Eagles legend Brian Dawkins still sees one major flaw with his former team
Sitting at 11-1, the Philadelphia Eagles hold the best record in the NFL.
Across the board, the Eagles are atop every outlets’ power rankings entering Week 14. It’s hard to find any glaring flaws with this team, but that doesn’t mean every fan – or in this case, every former player – is ready to anoint Philly as the top dog in the NFL.
Eagles legend Brian Dawkins recently caught up with Fox Sports while promoting USAA, the official Army-Navy game sponsor, and shared his thoughts on the state of his former employer.
“There are things that they need to be better at,” Dawkins said. “The great thing about this team is that when they need to run the ball, they can. When they need to throw the ball, they will. That, in itself, the imagination from the offensive coordinator, is great.
“The only thing lacking for me on defense is stopping the run, No. 1. And the imagination to be able to blitz a little more. Again, I love the fact that the front can get after the team. But when you introduce more blitz packages, it gives the offense more headaches. And you have quality cover guys, especially on the outside, to hold up [coverage]. Oh my goodness. This team can absolutely reap terror on defense.”
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He’s not wrong here. As a former defender who played under the blitz-happy Jim Johnson, I imagine it’s hard for Dawkins to stomach the lack of exotic blitz packages from the team’s current defensive coordinator, Jonathan Gannon.
On average, the Eagles blitz on 21.9 percent of their defensive snaps, a little below average by NFL standards. Still, Gannon’s defense manages to create constant pressure on opposing quarterbacks. They’ve tallied 42 sacks this season, good for second-most in the league. Their 24.3 percent pressure rate ranks eighth, while their eight percent hurry rate ranks 12th.
Per Pro Football Focus, the Eagles have the second-best pass rushing unit in the NFL, grading out at 82.2.
Sure, seeing a few more blitzes from Gannon’s crew would be fun. But is it really that big of a concern when the front-four gets home as often as they do? Howie Roseman built his defense with this philosophy in mind. Being able to pressure the quarterback effectively with just four rushers is a luxury.
As for Dawkins’ concerns regarding the run defense, I think most fans would agree with him.
The Eagles run defense ranks 16th at the moment, allowing an average of 4.6 yards per carry and 117.9 yards per game. The good news is, Gannon’s group has shown improvement against the run over the past three weeks.
Since the team’s lone loss in Week 10, Philadelphia is allowing 97.3 rushing yards per game and 4.3 yards per carry. The additions of Ndamukong Suh and Linval Joseph, along with the return of rookie Jordan Davis, have had a clear effect on the team’s ability to stop the run.
Despite being subpar against the run this season, the Eagles still have the second-best defense in football, behind only the 49ers. They’re surrendering 296.4 yards per game and just 18.8 points per contest.
With how great their defensive unit has been this season, it’s easy to overlook the run defense. But as we all know, Dawkins isn’t the type to let things slide. He wants perfection from this defense. At the end of the day, you can’t help but respect that.
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Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Eagles