All-22: Diagnosing Issues For the Eagles’ Defense

I know many of you don’t care to re-live Monday night’s loss to the Saints, but here are a handful of plays that caught my eye when I watched the All-22 film of their defensive snaps.

Play 1: Trent Cole rarely gets a free shot at the quarterback. But Todd Bowles’ blitz call gave him an opportunity to sack Drew Brees in the first quarter. First, check out the pre-snap look.

The Eagles show six at the line of scrimmage, and the Saints have an empty backfield, meaning someone’s going to be unblocked. The protection slides to the right, leaving Cole with a direct path to the quarterback. There’s no chip, no double team, nothing.

But Brees, as he so often does, is able to create space for himself. He delivers a little pump-fake, gets Cole to rush right past him and slides to his left. The Eagles, meanwhile, have single coverage on all five receivers since they blitzed six. Look at all the space Brees has when he finally gets rid of the ball.

The result is a 38-yard completion to Lance Moore, who was being covered by Brandon Boykin. Boykin was also called for pass interference on the play.

Cole had a pretty active game, but he missed an opportunity here, and the result was a big play.

Play 2: Plenty of blame to go around on the Chris Ivory 22-yard touchdown run. Let’s start with Brandon Graham, who gets caught inside. And Mychal Kendricks, who can’t get off his block.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie may have had a shot, but he’s blocked too, as you can see below.

David Sims is the only person with a chance, and he can’t make the tackle.

One more note: Look at where Rodgers-Cromartie still is. This is the fastest guy on the defense. He’s being blocked by 6-1, 184-pound receiver Joseph Morgan. Maybe Morgan delivered a good block. But Rodgers-Cromartie has shown on several occasions that he has little interest in making plays against the run. Not a good showing on this one.

Play 3: Another big run here. The left tackle lets Cole through. But in Jim Washburn’s system, you play the run on the way to the quarterback. Cole has a chance for a tackle for loss.

But since he’s not sure if it’s a run or play-action, he’s just a split-second slow in attacking the ball-carrier, and Thomas sidesteps him.

Meanwhile, the Saints have blocks set up on Kurt Coleman, DeMeco Ryans and Rogers-Cromartie.

Sims hustles to the ball and eventually brings Thomas down after a 19-yard gain.

But look at Rodgers-Cromartie again unable to get off his block. He’s blocked out of bounds when the play is over. Talented cover corner, but not really much of an upgrade over Asante Samuel against the run.

By the way, I don’t think this is a matter of Rodgers-Cromartie quitting. He’s always played like this. The issues just become more obvious when the team is losing and the defense isn’t playing well.

Play 4: Graham did a nice job on the sack/forced fumble in the third, but the coverage was key. Take a look.

Brees wanted to go to the end zone, but the Eagles had Rodgers-Cromartie and Coleman on the lone receiver to that side. Meanwhile, Akeem Jordan did a nice job on the running back in the flat. Graham was able to get to Brees in (unofficially) 2.2 seconds to create the turnover.

Play 5: The Eagles gained some momentum in the third, cutting the lead to 21-13. On the ensuing drive, the Saints faced a 3rd-and-7, and Bowles went with a look we’ve seen multiple times this year with the defensive ends standing up as rush linebackers and the defensive tackles shifting out.

The Eagles often blitz out of this look, but here, they just sent four, and they got zero pressure. Brees had all day to find Moore for a 23-yard completion. Babin got to his feet, but wasn’t able to bring the quarterback down.

Brees had about 3.9 seconds to find his receiver. That’s way too much time, especially in a key third-and-long situation like this.

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