On Monday, I looked at the Eagles' offense on tape after Sunday's loss to Miami, so as always we follow that up with a look at the Eagles' defense before transitioning to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Overall, I thought that this group had a solid day against a Dolphins offense that doesn't get enough respect around the country. They're a tough offense to defend because of all of the things they do with backfield action. This is a scheme based on misdirection and deception, so it was a big discipline game for this unit. I thought they fared well. There weren't too many X-plays. They were able to pressure Ryan Tannehill although they were unable to force any turnovers. I was surprised to find out a safety doesn't count as a takeaway for the defense. They had to deal with some short fields as well.
As it typically does, it starts up front with this Eagles defensive line as Cedric Thornton, Bennie Logan and Fletcher Cox all made their share of plays against the run and the pass on Sunday afternoon.
The Dolphins are running an outside zone play here, but Logan is just too quick off the ball as he explodes into the backfield. The offensive line is unable to block him, and he brings Lamar Miller down from behind for the tackle for loss.
Watch Fletcher Cox and Vinny Curry on this play. It's third down, and the Eagles come out in a bit of an exotic look up front. Curry fires off the ball with a great get-off, and Cox bullrushes Miami's center into Ryan Tannehill's lap as the two converge on the sack. This was a great rep from the defensive line to help force the field goal.
On this play, Thornton and Logan both hold up their end of the bargain at the point of attack. Thornton stalemates his man. Logan drops his anchor, expecting a double team, before just overpowering the block and forcing the tackle behind the line.
The starters all played well, as did Taylor Hart when he got into the game. Check out Hart fighting through the down block and tracking rookie Jay Ajayi down in the flats for this short gainer.
Every week, defensive coordinator Bill Davis finds creative ways to get to opposing quarterbacks. Sometimes they result in sacks, sometimes they result in interceptions and other times they're hurried throws that end with incompletions. Either way, he always finds a way to get free rushers in the face of the quarterback without sending too many extra defenders. It's always fun to watch. This week, it resulted in one of the hardest hits of this Eagles season, and one of the biggest plays early in the game on Sunday.
The Eagles used a "reduced front," what many people refer to now as a "Bear" front, often on Sunday. What that means is that three defensive linemen are condensed closely inside over the ball. With both guards as well as the center "covered up" with defensive linemen over them, it's tough to execute double teams and it helps to isolate blockers in the run scheme. With Brandon Graham and Walter Thurmond both coming off the edge from the right, the Dolphins only have one player, the left tackle, in to protect against two rushers. Miami's protection call had running back Lamar Miller looking to the opposite side of the formation, and Tannehill didn't even see Thurmond coming from the back side. The safety earned the safety and put two points up on the board for the Eagles in the first quarter.
Later in the game, the Eagles got another sack with another creative pressure concept up front. On one side, Cox and Curry executed an "E/T Stunt," otherwise known as a "Me Stunt." On the other side, Graham and Barwin lined up together, with both players slanting inside and Mychal Kendricks scraping behind them. What makes this a great pressure? Look at Cox's alignment. Cox is lined up slightly shaded over the center. Here he's more likely to catch the center's eyes and pull him in that direction at the snap, taking him away from Kendricks' blitz. That makes it a 3-on-2 matchup in favor of the Eagles' defense, and Kendricks is home free for the sack.
As easy as it is to find creative pressure concepts from Bill Davis each week, you can consistently find plays of veteran safety Malcolm Jenkins using his instincts and smarts to put himself in position to make plays on the football. Sunday against Miami was no different.
Watch Jenkins on this play down in the red zone. He's lined up in the slot over Rishard Matthews, who releases on a vertical stem. Jenkins immediately realizes that this is a "rub" concept that they like to use down near the goal line. Think of the Super Bowl-winning interception by Malcolm Butler this past February. Miami ran similar plays multiple times on Sunday. Jenkins read this one perfectly, abandoning Matthews in coverage to turn and jump this throw from Tannehill. He forces an incompletion and the Dolphins settle for a field goal late in the first half. Miami didn't convert on that play, but they decided to go back to it in the fourth quarter.
Here are the Dolphins down in the red zone again. They come out in a very similar personnel grouping and formation, with Jenkins aligned over the No. 2 receiver in the slot. The ball is snapped. Jenkins reads the quick slant, thinking "rub" play. He gets his eyes on the quarterback, is square up to the pass and is set to intercept this ball if it's thrown in his direction. Tannehill drops back, throws and Connor Barwin knocks it straight up in the air. Jenkins loses track of it, and is unable to react quickly enough to Jarvis Landry once he realizes where the ball is going. Landry gets the fluky touchdown down in the red zone. This is one of those plays where you just throw your hands up and play the next down. Both Barwin and Jenkins did exactly what they were taught to do on that play (up until the point where the ball is tipped), and Miami was able to come away with six points regardless.
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.