January 12, 2023   5 MIN READ

Why So “Soft?”

Q&A: With Playoffs Looming, Birds D Should Make Some Adjustments


With the No. 1 seed clinched, the 14-3 Philadelphia Eagles will have an extra week to self-scout in preparation for the playoffs.

On the latest “Q&A” podcast on Inside The Birds, former Eagles standouts Jason Avant and Quintin Mikell discussed the state of the team.

Darius slay

The Eagles will be counting on Darius Slay to return to his early season form during the postseason.

Jalen Hurts

Jason Avant: “This is the take I got from this game in particular: Jalen Hurts was told not to put himself in harm’s way at all. The Jalen Hurts that we saw play this game was Jalen Hurts trying to protect and save himself for the playoffs. He was playing a football game to win, but it was with an asterisk of not putting yourself in harm’s way, and that’s the way of football that Hurts will not be as effective doing. The element of him running, doing what’s best for the team, converting third downs with his legs, and even threatening the line of scrimmage with the read option, it adds a different element to this offense…I’m expecting Hurts to get as much timing down over this week as possible. I’m sure, with the type of person and pro that he is and with what’s at stake, that he’s somewhere throwing with those dudes right now and trying his best to simulate game situations and him and the coaching staff trying to come up with a gameplan and get him more reps in to be prepared.”

Run Game

Quintin Mikell: “They have to stick to the run, especially in the playoffs. You have to be able to run the ball.”

Jason Avant: “They averaged four yards a carry or less in the last four out of six games, in comparison to the first seven out of nine games, they were over 4.2 or higher. Their numbers are going in the opposite direction, and they’re one of those teams that had the luxury to be able to run the football. They made a decision at the bye week that they were going to come out throwing the ball and then finish with the run. Prior to that, we had more of a balance and the drives were longer. Here’s another bye week, another chance to self-scout. So now, you mix the two. I don’t think one philosophy has to be true the entire year, because teams begin to recognize what you’re doing.”

Jonathan Gannon

Mikell: “When I look at the Eagles defense and I see a game like this where [the Giants] have a backup quarterback, not playing their starters, and we’re still playing the same soft defense. What are you putting on tape? I’m just frustrated, even if you don’t call any blitzes the next game, press coverages, or anything out of the ordinary in this next playoff game, put it on tape in a game that doesn’t mean much so a team has to spend time studying it, so they can’t predict what you’re going to be in every single play.”

Avant: “As an offense, when a team shows Cover 2, Cover 3, Cover 4 and man, if they show you one snap of Cover 0, you have to practice a lot for that one snap because the line has to figure out a way to block up that A-gap pressure. There’s so much thought that goes into pressure, there’s no thought that goes into Cover 2 and Cover 3, because everything is already pre-scripted for those plays. That’s your base game plan. An offensive coordinator is looking at the Eagles like, ‘I don’t have to think, my quarterback doesn’t really have to think. This is a standard defense that you’re playing against us and all of my concepts are good.’”

Mikell: “You have all of these great players on defense. If you’re going to take chances, these are the guys to do it with. (Giants DC) ‘Wink’ Martindale had all of his backup defense in. He was running Cover 0 blitzes, tackles dropping out, he was coming after the Eagles’ offense with backups. We had our starters and we were still playing this basic soft defense.”

C.J. Gardner-Johnson

Mikell: “He’s playing safety and nickel. It can be troublesome. In this defense, it’ll be no problem, because he’s going to have minimal responsibilities at either one.

Avant: “I think this is the right move by far. Josiah Scott is a liability in coverage and has been attacked the last four games or so at a high rate. You think about these games, they were attacking the middle of the field to try to avoid (Darius) Slay and (James) Bradberry as much as they can. You put Gardner-Johnson, who was one of the better nickels in the league, you shore that up. What I like about it is you’re putting your best group on the field.”

Darius Slay

Mikell: “I do think [opposing teams] are going to attack Slay. He’s been a lights-out corner most of his career, but the last few weeks, he’s been putting stuff on tape that’s not characteristic of him, deep balls and deep shots. He’s been trying to get interceptions, but in the playoffs, they’re going to try to take some shots on him.”

Avant: “He’s been looking in the backfield, trying to get a pick and make something happen, because he isn’t in position to make the plays he wants to make.”

– Benjamin Paul is a staff writer for InsideTheBirds.com.

Listen to the latest “Q&A” podcast featuring former Eagles standouts Quintin Mikell and Jason Avant:

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