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Eagles-Cowboys film analysis: Starting to have huge doubts about Sean Desai

NFL: DEC 03 49ers at Eagles Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

You may have been surprised by the positivity in the Eagles-Cowboys offense breakdown, but you won’t see as much positivity in this one. It wasn’t great. Let’s get into why.


Firstly, before we look at some bad stuff, it’s worth noting that it wasn’t all bad. I actually thought the defense played reasonably well on early downs, and it turns out I was right! But what is the point of being good on early downs when you are SO bad on 3rd down?! This Eagles’ defense is just flat-out terrible on 3rd and 4th down. It feels almost impossible to be this bad on late downs.

This play stood out when watching the film. This Eagles’ defense just looks slow. The back 7 in particular are just really slow. Nakobe Dean’s injury is a killer because at least he has some explosiveness. Every team gets beat by a jet sweep every so often, but this team struggles on the edges so much because they are just so slow!

I’ve seen some criticism online this week targeted at Darius Slay and James Bradberry. I didn’t think Bradberry was as good as others did last year, and I stated in my player review that I wouldn’t have resigned him. I think criticism towards him is justified. But I think Slay had an excellent game and I find criticism towards him very strange. He had at least 3 good pass breakups and he’s moving extremely well of late. I think he might struggle with the physicality of DK Metcalf this week, but I think in most games the Eagles should match him up to the opposing teams' wide receiver. I thought he had a really strong game.

I find this defense so frustrating. How many times does this happen? It’s not always easy to know exactly who is at fault, but I know that someone has to be in the flat! I am almost certain that Slay normally stays with the wide receiver, so I am guessing Kevin Byard is supposed to the in the flat covering the back. I understand that Dak Prescott looks like he is going to throw to the receiver, but at this point, I’m sick of making excuses for players making errors. Just do your job and cover your guy. I don’t care who is at fault, and I’m not entirely sure, but I just see so many miscommunications in the secondary every single week and it’s infuriating.

One positive from this game was the play of Nolan Smith. I think the Eagles need to give him a real chance to play some meaningful snaps over the past 4 weeks because the Eagles pass rush is struggling right now and I can’t help but that down to the fact that Haason Reddick and Josh Sweat are just playing way too many snaps. I think Nolan Smith is extremely raw and will have some plays where he looks pretty toothless as a pass rusher, but he also has plays like this where his athleticism jumps off the screen. That explosive burst toward Dak is really something.

I would love to know how often the Eagles rotate from two-high to either cover 3/9 or cover 1 on 3rd and long. I swear they did it all the time in this game. I’m not joking when I say that I would love to be an offensive coordinator and game plan against this Eagles’ defense because I think they are predictable. This particular play isn’t a playcalling issue but it’s an execution issue. Firstly, Bradley Roby is so far off it gives Lamb a great chance to get off the LOS with speed. Secondly, Roby has to know that he has inside help from the hole defender so he must play with outside leverage. Roby jumps inside and Lamb beats him with ease. It’s no surprise the Eagles are terrible on late downs when you watch plays like this. I don’t even know what to say about the Eagles’ pass rush on this play. Compare this to the speed that the Cowboys’ defense would rush Jalen Hurts with. The pass rush is struggling on late downs as well.

The Eagles had two 3rd and very longs in one drive in this game, and both coverages were the same. It was a two-high defense pre-snap and then the Eagles rotated to cover-1. On both plays, the Eagles left Eli Ricks one-on-one with Lamb. Why? I don’t mind having Ricks on Lamb, but only if you are going to either double him with a bracket or have two deep safeties behind him. I know 2-man isn’t popular in the age of mobile quarterbacks, but do you think Dak Prescott is going to run for a first down on 3rd and 20? Why does this defense need to be in single-high man coverage on 3rd and 20? I know the Eagles get a stop here, and you can say I’m nitpicking, but I just don't like this coverage called in this situation.

This is terrible. I hate it. I don’t want to exaggerate... but I hate everything about this play. How many times have you seen me say this year that the Eagles are terrible in pass coverage when they drop Nolan Smith because the ball always seems to go over his head? He has to get his hands on the tight end here, and I just don’t think he is very good in pass coverage right now. The Eagles traded for Shaq Leonard because of his coverage ability. So why are you blitzing him here and dropping Nolan Smith? Leonard has absolutely no juice blitzing here and by dropping Smith you also end up causing Jalen Carter to have to defeat a double team. It’s just bad. Stop dropping Nolan Smith and stop blitzing linebackers when they are 5 yards away from the LOS!

Speaking of bad defense, this is not a bad call, but what on earth is going on here? What are the defensive back coaches doing each week? This is a really easy call on 2nd and 16. The Eagles are in a form of cover 4 match, and they have 3over2 on both sides of the formation. This is perfect. The Eagles have 3 defensive backs over the Cowboys' 2 receivers who run a very simple hitch and out route concept. For some reason, Roby is staring at Dak Prescott and playing inside even though there is nobody else at all anywhere near him. This is a really poor job of matching the Cowboys’ route distribution and it’s just way too easy to pick up 10 yards. And guess what, the Cowboys convert on 3rd and 6, and Reddick’s sack on 1st down becomes pointless. This is just bad defense.

As you can probably tell, those 2 plays really frustrated me. Luckily, it wasn’t all terrible. I found Sydney Brown’s play really encouraging, and I do think he is going to develop into a good player. I enjoy watching him play a lot too. He is excellent at coming downhill and plays with fantastic range as a deep safety. He bails out James Bradberry, who was beaten badly once again here.

The Eagles' best play of the day came on a really nice play call where Slay does follow Lamb and plays with the correct leverage, knowing he has inside help. The pass rush is struggling of late, and I can’t help but think it’s because of the lack of rotation along the defensive line, butFletcher Cox does a great job winning here and forces the ball out. This could have been a game-changing if the rest of the game was not so bad.

Of all the plays I have posted so far, this is the worst one. I don’t hate blitzing on 3rd and 6. I am fine with being aggressive every so often. But the use of personnel here is just so poor and confusing. If you are going to blitz 7 and leave 4 in coverage, surely you have to put Darius Slay on CeeDee Lamb here? Just look how badly Lamb beats RIcks! If Dak is looking at that matchup, Sean Desai is getting killed in the media right now because this would have been a huge touchdown to Lamb. Additionally, why not blitz Sydney Brown who has more explosiveness, and leave Byard to cover the tight end? And why on earth are you blitzing James Bradberry and Byard from 5 yards deep? It takes the Eagles way too long to get after the quarterback when they blitz from this depth, but they do it every single week. I am all for being aggressive. But do it smartly. The Eagles nearly get a pass breakup here, but they are incredibly lucky that Dak doesn’t just throw it to CeeDee Lamb. He is WIDE open.

We spoke about blitzing from depth on the podcast this week, and Shane Haff put together this fantastic clip that highlights what I am talking about. The Eagles blitzes are too passive and the defenders are coming from too deep.

I wanted to end on something random this week. I like Marlon Tuipulotu and I think it might be worth giving him some more snaps in a 5-man front next to Nolan Smith. That is all!

This was a tough one to watch. Unlike the offensive film where I came out feeling a bit more positive, I’m starting to have huge doubts about Sean Desai. I know this defense has a lack of talent at certain positions, but that’s not an excuse for some of the decisions I’m seeing every week. The good news is that it can get better... but I’m not overly optimistic.

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