This was a very interesting game to break down defensively against the Jacksonville Jaguars, mainly because the Eagles did things philosophically that they haven't really done in the two-plus years with Jim Schwartz as the defensive coordinator here in Philadelphia. There was a HIGH volume of blitzing against the Jaguars and quarterback Blake Bortles. There have been a couple of games here and there over his tenure where Schwartz may have called 12 or even as high as 16 or 17 blitzes. I haven't crunched the numbers on this so I may be completely wrong, but I do not recall a game where Schwartz blitzed 22 times on 65 snaps (33.8 percent of the time, the highest of the season).
Here are a few nuggets based on how I charted the game:
- Seventeen of those blitzes were against pass plays, five of them were run plays.
- Bortles was 6-of-13 against the blitz for 82 yards and a touchdown. He was sacked three times for -21 yards and he ran once for 8 yards. Avonte Maddox's forced fumble on a completion downfield also occurred on a blitz. Bortles was blitzed on 17 of 52 dropbacks (32.7 percent) which, according to the fine folks working over at NFL Matchup, would place the Eagles third among teams that blitz the most in the NFL – if that was the ratio over an entire season, of course.
- Twenty of the 22 blitz calls were five-man pressures. The Eagles went Cover 0 with six blitzers twice, and one of them was on the touchdown catch by Dede Westbrook.
- Fourteen of the 22 blitzes had man coverage on the back end (some form of Cover 1 with one high safety or the pair of Cover 0 looks). The other eight had zone looks, typically with three deep defenders and three underneath (though some had a Cover 2 look as well).
- The Jaguars struggled against the run blitzes, rushing five times for 10 yards.
ALL OF THE VIDEO CLIPS FEATURE AUDIO ANALYSIS FROM FRAN DUFFY
Schwartz forcibly turned up the heat against Jacksonville and Bortles on Sunday. Was it all perfect? Absolutely not. The Jaguars were able to convert a couple of big plays down the field against both man and zone looks in the secondary when Bortles had time. On the plus side, however, the extra pressure got to the quarterback, confusing him, forcing him to hold the football, or to make errant throws. It didn't result in any interceptions, but the Eagles almost came away with a couple of big plays going the other way, and the pressure was a big part of that.
The question now becomes, is this a sign of things to come for the Eagles' defense? Or was this a one-week thing thanks to the opponent? History suggests the latter. I don't expect Schwartz and the Eagles' defense to all of a sudden blitz once every three downs. However, with the loss of Derek Barnett, the fact that sack production is a bit down from last year, and with some of the lapses late in games this year, maybe this could be more of what we see after the bye week. To me, that is the biggest question for this Eagles team?
I mentioned that the Jaguars were able to connect on some plays down the field. One of those plays happened on one of the most pivotal snaps of the game for the Eagles.
Maddox did a great job of getting his hat on the football to force this fumble and create a turnover. The Jags were looking to drive late in the first half, up 6-3, and had they gotten points there that game would have had a different feeling at halftime. Luckily, the rookie forced the turnover and the Eagles took the ball downfield and scored on a touchdown pass from Carson Wentz to Dallas Goedert.
The player who blitzed the most on Sunday was veteran safety Malcolm Jenkins. By my count, the captain rushed 11 times in the game, more than any other second- or third-level player.
Jenkins, outside of giving up the touchdown to Westbrook, was very active in this game in every phase of the game (run game, pass coverage, and blitzing). If the defense is going to continue trending in a positive direction, I think the team needs Jenkins to sustain this level of play.
Staying in the secondary, Rasul Douglas played more in this game at cornerback after the injury to Jalen Mills. I thought Douglas showed some good and some bad. He's long, competitive, and has good ball skills. He showed his length and ability to impact the catch point against the Jaguars. Athletically, there are some limitations with Douglas, and those will always be there. There are also some things he can improve on in zone coverage, but overall I thought he had a solid performance.
The Eagle who stood out most in the game, however, was Fletcher Cox. No. 91 was stout in the run game, helping to hold the Jaguars to just 3 yards per carry on nine runs from the Jacksonville backfield. He didn't register a sack in the game – he was actually used often as a contain player on many of the Eagles' blitzes and even dropped back on a couple of snaps in coverage. He was active in the backfield and when the defense needed it most, he came through with big plays. This was a good way to go into the bye week for the Eagles defense.
Fran Duffy is the producer of the Emmy-nominated Eagles Game Plan show which can be seen every gameday during the season on NBC10 in Philadelphia. He is also the host of two Eagles-related podcasts, Eagle Eye in the Sky, which examines the team from an X's and O's angle each and every week as well as the Journey to the Draft podcast, which covers college football and the NFL Draft all year round. Fran also authors the Eagle Eye in the Sky column, which runs four times a week during the football season to serve as a recap for the previous game and to preview the upcoming matchup. Prior to joining the Eagles in 2011, Duffy was the head video coordinator for the Temple University football team under former head coach Al Golden. In that role, he spent thousands of hours shooting, logging, and assisting with the breakdown of the All-22 film from the team's games, practices, and opponents.