The Philadelphia Eagles' defense didn't just struggle in Week 13. They were slaughtered. Every position group was cooked by the visiting San Francisco 49ers. It was ugly. It was uncomfortable. It was downright disheartening.
We haven’t seen an Eagles loss to rival this one all season. We've seen busted coverages and a struggling pass rush, but more often than not, someone has picked up the slack when another of their teammates have failed.
If a defensive back has been beaten, we have seen the defensive line 'buck up' and help make a play to prevent tragedy. We’ve gotten used to seeing Haason Reddick, Josh Sweat, and Brandon Graham come up big in the clutch and get big sacks to help end games.
If it feels like the defensive line has been on the field for an eternity, it's because they have been.
As great as we've seen the Eagles' defense be at times, that was never in the cards against the 49ers. The line’s inability to affect Brock Purdy was noticeable. Maybe that was due to Sean Desai’s scheme (which is true) or maybe it was due to the defense coming off of a game where they played 92 snaps (which is also true).
Let's discuss snap counts. In 2022, Philly's defensive line and edge rushers benefitted from an incredible rotation of players. It’s one of the reasons they were able to amass 70 sacks.
This year, Philly's pass rush seemingly doesn’t have that same depth and rotation. We have seen some of the results. Here’s a look at each defensive lineman’s snap counts for the 2022 season and the 2023 season.
We have also added another value. The percentage of increase or decrease that those numbers represent.
There are a few notable things to look at there. The first thing is Sweat's enormous amount of snaps. It’s not necessarily something to complain about since he’s been having a great year, but if we’re looking at Sweat being productive in the postseason this is something we'll certainly want to remember.
Fletcher Cox's snap counts are something else to watch. We questioned whether he'd be on the field as much as he was last year. But again, he’s been playing well. That being said, his heavy workload isn't an issue right now, but sheesh…
It’s his 12th year in the NFL. He’s been dinged up recently. This could come back to haunt us.
To no one's surprise, Jalen Carter is hovering around doubling Jordan Davis's rookie snap count. He, in essence, replaced Javon Hargrave. He was seen by many as the most talented player in this draft class.
We’re all much more comfortable when we see the big number 98 on the field, but he’s a rookie from the Georgia Bulldogs program. He isn't used to seeing as many snaps as he has been given. Still, some might argue that it would be nice to see his number increase and Fletch's number decrease as we move through the current season.
Nolan Smith's 83 snaps through 13 games have been surprising. For a player who was drafted in the first round and who had all of the juice coming into the season, some might even argue that this is startling.
Maybe there are questions about his size or readiness. Maybe he's being treated as a luxury and is being allowed to learn because the guys ahead of him on the depth chart are playing at a high level.
Regardless of the reason, we would like to see more of him. Frankly, we NEED to see more of him if, for no other reason, to give Josh Sweat a breather.
The numbers are startling, for sure. It's going to be wildly important for this team to step up and get off the field on third downs. It's easy enough to say, but there are a lot of things that need to change for that to happen. We just want our guys to be fresh when the games matter most.