Eagles-Washington, Day After: ‘Out Of Control’

Why the Eagles' defensive performance has declined.

Brandon Graham. (USA Today Sports)

Brandon Graham. (USA Today Sports)

LANDOVER, MD — Jim Schwartz didn’t address the media after the Eagles’ 27-20 loss against Washington, but if he did he probably wouldn’t say missed tackles was the main fault of his defense. Instead, he may have pointed to bad angles or poor pursuit as he did three days before the game when he explained his philosophy on missed tackles.

“We’re going to miss some tackles, and it’s because we’re an aggressive defense. We like to fly and not slow down at the ball. In order to do that, you need other guys filling off of you,” Schwartz said. “If you over-coach guys not to miss tackles, you don’t fly to the ball. You don’t have big hits and things like that and it sort of softens you up.

“If you take an approach of guys run with their angle and aggressively take their angle, they’re going to miss sometimes. That’s why team pursuit is so important. That’s why team speed is important. You need other guys to fill off of them.”

But to play fast effectively the Eagles must remain disciplined, which they didn’t yesterday. While Brandon Graham said defenders were too “jacked up,” Nigel Bradham noted guys were “trying to do too much.”

Regardless of the specific cause, Washington rolled over the Eagles’ defense for 493 total yards and 27 points. The Eagles have now lost to Washington for the fourth consecutive time, their first four-game losing streak in the series since 1985-1987.

“You got to stop the run and make them one-dimension and let our pass rush eat,” Jordan Hicks said. “I’ve been saying that for four, five weeks now, and that’s what we’re predicated on. When we can’t stop the run and we’re letting them gash us for big play after big play in the run game — that’s a problem in this league.

“It was the front. It was the LBs. It was the DBs. It was everybody. That’s a complete, team defensive failure in the run game today.”

The Eagles’ tackling problem was a big reason Washington accumulated 230 rushing yards — their most since 2012 — on 33 carries, averaging seven yards per attempt. Matt Jones tallied a career-high 135 rushing yards, while Robert Kelley recorded the longest run of his career. Jones’ 57-yarder and Kelley’ 45-yarder are also Washington’s longest runs of the season.

In addition to the missed tackles, the Eagles were also consistently cut out of their gaps, although Malcolm Jenkins said that wasn’t because of a problem with the defense’s speed.

“I don’t think you can ever play too fast,” Jenkins said. “With playing fast comes discipline. You can’t just be out of control and I think right now — the last two games — that’s really been the story is just the lack of discipline, whether that’s penalties or dropped assignments. Especially defensively, it’s just doing your job. It’s not one or two guys you can point out, but it’s just collectively taking turns not doing your job one play after another and you get beaten.”

Penalties also killed the Eagles as they were flagged 13 times for 114 yards, including one Fletcher Cox roughing the passer call that extended a Washington touchdown drive. While Cox disagreed with the call, the Eagles have been undoubtedly undisciplined as their penalties have begun to pile up.

Despite playing just five games — one less than most other teams after the Eagles’ early bye week — Nolan Carroll is tied for first in defensive pass interferences. According to CSN’s Reuben Frank, the Eagles’ 49 penalties is the most the team has recorded in franchise history through five games.

“I know we don’t necessarily see ourselves as an undisciplined team, but the numbers would tell you we’re an undisciplined team that beats themselves,” Jenkins said. “In the first three weeks, that was really one of our strengths is that we played very patient, very sound football and just eventually broke our opponents. It’s been the opposite of that the last two weeks. Our opponents have sat back and stayed steady and we beat ourselves.”

TOUGH ROAD AHEAD

After starting out 3-0, the Eagles are now 3-2 with five tough consecutive games on the horizon. They begin with an undefeated Vikings (5-0) team in Philadelphia on Sunday, then travel to Dallas (5-1) and New York (3-3) for a pair of division road games, before hosting a high-powered Falcons (4-2) team and traveling to Seattle (4-1).

“It’s football,” Carson Wentz said. “There’s going to be losses and no one likes to lose but you have to learn from it. It’s all about how you react and how you respond to the losses. Obviously we didn’t come out here and formulate wanting to [lose], but we have to get back to the drawing board. The season’s not over and it’s a long season so we’re not losing hope or that edge that we bring on Sundays. I still like this team and we’ll get back to the drawing board.”

The Eagles now rank third in the NFC East, which is the only division without a below-.500 team. The Birds have the third-best point differential in the NFL (+57) — just two points behind the Bills and one behind the Patriots — but five games into the season, they’d still be on the outside looking in at the playoff picture.

The Eagles are tied for the second-worst strength of schedule so far in the NFC, a ranking which will surely skyrocket after the next five weeks.

“I was 1-5 a year ago and went on a 10-straight (win streak with the Chiefs),” Doug Pederson said. “I’ve seen it on both ends. It is my job to make sure these guys are ready to go mentally, physically — the whole thing — so we can be ready for next weekend. Short-term memory; you watch the tape and make the necessary corrections and move on from it. You learn from it. I told the team last week, there’s two types of people in this league: There’s ones that learn from it and the ones that don’t. We have to learn from these.”

To get back on track, the Birds’ defense will have to respond well after giving up 21 first-half points in consecutive games. But it won’t be a simple fix, according to Malcolm Jenkins, as the problem isn’t one particular player or one specific situation.

“(The frustration level) is high,” Jenkins said. “It’d be different if we just weren’t good enough or we didn’t feel like we were talented enough to win, but we feel like we got the guys. But everybody’s kind of taking turns either blowing their assignment or getting beat with penalties. In the league, there’s usually never blowouts; every game comes down to three to seven points, and the difference in those is just one or two plays. When you’re not making them and a lot of them are self-inflicted, it’s very frustrating.”

SOCIAL SKILLS

The Eagles expertly trolled the NFL after Malcolm Jenkins’ pick-six with the league’s new ban on team accounts posting game highlights.

NOTABLE QUOTES

Doug Pederson on if he considered benching Halapoulivaati Vaitai:

“No, I’ve got so much confidence in all the guys. That sends a bad message to the players on the team, and again, it’s our job as coaches to make sure our guys are ready to play.”

—Pederson on why he called a timeout near the end of the fourth quarter before punting instead of hurrying his special teams on the field and saving a timeout:

“Wanted to save the time. We had discussed it prior to the play. If something negative had happened, we were going to use the timeout, save the time. We’d have gotten the ball back with around 48, 49 seconds back and had a chance at the end.”

Fletcher Cox on his roughing the passer penalty that extended a Washington touchdown drive:

“It’s football. You don’t try as a defensive lineman to be whatever, but I thought myself it was clean hit. Obviously, the ref didn’t think that. It was dumb on my part. It cost us seven points. I got to be better with that.”

Zach Ertz on why the Eagles committed so many penalties:

“I have no idea. It’s frustrating as heck honestly. It’s killing us, it’s killing us. You can’t win having 13 penalties. In this league it is hard enough to win and when you kill yourself with penalties, it’s even tougher, and dang near impossible to win. It’s frustrating. I’m frustrated and we can’t do it if we expect to win football games.”

—Washington head coach Jay Gruden on how his defense made Carson Wentz uncomfortable:

“I think, number one, you change up the coverage a little bit. You play some man-to-man and cover his first and second progression. If he tries to get off to his third, then you have to get pressure on him. I think that’s what happened. I think our defense did a good job. I’ll watch the film, but I think they did a good job of playing some man-to-man, playing some zones, four-man rushes, five-man rushes, three-man rushes so I think it was a good game plan. The guys really executed. It was a great job by our defensive players.”

SNAP COUNTS

Offense

Player# of snaps% of snaps
Allen Barbre52100%
Brandon Brooks52100%
Jason Kelce52100%
Jason Peters52100%
Halapoulivaati Vaitai52100%
Carson Wentz52100%
Jordan Matthews4790%
Zach Ertz4688%
Nelson Agholor4281%
Dorial Green-Beckham4281%
Darren Sproles2344%
Brent Celek1325%
Ryan Mathews1121%
Wendell Smallwood1019%
Trey Burton917%
Josh Huff917%
Kenjon Barner815%
  • Dorial Green-Beckham’s increased role continued as he played 81 percent of the snaps, tied for second-most among receivers with Nelson Agholor. Green-Beckham caught just one pass on four targets for 23 yards, but no Eagles receivers had good numbers as the Birds struggled mightily through the air.
  • According to Doug Pederson, Ryan Mathews (21 percent) entered the game completely healthy, but he had less than half of the snaps Darren Sproles (44 percent) had. Mathews also played just one more snap than Wendell Smallwood (19 percent) and three more snaps than Kenjon Barner (15 percent). However, because the game had such a weird offensive flow for the Birds, I wouldn’t look too much into how the running back rotation turned out, unless a trend emerges down the line.
  • Matt Tobin didn’t get any snaps for the first time this season, while Brent Celek had his lowest total (25 percent) of the season. Jason Peters has now gone five games without missing a single snap.

Defense

Player# of snaps% of snaps
Nigel Bradham74100%
Jordan Hicks74100%
Malcolm Jenkins74100%
Rodney McLeod7399%
Jalen Mills7399%
Nolan Carroll6892%
Connor Barwin6081%
Brandon Graham5777%
Fletcher Cox5574%
Ron Brooks5270%
Beau Allen4358%
Vinny Curry3142%
Destiny Vaeao2838%
Mychal Kendricks2230%
Bennie Logan1723%
Marcus Smith1115%
Stephen Tulloch11%
Jaylen Watkins11%
  • Howie Roseman deserves a lot of credit for this offseason — the Carson Wentz trade, the Rodney McLeod and Brandon Brooks signings, etc. — but the Vinny Curry deal has been a huge mistake so far. The $47.25 million defensive end played just 42 percent of the snaps against Washington, and he has yet to play more than 46 percent of the defense’s snaps in any game this season.
  • Obviously, part of the reason Curry is only playing the minority of snaps is because of Connor Barwin (81 percent), but Barwin isn’t playing up to his $7.35 million earnings this season. Barwin’s cap hit next year would be $8.35 million, and the Eagles would save $7.75 million if they cut or trade him before June 1, per Over the Cap. It’s unclear if the Birds are willing to move on from him, but at this rate, they should.
  • Nigel Bradham and Jordan Hicks each played 100 percent of the snaps for the first time this season, while Stephen Tulloch had just a one snap and Mychal Kendricks’ playing time (30 percent) dipped.
  • With Leodis McKelvin out, Jalen Mills played the most snaps (99 percent) of his young career. He struggled against DeSean Jackson in the first half — committing a defensive holding penalty and allowing four catches for 55 yards on five targets — but he didn’t give up a reception against Jackson in the second half.
  • Destiny Vaeao (38 percent) also played the most snaps of his young career as he and Beau Allen (58 percent) saw a bump with Bennie Logan (23 percent) getting hurt toward the end of the second quarter.