Eagles just don’t really have a Dime package right now, or I am even more confused. It gets worse because the Cowboys consistently went 10 personnel (4 receivers) and would get a receiver matched up with a linebacker! I found it very frustrating.
3) 3rd and 14. I'm OK with 2-man. But do we need Cunningham in man coverage like this on 3rd and 14? The pass rush bails out Cunningham. Do we need 2 LBs on the field? Ricks does a decent job on Lamb and it's actually a fantastic throw by Dak but it's a bad matchup again. pic.twitter.com/soLATBMUjS— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) November 7, 2023
However, it wasn’t all bad. I loved this call. This is a great sim pressure where you end up dropping Sweat into coverage and playing a sort of Tampa 2 coverage. This is why you need EDGE defenders who can drop into coverage just enough to give opposing coordinators something to think about. Nakobe Dean hasn’t been fantastic, but this team will miss him and it’s a shame he just can’t stay healthy.
4) Here's my favourite call all game. It's a great sim pressure on 2nd down. It looks like a Tampa 2 coverage with Sweat dropping into coverage and Dean blitzing. Jordan Davis takes away 2 lineman which leaves the rest one-on-one. Cox and Dean win and get the sack. pic.twitter.com/pqxagV5Pmh— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) November 7, 2023
Everyone got very bored of Jonathan Gannon’s defense last year, but the zone match stuff on 3rd and long was outstanding. I do not know why we didn’t see more plays like this one, and I got frustrated with the amount of man coverage on 3rd down that felt unnecessary. This is the type of play I expected to see more of on 3rd down, especially when you have a clear weakness in the slot right now.
5) The 1st 3rd and long after half time. This is what I expected the Eagles to do more of. It's sort of basic and boring, but on 3rd and long I think this defense suits playing deeper zones and rallying to the football. It helps get multiple eyes on players like Lamb too. pic.twitter.com/6bVurbKadA— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) November 7, 2023
I just thought it was too easy for the Cowboys all game to get Lamb matched up with a linebacker or a safety. Kevin Byard didn't have a great game, but what do you expect a safety to do in this position? This is basically an impossible cover for a safety. The Cowboys would take this matchup 10 times out of 10 and the Eagles need to do a better job at moving Slay around if they want to play this much man coverage.
6) 1st and 10. Lamb doesn't motion, he is lined up in the slot the whole time. The Eagles bring 5 and ask the safety to cover Lamb with all the space in the world. Lamb can go either side and Byard hasn't got a chance. It's just too easy for the Cowboys. pic.twitter.com/iIBJJH6Zmm— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) November 7, 2023
You have to credit the Cowboys for moving Lamb around to make it hard for the Eagles, but come on. You have to have a plan for Lamb. He’s quite clearly the Cowboys' best receiver and you can’t just let him go against Zach Cunningham like this. I really didn’t like the Eagles' approach for the first 3 quarters.
7) Same drive. Lamb in the backfield. Credit the Cowboys for moving Lamb all over the place, but I wanted the Eagles staff to have more options. Cunningham just quite clearly does not have a chance here. It's too easy! pic.twitter.com/6OhdwqIu4B— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) November 7, 2023
Cunningham had an absolutely bizarre day. He had some of the worst reps in pass coverage you will ever see, but he also made some fantastic plays. This is a fantastic play. Cunningham is outstanding as a run defender, and I have no problem with him starting on early downs only. I just don’t see why you need him in the game on 3rd and long.
8) On the other hand, Cunningham can do this. I can't say enough about how good some of his stops are in the run game. He puts his body on the line and is so quick to come downhill and diagnose things. This is a massive, massive play that prevents a TD. pic.twitter.com/xOtRBZXFZQ— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) November 7, 2023
Brandon Graham had 2 absolutely huge plays in this game and it was awesome to see. The effort here is exactly what you want to see from a veteran. Without the hustle here, there is no doubt Dak Prescott scores, and this game could end with a different outcomes. If it did, we would all be going mad about the play of the defense in this game.
9) I really love 2 things on this play. Byard does a great job not biting on PA and getting depth to take away the throwing lane. Secondly, BG!! Dak should score here, but BG shows such good hustle and ultimately plays a massive role in deciding this game. This is awesome. pic.twitter.com/LB4MQuUQV9— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) November 7, 2023
I thought the Eagles’ pass defense was better when Slay started to follow around Lamb in the 4th quarter. He had a couple of really good reps on Lamb. If you wanted to go into the game playing a lot of man coverage, I just don’t understand why they didn’t move Slay around earlier. I know Slay isn’t elite anymore, but he’s still playing very good football, and there’s no doubt he is better than Ricks!
10) More man coverage but time Slay ends up on Lamb. Nothing is better than seeing BG win like this and get a massive sack. The Eagles' pass rush bailed the defense out massively at times. pic.twitter.com/cf9sUGeUSJ— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) November 7, 2023
Dak Prescott missed a big one here. He stares at the tight end and just doesn’t throw it. Cunningham in coverage here is a disaster. This is wide open and the Eagles get incredibly lucky. I have seen a lot moan about why Dak did not throw it to the Lamb, but the real mistake was not throwing it to the tight end. If Slay did not move around with Lamb here, I bet Dak targets Lamb instead. I am happy that Desai adjusted in the 4th quarter but it just felt like it took way too long. Maybe I’m being harsh, but I didn’t enjoy the game plan for a lot of this game.
11) The final few drives the Eagles had Slay follow Lamb and I thought it was the best the defense looked. They bracket Lamb here and Dak is right to move off Lamb on 4th down rather than force it. But I have no idea how he doesn't see the TE who just walks past Cunningham and is… pic.twitter.com/eFQd9crS2W— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) November 7, 2023
Once again, the Cowboys go 10 personnel and the Eagles still have 2 linebackers on the field. In a very obvious passing situation. I don’t get it! Thank goodness the Eagles have an elite pass rush because some of the play in the secondary in this game was really poor.
12) Speaking of the pass rush bailing out the secondary. The Eagles rightly have Slay follow Lamb here once again, and they sort of bracket him with Byard again. But Cunningham ends up on a wide receiver and is beat badly. Luckily, Josh Sweat wins and bails Cunningham (and Desai)… pic.twitter.com/a7gS302wix— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) November 7, 2023
The Eagles won the game, and the defense did make some very important plays at the end of the game. Despite this, I did have some complaints about the Eagles’ defense in this game, but I am optimistic they will look at this during the bye week I expect to see some improvements after.
More Eagles-Cowboys All-22 analysis here: