Eagles analysis

Sirianni confident in Desai but points out major area of concern on defense

Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni expressed confidence in DC Sean Desai but pointed out a key area that needs to change.

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A couple days after another forgettable performance on defense, Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni on Tuesday said he has “total confidence” in defensive coordinator Sean Desai.

“That’s why we hired him for the job,” Sirianni said.

But it’s clear some things need to change.

The Eagles have given up 33+ points in three consecutive games, including blowout losses to the 49ers and Cowboys in back-to-back weeks to drop them to 10-3 on the season. When asked what’s at the top of the list of things to get cleaned up on defense, Sirianni didn’t hesitate.

“I think really where it is, the yards pile up on you when you are giving up some third downs,” Sirianni said.

“Again, the problem is everywhere, there, right? Where we are on third down, we got to coach them better, put them in better spots, detail it out for them, and execute better.”

Saying the Eagles are giving up “some” conversions on third downs isn’t really accurate. They’re given up a ton. The Eagles have the worst third-down defense in the NFL through Week 14.

The Eagles have given up more conversions on third down (87) than any other team in the NFL and their third-down conversion percentage (48.1%) is also the worst in the NFL:

32. Eagles: 48.1%
31. Cardinals: 46.3%
30. Seahawks: 45.8%
29. Bears: 45.5%
28. Bengals: 42.7%

While the Eagles have obviously played some really high-powered offenses the last three weeks — Bills, 49ers, Cowboys — they’ve really fallen off in this key situational category.

They just can’t seem to get off the field.

Over they last three weeks, the Eagles have given up conversions on an astounding 61.2% of the third downs they’ve faced. 

That’s the highest opposing third-down percentage in the NFL over the last three weeks — 4.7% higher than the next-worst Commanders. It’s also the worst three-game span from any team in the NFL all season.

And that 61.2% conversion rate is the highest of any three-game span in a single season for the Eagles since at least 1991, which is as far back as StatHead records go for third-down conversions.

So this isn’t just bad. This is really bad. Historically bad.

“You bleed a little bit in the yardage areas when you're staying on the field on third downs,” Sirianni said. “The big one is third down and being able to get off the field in third downs.

“Obviously, we haven't been good enough there. Like I said, everybody is involved in that and it starts with me. Starts with me, and then goes to everybody else.”

During this three-game stretch, the Eagles have given up 30 conversions on 49 attempts, which doesn’t even include the three first downs given up on penalties against the Cowboys on Sunday.

Here’s how those conversions break down by yards to gain:

0-3 yards: 71.4% (10/14)
4-6 yards: 85.7% (12/14)
7-10 yards: 53.8% (7/13)
11+ yards: 12.5% (1/8)

This is very obviously a problem and it seems like the only way the Eagles are getting off the field is if they get their opponent into 3rd-and-forever, which is not going to happen all that often.

While Desai is in charge of the Eagles’ defense, there have been execution errors on the field too. And, ultimately, there’s plenty of blame to go around. That’s why Sirianni on Tuesday made sure to not point his finger at the Eagles’ first-year defensive coordinator.

“I think everybody is in on that,” Sirianni said. “I think that when you — this is a team game. Team. You hear me all the time say, ‘this is the greatest team sport there is.’ Usually when I'm talking about that I'm talking about the good things that happen.

“It's also the truth when bad things are happening, too. So, I respect your question. Obviously answering it right now. But to single somebody out, one person out, is not the right move here. It's how do we get better as a team. And we have to get better as a team. Make no mistake about it. But that's where we are there.”

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