Eagles defense has more questions than answers

Philadelphia Eagles NFL Malcolm Jenkins

For a short period in Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Saints, the Philadelphia Eagles defense looked half decent.

That quickly went out the window, however, as Saints quarterback Drew Brees torched the Eagles’ banged-up secondary for 364 passing yards and four touchdowns in a convincing 48-7 victory.

This season for the Eagles defense has simply been one to forget.

Unlike last year, where they allowed New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to throw for over 500 yards in Super Bowl LII, they still made a game-changing play in the waning moments of the fourth quarter to pull out the victory.

However, this year has been an entirely different story with key players falling victim to injury, a defensive coordinator who refuses to blitz and a secondary that is consistently getting beat over the top for big plays.

The only constant that remained for the much-maligned Eagles’ defense was their ability to stop to run. But even that eventually came to an end as over the last two weeks as opposing running backs have run wild over them.

It also does not help that New York Giants rookie Saquon Barkley is starting to find his groove. The Eagles take on New York next weekend at Lincoln Financial Field.

On Sunday, the Eagles’ defense got punched in the mouth immediately by Saints running back Mark Ingram, who gashed them for a 38-yard run. But that could’ve been avoided if second-year cornerback Sidney Jones made a half-decent tackle, instead of trying to one-arm it.

Saints head coach Sean Payton made it a point of emphasis to go after the young corner in various ways and it paid off for them.

“We gotta run right at 22 [Jones] and we gotta throw at 22,” Payton said via Peter King’s weekly FMIA column. “We’re gonna make him defend the run on the first play. We’re going after him on three of the first eight plays.”

That strategy worked as the Eagles defense could not stop Ingram or second-year back Alvin Kamara, who combined for 174 rushing yards and a touchdown.

Along those same lines, Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, who was held to a total of 94 rushing yards in his previous two games, gashed Philly’s defense for 151 rushing yards on 19 carries and a touchdown last week.

The star running back’s performance left the Eagles defense searching for answers to questions that they’ve failed to answer over the course of this season.

“I think we made a couple mistakes, but we just have to get a hand on [Elliott] sometimes,” said All-Pro defensive tackle Fletcher Cox.

“On some of those, he just got free and that’s not us. We just have to get it cleaned up and hold him up there until the gang can get there to get him on the ground.”

It seems like the Eagles did not clean up those issues that plagued them against the Cowboys, this week in New Orleans. For a team that was stout against the run for the first half of the regular season, to see them take a nosedive like this is concerning.

Is it the scheme that defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is putting together? Or is it their lack of depth, especially on the defensive line? The Eagles are still without Tim Jernigan and rotating Treyon Hester and Ty McGill in the middle.

None of this sounds like a recipe for the success. And then to make matters worse, the Eagles’ secondary is reeling with Rasul Douglas, Avonte Maddox and Sidney Jones all hurting themselves in Sunday’s game.

It appears that Douglas and Maddox should be okay to play against the Giants, but Jones is more of a question mark. If Jones cannot go then maybe Jalen Mills tries to play or more snaps go to undrafted free agent Chandon Sullivan, who tried his best to cover Saints wide receiver Mike Thomas.

Nevertheless, this is not a perfect situation for the Eagles’ defense as they are falling fast out of the NFC playoff race and are in line for a top-10 draft pick.

That would be a far cry from where this team was last season at this time. But at the same token, they still haven’t fixed their issues, which leaves them in the middle of nowhere.

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