The Eagles haven’t exactly flaunted an exotic defense this season. Through the opening four games, Gannon’s unit has been subject to plenty of criticism and there hasn’t been much in the way of improvement on a weekly basis. If there’s ever a time to change that, it’s against the Carolina Panthers.
The Eagles defense surrendered 200 rushing yards on Sunday in a performance that summarized just how bad things are getting. The team have given up 83 points and 851 yards over the last two weeks, marking only the fifth ever time in franchise history that the defense has surrendered 40+ points in back-to-back games. What lies ahead is a challenge against an offense that may not boast the bells and whistles of Kansas City, but can burn a defense just as badly.
Ranking 13th in yards per game, Carolina is doing most of its damage through the air, although the return of Christian McCaffrey may change that. DJ Moore currently ranks third in the NFL when it comes to targets/receptions and his a ascension to the top-tier of NFL wideouts is nearly complete. With 398 yards through 4 games, he’s absolutely a weapon to be feared.
On the other side of the field is a player many Eagles fans wanted to snag from the Jets before his big move – Robby Anderson. He’s much more of a DeSean Jackson type of player, who will be quiet for periods and then explode into life on deep routes. He’s still averaging 14.9 yards per reception and the secondary is going to have its work cut out, especially if they insist on playing soft zone looks that allow two highly intelligent route-runners to seek out pockets of space.
Elsewhere, there’s a sharp rise in rushing production from Sam Darnold. The former Jets QB isn’t typically associated with storming upfield for scores, but he has 5 rushing touchdowns on the year, leading the league and has shown some sneaky athleticism. This doesn’t bode well for an Eagles defense that can barely work out which holes the running back is hitting, let alone a quarterback.
As a passer, he’s unsurprisingly having a career-year. Completing 67% of his passes with a 95 passer rating, Darnold has looked much more comfortable in Carolina. If it’s simply a case of managing the game and taking what the defense gives him, the Eagles currently pose very little threat unless something changes. They have to get pressure to a quarterback
Darnold has been blitzed more than 23 other NFL QB’s this season and knocked down 15 times. If the Eagles can get consistent pressure, which with names like Javon Hargrave at their disposal, they should, then the team at least have a fighting chance of helping a weaker group behind them.
It’s absolutely imperative that Jonathan Gannon makes adjustments this week. The star-power isn’t quite there on the Panthers offense, but the execution absolutely is. The idea of Christian McCaffrey returning against the Eagles is terrifying. Negating his play in the open-field has to be a priority, but shouldn’t come at the expense of stopping an offense that has quietly been
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