At the root of the Eagles’ growing defensive issues is a newfound inability to stop the run.
Coming out of London, the Eagles had the No. 4 rush defense in the NFL. They were allowing just 83 rushing yards per game, which went a long way into keeping the Eagles in every game and keeping an undermanned unit afloat.
The Cowboys and Saints both gashed the Eagles for over 170 yards on the ground and for the first time in six years the Eagles allowed 100-yard rushers in back-to-back games.
With just two games, the Eagles have dropped from fourth to 12th in rush defense. And trending the wrong way.
And here come the Giants and Saquan Barkley, who will most likely try to pound it on the ground against the Eagles.
“Quite honestly,” defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said, “that’s what I would do against us now.”
The disturbing thing is that the Eagles’ defensive front seven has been largely healthy. They're missing Derek Barnett, who gave great effort against the run, and they lost Haloti Ngati for a few games, but the unit has been largely intact while the Cowboys ran for 171 yards and the Saints 173.
The same group that held six of the Eagles’ first eight opponents to fewer than 80 rushing yards.
When asked what bothered him most about Sunday’s 48-7 loss to the Saints, Schwartz didn’t hesitate to name run defense:
We knew we would have challenges in coverage, we knew it was tough to get turnovers, we knew it was tough to get sacks, but we put ourselves, scheme-wise, in position to stop the run, and we didn't get that done for a second week in a row.
I think that's the most disappointing thing that came out of it.
How bad have the last two weeks been?
• This is the first time the Eagles have allowed 170 or more rushing yards in consecutive games in 12 years, since the Titans (209) and Colts (237) did it in November 2006.
• Ezekiel Elliott (19-151, 8.0) and Mark Ingram (16-103, 6.4) are the first running backs to go over 100 yards against the Eagles in consecutive games in six years, since Doug Martin of the Buccaneers and BenJarvus Green-Ellis of the Bengals in December 2012.
What the heck is going on here?
“I think that any time you talk about the run game you have to talk about all three levels,” Schwartz said. “I think that there were some (runs) that you can attribute to d-line techniques and some to linebacker techniques and some to missed tackles.
“We had one — I mean, it was a difficult situation — but we had one where we had some guys get on the field that didn't communicate, and all of a sudden, we just let a guy walk into the end zone when we should have a guy sitting right there.
"Sometimes you miss tackles, but we shouldn't have those miscommunications and just let guys walk in on us.”
Up next? The Giants, who ran for 147 against the Eagles in October, then the Redskins, who are 12th in the NFL in rushing, then the Cowboys again, the NFL’s fourth-ranked rushing offense. Then the high-flying Rams, who are No. 2 in rushing offense (as well as No. 5 in passing offense).
And now the Eagles are going to be without middle linebacker Jordan Hicks indefinitely.
The Eagles have to get this figured out soon or things are just going to continue to spiral out of control.
“Our biggest thing is controlling the run game,” Schwartz said. “If we can do that, then that can go a long way to solving a lot of our problems on defense.”
Much of playing run defense is just want-to. Attitude.
We’ll find out quickly Sunday if the Eagles have any left.
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