Well, last week I was extremely critical of Sean Desai’s defense and I couldn’t understand some of the decisions. It turns out I wasn’t alone, because Desai was essentially replaced as defensive coordinator by Matt Patricia. This is still Desai’s defense, but there were some changes. There was some good and some bad. Let's get into it.
I was largely happy with the Eagles’ defense in the first 3 quarters. But my goodness, watching this defense on 3rd and long is incredibly frustrating. You know it’s driving the coaches crazy because they just keep trying weird and wonderful things on 3rd and long and it’s driving me a little crazy. This is 3rd and 10 on the 2nd drive. Why are you dropping Haason Reddick into coverage and blitzing Bradley Roby? I know it sounds great to try and confuse the offense, but Reddick is your best pass rusher. It’s just not good football and it’s a classic case of the defense overthinking things and trying to get cute.
Eagles All22 Defense thread vs. Seahawks. 1) There were some interesting tweaks to the defense, but the Eagles overthinking it on 3rd and long remained the same! Dropping Reddick and blitzing Roby and 3rd and long would not the play call at the top of my list personally m... pic.twitter.com/CECsMZB3LS— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) December 20, 2023
I love Sydney Brown. He is without a doubt my favorite player to watch on defense right now. I am still unsure about his fit as a cornerback in the Eagles’ big nickel package on early downs, due to his limitations in coverage, but he is absolutely incredible in run defense. He FLIES around the field. He missed some tackles in this game, but I was so impressed with his run defense overall. Having him as a slot cornerback is a very interesting way of improving your run defense, and it’s also really helpful against short throws such as swing passes and screens. I hope he continues to play more because he is so much fun to watch.
2) Man, I am so conflicted about Sydney Brown in the slot. The Eagles played a ton of big nickel and whilst I have major concerns about Brown in coverage, watching him in run defense is the most enjoyable part of this defense. The aggressiveness that he shows when he comes down… pic.twitter.com/eAX5PUybxJ— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) December 20, 2023
The Eagles don’t have enough talent at linebacker to play base, so I wonder if other teams will look at plays like this and think they can run at the Eagles from heavy personnel. The Eagles had a bit more of a ‘Belichick’ approach to rotation this week, and it meant we saw some interesting looks such as the one below with Reddick at 3-technique and Fletcher Cox at nose tackle. This also meant that we saw Patrick Johnston as an off-ball linebacker, which was also weird. The Eagles struggled a little bit in run defense, especially against heavy personnel.
3) I thought the Eagles run defense had some trouble against 13 personnel, which isn't shocking when you consider that the Eagles have 1 decent linebacker. Playing big nickel with Cox at NT and Reddick as a 3-tech is only going to end one way... This is too easy. pic.twitter.com/eMITnk2XSv— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) December 20, 2023
Kelee Ringo. Oh yes. I forgot how much I liked him pre-draft until I read my scouting report on him, and remembered that I had a late 1st round grade on him! He looked great this week. He is tall, fast, and really physical. I loved this play in particular because Kenneth Walker is a big powerful running back. I always like cornerbacks who can help out in run support, and Ringo showed a lot of physicality that I enjoyed seeing this week.
4) I have a lot of good things to say about Kelee Ringo in coverage. But I LOVE this. The Eagles haven't had a physical cornerback against the run for a while, so this is really cool. Ringo looks big and fast and taking on Walker is not an easy task. This is really impressive.… pic.twitter.com/ccfp0S9KcG— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) December 20, 2023
It wasn’t just in run support that Ringo looked good. He looked good in coverage too. I find this Eagles’ defense to be too slow in general, so watching someone young and fast in coverage was just fun. When you watch the defense this week, it’s so obvious that Blankenship, Brown, and Ringo were the young guys in the secondary because they just moved at a different speed from everyone else. At this point, I think Ringo should start at outside cornerback because the Eagles need to see what they have him in, and he may be a better option than Bradberry right now.
5) Look at Kelee Ringo in coverage here too. No wasted movement. He shoots out of his break and the closing speed is no joke. I really hope he starts the past 3 weeks because he has the tools to be an excellent outside cornerback. pic.twitter.com/pvb6R5xnKb— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) December 20, 2023
I didn’t like a lot of what I saw this week. But this play got me excited for a number of reasons. This is still Desai’s defense, but we did see some changes. This play shows a number of them. Firstly, the Eagles FINALLY decided to play Banjo coverage against a bunch formation and it worked perfectly. I have been screaming for this all year. For those of you who don’t know, Banjo coverage is essentially where the outside and inside cornerbacks change who they are covering, depending on where the outside and inside receivers go. It makes it harder to run pick plays against. Secondly, I liked how Nicholas Morrow showed blitz and then dropped out into coverage. Lastly, look at Kelee Ringo again!
6) SO much good stuff here. The Eagles actually played Banjo coverage against a bunch formation! It's about time!! The Eagles also show a 7-man pressure and drop Morrow which I really like. And you also have more fantastic coverage at the bottom of the screen from Kelee Ringo.… pic.twitter.com/AbokdJWVtC— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) December 20, 2023
I don’t want to be too harsh here, so I’m going to try and be reasonable in my analysis. But Shaq Leonard flat-out can’t play. His body just isn’t working. It’s really sad to see, but the Eagles cannot move forward with him as a starter. Honestly, I could have posted multiple plays but I felt too bad so I just posted this one. I don’t know if it’s purely physical, or a combination of mental and physical, but the Eagles can’t keep playing him. Cutting Christian Elliss in order to sign Shaq Leonard is an absolute disaster of a move. I don’t really know what to see, but it’s bad guys. Real bad.
7) I feel bad pointing out Shaq Leonard but... What can you say? Yes, Sydney Brown misses the tackle. But what is Shaq Leonard doing? I feel awful because I just think physically his body has given up but you can't play him if he's moving like this. He just doesn't move like a… pic.twitter.com/8toQaUlmNb— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) December 20, 2023
Fletcher Cox has had a good season overall, but I’ve noticed some issues with his play in run defense of late. To be fair, this is just a bad rep by the whole team. This isn’t good at all. The Eagles’ run defense was a huge strength of this team over the past few weeks of the season, but it’s regressed of late which is disappointing. I think this team can’t keep overcoming horrendous play at linebacker.
8) This is all sorts of bad. Cox is struggling of late as a run defender. Graham is totally washed out. Leonard and Morrow seem to play the same gap or Leonard just overruns it. And then Sydney Brown misses a tackle. This is how you lose football matches. pic.twitter.com/CKFb9A73qM— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) December 20, 2023
I wanted to post this clip just to point out that playing cover 1 or cover 3 (or any single-high coverage) is fine. Every team runs these coverages. The issue I have with the Eagles’ coverages later on is that situationally, they were a terrible call. I think despite the secondary having a lot of issues, most Eagles fans expected that coming into the season. The real issue the past month has been the pass rush. A great pass rush like the one below can help to protect a below-average secondary.
9) Everyone went mad (rightly so) when the Eagles called cover 1 on 3rd and long on the final drive. Well here's 3rd and long with cover 1, and it works! The difference? Look at the pass rush win. This defense needs the pass rush to win for this defense to have a shot. pic.twitter.com/BvDfvSze9S— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) December 20, 2023
I don’t really have anything to say about this play. I just wanted to highlight Nicholas Morrow who had a nice game. That’s all!
10) I think that Nicholas Morrow had a good game, and amongst all the negativity this week, I think he deserves a shout-out for playing well and making some good plays both in coverage and downhill against the run. pic.twitter.com/lUyAu3jR59— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) December 20, 2023
I am going to put this play down as a ‘Patricia’ call rather than a Desai call because this is not something I’ve seen from the Eagles much this year. I like this. Putting 7-men on the line of scrimmage on 3rd and 2 almost forces the Seahawks to throw it short. The Eagles only end up rushing 4, and the defenders do a great job dropping quickly into coverage. Jalen Carter just destroys the guard, and it’s a great win for the Eagles’ defense. It wasn’t all bad this week, but then the final drive happened...
11) I'm a big fan of this call and sim pressure in general. The Eagles show a 7 man pressure look on 3rd and 2 but only send 4. The defenders dropping do a good job getting depth and taking away the short completion. Then you have Jalen Carter, just doing Jalen Carter things... pic.twitter.com/U7rTncIhHB— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) December 20, 2023
Sigh. What are we doing? Seriously, what are we doing? As I said earlier, there is no issue with calling single-high coverage. But WHY are you calling it in this situation? I do not understand the obsession with having a deep safety intercepting short crossing routes when it’s 3rd and 10 and the Seahawks have less than a minute to go 63 yards with no timeouts! It’s utter madness. James Bradberry had a disaster of a game, there is no doubt. He is not playing well. But this is on the defensive coordinator just as much as it is on Bradberry. There is no good reason to play single-high coverage here. None. The only thing you can’t do in this situation is give up a down-the-field shot. And the Eagles do exactly that.
12) Ah, time for the last drive. I just don't understand. 3rd and 10, 56 seconds to go, and the Seahawks need 63 yards. Why go single-high? Just why? Bradberry had a nightmare drive, but the play calling on 3rd down was awful. I do not understand. pic.twitter.com/MnpeQ8EKd1— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) December 20, 2023
As if once wasn’t bad enough, the Eagles decided to do it twice! On the same drive! My goodness. Even at this point, the Seahawks still need 30 yards in less than 40 seconds. If you give up the underneath completion, it is not the end of the world. The one thing you can’t do here is get beat down the field for a touchdown. I have nothing good to see about Bradberry in this game either. I honestly quite liked the defensive game plan for most of the game, and I was feeling pretty positive. But these calls on this final drive were embarrassingly bad at times. I just don’t understand. I thought we were meant to be good at situational football?
13) Two incomplete passes late. 3rd and 10. 29 yards needed. 36 seconds left. The Eagles run single-high again. Why the hell are they doubling these short crossing routes in the middle of the field?! Let them have the short completion! Playing this coverage on 3rd and 10 is fine,… pic.twitter.com/4SAVHyqfgU— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) December 20, 2023
This has been a pretty bad 3 weeks. I’m not giving up on this team, because I do believe there is a lot of talent on it. But it needs to improve, quickly. Or this team is going to be one-and-done in the playoffs.