Eagles’ run defense and pass rush needs work, Barnett lost for season

NFL: NFC Championship-Minnesota Vikings at Philadelphia Eagles
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After losing defensive end Derek Barnett to a season-ending knee injury in Sunday’s win over the Lions, the Eagles signed defensive end Janarius Robinson off of the Vikings’ practice squad on Tuesday. The Eagles also placed Barnett on Injured Reserve. A fourth-round pick of the Vikings in 2021 out of Florida State, the 24-year-old Robinson is 6-foot-5, 258 pounds.

That won’t be enough to turn the defensive tide, but it does provide the Eagles with some intel on their next opponent, which is a Monday Night game hosting Minnesota.

Barnett re-signed with the Eagles this offseason after posting a career-high 46 tackles plus 11 quarterback hits, seven tackles for loss, and two sacks in 720 defensive snaps played in 2021. Coach Sirianni said that Barnett’s absence will likely result in more snaps for second-year defensive end Tarron Jackson, who sits behind Brandon Graham on the team’s depth chart.

The real problem is getting any kind of pass rush going with a 4-man front. In the Detroit game, it didn’t materialize. As the BEAST at Eaglemaniacal.com points out along with many observers of the EYE, “We didn’t make QB Jared Goff (21/37 – 56.7% – 215 – 2 – 1) run much. We didn’t make him feel unsafe. In fact, despite being behind a makeshift o-line, Goff was largely a statue in the pocket. It was embarrassing. ”

The BEAST also criticized the defensive line personnel for failing to shed blocks. “The effects of Starters not playing during the preseason, showed up in this game. Poor tackling, the defensive line sticking to blocks, this is what happens when you don’t tackle to the ground in drills, and you don’t play through blocks in drills. Teaching a technique without the finish, isn’t teaching the technique.”

The Eagles’ run defense was shaky at best. Mike Sielski of the Inquirer spoke for many of us on this topic:

“The nicest thing that anyone can say about defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon and the unit he supervises, based on what happened here Sunday, is that it was Week 1, and Week 1 in the NFL can be nutty and unpredictable, and perhaps those factors explain why the Lions gashed the Eagles for 181 rushing yards. Why they averaged 6 ½ yards per rush. Why they were 9-of-14 on third down. Why the Eagles sacked Jared Goff just once — on a play in which Goff happened to drop the snap.”

Was this disappointing performance more on the players or on Gannon? How long will it be before Jordan Davis begins to take snaps away from Fletcher Cox at defensive tackle? How long will it take a defense with five new starters to gain a better sense of communication and cohesion? And how long will it take for Haason Reddick to be the force he was supposed to be? He insisted that Gannon had, in the phrase coaches and players around the league love, put him in the right position to make plays. Yet Reddick made just two tackles Sunday, and Gannon frequently had him fall back into coverage instead of sending him on search-and-destroy missions after Goff.

“I slipped twice when I could have had two sacks,” Reddick said. “Weird [stuff], you know? But I’m flushing it. I’m going to go watch this game, learn from it, and then move on. It’s only Week 1. Everybody has to fix some mistakes: them, us, other teams around the league.”

The upcoming Vikings game will be a pop quiz for Gannon’s D-line.  In Minnesota, the Vikings were able to contain Aaron Rodgers in knocking off the rival Green Bay Packers 23-7. It was Minnesota’s largest margin of victory over a Rodgers-led Green Bay squad. QB Kirk Cousins threw for 277 yards with 2 touchdowns, while Rodgers was held to 195 passing yards with no TDs and 1 pick. WR Justin Jefferson pulled in 9 catches for 184 and 2 scores and set a Vikings record with 158 first-half receiving yards.

New head coach Kevin O’Connell stuck with the running game to create balance and wear down the Packers defense. Dalvin Cook was effective with 90 yards rushing and a 4.5-yard average. And Alexander Mattison chipped in 36 hard running yards. It helped win the time of possession battle with 31 minutes for the Vikings vs. 29 for Green Bay.

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