At 11-1, the Philadelphia Eagles own the best record in the NFL. They might have been a playoff team last season at 9-8, but no one expected this kind of domination from the black and green this season.
But former Eagle Brian Dawkins won’t complain. While he admitted to Fox News Digital that he also didn’t see this coming, he knew improvements by Nick Sirianni’s group were coming this year.
“I thought that they would be much improved from last year,” Dawkins said while promoting USAA, the official Army-Navy game sponsor, which will be gifting vehicles to Army and Navy veterans ahead of “America’s Game.” “I thought they would grow from last year.
“I was waiting to see how quick the defense jelled because there was a whole bunch of new pieces coming in, and I was trying to see what type of defense it would be because we didn’t know what they were last year. They were very passive early, then they got aggressive late, then they got passive in the last game.
“We didn’t know if Jalen [Hurts] was going to take the next step to what he was going to now as a leader and as a ballplayer to be more consistent with his deep ball and accuracy and all of those things. You just didn’t know how quickly this team was going to jell. I knew they were going to have success, I really felt that. I just didn’t know it was going to be 11-1.”
Being at the top in the NFL requires consistency on both sides of the ball, and the Eagles have depth.
Still, if Dawkins had to nitpick the Eagles on their run to a hopeful Super Bowl, he knows what he’d like to see in the coming weeks.
“There are things that they need to be better at,” Dawkins said. “The great thing about this team is that when they need to run the ball, they can. When they need to throw the ball, they will. That, in itself, the imagination from the offensive coordinator, is great.
“The only thing lacking for me on defense is stopping the run, No. 1. And the imagination to be able to blitz a little more. Again, I love the fact that the front can get after the team. But when you introduce more blitz packages, it gives the offense more headaches. And you have quality cover guys, especially on the outside, to hold up [coverage]. Oh my goodness. This team can absolutely reap terror on defense.”
Philadelphia owns the second-best defense in the NFL behind the San Francisco 49ers, giving up 296.4 yards and 18.8 points per game.
But the Eagles are in the middle of the pack when it comes to blitz percentage per game at 21.9%. The team that blitzes the most is the New York Giants under hyper-aggressive defensive coordinator Wink Martindale.
Having solid cover corners Darius Slay and James Bradberry, Eagles second-year defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon has leaned toward his defensive line getting pressure before sending the house.
Dawkins thinks the secondary and linebacker groups for Philly should be deployed more often.
“Everything,” Dawkins replied when asked where the blitz should come from. “If you have to look all over the place, you don’t know where the blitz is coming from, and we’re able to disguise. And then we don’t blitz, and you’re one-on-one against our pass rushers because you thought we were blitzing and we’re not.
“That just adds so much more to even those pass rushes. So when they do rush, they won’t be able to be double-teamed because they’re thinking the blitz is coming or something like that.”
It’s only a suggestion from Dawkins, who recognizes just how good his Eagles are. The pass rush is getting to the quarterback. The Eagles are second in the league behind the Dallas Cowboys in sacks with 42 on the year and eighth in quarterback pressures with 113.
Dawkins knows Super Bowl aspirations are truly in the cards for the Eagles, but he won’t predict they win it in February.
“I’ve been a part of a team in Denver that when 7-0 that didn’t make the playoffs,” he said.
Perhaps Philadelphia can be even better than it alreayd is in 2022 if it starts getting a bit more aggressive defensively.
“Again, using your imagination a little bit more because you have the quality chess pieces all over the field,” Dawkins said.
Dawkins and Cowboys legend Jason Witten are teaming up to honor America’s heroes with USAA, which has been celebrating its 100th anniversary by gifting 100 vehicles to military members through the “Recycled Rides” program this year.