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

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at New England Patriots Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

Last year I broke Eagles games down into passing and running, but I had some comments asking me to look at the game chronologically so you can see how the game flows. I will go through the game and give comments on players and scheme throughout. Please remember that it is Week 1, and I don’t think we need to panic! I can only comment on what I see. The offensive version can be read here.


Overall, this was a fascinating defensive game to break down. There was a lot of good stuff for the Eagles coaches to learn from, both good and bad. The huge positive for me was the defensive line's play (especially from light boxes) and how well they played the run. I think all 4 of the defensive tackles (Jalen Carter, Milton Williams, Jordan Davis, and Fletcher Cox) played really well. It was on show on the 1st defensive snap where Milton Williams fought through a double team in order to make the tackle. I saw a lot of comments about the lack of 5-man fronts, but I think some of this was game-specific. The Eagles had a lot of 5-man fronts on 1st down on the first few drives, but with the game going 16-0 early, I think it may have altered the plan slightly.

Zach Cunningham had a rough, rough game. I will get into him later, but let’s just appreciate Jalen Carter on this rep. He was an absolute stud. I know the Patriots had a poor offensive line, but this guy is going to be elite. Carter, Davis, and Williams (as well as my man Moro Ojomo) are going to be a very good defensive line over the next few years.

Here is the play that arguably won the Eagles the game. It’s a mistake by the offense, rather than ‘good defense’ but it’s still cool to see the all22 and the coverage the Eagles are playing on 3rd and 5. The Eagles are in a form of cover 3 zone match (you coaches out there might call this cover 9 I think - but I’ll just stick to cover 3 match) and Slay does a fantastic job ignoring the vertical route and keeping his eyes on the quarterback. Yes, he gets lucky, but he also deserves credit for the return and for keeping his eyes on the quarterback.

I love Reed Blankenship man. I just think he’s so good already. Overall, the Eagles were a lot more multiple this year on 3rd down than last year. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good thing, but it’s just an observation. There was a lot more single-high, more man coverage, and a couple of disguised blitzes. Every 3rd down seemed something different. This is a great rep by Blankenship here who reads the crossing route perfectly and the pressure gets home to Mac Jones.

Speaking of a more multiple defense... the Eagles ran a couple of these disguised blitzes that I just didn’t get, to be honest. Blankenship is blitzing from so deep, that it feels so unlikely he is ever going to get home. This feels like a very low chance of working. Luckily, Slay plays this fantastically and it’s a really athletic play. I thought Slay moved extremely well and despite giving up the touchdown, which was bad, I think he looked so fluid and smooth out there.

Speaking of things for the coaches to work on, dealing with bunch formations will be top of the list. I am all for blitzing and playing some man coverage on 3rd down, but you need to have a call against a bunch formation like this because this is just way, way too easy for an offense on 3rd and long.

I don’t want it to feel like I’m just picking on Cunningham, but it just felt like he had a lot of questionable plays. The Patriots targeted him a lot from empty formations, and whilst I don't expect him to be able to cover a wide receiver one-on-one, he should at least know he has inside help and not just inside this route. It’s just pretty poor, to be honest.

However, Cunningham wasn’t the only bad play on Sunday. Justin Evans just didn’t look very good. I have no clue what’s happening here. If someone can explain to me why the single-high safety is shading to the lone receiver side (keep in mind the Patriots don’t have Ja’Marr Chase and Darius Slay is our best cornerback) rather than shade to the side with 3 wide receivers, then I’d love to hear why. James Bradberry clearly thinks there is a deep safety in the middle of the field which impacts how he plays it. I imagine Evans will play Thursday night as it’s a short turnaround and Blankenship may be out, but he needs to be better.

The Eagles are going to miss Nakobe Dean and I thought he had a pretty good game overall, especially against the run, but this also wasn’t his finest moment in coverage. The Patriots really did target that short middle-of-the-field area. Anyway, let’s just forget all these problems exist for a moment, and watch Jalen Carter...

I’ve moaned a little bit in this one (and I’m not done yet, sorry) but I just can’t explain how much I love watching Reed Blankenship. I just think he’s awesome. What does he not do well? He is just so fun to watch and this defense is going to badly miss him if he’s out Thursday.

I don’t have anything else to say about Cunningham, sorry. I just wanted to post this because I think Maddox’s reaction tells a story.

Another player I think might be a potential star is Milton Williams. He played a lot, and he looked awesome. This is an absurd rush. For a defensive tackle to bend the edge and hit the quarterback as hard as he does here, is pretty insane. He just explodes around the edge and the speed he hits Jones with is frightening.

The final one is a bit random. Terrell Edmunds barely played, but when he did he gave up an obvious throw to the flat. It looks like cover 3 and he just doesn’t know his assignment. I liked Edmunds’ Steelers film and I was shocked he didn’t start over Evans, but this is a bit concerning. This feels like a pretty easy read too. You can tell by Slay’s reaction that Edmunds has screwed up, which isn’t a great sign considering he barely played at all.

Other random thoughts...

  • Some of the Eagles' run defense was really, really good. I have questioned Jordan Davis over the summer, but he showed up big time in this game. This may be his best game as a pro and he was fantastic against the run. I really enjoyed the defensive line in this game. I didn’t mention Josh Sweat or Haason Reddick, but they were also good.
  • Brandon Graham had a hilarious rush from a linebacker position where he nearly killed Mac Jones, who started crying for a flag of course.
  • I think being more multiple on defense, may make the Eagles worse in the short term, but I think it is worth it in the long run. The Eagles' defense was simply too predictable last year and survived because they were so, so talented. They just won’t have that level of talent again and need to do some different things schematically.
  • With Blankenship and Dean out Thursday night, this could be a rough one on defense. Buckle up.

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