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Paul Domowitch: Injuries are no excuse for Eagles defense giving up NFL-worst 7 TD passes


Photo Credit by John McMullen/JAKIB Sports

KP Logo1Mac Jones and Kirk Cousins aren’t exactly Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. But the two quarterbacks still managed to find the end zone seven times against the Eagles’ defense over the last two weeks.

Jones had just the fourth three-touchdown game of his career in the Patriots’ 25-20 loss to the Eagles in Week 1. Cousins threw for four TDs for just the second time since 2019 in the Vikings’ 34-28 loss to the Eagles in Week 2.

If you count Patrick Mahomes’ three TD passes in the Super Bowl, the Eagles have been torched for 10 TD throws in their last three games.

The seven they’ve given up in the first two games are the most in the NFL. Last year, they gave up 22 all season, and only allowed three in a game twice – to the Packers in a 40-33 Week 12 win and to the Cowboys in a 40-34 Week 16 loss.

Yes, there are extenuating circumstances. Cornerback James Bradbury didn’t play last week against Cousins and the Vikings because he was recovering from a concussion. Their valuable slot corner, Avonte Maddox, left the Vikings game early in the second quarter with a pec injury and is expected to miss the rest of the season. Safety Reed Blankenship missed the Minnesota game with a rib injury, and linebacker Nakobe Dean is on IR with a foot injury for at least two more games and maybe longer.

But injuries happen in football and you have to find a way to deal with them.

Three of the seven touchdown passes the defense has given up have been to tight ends – one to the Patriots’ Hunter Henry and two to the Vikings’ T.J. Hockenson. That number is alarming because it equals the total number of TD passes the Eagles gave up to tight ends the entire 2022 season. Tight ends have 17 catches for 171 yards against the Eagles in the first two games.

Six of the seven touchdown passes the Eagles have allowed have been in the red zone. Last year, they gave up 11 red-zone TD passes all season. The Eagles’ defense has struggled in the red zone in the first two games, giving up seven TDs in nine red-zone challenges (77.7%). The Vikings scored touchdowns on all four of their red-zone opportunities Thursday night. Cousins completed all four of his red-zone pass attempts, including three for touchdowns.

The Eagles are hoping their pass rush can offset any shortcomings in their coverage. But opposing quarterbacks clearly are focused on getting the ball out quickly against them to offset that rush. The Eagles have 43 total quarterback pressures in the first two games, but just four sacks.

Jones averaged 2.29 seconds snap-to-release against the Eagles in Week 1. That was the seventh-fastest snap-to-release time in the league that week. Cousins averaged 2.57 seconds last week, which was middle of the pack.

This week’s opposing quarterback, the Bucs’ Baker Mayfield, historically has been a guy who hangs on to the ball. He was near the bottom of the league in snap-to-release average during his previous stops with the Browns, Panthers, and Rams, but is doing a slightly better job of getting the ball out quickly with the Bucs. In their Week 1 win over the Vikings, Mayfield had a 2.31-second snap-to-release average. Against the Bears on Sunday, it was 2.74. But against Da Bears, that was good enough. He completed 26 of 34 passes for 317 yards and a touchdown. Wasn’t sacked and didn’t throw a pick.

Hurts Report

–The Eagles rushed for 259 yards against the Vikings in Week 2. Jalen Hurts had two rushing touchdowns on Tush Push quarterback sneaks, but was held to 33 yards on his other 10 carries. In the first two games, he’s rushed for just 71 yards on 21 carries (3.3 yards per carry) but does have seven rushing first downs, including five against the Vikings. Both the Patriots and Vikings clearly game-planned to shut down Hurts’ running.

–Hurts completed 18 of 23 passes against the Vikings. His 78.3 completion percentage in the game was the second-highest of his career. He completed 83.9 percent of his passes (26 of 31) against the Vikings last season. He is seventh in the NFL in completion percentage through two games (71.4).

–Hurts has just three completions of 20 yards or more in the first two games. Twenty-six quarterbacks in the league have more than that.

–Hurts has completed 7 of 10 passes on third down. But just two of those seven completions have produced first downs. By comparison, Cousins was 7-for-10 on third down against the Eagles, with six of his completions producing first downs.

–The Eagles had the fourth-highest third-down success rate in the league last season (46.0), behind only the Bills (50.3), Chiefs (48.7) and Bengals (46.1). They’re 18th (37.0) after two games this season. The biggest problem has been too many third-and-longs. The Eagles have converted eight of nine third downs or five yards or less. But they’re just 2-for-18 on third downs of six yards or more, including 1-for-14 on third-and-7 or more.

More Stats

–Last year, 88.5% of the Eagles’ offensive plays (995 of 1,124) were run out of shotgun. In the first two games this year, that percentage has jumped to 94.8% (129 of 136). In the Eagles’ 34-28 win over the Vikings Thursday night, just three of 73 plays were run from under center. Those were the three “Tush Push’’ quarterback sneaks.

–Defensive coordinator Sean Desai sent more than four rushers on nine of 44 pass plays against the Vikings (19.6%). That’s the same blitz percentage as Week 1 when he sent more than four on 11 of 56 plays.

–The Eagles had 20 quarterback pressures in the Vikings game, per Pro Football Focus, including a team-high eight by Josh Sweat. Sweat had one of the Eagles’ two sacks as well as four hits on Kirk Cousins. Sweat’s third-quarter strip sack came on a five-man rush on a second-and-9. The other sack, by tackle Jordan Davis on a first-and-10 in the fourth quarter, came on a four-man rush.

–The Eagles are third in the league in turnover differential (plus-4). The Cowboys are first (+7) and the Bucs are second (+5). The Bucs don’t have any giveaways in their first two games.

–While the Eagles pass defense has struggled, their run defense hasn’t. They’re first in rushing yards allowed (52.0 per game) and seventh in yards allowed per carry (3.4). Last year, they finished 17th in run defense (121.6 yards allowed per game) and 24th in opponent rush average (4.6).

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