Five things we learned about defending the Eagles in week one
The Eagles dominated the Falcons in all phases last Sunday, but I wanted to deepen Jonathan Gannon’s first game as defensive coordinator. Here are my thoughts on the Eagles’ new defensive scheme.
3-4 against 4-3
Gannon was clear that the Eagles will show offense a lot of different looks and roster in different base sets and he kept his word on Sunday. The Eagles threw a variety of combinations on an inexperienced Falcons offensive line. While the Eagles mostly rushed with four defensive linemen throughout the game, there were a handful of games where the Eagles played with 5 across the line of scrimmage. I think it could be a deadly weapon for defense if they manage to gain the advantage over their opponent, especially on 3rd low.
The game started precariously for the defense, allowing two long trips into the red zone. we credit hawks for coming out with a great script to start the game. They played at a brisk pace and didn’t allow the Eagles to make substitutes, which meant they had to stay 3-4 in defense for the majority of the two practices.
I love Jonathan Gannon’s principle of being versatile, but the strength of the team right now is the defensive line. Taking one of the defensive linemen off the field for a SAM linebacker just doesn’t seem to suit the forces up front. I’ll be interested to see if he continues to execute 3-4 concepts or if the defense moves into a 4-3 base. The only way I can justify a 3-4 is to have Josh Sweat or Derek Barnett fill the SAM linebacker role.
2. Dominance in the trenches
After reviewing the game, every defensive line of the Eagles made impact plays. Obviously, the Falcon’s offensive line leaves much to be desired, but you can’t take the shine out of their performance.
The Falcons opted for a double team Fletcher cox for most of the game that’s gone Javon hargrave to nibble his opportunities 1-1 against the rookie Jalen Mayfield. Opposing offensive lines will have to choose their poison from the get-go, but I think doubles teams may start sliding towards Hargrave soon.
Brandon Graham, Josh sweatshirt, and Derek barnett all made big plays throughout the game. Notably, Barnett displayed excellent area coverage skills in the red zone, which forced the Falcons to score a basket in their first practice. Brandon Graham packed the race and put the pressure on as usual. Josh Sweat showed his elite athletic ability throughout the match, he showed a relentless drive on every try without ever giving up a game.
I’m going to stop gushing on the defensive line now!
3. Coverage scheme
The Eagles were in coverage for almost every snap in the game. It was refreshing to see the birds keep everything in front of them and not allow any explosive play in this game.
This is a completely new philosophical approach to the defense of the Eagles that is part of the mold of a Brandon Staley tusk. This defense is designed to stop the pass first when playing a cover-2 shell. This constantly forces opposing offensives to do long, sustained 12-14 play practices, which is difficult to do. This is a modern NFL defense ready to take on a sleight of hand league. The running defense won’t be as strong as it was in Jim Schwartz’s day, but it doesn’t have to be.
Sunday I barely noticed Anthony harris but on examination he really shone. A quiet day when the broadcasters don’t mention your name is a great day for safety.
Former Pittsburgh Steeler Steven Nelson had a relatively calm start, but he made all the necessary plays on cover and was never taken out of position. It’s hard for me to understand why a rival team weren’t willing to pay Nelson more than the Eagles, but I’m not complaining.
It was not perfect especially on the first practices, but the secondary really settled down and started an excellent performance. I can’t remember the last time I got to say this about a Philly defense, but it feels good. I never fail to watch Jalen Mills & Co. constantly be confused about where to be in the coverage area.
4. Will the real linebacker SAM stand up?
The linebacker is Eagle’s biggest defense weakness. While racing support was lacking at the start of the game, Eric wilson and Shaun bradley seemed to settle into a good rhythm. Alex singleton showed good knowledge of zone coverage throughout the game. Overall it was a better performance than I expected, but Falcon’s offense didn’t do a good job of trying to exploit linebackers.
Gannon flirted with a 3-4 defense throughout the game, as discussed earlier in this article, but the birds don’t have the staff to make it happen. If 3-4 were to be a staple of defense, they needed to make getting a quality SAM linebacker a higher priority in the last offseason.
The Post Group is young and largely inexperienced, but they kept it all in front of them and didn’t make any critical mistakes. This week will be a huge challenge for this group as the 49ers will likely try to take advantage of those linebackers. It will be interesting to see if they can rise to the challenge.
5. Quick takeaways
Every click for Genard Avery is a waste of a blink of an eye. He is not good.
Ryan kerrigan had some good rushes during the game. The old man still has something in the tank.
The depth of the defensive line is incredible. Hassan ridgeway and Milton Williams flashed during the game.
The safe depth is paper thin and that concerns me.
I hope Kyle Shanahan doesn’t make me regret all the great things I just wrote about the Eagle’s defense.
Honestly, watching the new look bird defense movie was a breath of fresh air. I’m almost afraid to say it, but this defense looked well trained and disciplined. Defense played together, and each position group fulfilled its role near perfection. It wasn’t complicated or exotic, but it was deadly.
Photo by Andy Lewis / Icon Sportswire