Jonathan Gannon, Alex Singleton, and the Eagles massive issue at linebacker
It’s no secret that the Philadelphia Eagles defense isn’t well equipped to defend against the pass. The Eagles command one of, if not the worst, linebacker unit in football while possessing an extremely thin cornerback room. Outside of the team’s three current starters, almost no other corner is capable of starting for the team outside rookie Zech McPhearson.
Jonathan Gannon brought this ugly reality to the public light when discussing personnel for the remainder of the season. Gannon, who has gloatingly boasted about his defense’s ability to adapt, made it very specific yesterday he was rigid in using only certain schemes. Alex Singleton and Eric Wilson are incapable of covering any wide receiver in football, and Kansas City took advantage of this on Sunday just like the Dallas Cowboys did last week.
Patrick Mahomes and Dak Prescott often spread their offenses out and went in empty sets, forcing the linebackers into covering receivers, resulting in the opposing team relentlessly targeting them. We saw it when Eric Wilson was forced onto Tyreek Hill in the redzone and gave up a touchdown alongside numerous other occasions.
While Zech McPhearson might not be a good NFL corner yet, he is miles ahead in coverage than Alex Singleton and would help this team immensely in dime coverages in passing downs. When asked about the idea, Jonathan Gannon quickly shut it down and remained adamant that the worst coverage LB in football must stay on the field at all times.
“I just don’t believe in it right now with who we are. I like to play out of four down and two linebackers.
We feel like that’s kind of the best way with second down and drop back and defending — who we’ve defended up until this point. On third down, as well, to play with two linebackers in a game.”
It is astonishing how a defensive coordinator remains confident in his decisions from a game where they didn’t force a single punt and have let up 40+ points in back-to-back games. It cannot get any worse. Jonathan, it really can’t. The best offenses in football are exposing you for the rest of the league to see, just like they did with Jim Schwartz. I wouldn’t feel confident placing Alex Singleton in coverage against Jason Peters at this point.
Here are Mahomes and Prescott’s passer ratings when targeting Alex Singleton the last two weeks per PFF.
- Dallas: Two receptions for 30 yards, one touchdown. 158.3 passer rating (perfect score)
- Kansas City: Six receptions for 44 yards, two touchdowns. 136.8 passer rating
Three of the nine passing touchdowns scored against Philadelphia came directly at the fault of Alex Singleton. Some might say that he redeems himself with his ability in the running game, but even that is massively overrated. Against Dallas, Alex Singleton finished with the team’s second-worst tackling rating while both the Chiefs and Cowboys’ starting running backs averaged over five yards per carry.
Fans hailed Eric Wilson as the solution to all of the Eagles’ problems over the middle, but he has been subpar at best this season. Philadelphia ranked 31st in the NFL in $ spent at linebacker this season, and it’s a direct result of their on-field product. Now granted, they had limited funds this offseason, but there’s no excuse now.
Howie Roseman is in a perfect situation to completely overhaul the Eagles defense this offseason, with cap space opening up and three first-round selections. Philly also has a present solution at hand following the release of former Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith.
For whatever reason, Roseman has continuously ignored the issue at linebacker for several seasons now, and I don’t have much faith things will change anytime soon. One can hope, but this season, the Eagles’ problems on defense can’t be fixed entirely with just a simple change in schemes. As long as Alex Singleton and Eric Wilson are starting, things won’t improve much, if at all.
Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Inquirer