It was the same old story in Sunday’s loss to Tennessee. The pass-rush started out red-hot and slowly began to fizzle away as the offense started chipping away at a defense that lined up their corners so far away from the ball. Marcus Mariota was able to bring another element to combat the Eagles stout run-defense by making them account for his own burst from the backfield, but at the end of the day, it was problems in the secondary that hurt the Eagles again and again.
Corey Graham’s shocker of a mistake on overtime is clearly what’s going to draw a lot of attention and rightly so, but the fact that Jim Schwartz insisted on playing ‘sticks’ coverage in that situation was just begging for trouble. The team allowed conversions of 4th and 15, 4th and 4, and 4th and 2 on the final drive in overtime, dragging Marcus Mariota and a dangerous offense down the field time after time.
The loss of Rodney McLeod stung this defense, but it’s not as if the Eagles didn’t have the players to work around the injury. Corey Graham, a savvy vet, had actually played quite well, leading the team in tackles and negating the loss of one of the most underrated players on the defense. That didn’t however, excuse the rest of the secondary from lacking a severe amount of discipline, a recurring trend.
This isn’t the first time that the Eagles pass defense has been suspect and it certainly won’t be the last. The Eagles have already allowed 1,086 passing yards this season (20th in the NFL) and find themselves giving up big plays each and every week. Of course, this can’t be avoided, but the risk can be reduced.
Jalen Mills seems to be giving up a horrendous amount of yardage on a regular basis, be it through blown coverage, penalties or missed tackles. He’s rapidly becoming a liability in coverage and the problem is that this isn’t new. The former LSU standout has suffered the same problems since joining the league and offenses have picked on him consistently as a result. This is the third year in a row we’ve seen Jalen Mills being bullied by opposing receivers and after moving him away from the ball last year to play to his strengths, it’s becoming clear that something needs to change.
Darby and Mills, in theory, is a very solid cornerbacking tandem. Their skillsets compliment one another, but they can also be each other’s worst enemy. What Mills has in exceptional tackling, he lacks in coverage. Ronald Darby is the exact opposite, creating quite the complex for opposing offenses.
No matter what lens we look at this through, the problem remains the same.
- The Eagles have an incredible run defense that ranks second in the NFL.
- Teams cant run against Philly, so naturally have to resort to the pass.
- Because of how quick the pass rush gets there, quarterbacks need to get the ball out faster.
- This unfortunately correlates with the Eagles corners playing 8-10 yards away from the ball.
- QB’s pick on corners using curls and comebacks because the DB will have to adjust to the ball.
- Rinse and repeat.
Every team has used this formula this season and every team has succeeded. Not every team has won, but every single game has been kept within a single possession. Forcing a shootout is great if you can hold your end of the bargain on defense, which the Eagles, through a lack of playing discipline and coaching adjustment are struggling to do.
I don’t know what the solution is, but I’m not an NFL defensive coordinator. I do know what the problem is however and it’s that the Eagles are leaking yards week on week because of a refusal to adjust the defense and disrupt what quickly becomes a rhythmic offensive gameplan. Perhaps this was just emphasized with the loss of Rodney McLeod, or maybe that’s what it took to wake up the front office to a much bigger problem.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports