What Happened to the Defense?

Posted: September 21st, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | Comments Off on What Happened to the Defense?

Jim Schwartz got exposed. And the back seven? What a joke. The Rams made the Eagles defense look bad. Jared Goff was efficient. The run game went for more than 100 yards. Something has to be done. Get rid of someone!!!

Right, you say. Something has to change. You aren’t going to win with that group.

But wait…I was actually talking about the 2017 game, when the Eagles won 43-35. Schwartz had a Top 3 defense. They had veterans all over the back seven. Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod and Corey Graham were the safeties. Nigel Bradham and Mychal Kendricks were the LBs. Patrick Robinson was in the slot. That group of players handled the middle of the field and they got lit up.

They also won a Super Bowl a couple of months later.

I knew the back seven was going to be challenged. From my preview:

I have two major concerns. First, the Eagles back seven handling the fakes and motion and movement. If they blow assignments, there will be receivers open and big plays available. This is a critical day for playing smart. Know your assignment. Execute your assignment.

The Rams run somewhat of a simple offense. They don’t have a huge, complex playbook. But they use a lot of pre-snap motion, shifting and fakes. It requires great discipline to shut them down. The Eagles were terrible yesterday in terms of playing assignment football.

The Rams didn’t catch them off guard. There weren’t any crazy new plays. There was just great execution.

How does this happen?

The best thing I can compare the Rams offense to is the Princeton offense from college basketball. I’m not sure if that’s something the average sports fan is aware of anymore, but it used to be something all the big schools feared. Princeton would run an offense that featured a lot of motion and cutting. Their players mastered it and it gave good teams fits because they didn’t face it anywhere else. That offense required precision more than talent and allowed Princeton to play well against significantly better opponents.

The big issue is that teams couldn’t simulate the offense in practice. They knew what plays were coming, but the backups wouldn’t run them well enough in practice to truly get the starters ready for it.

As McLeod said after the game, the Eagles weren’t surprised. They knew what plays were coming. But there is no way Eagles backups could execute those plays anywhere near the level of the Rams. Jared Goff, Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods and the rest of those skill guys have been in that offense for multiple years. They know how to sell fakes and execute all the looks to keep maximum pressure on the defense.

The Eagles just couldn’t get them off balance very much. There was a time in the second quarter when the Eagles started to get pressure and Goff started to miss throws. He began 13 of 13 and then went on a 5 of 12 stretch. That’s what happens when Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox and Malik Jackson are in your face when you throw. The announcers kept going on about Goff missing an open RB for a TD. They brushed aside the fact he was hit as he threw the ball.

When Goff did have time, it was no contest. You can’t play fast when you’re thinking. The Eagles started guessing and that led to a lot of errors.┬áNate Gerry really struggled. You saw on multiple plays where he watched the ball and then reacted half a second late. He didn’t trust his eyes. He was processing the action too slowly. Half a second can be an eternity in NFL pass defense.

As frustrating as Gerry and the LBs were, the DEs bugged me even more. Over and over, they bit hard on fakes, leaving Goff tons of space to move in when he rolled outside. DEs have to play outside-in. They have to make sure the QB doesn’t have the ball before crashing down in run support. I could have lived with this if the Eagles were shutting down the run, but that sure wasn’t happening. We got the worst of both worlds.

That was just a brutal day for the defense.

The offense could have helped, as they did in the 2017 game. The Eagles gave up yards and points in that meeting, but the offense made big plays as well. They out-gained and outscored the Rams.

The defense put the game away with a TD at the end. That wasn’t a good day for Schwartz, but his group did enough to win. That wasn’t the case on Sunday. They couldn’t come up with a takeaway. They couldn’t get Red Zone stops. They were beaten every way possible.

I knew things might be rough, but I thought they would make enough plays to put the Eagles in position to win.

Schwartz and his coaches have a lot of teaching to do. They have to use Sunday as a lesson for the young guys. And the young guys better learn fast or this is going to be a long season.

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