Everything we learned about the Eagles defense in week 2

PHILADELPHIA, PA – SEPTEMBER 27: Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Derek Barnett (96) looks on during the game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Philadelphia Eagles on September 27, 2020 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)

The Eagles lost a frustrating game to the Niners, so I decided to dive into the tape to break down what happened for the birds on defense.

They are who we thought they were

Through two weeks, Jonathan Gannon’s defense is near the top of the league in running zone defense and split safeties. The Birds have executed this scheme efficiently considering how young it is and have shown growing awareness in coverage. Gannon and his staff deserve credit for turning this secondary into a respectable unit.

Per Next Gen Stats, the Eagles blitzed just 3 times against the 49ers which is one of the lowest in the league. This forces offenses to be patient and make methodical drives down with near-perfect execution. The 49ers were able to pull that off twice against the Eagles last Sunday. While only giving up 17 points against a Kyle Shanahan offense is noteworthy,

I think Gannon needs to help his defense get off the field by mixing it up. Great defensive coordinators always have a couple of curveballs to throw at an offense on crucial downs. The Eagles have kept their defense simple up to this point. During the 16 play drive the 49ers had in the 2nd half, the defense should have received additional help from their defensive coordinator. Gannon needed to call some plays the offense had not seen yet.

Overall, the defense has been excellent and was not the reason we lost on Sunday. In terms of the scheme, this is exactly what we expected from Gannon, but I did not think it would yield such outstanding returns through 2 weeks.  

Stuffing the run

The credit belongs to the defensive line again for its excellent play. By shutting down the 49ers run game, Jimmy Garapolo was never able to find a great rhythm on play-action which is a crucial element of the 49ers offense. The Eagles did not fall for a lot of the eye candy and movement that Shanahan throws at defenses which is impressive for a team that has struggled against wide zone offenses in the past.

It was a great game if you like to watch a battle of the trenches. The Eagles consistently won against the 49ers offensive line with 4 down linemen even after losing Graham to injury.

Stupid Mistakes

There is a reason why Josh Sweat has been extended before Derek Barnett. The former Tennessee Volunteer was flagged for his eighth personal foul and six of those flags have been for unnecessary roughness. Penalties aren’t the only reason that Barnett doesn’t have a new contract, but it certainly hasn’t helped his cause and it’s consistently hurt the team in crucial situations. The Eagles forced the 49ers into a long 3rd down that would have been difficult to convert, but Barnett gave the Niners a free first down with a completely unnecessary and stupid late hit.

Another flag that cost the Eagles was in the Red Zone. Anthony Harris committed a back-breaking pass interference penalty against Mohamed Sanu. Again, this was an unnecessary penalty as Harris was in a good position and didn’t need to hold Sanu to stop the play. This led to a 49ers touchdown, a veteran safety like Harris should know better.

The Eagles need to play a cleaner game against Dallas. If they commit stupid penalties and shoot themselves in the foot I don’t think they’ll be able to hold off the Cowboys.

Linebackers held up

The unit I was most concerned about heading into this game put in another solid performance. Singleton had a few strong reps against Kittle in Coverage. I’ve been critical of Singleton in the past, but he is playing well this year. Last year, Kittle was unstoppable against the Eagles, but this year he was an afterthought. This really highlights the weaknesses in Jim Schwartz’s system.  

Eric Wilson is awesome, and I love everything about him, but he can’t tackle. It’s not great to be a linebacker who misses a lot of tackles. He’s still pretty good in coverage though. I wonder if we will see TJ Edwards get more reps replacing Wilson on 1st and 2nd down.

I still cannot quite figure out what Gannon is trying to accomplish running a 3-4 defense. It worked fine against the 49ers but doesn’t seem to provide any sort of benefit. It doesn’t make sense to play to more linebackers when you have a strong defensive line.

Random Takeaways

Sorry to start off this way again but Genard FREAKING Avery had more snaps than the guy you just extended?!?!? I CANNOT. STOP IT. He had 11 more snaps than Josh Sweat which is unthinkable.

Tarron Jackson got bullied but he was put in a tough situation coming in for Graham.

Losing Brandon Graham is a total vibe killer. Graham is easy to love and hard to hate for a reason. Can’t wait to see him line up next year and finally get double-digit sacks.

Final Thoughts

It’s Dallas week. After watching the Eagles defense perform well against the 49ers, I don’t think its unreasonable to expect them to hold off the cowboys high-powered offense. This defense was designed to stop teams like Dallas, and I don’t think the Cowboys will be able to make this game a track meet.

I expect the cowboys to scheme up lots of ways to get the ball into the hands of CeeDee Lamb, its crucial the Eagles limit any YAC opportunities for Lamb by rallying and tackling.

Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire