Sean Desai

‘He's not scared' — Desai gets his flowers after masterclass vs. Dolphins

Eagles defensive coordinator Sean Desai had a masterful showing as his unit dominated the Dolphins on Sunday.

NBC Universal, Inc. Reuben Frank shares his three biggest takeaways from the Eagles’ Week 7 win over the Dolphins.

In the wake of the Eagles’ dominant defensive performance on Sunday Night Football, it was time for defensive coordinator Sean Desai to get his flowers.

Eagles defensive end Josh Sweat knows exactly what impresses him most about his DC.

“He’s not scared,” Sweat said before breaking into a giggle. “He’s still just doing what he does. It doesn’t matter the team, he’s not going to let it get to him and get him out of character. … It just makes us trust him even more.”

Desai’s not scared.

Not even against the historically prolific offense the Eagles faced and shut down on Sunday night in their 31-17 win to improve to 6-1 on the season.

The Eagles on Sunday night gave up 17 points to the Dolphins but just 10 on defense. And the field goal in the first half came on a really short field after a turnover. Desai’s unit gave up just one touchdown drive to the No. 1 offense in the NFL.

“He’s the DC for a reason,” defensive tackle Milton Williams said. “He put us in position to make plays. He’s the head of the snake, coming up with plans for how we’re going to attack certain teams. He’s doing a good job.”

The Dolphins had eight possessions on Sunday night and were mostly shut down:

FG (on a short field)
Turnover on downs
Turnover on downs

Against the Eagles, the Dolphins had season lows in points (17), total yards (244), passing yards (199), rushing yards (45) and time of possession (23:17). The Dolphins led the league in points, total offense, passing offense and rushing offense entering Week 7.

“Coach Desai, he’s just smart,” Williams said. “He tries to have us ready for everything and put us in a lot of positions to make plays. He’s very instinctual. He got a feel for what teams are going to try to do against us. They know up front is coming so they’re going to have to do a lot of different stuff. You see they run side to side, misdirection. He just puts us in position to make plays.”

The Dolphins had just 12 first downs against the Eagles on Sunday night. They were averaging 24.5 per game before Week 7 and hadn’t had fewer than 20 in any game this season.

“Just how he keeps his composure,” Darius Slay said when asked what impresses him most about Desai. “Smart dude, man. Smart. He knows what’s going on. He game plans very well and is a great communicator on the sideline. Because some stuff we can’t see on the other side. I’m on the left so I can’t see everything that’s on the right. He comes over there and just translates it. Him and the whole defensive staff, they do a great job of communicating on the sideline.”

The Dolphins entered this game as the No. 1 offense in the NFL by a long shot, averaging over 100 yards per game more than the No. 2 offense, which dressed in kelly green Sunday night.

And against an offense that features Tua Tagovailoa, Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle in the pass game, the Eagles got by without two of their starters in the secondary — Reed Blankenship (ribs) and Bradley Roby (shoulder) — and had just two starting defensive backs from opening day. They got contributions on Sunday from rookies Sydney Brown and Eli Ricks.

“Yeah, you see why we hired [Desai], right?” head coach Nick Sirianni said. “We knew the type of guy we were getting. I just think he’s done a phenomenal job. What I think he’s done such a good job of is what I admire of any coach: Adapting to the personnel that you have.

“I think he’s done that, and we’ll continue to look to climb. Sean has done a great job of putting the guys in positions to make plays and our defensive staff, they all contribute to that.”

Sunday was Mike McDaniel’s 24th game as the head coach of the Dolphins and the 10 offensive points were the fewest the team has put up in his tenure.

For the Eagles, this is the first time they’ve held an opponent to 17 points or fewer and 250 yards or fewer since 2020 against the Cowboys. And this is just the seventh such game for the Birds in the last decade.

The Eagles were looking forward to facing this top offense.

“Very eager,” linebacker Zach Cunningham said. “It was a chance for us to come out and bounce back from last week. Prove ourselves as a team and I feel like we were able to do that today.”

Give credit to the players. Give credit to Howie Roseman and the front office for getting those players.

But don’t forget about crediting Desai for setting up those players for success.

“It’s just the way he works, the way he operates,” Jordan Davis said. “He works through us. He plays to our strengths, he plays to our weaknesses. Things we got weaknesses on, we adjust. I think that’s a big thing. He’s just always adjusting, always working. He’s a very good DC, he’s a players’ coach. He makes sure that we ball out for him as well as everybody else.”

The Eagles hadn’t had a takeaway on defense in the last three games but got a huge one when Slay picked off a pass heading for the end zone early in the fourth quarter. A touchdown there would have tied the game at 24-24.

Instead, Slay got the Eagles’ offense the ball back and Jalen Hurts and company marched down the field to extend the lead to 31-17.

Tagovailoa has been known all season for getting the ball out quickly so the plan against him was easy to say but harder to accomplish.

“Just mix and disguise coverages for him, man,” Slay said. “Be perfect every time. Even though he do make the perfect throws a lot of times, he’s a smart decision maker, he’s leading that team in a great way. We just try to make it complicated for him. He did a great job today keeping his composure because with the D-line we got, it’s hard to stand back there.”

But eventually the D-line did get home. The Eagles had 4 sacks in this game and 3 on Tua, who had been sacked just 6 times in the first 6 games of the season. Sweat had 2 sacks on Sunday night, Nolan Smith had his first in the NFL and Jordan Davis and Fletcher Cox split another. Haason Reddick didn’t get a sack but had a ton of pressure.

The Eagles also had eight tackles for loss and six quarterback hits.

They dominated, in part, because Desai put them in spots to dominate.

“He’s putting us in the best situations possible for everybody to showcase their ability. I like the play caller,” Sweat said. “I think he’s letting us be free and run around and do what we want, obviously within the scheme, but we can be free.”

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