On Monday, I took a look at the Eagles' offensive performance against Washington. Here, I want to take a look at the defense. This is a unit that, as Chip Kelly said on Monday, played well enough to win the game against the Redskins, especially considering the number of snaps they played. With the issues that the offense had moving the ball in key situations, the defense saw a ton of time on the field against Washington, a problem that was compounded by injuries.
Going into the game, this defense was down two of their top four defensive linemen (Cedric Thornton and Taylor Hart), a starting linebacker (Kiko Alonso) and the fifth defensive back (Chris Maragos). By the end of the first quarter, Brandon Bair, Mychal Kendricks and Byron Maxwell were all out for the game. This meant that a number of players had to play a lot more snaps, which helps put the performance into even greater context.
The unit as a whole I thought played very well, but for obvious reasons everyone will remember that that final 90-yard drive. That drive happened for a number of different reasons, but take this into account. The Redskins ran the ball 28 times before that final drive, with one of those being that 42-yard gain on the first third down of the game off a draw play. If you take that run out of the equation as an outlier, Washington ran the ball 27 times in the first three and a half quarters and gained 39 yards, good for 1.44 yards per carry.
The Eagles were dominant against the run on Sunday, and everyone played a part. Malcolm Jenkins and Walter Thurmond filled the alley well. Jordan Hicks and DeMeco Ryans were stout. Brandon Graham and Connor Barwin set the edge consistently. The two guys, however, who REALLY stood out were Fletcher Cox and Bennie Logan. We've come to expect performances like this from this twosome, but Sunday was especially impressive because of the fact that they both played more snaps with Thornton, Hart and Bair all out of the lineup. Let's first start with Cox.
Fletcher has always been dominant at the point of attack, and he put that on display against one of the best left tackles in the league in Trent Williams. It's always fun watching these two go head-to-head, and Cox usually wins most of the matchups. On Sunday, that absolutely held true. If you've read these pieces before, you know I typically try to break down each play individually. But to give you a sense of this battle and how it ended on Sunday, I figured I'd share a handful of plays where Cox went head to head with Williams.
Cox was outstanding on Sunday against Williams and the rest of the Washington offensive line. There were times where he was lined up over bunch formations and pressed receivers at the line of scrimmage. When he was asked to make plays as a 1-gapper, he was able to do that at a high level as well.
Cox made plays from the front side and from the back side, and was consistently disruptive throughout the entire game from the defensive end spot. Logan was right there with him.
Logan wasn't just impactful against the run, but he was able to generate pressure in the pass game as well, consistently moving quarterback Kirk Cousins off his spot or forcing early throws.
On that last play, Logan's athleticism was on display as well, as he turned the corner and bent the edge like an outside linebacker, running the hoop on right tackle Morgan Moses on this Cousins incompletion downfield.
On that incompletion, the Eagles were in perfect position to defend this shot play from Washington. This was a consistent theme throughout the day. The Redskins ran multiple shots downfield on Sunday, and the secondary was consistently at the right place at the right time to defend them. The biggest play for Washington came on a wheel route that was a perfect call against the coverage the Eagles played.
The area where Washington was able to be effective, however, was in the quick game. The Redskins offense consistently ran three-step pass concepts that got the ball out of Cousins' hands quickly, with shallow cross routes, quick slants, hitches and rub concepts. In short-yardage situations, they were able to beat the defense with a couple of different rub plays where they were able to attack man coverage.
On this play on third-and-1, cornerback Nolan Carroll is matched up in man coverage against rookie wide receiver Jamison Crowder. Before the snap, Crowder motions inside, and at the snap of the ball he runs underneath the offensive line toward the opposite side of the field. This is a no-win situation for Carroll, who will not be able to keep up with Crowder as Washington picks up 6 yards and the first down.
The short stuff worked for Washington, but any time they tried to go deep, the Eagles were almost always in position to make defend the concept.
Here's a two-man route from Washington with a deep vertical route to one side and a deep dig to the field.
Cousins goes to drop back and nothing is there, as the Eagles' secondary has completely taken it away. He has to settle for a checkdown option and a 2-yard gain.
Later in the game on a flood concept, the Redskins tried to attack the defense with this three-level stretch.
Cousins dropped back. Vinny Curry pressured him from the pocket. No one was open. Cousins was forced to run out of bounds for no gain on third down to force a punt. The Eagles made a concerted effort to stop the X-plays this offseason after leading the NFL in such plays allowed in 2014, and that worked well on Sunday, as the defensive unit put the team in position to win the game with its play throughout the day.
Fran Duffy is the producer of "Eagles Game Plan" which can be seen on Saturdays during the season. Be sure to also check out the "Eagle Eye In The Sky" podcast on the Philadelphia Eagles podcast channel on iTunes. 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.