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Post-Snap Read: Big-time plays from all levels of the defense

DT Fletcher Cox
DT Fletcher Cox

The Eagles got a big win over the Panthers in come-from-behind fashion on Sunday, and they needed all three sides of the ball to do it. The defense took the ball away and impacted the quarterback all afternoon, the special teams came up with a game-changing play in crunch time, and the offense capitalized when it mattered most. These are the kinds of wins you need to have to compete for a division title at the end of the season, and these are the kinds of wins you refer back to as you are establishing your culture as a new coaching staff.

For this piece, I want to focus on the defensive side of the football, where there were standout performers at all three levels of the field. Let's start up front, where I thought both Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave jumped off the film from start to finish in this game.

I've said it before – and I'll say it again – you can't double-team both of these guys on a pass play. One of them will always be left with a one-on-one block, and in this matchup we got to see examples of each player taking advantage of that opportunity and getting home to the quarterback.

The Eagles used a handful of stunts and blitzes in this game, and there were a couple of times where those stunts were able to generate some heat on quarterback Sam Darnold. Cox was utilized as a battering ram on those stunts, which helped create some quick pressure, and Hargrave looped around with his quickness, flexibility, and burst to cause issues late in the down if Darnold held on to the football.

Both players also made some great individual efforts on plays, whether they were holding up against the run inside or pressuring Darnold into quick throws. The point is, more often than not, these guys are going to present major problems to opposing offenses.

Let's transition to another important duo for the Eagles' defense – starting outside cornerbacks Darius Slay and Steven Nelson. The pairing combined for three interceptions of Darnold on Sunday, and they each netted some pass breakups as well. Despite still playing mostly zone coverage in this game, one thing we saw was Slay lined up across from Panthers' star receiver DJ Moore on a majority of snaps. Moore led Carolina in pass targets by a wide, wide margin coming into Week 5, so this would ensure that plenty of passes would go Slay's direction. He capitalized by becoming the first Eagles corner since 2012 to pick off two passes in a single game. Let's take a look at those plays and how they came to fruition.

That's three picks against three different coverage concepts from the Eagles' defense. Slay and Nelson did a great job of reading these plays, breaking on the throws, and finishing at the catch point for turnovers. One of the benefits of lining up in zone coverage using off technique is that you're able to play from depth with eyes on the quarterback, seeing throws from start to finish. That played out in this game against the Panthers and Darnold.

Lastly, let's look at linebacker T.J. Edwards, who not only made, arguably, the play of the game with his punt block in the fourth quarter but also made the most of his 16 defensive snaps with his play downhill.

Edwards displayed outstanding technique and discipline on his punt block (big shoutout to second-year linebacker Shaun Bradley as well), but I didn't want his defensive performance to go under the radar either. Edwards is a big part of the Eagles' linebacker rotation, earning most of his snaps in the Eagles' base defense with three linebackers against heavy offensive sets.

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