The Philadelphia Eagles defense has gotten off to a great start this season. They’re fourth in total defense through two weeks and they’ve only given up two touchdowns, tied for least touchdowns given up in the league.
Jonathan Gannon’s group has been solid against the run, allowing a 3.8 yards per carry average through two games. But what’s really been impressive is this pass defense. They’ve given up 325 yards through the air thus far, third-lowest in the NFL. The unit is only giving up 8.2 yards per completion, lowest in the league, and they’ve allowed a pedestrian 85.0 passer rating.
By most accounts, Gannon’s defense has exceeded expectations and looks like a legit top-5 defense. But there’s one area they desperately need to improve in. Creating turnovers.
The Eagles are only one of two teams to not record a single takeaway this season, the other being the Jacksonville Jaguars. It’s not like Gannon’s group hasn’t had opportunities either, they just haven’t capitalized on them.
Through two weeks, the defense has forced one fumble, but it was recovered by the offense. A number of defenders have been in a position to get an interception, but again, they weren’t able to capitalize. Jimmy Garoppolo had two turnover worthy plays this past Sunday, according to PFF. Most notably the pass early in the third quarter that went right through Steven Nelson’s hands.
Darius Slay had a similar play the week prior, where he opted to just bat the ball down instead of intercepting it.
Holding opposing offenses out of the end zone and limiting yardage is great, but creating turnovers at a high clip is what separates the good defenses from the great ones. The team’s inability to create such plays shouldn’t take away from what they’ve been able to accomplish through two games, but as we saw this past Sunday, the Eagles offense would really benefit from some short field and momentum swings. Creating turnovers would obviously aid them in that.
We can sit here and dissect Gannon’s philosophy and hypothesize why the team hasn’t been able to get any takeaways yet, but the answer is pretty simple. Aside from just not taking advantage of the turnover opportunities that have been there for the taking, the defense needs to create more pressure on the quarterback.
Coming into the year, I was expecting Gannon to dial up more blitzes than his predecessor Jim Schwartz, but it’s certainly not trending in that direction. According to Pro Football Reference, the Eagles have only blitzed five times this season, the second-lowest mark of any team in the league.
Regardless of how much the defense is sending extra pass rushers, this defensive line should be generating more pressure than they have been through two weeks. They’re in the middle of the pack when it comes to total pressures (15) and pressure rate (20.8 percent). They’ve only recorded three sacks on the season and they all came in Week 1. And not one of those sacks have come from an EDGE rusher. Not a great sign for this defensive end rotation, and the loss of Brandon Graham just makes matters worse.
Despite me rambling on about how this defense needs to improve in the turnover department, it’s important to note that they’ve been the strength of this team so far. And that’s not just by default, they’ve played as well as any defense in the NFL.
Right now, Gannon’s unit is a borderline great defense. The only way they’ll cross that threshold from good to great is by taking the ball away from opposing offenses.
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