The Eagles faced a tough test on Sunday.
Philadelphia entered Week 13 struggling with their run defense. The absence of certified space-eating rookie defensive tackle Jordan Davis was being felt significantly. Recent games saw the Eagles being gouged on the ground, as seen in their matchup with the Packers, who averaged five yards per carry in Week 12.
In the preparation for their matchup against Tennessee, Philadelphia knew they must stop the run. Jonathan Gannon responded immediately, stacking the box and committing hard-hitting safeties Reed Blankenship and Marcus Epps to the box and around the line of scrimmage. Both played well.
This, as well as their special teams’ incompetence, became a primary focus of the coaching staff entering their Week 13 matchup against Tennessee. The Titans boasted one of the most physical running backs in the NFL, and Gannon seemingly could not get his defense to contain the run. His immediate response to this game was very encouraging. He committed hard-hitting safeties Marcus Epps and rookie undrafted free-agent Reed Blankenship to play close to the line of scrimmage. Their run support was invaluable to the success of the Eagles defense, who limited Henry to just 30 yards from 11 carries.
Following their emphatic victory, we explore five takeaways from the Eagles in their successful battle with the Titans.
Britain Covey Breaks Out – Philly’s Perseverance Pays Dividends.
Short fields have been few and far between this season.
A large reason for this was the special team’s incompetence. The Eagles had not been able to generate kick and pun returns of any significance, with Britain Covey drawing criticism for his lackluster play. While the entire unit is responsible for creating room to work, the undersized rookie returner really lacked the judgment and vision to create special teams plays.
Then, Covey broke out. In Week 13, he seemingly hit his stride. He was not tasked with returning kicks, as Boston Scott took over that role. Instead, Covey’s role was reduced to just punt returns. He received six opportunities, which resulted in a phenomenal 105 yards, including a 27-yard scamper.
Unfortunately, his poor play led to some people writing him off. That isn’t so great for me, who called for him to be released after the Eagles’ ninth game. I, along with Covey’s other critics, now seem to have egg on our face. You can read about why just here.
Covey showed the explosiveness and shiftiness to explode through small openings against the Titans. He has given the Eagles some promise to become a solid special teams unit that can help assist the offense in having some favorable field positions during their home stretch.
The Rookies Show Up.
Four rookies showed up big on Sunday.
As we explored, Britain Covey was a fantastic contributor on Sunday. The impact the rookie made was integral in the Eagles’ ability to quickly pile on points. His explosiveness was able to give them multiple possessions with favorable field position. Conversely, while rookie defensive tackle Jordan Davis played just six snaps, he made his presence felt on the field. His amazingly dominant two-gapping discourages the run game, even if it is a limited role.
Two more Eagles rookies contributed significantly to the victory.
Nakobe Dean was electric on Sunday. A lower-body injury sidelined starting linebacker Kyzir White during the third quarter. Dean was inserted into the game, and in his 15 snaps had six tackles and one for loss. The former Georgia Bulldog was credited by PFF with three stops also.
To properly represent his dominant performance, we can explore his first two snaps on defense. In the first, Dean assisted on tackle while being held, with his positioning forcing the penalty that sent the Titans backward. On the very next play, the rookie linebacker shot a gap with incredible explosiveness and wrapped up the ball carrier for a tackle behind the line of scrimmage. He flashed star ability that will surely have fans excited.
Secondly, Reed Blankenship got the start in the absence of C.J. Gardner Johnson, who has a lacerated kidney. When the starting safety exited the game last week, the undrafted rookie had six tackles and an interception, making his impact felt.
Blankenship against the Titans didn’t have a really big play but was fantastic in his first start. PFF credited the 6’1″, 203-pound safety with two stops, three tackles, and an overall defensive rating of of 85.9. He allowed just ten yards from four targets and played the run exceptionally. Like I said in the preseason in this article, Blankenship has significant potential as a long-term starting safety in the NFL.
The Eagles seem to have found two future performers on defense that can be fantastic starting pieces.
The Trenches Eat, Again.
The Eagles were dominant once again up front.
The defensive line was completely disruptive. Firstly, they completely thwarted the dominant Derrick Henry, holding him to 30 yards in 11 tries.
Their defensive line was completely dominant. Firstly, they completely crushed the rushing game, holding Derrick Henry to just 30 yards. While they gave up a few longer runs to Ryan Tannehill, the Eagles committed enough resources to contain the ground game of the Titans and be able to sell out to rush the passer on third down.
And rush the passer, they did. The Eagles came up with six sacks, all of which came from their terrific defensive line. Reddick and Sweat were dominant, combining for three sacks, seven quarterback hits, and a tackle for loss. Veterans Javon Hargrave, Fletcher Cox, and Brandon Graham all contributed a sack also.
On the other side of the ball, the Eagles’ offensive line had another dominant Sunday. The Titans managed just two sacks, which resulted in just five yards lost. The announcers had a field day with the absurd amount of false starts and holding penalties that the blocking unit committed, as laundry completely littered the field on multiple occasions.
With those mishaps aside, the Eagles’ trenches were instrumental in the offensive performance of Philadelphia. Jalen Hurts could essentially ignore the left side of the defense. This is because left tackle Jordan Mailata and left guard Landon Dickerson had a clean sheet against the Titans. That means no pressures, sacks, or hits allowed (according to PFF).
Once again the big guys did it again. And while stats are cool and all, sometimes it is just about old-fashioned mauling.
So check out this clip of Jason Kelce and Landon Dickerson blowing up defensive lineman Devin Strong. Boom!
A.J. Brown Flaunts His Flair To Frugal Titans.
Well, that didn’t go to plan for the Titans.
When A.J. Brown was moved to Philadelphia in a draft-day trade, the Titans were criticized heavily. They essentially shipped their superstar receiver for the 18th pick, which became Arkansas wide receiver Treylon Burks, and an additional third-round selection.
Brown clearly wanted to punish Tennessee.
The fourth-year wide receiver had eight receptions, 119 yards, and two touchdowns in his matchup with his former team. He emphatically showed the former team the mistake they made in moving him. Tannehill clearly missed having the strong, physical receiver, as his wide receivers combined for just four catches, 41 yards, and one touchdown.
A.J. Brown let his playing emphasize his dissatisfaction and anger toward the Titans’ front-office. They must regret that trade quite significantly, right now.
Hurts Becoming An Elite Quarterback
Jalen Hurts is becoming an elite quarterback in the NFL.
Entering the season, the question was if the Eagles would be looking for a new signal caller with their two first-round selections in the 2023 NFL Draft. Hurts has shown flashes of brilliance, but doubters referenced his exposed limitations that led to an embarrassing playoff exit for the Eagles.
Now, they are enjoying the luxury of a superstar quarterback on a rookie salary, surrounded by a roster brimming with talent and depth. How quickly things can change in the NFL.
Hurts was brilliant in Week 13. The second-year starter exploded for 380 passing yards and three touchdowns. He completed 29 of his 39 attempts and even scored once on the ground.
The young superstar is building on a magnificent season so far. He has already accumulated 2,940 passing yards through twelve games. Hurts has taken care of the ball as well, throwing 20 touchdowns to just three interceptions. He has also added an astounding 609 yards rushing, as well as an additional nine touchdowns.
Hurts has developed his skill set significantly in his third season in the NFL. Firstly, he has a virtually unstoppable quarterback sneak attack. The play has been a large part of his absurd 53 rushing first downs in twelve games, from just 132 total attempts.
His accuracy has become exceptional, as the entire field has seemed to open up for the Eagles’ offense. He can layer balls into intermediate portions of the field, thread throws through zones, and bomb the deep ball with excellent ball placement for his star wideouts to go get it. Hurts’ development has been exceptional. His 87.0 overall PFF grade ranks fifth among quarterbacks, galvanizing his status as elite this season.
He has become an elite quarterback in the NFL.
Tell us which takeaway you think is the most significant from the Eagles’ dominant Week 13 victory. Follow us on social media, and ensure that you come to Stadium Rant for all your sporting news!