Eagles corner Steven Nelson went on Marc Farzetta’s show this week.
Marc shared a quote from the starting cornerback, who described Jonathan Gannon’s much-maligned “scheme” in this way:
“the [Eagles] defense is geared around taking away/limiting explosive plays…strategically it’s a great idea bc too many of those plays lead to TDs…we want to make the O earn it. When you look at it, its very genius, just a couple things we need to improve on.”
-Steven Nelson https://t.co/sWIk6VE7Dh
— Marc Farzetta (@MarcFarzetta) October 27, 2021
I went and watched the video clip for context, and that was basically the entire quote right there.
RE: the scheme, I guess it’s “genius” on paper, right? Limit big plays down the field and don’t get cooked through the air. Izel Jenkins would have loved playing in this scheme.
But the catch is that instead of giving up one play for 80 yards, they’re giving up 15 plays for 80 yards, which is the same end result, only the opponent chewed up a ton of clock while your offense remained stagnant, standing on the sidelines. The Eagles are playing a “bend but don’t break” defense, but unfortunately it’s bending and then breaking when the opponent reaches the red zone.
There’s nothing wrong with the concept in theory, but the Eagles’ linebackers aren’t very good, and that stresses their ability to stop the run and/or limit these dink and dunk passing plays. It might be different if they had Darius Leonard and Bobby Wagner running around out there, but they don’t. They have Alex Singleton, Eric Wilson, Davion Taylor, and T.J. Edwards. Nelson and Darius Slay are good enough at corner, but you’d like to see them in man-to-man coverage more often. And further back, some versatility at strong safety would help. Malcolm Jenkins was the type of guy who could get down in the box to help with the run, cover receivers at the line of scrimmage, and let Rodney McLeod patrol the hashmarks in that single-high look.
Concept-wise, you understand what Jonathan Gannon is doing. They just aren’t executing it right now and might not have the personnel to execute it. Can the 1985 Chicago Bears even execute this scheme? That’s a fair question.