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.
Eagles All22 Defense thread vs Patriots. 1) Eagles run defense was really solid, and it was led by the DL. The Eagles did run more 5 man fronts early on but moved away from them, likely due to being up early. Milton Williams had himself a day, and it was awesome to see him get… pic.twitter.com/IQocEMBj3L— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) September 13, 2023
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.
2) There's a lot of bad clips I could post of Cunningham in coverage... but just watch Jalen Carter. My word. Backup OL or not, this guy is going to be a complete star. The speed and explosiveness he has is next level. He had some crazy snaps in this one. pic.twitter.com/pmmS13vbeb— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) September 13, 2023
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.
3) Eagles played a lot of cover 3 match (or whatever you want to call it!) and here is the pick 6. Yes, it's a lucky play due to the drop. But Slay does deserve credit for not buying the vertical decoy at all and keeping his eyes back towards the QB. It's also a fantastic return… pic.twitter.com/lTSj0hHq8J— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) September 13, 2023
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.
4) Eagles were a lot more multiple on 3rd down than last year. Looks like a rotation from split-safety to cover 1 robber here and Blankenship plays it perfectly. Blankenship just does everything really, really well. He'll be a huge miss if he can't go Thursday. pic.twitter.com/7fYFvj41HE— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) September 13, 2023
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.
5) I'm all for disguised blitzes and bringing pressure, but a couple of these safety blitzes were from way too deep to have an impact. Blankenship doesn't even get close, it feels like wasting a player. This is a ridiculously athletic play by Slay, and I'm gutted he didn't pick… pic.twitter.com/JeX9IQ1lFR— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) September 13, 2023
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.
6) Eagles had a clear issue against bunch formations at times in this game. This is just too easy against a blitz, with no one at all in the middle of the field. The depth of Slay and the safety make this an impossible cover without a specific call to handle this sort of look. pic.twitter.com/pqGj5aRZFW— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) September 13, 2023
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.
7) The Patriots went empty a lot and just went after Cunningham. He just looked a little lost out there. He's on a WR here, which is tough, but he cannot jump inside when he has Dean inside of him and leave the outside this free. It's just poor awareness and understanding of the… pic.twitter.com/28Flw8SEfK— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) September 13, 2023
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.
8) Another bunch formation and a positive play for the Pats but... what on earth is Justin Evans doing? If he's playing single-high, why is he standing so far over to Slay's side? (Opposite trips?!). It almost looks like a bracket and he just totally leaves the middle of the… pic.twitter.com/VScjZKCCBP— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) September 13, 2023
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...
9) I thought Nakobe Dean was good against the run, but even he was shaky in coverage. He takes a really poor angle here, and the Patriots continued to throw these short throws over the middle of the field. Let's ignore the negative though and... just look at Jalen Carter. Lol. My… pic.twitter.com/bX8aLMZxnJ— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) September 13, 2023
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.
10) I think Reed Blankenship is so good. Here's another bold call on 3rd down with a 5 man blitz and man coverage. Blankenship comes down fast to cover the RB and makes a fantastic open field tackle. He's smart, instinctive, and very consistent as a tackler. pic.twitter.com/zjEIwcWjbT— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) September 13, 2023
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.
11) Anyone want to tell me what Cunningham is looking at here? Because he's certainly not reading Jones's eyes, as he stares down this dig. Maddox has outside leverage so is hoping for help, and he just gets nothing. I think his reaction tells you what you need to know... pic.twitter.com/7Uu5ME47rT— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) September 13, 2023
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.
12) This is nearly a hell of a throw by Jones but... LOOK AT MILTON WILLIAMS! This is an absurd play. This is a stunt where he ends up bending the edge like a defensive end and then crashes into Mac Jones. Seriously, how athletic is this play? The Eagles have 3 ultra talented… pic.twitter.com/JLVt7gfBal— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) September 13, 2023
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.
13) Let's end here (it's not a positive play, sorry) but I don't think it's a great sign when Terrell Edmunds plays a few snaps and ends up busting the coverage. I can't be certain the bust is on him but, just look at the reaction of Slay. It's very early days, but the play of… pic.twitter.com/E7v9LklKRB— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) September 13, 2023
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.