This Eagles-Vikings matchup is one of the most enjoyable games I have looked at in a long time. The chess match was really interesting, and I thought overall Sean Desai called a great game, despite it not looking great on the stat sheets. Let’s get into why! [In case you missed it: Eagles offense All-22 breakdown.]
This game was a fantastic look at how Desai will handle a top receiver. Very early on, it seemed that they gave Darius Slay the chance to line up with Justin Jefferson one-on-one. I thought Slay was actually really good, but you just can’t cover Jefferson from these splits on routes like this. It’s basically impossible for anyone cornerback. What I loved though, was how quickly that the Eagles adapted.
Eagles Defense All22 vs. Vikings. 1) Eagles had Slay on Jefferson one-on-one earlier, and Jefferson burned him with one of the best routes I've seen. The nuance from Jefferson to lean forward to stop Slay from undercutting this, is as good as it gets. Not much you can do as a CB. pic.twitter.com/FTXmHFVxBo— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) September 18, 2023
This was superb on 3rd down. I really liked how the Eagles handled Jefferson for the majority of the game by essentially using a number of different variations of bracket. When they bracketed Jefferson, he didn’t really do a lot and I know it sounds weird when you look at his stat line, but I actually think they stopped Jefferson from totally controlling the game and did OK against him. They weren’t perfect against him all game (more on that later) but I thought the game plan was really sensible and effective. Also... just look at Jordan Davis go!
2) Some great stuff here on 3rd down. Firstly, look at Jordan Davis rush the quarterback, oh my word. Secondly, the Eagles essentially doubled Jefferson a lot with different versions of a bracket with Slay following him. Despite Jefferson going off, I enjoyed the gameplay a lot. pic.twitter.com/hNN4PnVNj6— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) September 18, 2023
I can’t say enough good things about the Eagles’ run defense after 2 weeks. They are stopping the run despite playing relatively light boxes and not relying on 5-man fronts like last year. Yes, they have played two pretty bad rushing attacks, but it’s still a really good sign. The defensive line was really, really good and even the linebackers were good against the run in this one. I think Morrow played well and I’m sort of surprised he didn’t make the roster because I think he’s a decent player overall.
3) I was SO impressed with the Eagles run defense. It was fantastic. Carter dominates the center here, and is helped by Morrow getting downhill quickly and preventing the double team on Carter. The DL was fantastic again, but I thought Morrow was good overall too. pic.twitter.com/kMjQYBPMuf— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) September 18, 2023
Despite being impressed with Desai and his game plan overall, the fact is that the Eagles' talent in the secondary with the current injuries just isn’t good enough. The safeties and linebackers got worked in coverage this game, but I’m honestly not sure what else Desai could do, especially as he had to bracket Jefferson all the time. This play is a good example, by playing Dime you get a safety on T.J. Hockenson, but the majority of times Hockenson was on Evans he won easily. This isn’t a case of being out-schemed and having a linebacker on Hockenson (although this is a great play call against this coverage to be fair) but a case of the Eagles not having enough defensive talent to stop 2 really good weapons in Jefferson and Hockenson.
4) Great example of why talent > scheme. 3rd down, Eagles in Dime. They bracket Jefferson, and get their safety on the tight end. Schematically I like it, but Hockenson just burns Evans with ease and picks up the first. I thought Evans was better, but still got beat badly a few… pic.twitter.com/BAvmNeArSl— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) September 18, 2023
I don’t who whether to blame Desai, the young defensive backs, the defensive backs coach, or all of the above - but the communication in the secondary was a disaster in this game. Motions, shifts, and play-action just killed them at times in this game. This is a really good example. Mario Goodrich has the tight end but ends up doubting himself because Josh Jobe is a step late covering the receiver. Goodrich does get to the tight end before the end zone, but just isn’t good enough to make the tackle. Personally, I would be looking to add a veteran defensive back this week because the depth isn’t good enough in my opinion.
5) Biggest issue I had was the young players in the secondary looking a little lost. The communication looked poor. Goodrich has the TE here, but doubts himself and pauses because Jobe is confused by the PA. Then Goodrich just totally whiffs on the tackle. pic.twitter.com/1Bb9V3M3PG— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) September 18, 2023
Overall, I thought Jobe was actually decent (despite some poor play as I have shown), and was fine when asked to cover Jordan Addison or K.J. Osborn one-on-one. I really don’t like what I’m seeing from Terrell Edmunds currently, which is a shame because I liked the signing in the off-season. He just looks lost on way too many plays and he also had a terrible snap this week where he just didn’t cover the flat in cover 3 (which was identical to a bad snap he had last week by the way). This is just a basic play-action play but it’s played really poorly, and I think Nicholas Morrow’s reaction summed it up.
6) Another example of some bad play against PA. Jobe and Edmunds bite hard against PA and allow an easy completion. I liked the Edmunds signing in the off-season but he's struggling a bit out there at the moment too. Morrow's reaction here is telling... pic.twitter.com/MPNm7iHCAW— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) September 18, 2023
There was some stuff that I really liked in this game. The use of defensive lineman personnel and variety of fronts was so cool to watch. This is a great play. Haason Reddick dropping into coverage annoys loads of fans, but I think it’s perfectly fine as long as it used sporadically. The Eagles drop Reddick here and I love the defensive lineman creating space for the blitzing linebacker. The 5 man pressure with the blitzing linebacker taking the running back gets Josh Sweat in a one-on-one and he wins. Slay and Jobe have really good coverage too which forces Cousins to told the ball, which leads to the sack fumble.
7) I LOVE this. So much good stuff. Reddick drops into coverage and the DL push left to create an opening for the blitzing LB. The LB prevents the RB from helping out against Sweat who defeats the LT. The CBs have brilliant coverage too (including Slay on Jefferson). pic.twitter.com/Y0MqdK4AEL— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) September 18, 2023
Jordan Davis is clearly healthy again, and he’s playing really well. The power on show here is pretty insane.
8) Jordan Davis showed up again, despite limited snaps. Look at the power on show here to defeat the double team by throwing the guard to the ground. My goodness. Both the LBs were good against the run too. I was so impressed with the run defense. pic.twitter.com/loHzuIFAOY— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) September 18, 2023
I saw some people complain about Jobe because of this long touchdown, but I actually think the real issue is not tackling the receiver after he’s made the catch. This is just the perfect offensive call against this defensive coverage, and sometimes you just have to admit defeat on a play. I have been critical of Terrell Edmunds, but I think his role here is to cut the crossing route from the trips side which means he does his job on the play. This play only works with outstanding protection and brilliant pocket movement, which Cousins shows here.
9) Sometimes, you gotta say fair play to the offense. This is the perfect call and throw. If Edmunds is the 'trix' safety or similar, he has to take the deep crossing route from the trips side which means Jobe has a really tough cover. The real mistake Jobe makes is not securing… pic.twitter.com/djANgAwyer— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) September 18, 2023
So, I was impressed with Desai’s plan for Jefferson overall. But, there was a flaw in the plan overall. When Jefferson started in the slot, the Eagles were fine. Howrver, when Jefferson started outwide and motioned to the slot, it caused the Eagles huge issues. I didn’t post the play where Jefferson fumbled, but it looked exactly like this. Jefferson motioned to the slot and ended up one-on-one with the slot cornerback, that was Goodrich at this point. On both plays, there was no real bracket or safety help so it was just a straight up one-on-one. That’s basically a disaster waiting to happen. It was a short week with new defenders in the secondary, so the Eagles sadly wouldn’t have the time to plan for everything, but this is something they need to work on moving forward.
10) Only issue I had with the Eagles handling of Jefferson was when he motioned into the slot. They seemed a bit lost. He got lined up with Goodrich one-on-one twice and burned him badly both times. You can see Goodrich isn't sure what to do either and is late moving across. pic.twitter.com/O5YlfwPv78— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) September 18, 2023
This is the only play I looked at and really did not like what I saw. Again, you have to remember that it was a short week and a lot of young defenders were in the secondary, but you can’t have miscommunications like this in the secondary and expect to be a top defense. I’m not in the room, so I’m not going to speculate who is at fault because it would just be a guess, but it’s just not good enough. I really do think the Eagles could do with another veteran presence in the secondary, ideally someone who has played in a similar system or under Desai before, and I hope they make a move in the next few days. As I’ve said, I enjoyed the game plan in this one, but the secondary combined with the linebackers in coverage just isn’t good enough.
11) Pretty obvious take, but the injuries in the secondary have obviously hurt the cohesion and communication in the secondary too. Issues like this just can't happen, and the Eagles' DB coach needs to make sure everyone is on the same page next week. No matter how inexperienced… pic.twitter.com/G7esqaAMgs— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) September 18, 2023
I don’t want to pick on Zach Cunningham because it feels unfair and I thought he was good against the run. But he was really bad in pass coverage. His body just doesn’t have the athleticism to cover space and make tackles in the open field. It’s a real problem. There was a number of clips I could have posted, where he just got burned in coverage.
12) Final one for this week. As I've said, I was impressed with Morrow/Cunningham against the run all game. But Cunningham got beat badly a few times in space, and it's clear he's a big liability in pass defense. I wonder if we see more Dime with Morrow as the lone LB soon. pic.twitter.com/i3J5j7mEth— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) September 18, 2023
- I think it’s time to see more Sydney Brown. I can’t see why he shouldn’t be out there over Terrell Edmunds moving forward.
- I thought Justin Evans had a really good understanding of the defense in this game, but he got beat badly by Hockenson on a number of plays. Overall, though, I think he was better than he was last week.
- If the Eagles do not sign another cornerback, I would start Jobe on the outside and move James Bradberry to the slot.
- Slay looks like he is moving really well this season. I know there was some question about extending an aging cornerback, and he might slow down before the end of his contract, but I think he has looked excellent these first 2 weeks.