Anyone with eyes knows how well the Eagles defense played on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers. They caused three turnovers, recorded three sacks, and didn’t allow their offense to go over 300 yards. It was a dominant performance from Jonathan Gannon’s group, and Pro Football Focus agrees.
Let’s start with the pass rush. The Eagles defensive line was heralded as one of the league’s best entering the 2021 season, but they’ve failed to live up to those expectations thus far. They flipped the script on Sunday, totaling a ridiculous 30 quarterback pressures on Sam Darnold. Josh Sweat, Javon Hargrave, and Fletcher Cox all notched six pressures. Derek Barnett was right behind them with five. Even Ryan Kerrigan got in on the action, finishing the game with two pressures.
Tarron Jackson, Davion Taylor, Milton Williams, Avonte Maddox, and Alex Singelton all finished with one a piece.
On the backend, the Eagles were flat out elite on Sunday, according to PFF.
Darius Slay finished with two interceptions and an outstanding PFF overall grade of 90.2, the high mark for Philly’s defense on Sunday. His coverage grade of 92.4 was the best among corners in Week 5, as was his overall grade. He also allowed three receptions on five targets.
Steven Nelson was also in the top-5 in grades for the Eagles defense this week, finishing with an impressive 84.1 mark. His coverage grade was also superb, posting an 85.7 grade for the day while allowing just one reception on three targets.
Maddox’s overall and coverage grades weren’t as high as Slay’s or Nelson’s, but he only allowed two receptions on six targets, which comes out to a 33.3% completion percentage when targeted.
Anthony Harris and Rodney McLeod had fine afternoons, finishing the game with overall grades of 70.6 and 63 respectively.
The linebackers were the clear weak spot for the Eagles defensive unit on Sunday, which has become a common theme for this position group this year.
Taylor had the high mark for the group, ending the day with an overall grade of 76.2 while only playing 24 defensive snaps. I’ve said it multiple times now, but he deserves more playing time moving forward. He’s impressed every chance he’s gotten this year.
As for the main two starters at backer, Singleton and Eric Wilson, they were inconsistent. Singleton had the worst overall grade for the defense, posting a 48.7 grade, mostly due to his abysmal 40.1 coverage grade. He did fine in run defense, though. His grade against the run was a respectable 72.5, along with his tackling grade of 83.
As for Wilson, he did better than I initially expected according to PFF. Especially against the run, an area he’s struggled in since entering the league. He finished the day with a run defense grade of 77.8, by far his best mark in that area this season.
All in all, this is the type of defensive performance Gannon’s unit needed. They’ve struggled over the past two weeks, but they proved on Sunday that when they get ample pressure, their secondary is good enough to create turnovers and stymie a passing attack.
Facing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this Thursday night won’t be as easy, for obvious reasons. But the formula for success remains the same. Get pressure on Tom Brady and put the secondary in positions to make plays on the ball.
If they’re able to do that, they’ll have a chance in this one.