HomeDa Birds NewsSeahawks WRs Present a Challenge for Eagles' Vulnerable Pass Defense

Seahawks WRs Present a Challenge for Eagles’ Vulnerable Pass Defense

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PHILADELPHIA – Sean Desai is returning to the city where he made his living before coming to the Philadelphia Eagles to be the defensive coordinator.

That city is Seattle, where the Eagles will travel to play the Seahawks on Monday night.

As the Seahawks’ associate head coach and defensive assistant last year, he got an up-close look at two of the game’s best receivers in D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett.

“Both those guys are professionals and have such different traits how they get open,” said Desai. “It was good to be able to see them in person and how they’re being coached and what they’re being taught.

“DK is big, fast, physical, and can have a big catch radius and win a lot of different ways on the field. Tyler, I said this when I got there, to me he was one of the most underrated wide receivers in the league. Really savvy in terms of how he can run routes and win to his leverage. He’s got a good catch radius for his size and quickness and speed as well.”

Metcalf and Lockett aren’t the best duo of pass catchers in the NFL. That distinction probably goes to the Eagles’ tandem of A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith.

Brown and Smith have combined for 159 catches for 2,165 yards and 13 touchdowns. They are ranked second and 15th in the league, respectively, in terms of receiving yards with Brown at 1,258 and Smith at 907.

Metcalf and Lockett are ranked 20th and 32nd, respectively, but no less dangerous than Brown and Smith. The Seattle duo has combined for 116 catches for 1,575 yards and 11 touchdowns.

“In terms of the experience and how you can lean into it, obviously you were able to practice against them a lot and see them every day, so you try and rely on some of that,” said Desai, who also noted that he was in Seattle for only one year. “Every year and every week teams have to evolve and change and they got some new people that they’re fitting it in.”

Jaxon Smith-Njigba

USA Today

What the Seahawks have that the Eagles don’t is a third option in the receiving game. Rookie Jaxon Smith-Njigba has 49 receptions for 493 yards and two scores.

The Eagles have a few third-option receivers, but none who have done much from Quez Watkins, who missed eight games but has seven catches for 49 yards, Olamide Zaccheaus (8-144, 2 TDs), and Julio Jones (5-16, 1 TD).

Asked about that on Wednesday, offensive coordinator Brian Johnson said, “I think what you want is all five position players to contribute to the offense in a positive manner. Sometimes that shows up in stat sheets; sometimes it doesn’t.

“There is no doubt we have a plethora of talented players here that are more than capable of having big games. I think that’s a fine line and balance, particularly when you have guys like A.J. and guys like DeVonta Smith who win very, very regularly and the ball is out to them.”

Either way, stopping the Seahawks’ three receivers will present a challenge for an Eagles pass defense that allows 260 yards per game and is ranked 28th in the league.

“I think our defensive backs are looking forward to the challenge, and we’ll do a good job of holding up against that,” said Desai.

It would help if the Eagles’ pass rush could generate more pressure, especially on third down, where they have had trouble getting off the field. Since returning from the bye, the Eagles have allowed opponents’ offense to convert 38 of 66 third downs for a 57.5 percent success rate, which like the pass defense, leaves them ranked 28th in the NFL.

The Eagles pass rush is the league’s second-best team in first and second sacks but last in third-down sacks.

“I think that’s something that we’re trying to explore,” said Desai. “Again, a big part of it goes to the play call. You have to continue to be aggressive and find spots and matchups that you like to be able to win on those situations.”

Related: Fake Punt Didn’t Spark Eagles, But Special Teams Keeps Shining

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