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The Eagles’ soft defensive coverage is wasting the benefits of the offense’s run-heavy approach | KC Joyner

If the idea to run the ball more was the Eagles' chance to slow the game down for the defense, Jonathan Gannon's unit will have to adjust the scheme that allows for short pass completions.

Eagles linebacker Davion Taylor stopping Los Angeles Chargers tight end Stephen Anderson on Sunday.
Eagles linebacker Davion Taylor stopping Los Angeles Chargers tight end Stephen Anderson on Sunday.Read moreYONG KIM / Staff Photographer

The Eagles rushing game worked like a champ the last couple of weeks as Nick Sirianni’s squad is now one of only six teams this year to post 175-plus rushing yards in back-to-back games.

One of the potential side benefits of going with a run-heavy approach is that it can help protect the defense, but it can do this only if it makes an effort to protect itself. That certainly wasn’t the case for the Eagles defense against the Chargers, as its performance was historically bad.

Per Stathead, since the 1970 AFL/NFL merger, only 54 teams have been able to post a game with 300-plus passing yards and an 80-plus% completion rate while throwing the ball 35-plus times, which is what the Chargers did last Sunday. None of those teams ever did so while having the opponent post 39-plus rush attempts, which the Eagles tallied.

So, what is causing this problem? It boils down to a defensive coverage scheme that is far too soft in covering short passes. Over the last four weeks, the Eagles allowed a league worst 88.7% completion rate on short throws (”short” being defined as aerials that travel 10 or fewer yards downfield before reaching the receiver). They also have near-league-worst numbers in short pass yards per attempt and short pass yards allowed in that span.

Jonathan Gannon wants to utilize a bend-but-don’t-break Cover 2 scheme that prevents long completions, but his defenders seem to be paying so much attention to stopping deep aerials that they are forgetting how to cover dink-and-dunk throws and are allowing this defense to break. Unless or until the Eagles defense can get its short pass defensive responsibilities in check, it won’t matter how strong the Eagles rushing game is, as this coverage problem will offset any slow-the-game-down advantage that the ground-based approach is supposed to give.

Gambling 10-pack

Here is this week’s gambling 10-pack, a section that reviews some of the top gambling, fantasy, and DFS plays for NFL games in Week 10 (gambling odds per BetMGM).

1. Fantasy football managers with Broncos, Saints, Giants, or Jets receivers can potentially take advantage of this short pass coverage largesse, as those teams are the Eagles’ next four opponents.

2. For fantasy managers considering benching Jalen Hurts because of the last two games. in which he averaged just under 14 points per game, note that he is still on pace for one of the five best rushing seasons by a quarterback in NFL history. That type of ground ability doesn’t take much to push a quarterback up to QB1 status, so be sure to keep him in fantasy lineups.

3. Pat Freiermuth is just one of several breakout tight ends in fantasy football of late. Dan Arnold, Tyler Conklin, and Logan Thomas are also terrific stream start candidates for the bye-week contests over the next month.

4. The Bills had many problems last week during the incredible upset loss against Jacksonville. It could be that way again this week against the Jets, at least from a cover perspective, as New York won two of its last five against Buffalo and its three losses to the Bills were by a total of 19 points. Add in Mike White’s returning to the Jets lineup, and it just doesn’t look like a good game for the Bills to post a big win, so take the Jets +13.

5. A very good futures wager is Najee Harris at +900 for offensive rookie of the year. The two favorites in front of him are Ja’Marr Chase at -145 and Mac Jones at +350. It looks clear that Jones is not going to win it, because he is on pace to throw fewer than 20 touchdown passes this season. Chase may be hitting the wall, as his Weeks 8-9 numbers were his worst two-game stretch of the season. By contrast, Harris is trending upward in his metrics and could push toward 2,000 yards from scrimmage if his pace over the last four games continues the rest of the year.

6. Another good futures wager is the Titans to win the AFC South. Tennessee has a three-game lead in won-loss record with eight games to go, but that is actually a four-game lead given that the Titans already beat the Colts twice and would therefore win a head-to-head tiebreaker between these clubs. The Titans additionally have a much more favorable schedule, as they are due to face Houston twice, and have home contests against Jacksonville and Miami, while the Colts have tough home matchups against Tampa Bay, New England, and Las Vegas to go along with road games at Buffalo and Arizona.

7. This is a gut instinct pick — the Lions will give the Steelers a true run for their money on Sunday. Dan Campbell’s team had been fighting with everything it had for weeks until it finally ran out of gas in the Week 8 matchup against the Eagles. Detroit got a much-needed bye after that contest and will go into this game rested and facing a Pittsburgh club that just isn’t adept at putting foes away. That should be enough to allow Detroit to cover with +8.5 points.

8. Here are the wide receivers with the most favorable matchups this week (based on a 1-100 scale, with 100 being most favorable): Chase Claypool (100), James Washington (100), Justin Jefferson (96), Adam Thielen (96), Russell Gage (91), Cole Beasley (89), Diontae Johnson (87), and Julio Jones (87).

9. Here are the wide receivers with the least favorable matchups this week: Jamison Crowder (19), DeAndre Hopkins (24), Allen Lazard (24), Davante Adams (24), Elijah Moore (24), Adam Humphries (26), Amari Cooper (28), and Jalen Guyton (28).

10. A good over/under play is the +45 total in the New England-Cleveland matchup. The Patriots have scored 24-plus points in five straight games and allowed 22-plus points in three of those games. The Browns have shown a penchant for putting up big scores at times, as Cleveland has tallied five games of 26-plus points, and it has allowed 33-plus points on three occasions. It will take only one of these paths to open up to push these clubs above the over/under, so take the over on this one.