Eagles’ once feared defensive line is beginning to become a weakness

Following the Eagles loss on Sunday to Los Angeles, the focus has primarily been on Jonathan Gannon’s defense.

For the fifth time this season, Philly’s defense allowed an opposing quarterback to complete over 80% of his passes. For reference, the Eagles only allowed six quarterbacks to complete 80-plus percent of their passes from 1950-2020. They’re one away from tying that mark through one half of the season, and they’re on pace to allow the highest completion percentage in NFL history.

As expected, most Eagles fans have been quick to blame Gannon’s scheme. The bend but don’t break approach hasn’t exactly panned out according to plan.

It’s easy to point the finger at the defensive coordinator — Eagles fans did the same thing to Jim Schwartz even though he never had suitable players in his secondary — but how about we focus in on the highest paid position group on the entire team, the defensive line.

Justin Herbert barely got touched during Sunday’s contest. The Eagles front four finished the game with eight pressures, but didn’t tally a single quarterback hit, knockdown, or sack.

The answer to fixing this Eagles pass defense is simple, get more pressure on the quarterback. The Eagles don’t have the best secondary in the league, it may even be below average, but even the best secondaries in football will struggle if their defensive front can’t create pressure on the quarterback.

Gannon’s defense had a clear avenue to exploit LA’s offensive line on Sunday. Starting right tackle Storm Norton had been one of the worst starting tackles in all of football coming into Week 9. None of the Eagles edge rushers recorded a single pressure when facing Norton. The guy could’ve passed for Jon Runyan on Sunday.

Not only has this overpaid group underachieved, one of the worst starting lineman in the league had a bounce back game against them. When was the last time a struggling offensive lineman didn’t get abused by the Eagles defensive front?

It’s embarrassing quite frankly.

Here’s how the Eagles pass rush has fared throughout the year:

  • 17 sacks (T-27th)
  • 76 pressures (18th)
  • 22.4 pressure percentage (19th)
  • 27 QB knockdowns (13th)
  • 32 hurries (13th)
  • 9.4 hurry percentage (16th)

They also only blitz on 13.8% of their defensive snaps, third-least in the league, so all of these pass rushing numbers are indicative of the line. The Eagles are below average in nearly every pass rushing category, and just slightly above average in a couple.

Unfortunately, this is a problem that likely won’t be corrected in season. Brandon Graham isn’t coming back and none of the dead weight on the line is miraculously going to step up. Once Philly sheds some of this dead weight this offseason (i.e. Derek Barnett) and addresses the need through free agency and/or the draft, their once feared defensive line can begin to climb back to that standard.

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  1. You should be ashamed of the column that you wrote a couple of months ago claiming that Gannon’s defensive scheme could be the surprise unit. Well SURPRISE – you weren’t kidding in the 40 + years I’ve watched football I have never seen a more confused, passive and ridiculous defense – EVER. This guy needs to be FIRED IMMEDIATLEY – HE Stinks.. And you claim he was going to help the Eagles – You don’t know what your talking about….

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