Philadelphia Eagles

Can the Eagles find a way to stop opposing QB’s embarrassing them?

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The Philadelphia Eagles sit at 3-6 on the season. They are 0-4 at home. The scheme implemented by first-year defensive coordinator Jonathon Gannon has been a disaster through the first nine games of 2021. They’ve played a passive style designed to limit big plays, which has allowed opposing quarterbacks to feast on their soft coverage.

Reuben Frank of NBC Sports Philadelphia revealed some alarming stats after Sunday’s loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. Dak Prescott, Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady, Derek Carr, and Justin Herbert completed at least 80% of their passes against the Eagles this year. 

Before this season, only eight opposing quarterbacks reached the mark against the Eagles in the 87-year history of the franchise. Only one other team in NFL history has allowed opposing QBs to finish 80% or higher five times in a season, and the Eagles have already done it in 2021 in just nine games.

Eagles Succeeding Against Lesser QBs

The top QBs the Eagles faced in the first nine games had a frustratingly easy time putting points on the board. However, the defense fared well against the lesser QBs they faced.

They contained Matt Ryan and limited the Atlanta Falcons to six points in Week 1. They swarmed Sam Darnold for three interceptions in a Week 5 win against the Carolina Panthers. They sacked Jared Goff six times and defeated the Detroit Lions 44-6 in Week 8.

Their best defensive effort of the six losses came when they held the San Francisco 49ers to 17 points. Jimmy Garoppolo failed to capitalize on some opportunities given to him by the Philadelphia defense in the Week 2 matchup. He missed multiple open targets that could’ve extended 49ers’ drives, particularly in the first half when their offense was struggling.

Disparity in Competition

The nine QBs the Eagles have faced collectively own 592 wins in the NFL regular season and 15 Super Bowl appearances. Even if Brady is excluded from those stats, the other eight have won 356 and advanced to five Super Bowls. 

The QBs expected to start against them in the final eight games have combined for 94 career regular-season wins and one playoff win. 

The Eagles will face the New York Giants and the Washington Football Team twice. If expected starters Daniel Jones and Taylor Heinicke are counted twice, it only adds 13 wins to the group’s total.

They will face the Dallas Cowboys in Week 18. There is a chance Prescott might rest if the Cowboys have their playoff positioning locked in. He has 47 of the 94 regular-season wins and the only playoff win of the group of starting QBs on the remaining schedule. His backup, Cooper Rush, has one career win.

Teddy Bridgewater, a serviceable but not outstanding signal-caller, will start against the Eagles in Denver on Sunday. They will likely face Taysom Hill, who is better served as a gadget player, at Lincoln Financial Field against the Saints on Nov. 21. If Trevor Siemian plays over Hill, he will bring the pedigree of a game manager at best.

The New York Jets will more than likely start Mike White or Zac Wilson, who each have one career win, in an early December matchup in North Jersey.

What does it all mean?

The Eagles defense will be in a better position to succeed for the remainder of the season, and they are less likely to get brutally embarrassed by opposing passing attacks. Their overall statistics will likely improve considerably.

Zach Berman of The Athletic spoke during his postgame podcast about the weakening competition at quarterback in upcoming games. He noted another interesting question about the way to judge the Philadelphia defense during the final eight games. 

“If the defense goes on a roll here, is it that they’ve turned it around? Or is it deceiving what’s the real issue?

-Zach Berman

It’s a fair question to consider in the evaluation of  Gannon’s first season. The Eagles have already demonstrated their inability to compete with top-level NFL passing attacks. 

Statistical improvement should put out the fire temporarily. However, are they truly moving forward and building a playoff-caliber defense if they’re only succeeding against opposing quarterbacks who are unlikely to reach the postseason anyway?

Easier competition also doesn’t guarantee better results. Carr and Herbert torched the Eagles effortlessly, and they’re not unstoppable QBs in the top tier of the NFL. Despite Detroit’s ineffective offensive game plan, Goff still completed 25 of his 34 passes against Philadelphia.

If drastic statistical improvement doesn’t materialize over the final eight games, the Eagles will find themselves in an even worse position on defense than they are right now. That is not a position an inexperienced coach like Gannon should feel comfortable facing.  

Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire

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Colin Newby is a freelance journalist from Delaware County, PA covering the Philadelphia Eagles for Philly Sports Network. He is an encyclopedia of useless sports knowledge with an uncanny ability to rattle off Eagles defensive stats from 2004 or the entire roster of the 2008 Phillies.
He is also a Flyers podcast host and an author of fictional sports stories.

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