One of, if not the biggest storylines of the Philadelphia Eagles 2023 season is the egregious number of snaps that the defense has played. The Week 12 game versus the Buffalo Bills stands out, one where Sean Desai''s unit was on the field for 92 plays. No one should have to tell you that's a ton of work.
Since then, this defense has looked tired. They missed seemingly every tackle as they were boat-raced against the San Francisco 49ers. They seemed even slower versus the Dallas Cowboys. It’s been ugly, but at least we can pinpoint where things started to go wrong.
Veterans have seemingly gotten older and quickly. Some of the first-year players have hit their rookie wall.
There was a noticeable change in the snap counts for some recognizable Eagles. The results were, shall we say, a mixed bag.
After every game, a good practice is to take a look at the snap counts and see the trends. FootballGuys.com gave us the data that we looked at for this. Two young Birds were thrown to the wolves in Week 14.
Nolan Smith: 21 snaps
The defensive fatigue is especially apparent on the defensive line. Josh Sweat has played 676 snaps this season, which is WAY over his previous career high of 587. So when first-round draft pick, Nolan Smith, came in and played the most snaps he’s played this season, it was great to see. Finally, the first-rounder is getting work.
Smith wasn’t especially effective or anything, but when we’re scratching the bottom of the barrel and trying to find something positive to look at from this game, this is at least something.
Smith is young, fresh, and quick. That could be helpful in the last month of the season. There's still time for him to be a difference-maker.
Kelee Ringo: 22 snaps
‘Hey Kelee. We’re playing our biggest rival, and their quarterback is an MVP candidate. We're also on the road and playing in their stadium where they are invincible. It's prime time on Sunday Night Football. We know you haven’t played at all this year, but what’s the worst that can happen? Get in there! You got this buddy!’
Kelee Ringo saw his first meaningful snaps of 2023. Upon entry into the game, he immediately gave up an eight-yard completion.
He tried to cheat, It didn't matter. He committed both pass interference and a facemask penalty. That may be the first and only time you'll ever see that again.
No one wanted to see Ringo get any important snaps. Hell, we had to glance at the roster to see who number 22 was when we saw him enter the game. We can chalk this up to nerves. Let's just say it didn't go well. It became very obvious very quickly why he hasn't played a ton on defense.
In the preseason, we saw that he isn't a complete player yet, and that was immediately exposed in his first play of the season. Maybe he was in because he’s clearly faster than the other defensive backs. Maybe there was another reason. Whatever the reason, it was an ugly demonstration.
The backups on offense: 2 snaps
Last week, the Eagles were down by 23 points with three minutes left in the game. Much to everyone’s dismay and disbelief, the starting offense trotted back out onto the field. This immediately led to D’Andre Swift getting demolished by a human wrecking ball. We can thank our lucky stars that he made it out of that okay.
It seems like Nick Sirianni might’ve learned his lesson because, during the Eagles' final drive of the game, he trotted the second-string offense on the field to close things out. Thank you, Nick. Thank you for not being a bonehead again. We live to play another day. Let's hope for better football.