Coaches’ critique: Eagles’ defense shows it has long way to go

Posted on September 16, 2022

Each week, we will look at the performance of the Eagles’ coaches — good and bad.

This week, the obvious place to start is the flawed defense, which was burned for 35 points by the Lions in the season opener.

Among other problems, the defense couldn’t contain the run. D’Andre Swift gained 144 yards on only 15 carries. The Lions totaled 181 yards.

More issues:

  • The Lions converted 9-of-14 third-down situations.
  • They were 4-of-4 in the red zone.
  • The Eagles had one sack and didn’t exert enough pressure on quarterback Jared Goff. Last year, the Eagles were 31st in sacks.

There’s plenty to fix before Monday night against the Vikings, who are riding high after a 23-7 victory over Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.

Minnesota has a good quarterback in Kirk Cousins, an excellent running back in Dalvin Cook and all-world wide receiver Justin Jefferson.

The Eagles spent serious offseason capital trying to improve their defense. The expectation was for excellence — certainly not to give up 31 points to a team that was 3-31-1 last season.

Rookie defensive tackle Jordan Davis only played 22 snaps and the run defense was better when he was on the field. Expect to see more of Davis on Monday.

Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon was on the hot seat this week trying to explain his unit’s deficiencies.


  • “We have to clean it up because you can’t get gashed like we did,” Gannon said. “Just from a fit standpoint and a tackling standpoint, I think our execution needs to be a little bit better.
  • “Obviously, that starts with me. We have to coach that a little bit better to make sure our guys know exactly where they’re fitting on certain runs.
  • “You give up two explosive runs for however many yards, that’s going to skew the rush numbers, and that’s what happened.
  • “We have to get those runs down a little bit better, a little bit quicker, and the rush per attempt will go down.”

The Eagles didn’t do much tackling in the preseason, saying they were trying to prevent injuries before the regular season. Gannon said he didn’t think that was a reason for so many missed tackles against Detroit.


Gannon also said he was happy with the pass rush. OK, but expect to see more blitzes to put pressure on Cousins. The Eagles can’t sit back and give Cousins time to find Jefferson.

  • “We hurried them a couple times, we hit them a couple times,” Gannon said. “The one pick [by James Bradberry], I think that was [defensive tackle Marlon] Tui [Tuipulotu] made the guard miss and he smokes Jared.
  • “But again, how they played that game was the ball was coming out fast …
  • “I think I was happy where it was, and we want to continue to improve that part of our game, too.”


Another issue for the Eagles was when they held a 17-point lead going into the fourth quarter. Get a stop, get the ball back and melt down the clock.

Instead, the Lions scored two touchdowns and cut the Eagles’ lead to 38-35 with 3 minutes, 51 seconds to play. This very winnable game for the Eagles truly was up for grabs. The Eagles’ offense ran out the clock with seven running plays and a kneel-down. 

  • “We were getting it to third down a good amount,”Gannon said. “The one drive, I think they had five third downs that they converted.
  • “You’re just going down a long, hard road if you’re not getting off the field on third down, and that extends drives and then you get into the red zone, and we didn’t hold up in the red zone, and those are points.
  • “It’s really a combination of first and second down, doing what we’re doing, but then executing a little better on third down to make them punt or when they get into the red zone to keep those four-point plays, not touchdowns and field goals.”


Head coach Nick Sirianni was asked about the Lions’ success in converting third downs and their red zone success.

  • “It felt like what was happening is like, OK, once they got a first down, we couldn’t stop the bleeding. So once the drive kind of started to go, we just couldn’t get off the field there.
  • “And then the same thing. Then we would get to the red zone and it felt — there were some things that happened in the red zone in the sense of … we would have them on a negative play or a stop and then they would get a chunk to get down inside the five, first-and-goal inside the five …
  • “It wasn’t just one particular thing. It was a bunch of things, but it really was highlighted by just the succession of them being able to stack plays on plays on plays, as opposed to hitting any big ones. But still, we have to stop them and get off the field in some of those situations.”

Historically, an NFL standard for defense is holding an opponent to 17 points or fewer. Based on Week One, the Eagles have a long way to go.

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Chuck Bausman

Chuck Bausman is an Eagles writer for Chuck formerly was the Executive Sports Editor of the Philadelphia Daily News and the Executive Sports Editor of the Courier-Post in South Jersey. He learned how to cuss by watching Philly sports.

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