All-22: Philadelphia Eagles Fletcher Cox and Benny Logan Anchoring the Line

The Philadelphia Eagles lost more than just a football game this past Sunday night against the Dallas Cowboys. They also lost the ability to control their own playoff destiny as the season winds down to the final two games. Plenty of negative things happened Sunday night which caused the Eagles to lose, but instead of focusing on the negative, I figured this week I’d focus on a positive. That positive was the excellent job Fletcher Cox and Benny Logan did against the Cowboys’ offensive line. Logan and Cox have really been playing great all year. Cox should be a sure-fire lock for the pro bowl, and has a good chance of being voted to the AP All-Pro team. If Benny Logan doesn’t get voted to the pro bowl this year, it will only be because of lack of name recognition, as he’s had a great year playing the nose tackle position in the Eagles’ 3-4 defense.

The Eagles rushing defense has allowed 3.8 yards per carry this season, which places them at 6th in the NFL. They’ve done this while having to face DeMarco Murray (1st in rushing yards) twice, Marshawn Lynch (3rd in rushing yards), Arian Foster (6th in rushing yards), Alfred Morris (8th in rushing yards), and Eddie Lacy (9th in rushing yards). So they’ve seen no shortage of top running backs this season.

This past Sunday against the Cowboys and DeMarco Murray, Cox and Logan continued to lead the way for the front seven of their defense as they held Murray to 81 yards on 31 carries, for a season low average of 2.6 yards per carry. Before Sunday night, Murray had been held to under 4 yards per carry only one other time this season, and it was on Thanksgiving day against the Eagles.

So let’s get into the film and break down how Logan and Cox were able to cause trouble for the Cowboys’ offensive line.

Fletcher Cox uses a nice swim move on this play to get into the backfield to tackle Murray for a two-yard loss. He displays excellent technique on this move as he uses his left hand to club and then swings his right arm over and through to be able to get by right guard Zack Martin.

Benny Logan display textbook two-gap technique on this play as he is able to stop Murray at the line of scrimmage. He extends his arms out at the point of attack to control left guard Ronald Leary, peaks into the backfield to see which hole Murray is going to attack, and then at the last second pushes Leary aside and makes the tackle on Murray.

Fletcher Cox sacks Tony Romo on this play on third down, but unfortunately the play was negated by an illegal contact penalty on corner back Cary Williams. Cox again displays excellent technique on this play. He starts off with a chop with his left hand to prevent Leary from being able to get a hand on him, follows it up with a club with his right hand, and finishes up with a rip move with his left arm, which prevents Leary from re-gaining any leverage on him.

Cox and Logan team up for a stop on Murray on this play. Cox explodes off the line at the snap of the ball, gaining positional leverage on center Travis Frederick. This forces Murray to have to make a cut to his right, where Benny Logan is waiting for him as he sheds the block attempt from fullback Tyler Clutts.

Cox gets pressure on Romo on this play, forcing Romo off his spot and to the left. Romo eventually trips over his own lineman as he’s trying to get away from Cox. On this play, Zack Martin is able to get his hands to Cox’s chest, but Cox does a great job of shooting his own hands up underneath Martin’s arms to knock them away which allows him to get positional leverage on him and get into the backfield.

Logan shows patience and great technique on this run play as he stops Murray. Watch as he keeps his shoulders square as he moves down the line of scrimmage, and then when Murray tries to cut back inside, he throws Ronald Leary to the side and tackles Murray.

Logan is an anchor on this play on third down with one yard to go. Zack Martin and Travis Frederick initially double team Logan, but he doesn’t budge an inch. He ends up stuffing Murray with the help of linebacker Connor Barwin.

Logan uses a rip move to get leverage on Frederick on this stretch run play, which forces Murray to cut back inside into linebacker Brandon Graham for a stop.

The Dallas Cowboys offensive line finally did find a way to contain Fletcher Cox. It’s a new blocking technique I’d like to call the “Hug and Hold”. Here’s a picture of them perfecting this technique.
screen shot of cox being held

That wraps up this week’s All-22 breakdown. The Philadelphia Eagles travel to the nation’s capital Saturday to face the 3-11 Washington Redskins in a game that has huge playoff implications for the Eagles. A win for the Eagles coupled with a loss by the Cowboys puts the Eagles back in the driver’s seat for control of the division.

All-22: Philadelphia Eagles vs. Seattle Seahawks

The Philadelphia Eagles were dealt a 24-14 loss at the hands of the Seattle Seahawks as the visiting birds from the northwest stifled the Eagles’ high powered offense. The Eagles were held to a season low 139 yards and only gained nine first downs in the entire game. Since Mark Sanchez has taken over at quarterback for the injured Nick Foles, the Eagles have made a living in the middle of the field in the passing game. The Seahawks seemed intent on clamping down the middle of the field and forcing Sanchez to make plays elsewhere, and it paid off for them as they were able to hold Sanchez to under 100 yards passing on the day.
Seattle is a great defense and in order to have success against them in the passing game, an offense has to be able to rack up completions on a diverse array of routes. As they showed in the Superbowl last year (and as I broke down in my All-22 recap for NFL Spinzone), they have the ability to shut down an offense that isn’t utilizing every inch of the field.
In this post, I’ll break down five plays from the offense that could have made a difference in the game.

This first play comes on third down with nine yards to go. Sanchez ends up throwing a shallow crossing route to a well covered Jordan Matthews that goes incomplete. Even if it had been completed, it would have been well short of the first down marker. Tight end Zach Ertz was matched up against safety Kam Chancellor and is running a corner route. Jeremy Maclin is on the far right side of the field running a square in against man coverage. Since Kam Chancellor has inside position on Ertz, and since Maclin is in man coverage, this leaves a large opening for Sanchez to lead Ertz into on the corner route. A completion to Ertz here would have moved the chains and put the Eagles in scoring position.

This next play comes from the end of the first half. It’s third and six and the Eagles get a four yard gain on a crossing route to Riley Cooper. The Eagles end up punting the ball with enough time on the clock for the Seahawks to run their two-minute drill and put three points on the scoreboard before half. Now, it’s the defense’s responsibility to prevent the Seahawks from scoring, but the offense didn’t do them any favors by going three-and-out here. Ertz once again is going to be matched up against Chancellor, and once again he gets open, this time on a curl route which would have gone for a first down and kept the Eagles’ drive going.

This next play was similar to the first play shown in this post. It’s third down with three yards to go, and once again Ertz runs a corner route against Chancellor. He gets open as there is no underneath help and Chancellor is playing him far to the inside. Sanchez ends up throwing incomplete downfield to Maclin and the Eagles punt. A completion to Ertz here would have been another 20-yard play and kept the chains moving.

On this play, the Eagles are faced with third down and 13 yards to go from their own fifteen yard line. Sanchez does a good job initially on this play of rolling out to his left to buy himself and his receivers some time and does a good job with his mechanics, resetting his feet to throw downfield. However, his pass ends up sailing on him and goes over the head of Ertz. He also didn’t see that Jeremy Maclin was left uncovered in the middle of the field. This would have been another big play for the Eagles and would have kept their drive alive.

The last play of this breakdown is the interception thrown by Sanchez in the direction of receiver Riley Cooper. Cooper begins this play on the outside with Matthews in the slot. They are going to criss-cross with Cooper running a deep post to the middle of the field and Matthews running a wheel route down the sideline. Cornerback Byron Maxwell initially begins the play in front of Matthews, but leaves him to cover running back Darren Sproles in the flat. This leaves Matthews completely uncovered streaking down the sideline. Sanchez doesn’t see Matthews and instead opts to throw towards Cooper. However, as Sanchez steps up in the pocket, instead of sliding forward and keeping his feet in a proper throwing stance, he runs forward and attempts the throw on the run without resetting his feet. This causes his pass to fall short of where he intended it to go. The result is an interception.

The Eagles have a huge matchup this week as the divisional rival Dallas Cowboys come to Philadelphia on Sunday night. The winner of this game controls their own destiny to win the division and obtain a playoff berth.

All-22 Review: How Chip Kelly Tailors the Offense to Mark Sanchez

The job of any head coach is to put his players in a position to be successful. The ability to consistently do this is one of the many reasons why Chip Kelly has had success at every level that he’s coached at. People often try to define Chip Kelly’s offense as if it’s something that can be put into a box. When pressed for what makes up the “Chip Kelly” offense, Kelly typically responds by dispelling the myth that a “Chip Kelly” offense exists in the first place. As Kelly said in his press conference after the win against the Houston Texans, “I don’t have an offense.  I’ve said that since day one. Our offense is directed around our quarterback. So tell me who is playing quarterback and I’ll tell you what our offense is going to be and how it’s going to look because we can always cater it to the skills of our offense.”

Enter Mark Sanchez. Despite his pedestrian 55.2% completion percentage he’s averaged for his career, that 55% is not equally spread out all over the field for all types of throws. He’s actually pretty accurate when it comes to making throws in between the numbers. He also has good athletic ability and coordination to throw accurately while on the move. However, where he can struggle at times is making throws to the sideline on out patterns and comeback/hitch routes. In this case, catering the offense to Sanchez means trying to create as many opportunities in between the numbers while limiting the amount of times he has to make throws to the sideline. Doing this allows Sanchez to play towards his strengths and allows the offense to have the most success possible while he’s the quarterback.

Since taking over for the injured Nick Foles, Sanchez has had 59 pass attempts. Out of those 59 pass attempts, only six of those have been to the sideline on out and comeback patterns. Of those six attempts, he’s completed only one of them for eight yards. That’s about as ineffective as you can get. However, now onto the types of throws where Sanchez excels. Ignoring screens and dropped passes and looking at throws made in between the numbers and throws where he’s rolled outside of the pocket, Sanchez is an outstanding 25/31(81%) for 413 yards (13.3 yards per attempt), 3 touchdowns, and one interception. Contrary to the results of the sideline routes, you can’t get much more effective than that.

Here are a few plays (all to rookie receiver Jordan Matthews) where the Eagles were able to get some significant yards over the middle.

The first play is a simple crossing route to on third down with 10 yards to go. The Panthers are in man coverage. Receiver Riley Cooper is on the left sideline and is going to take his man deep downfield, giving Matthews plenty of open space in the middle of the field to work against safety Colin Jones. Sanchez is able to hit him perfectly in stride which allows Matthews to pick up an additional 15 yards after the catch.

One play later, Kelly calls a play to take advantage of Sanchez’s athletic ability as he has him rollout to his left. Sanchez rolling out on this play makes it nearly impossible for the defender to get an angle on the pass to Matthews. Instead of making the throw from the middle of the field, which could potentially give an opposing defender an angle to make a play on the ball, Sanchez is near the left side of the field and the throw ends up being a straight vertical line from Sanchez to Matthews. Sanchez does a great job of quickly resetting his feet to get into proper throwing position and leads Matthews to the open space for the touchdown.

Later in the game, the Eagles are faced with another third and long. Kelly dials up a double stacked slant play to Matthews and the result is a 33 yard gain. Zach Ertz and Jordan Matthews are lined up on the right side of the field, and they both are going to be running slant routes. However, Ertz is going to run his route a few yards deeper downfield than Matthews, and basically acts as a lead blocker for Matthews on this play. As shown in this clip, the defender covering Matthews is completely out of position and can not get around Ertz to make a play on the ball. Again, Sanchez does a great job of hitting Matthews in stride to allow him to pick up additional yards after the catch.

The last clip in this breakdown is another crossing route to Matthews. Safety Colin Jones, who is lined up over Matthews, is going to come on a blitz. This leave safety Thomas DeCoud to cover Matthews. However, DeCoud is over 10 yards away from him and has no shot at preventing a completion. The result is a nice open space for Sanchez to lead Matthews into, and Sanchez executes, hitting Matthews in stride for a 14 yard gain.

That’s what tailoring an offense to the strengths of your players is all about. Even though the passing offense of the Eagles has been largely relegated to staying in between the numbers and ignoring the sideline routes over the past two games, they’ve still been able to move the ball and put up points in large part because they’ve executed with excellent precision in that area of the field.

That’s not to say that this game plan is going to work each and every single game. At some point, a defense may be able to clamp down the middle of the field and force the Eagles offense to move the ball down the field in a different way. When that time comes, it will be up to Chip Kelly and the coaching staff to adjust and give their players the answers needed to beat the defensive players in front of them.

For Chip Kelly, that’s just another day at the office.

 

 

 

All-22: Examining Nick Foles’ Mechanics

Throwing mechanics and footwork are the foundation to any quarterback’s game. Nick Foles, like many young quarterbacks, is going through some ups and downs in his first season as the full-time starter. Most of these ups and downs can be traced to mechanics, and this past Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals was the perfect example of this. Foles made some good and even great throws, at times in the face of pressure, that were set up with solid fundamental mechanics. However, there were also times when Foles showed improper mechanics, which led to passes that were either off their mark or lacked the proper velocity. In this post, I’ll break down the good and the bad from Sunday’s loss to the Cardinals.

Let’s start with the positive.

Foles shows solid mechanics on this throw. He takes the snap, goes into his drop with solid footwork, plants his feet, and then shifts his weight from his back foot to his front foot as he delivers a perfect pass to receiver Jeremy Maclin on an out route.

Here is the view from behind the line. Look at how Foles’ feet line up with the direction that the pass is going in.

Here is another pass with solid mechanics. Look at how Foles takes a step forward after getting to the back of his drop and steps into the pass, even though he’s about to take a big hit from a defensive lineman who has gotten through the offensive line. The result is an accurate ball delivered with pace for a first down.

Here is the view from behind the line.

This next play might be one of the most impressive throws I’ve seen Foles throw in his career. On this pass, he delivers a picture perfect strike deep downfield to Jeremy Maclin which hits him right in stride for a touchdown. This ball travels about 65 yards in the air, and he is able to do this because his mechanics were perfect on this play.

Here is the view from behind the line. Look at how Foles stays nice and balanced on his toes as he moves to his left, and then steps into his throw as he heaves it downfield.

Here is another solid throw in the face of pressure. Foles hits Jeff Maehl on a back shoulder pass on a slant route for a first down as he has a defensive lineman bearing down on him. He doesn’t backpedal even though there is an unblocked defender coming in on a blitz. He doesn’t allow his feet to get out of position. He plants his feet, transfers his weight into the throw, and puts it right where only Maehl can catch it.

Here is the view from behind the line.

The following play is another solid fundamental play from Foles. He gets to the back of his drop, stays balanced, and steps into his throw as he hits Jeremy Maclin on a square in for a first down.

Here is the view from behind the line.

Now on to the negative.

The following play is an example of poor mechanics. On this play, Foles backpedals instead of going into his regular drop and stepping up into his throw. Because of his incorrect footwork on this play, his feet end up being perpendicular to the direction of his throw instead of in line with it. As a result, he is not able to put his weight into the throw and deliver it with solid pace, and safety Tryann Mathieu is able to break up the play.

Here is the view from behind the line. If you look at Foles’ feet, you’ll see that on his last step, he moves his left foot back and to the left of his right foot, instead of keeping his feet in front of each other.

Foles throws an interception on this next play as a result of poor mechanics which led to an under thrown pass. Once again, Foles’ feet end up next to each other instead of in front of each other as he’s going through his throwing motion and he is unable to put this ball where he wants it. Had his footwork been solid on this play, he would have been able to drive the ball downfield and lead receiver Josh Huff to the back of the end zone for a potential touchdown.

Here is the view from behind the line.

Foles shows poor pocket presence on this next play. He backpedals out of the pocket, making it impossible for Jason Peters and Lane Johnson to block their defenders since Foles is so far behind the line of scrimmage that the defensive ends can just run straight downfield. If you look at Foles’ feet, you’ll see that again they are lined up adjacent to each other instead of in front of each other as he goes to throw. Now, the result of this play is a completed pass and a first down, but just because the result was positive doesn’t mean that the form was good. He got away with bad technique on this play, and as a coach you don’t want your quarterback forming bad habits, even if the result of the play was a positive one. As I showed in the previous play, bad technique can lead to negative results.

Here is the view from behind the line.

Here is another play where Foles gets away with improper mechanics. Once again his feet end up sideways. This happens because after he gets to the back of his drop, he takes an additional step back with his left foot and brings it out to the side of his right foot, squaring his body downfield. This contrasts to the proper technique highlighted earlier in this post, where he stayed in the pocket and kept his feet in good throwing position.

Here is the view from behind the line.

The final play I’ll break down comes from the final play of the game. From the snap of the ball, Foles immediately begins to backpedal out of the pocket. This immediately puts him in a tight spot because he drops back an additional 10 yards from where he is originally lined up, forcing him to have to make a longer throw in order to get the ball into the end zone. As he goes to throw, his feet are sideways, as was the case in previously discussed plays where he displayed improper mechanics. The fact that he can get this ball about 40 yards downfield with his feet sideways is a testament to his arm strength. However, because his feet were not properly lined up, he is unable to drive this ball, and it stays in the air too long which gives the defender time to react and make a play to knock Matthews out of bounds as he’s hauling in the catch. That said, Matthews should have done a better job as well and made sure that his feet were down to the ground first and then stretch out for the catch. Had Foles’ feet been lined up properly on this play, and had he not dropped back 10 yards and out of the pocket, he would have had a better chance at completing this pass because he would have had more control on the pace and location of the ball.

And here is the view from behind the line. Foles actually would have had a pocket to step into on this play, but it appears that he didn’t trust that he would as he started going backwards immediately.

All young quarterbacks struggle with their mechanics from time to time. It takes endless repetition and lots of game experience to get to the point where no matter the situation, the mechanics are there and fundamentally sound. As Foles showed on Sunday, there were plenty of times where he displayed proper mechanics, even in the face of pressure. That’s a very good sign to see from a young quarterback. What he needs to continue to work on is eliminating the plays where he unnecessarily backpedals out of the pocket and where his feet end up sideways as he goes to throw. With time and increased experience in game situations, I believe we’ll see less of the inconsistency Foles showed this past Sunday.

 

 

Eagles Receivers Exemplify the Chip Kelly Culture

When wide receiver DeSean Jackson was released from the Eagles last March, questions were abound as to the reasons why. Was it because of his contract? Was it due to off-field antics? Was it due to his work ethic and attitude? The truth is, it probably wasn’t just one thing, but if I had to put my finger on the biggest issue, it would be Jackson’s attitude on the field. Chip Kelly has a certain vision about the way football is supposed to be played, and Jackson’s playing style didn’t really mesh with that vision. Namely, I’m talking about two philosophies that Kelly implements with his team:
1) It takes 11 players to run the football, and
2) There are no football positions, just football players

What that second part (which was one subject of Mark Saltveit’s must read book The Tao of Chip Kelly) means is that if you are a wide receiver, your job isn’t to just catch passes. Your job is to catch passes on a pass play, and block on a run play. It’s that second part that Jackson has always had an issue with. It’s no secret that Jackson has never been committed to blocking. This week, former Washington Redskins tight end turned radio host and analyst Chris Cooley was critical of Jackson’s blocking efforts. Here’s what he had to say:
“Do not allow number 11 to ever be involved in blocking for screens, blocking for bubbles, picking for players in the pass game, [or] run plays to his side of the line of scrimmage,” Cooley said. “He WILL NOT TRY on them. Do not put him in in those situations…Find another way to break that tendency, but don’t risk losing a play just because you think 11 might try…Unless he’s going to say ‘I’ll make a legitimate commitment,’ do not put him in on those plays. It was costly in four or five different situations where plays could have been better.”

One of those plays Cooley pointed to was a bubble screen late in the Redskins game against the Arizona Cardinals. On a third down with one yard to go, Kirk Cousins threw a bubble screen to Andre Roberts. Jackson, blocking for the screen, allows his man to get by him and tackle Roberts in the backfield, and the Redskins had to punt. Here is the play:

Hearing this talk is nothing really new to Eagles fans who’ve seen Jackson’s lack of effort in the run game for years. That’s why it was so refreshing to watch happened during Sunday Night Football between the Eagles and the Giants. LeSean McCoy gained nearly 150 yards on 22 carries, mostly on runs outside the tackle which put the receivers in a position to be lead blockers for McCoy downfield. This is a role that Jackson is not committed too, and that doesn’t fly if you are going to play for Chip Kelly.

Jeremy Maclin, who the Eagles re-signed this off-season, has completely bought into Kelly’s philosophies and has done a great job of hustling on run plays and making key blocks downfield to help spring the running backs for additional yards.

Here is a play from last year against the Green Bay Packers. It was second down with nine yards to go as the Eagles were trying to run out the clock. Foles is going to keep the ball on a zone read. Jackson starts off the play by setting up for a screen, but then as the play turns into a run, he gives up. Foles ends up picking up the nine yards, but what should have been an easy gain for Foles turned into a difficult one because Jackson let his man free to go make a play.

Here is another play from the game against the Cowboys last year. Jackson isn’t even able to get a hand on the cornerback because of his lack of focus on this play, and the corner easily gets right by him.

Compare those plays to the following play from Sunday night. Maclin also begins the play setting up for a quick screen, but look what happens afterwards. Maclin doesn’t just sit back and jog around after his initial move, he quickly gets into position, focuses on what he has to do next, and makes a key block on the cornerback to allow McCoy to turn the corner and pick up a first down.

Here he is doing the same thing again on another run.

Maclin also made a key block against the Colts that helped spring Darren Sproles for a touchdown as well. Maclin begins the play by running a curl route option. After he sees the ball get handed to Sproles, he turns downfield to block the corner, and he’s able to seal off his man from getting a hand on Sproles.

Here’s another angle from that play so you can get a better look at how Maclin takes his man to the ground, preventing him from getting in on the play.

Another issue with Jackson’s blocking is that even when he does get involved, he’s not committed to finishing his block. Too many times he would (and still does) allow his man to get by him after giving him an initial shove. That’s not how you’re supposed to block. LeSean McCoy had a chance to turn the corner on this play from the Giants game last year, but since Jackson doesn’t try to lock his man up, he easily gets by him after the initial contact and tackles McCoy.

Compare that to the following efforts from Maclin. Look at how long Maclin holds his block for on this play. If not for that effort, this would have been a five yard gain at most. But thanks to Maclin securing his block, McCoy was able to get downfield after turning the corner and picked up the first down.

Here’s another one. Look at how Maclin drives his man to the sideline to give McCoy a clear path to turn downfield. Also notice Jordan Matthews’ awareness in the slot. He sees that the offensive linemen will be able to take care of the two defenders in front of him, so he sprints downfield to block the safety to help spring McCoy for additional yards.

Josh Huff and Riley Cooper were also a huge part of the run game success on Sunday night. On this play, their efforts helped Darren Sproles turn the corner and sprint downfield for a fifteen yard touchdown.

On this play, Huff again does a great job of sealing off his man, allowing McCoy to run downfield untouched until he gets to the safety.

The current core group of Eagles receivers get it. Maclin, Cooper, Matthews, and Huff all realize the importance of blocking and know that they aren’t getting paid to just catch passes. They are paid to be football players. They all have a selfless attitude and will do whatever it takes to help the team win games, and that’s why they are here.

All-22: Ground Game Finds Its Groove Against Giants

The Philadelphia Eagles running game got going early and often on Sunday night against the New York Giants. In his Monday afternoon press conference, head coach Chip Kelly said, “I’ve said it all along, it takes 11 guys to run the football.” What occurred on Sunday night is as true an example of that as you’ll find. The offensive linemen, tight ends, and wide receivers all did an excellent job of hitting their blocks and finishing them, and the running backs hit the holes and made plays in open space. The end result was that LeSean McCoy gained 149 yards on 22 carries (6.8 yards per attempt), and Darren Sproles gained 39 yards on 7 carries (5.6 yards per attempt) as they helped lead the Eagles to a 27-0 victory.

The coaching staff also did a great job of adding a few wrinkles to their plays, going under center a little more often to disguise the run direction, using some mis-direction runs, and running out of more two tight end sets than they did earlier in the year. Let’s go to the tape…

This play was the first of many mis-direction runs the Eagles ran on Sunday night. The offensive line blocks to the right and Foles initially shows a handoff to the right, but the run is actually going to the left. Look at how the offense gets the Giants defense going in the wrong direction. Brent Celek does an excellent job of sealing the edge against defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, and Josh Huff seals off his block against safety Quintin Demps. The result is an 18-yard gain for McCoy.

02 mccoy 18 yard run misdirection

The Eagles go mis-direction again on this play, creating a one-on-one opportunity in space against cornerback Trumaine McBride. McCoy jukes him to the outside, and a key block downfield by wide receiver Jeremy Maclin allows McCoy to turn the corner and pick up 15 yards and a first down.
03 mccoy 15 yard run maclin nice block

This next play shows the kind of big play opportunities that can open up in the pass game when the run game is working well. The Eagles line up in a three tight end set. They are also in an unbalanced line as they’ve moved right tackle Lane Johnson out to the left side next to Jason Peters, with tight end Brent Celek lined up as the right tackle. Pre-snap, this looks like a sure-fire run play, but it’s actually a play-action pass. The offensive line sells their run blocks, Foles fakes the handoff to McCoy, and tight end James Casey is left open streaking across the field as the Giants defenders are out of position to defend this play.
04 casey td

This next play isn’t a huge gain, but it’s another example of how the blocking by the wide receivers and tight ends was instrumental to the success of the run game against the Giants. Once again Brent Celek is one-on-one with Jason Pierre-Paul and once again he wins that blocking matchup. Wide receivers Riley Cooper and Jordan Matthews then come in to seal off the edge and allow McCoy to take the outside and pick up a 9-yard gain.
05 mccoy 9 yard run

The Eagles get a big gain on a sweep from the shotgun on this play. Todd Herremans and David Molk pull to the outside and take care of their men, and once again it’s the receivers leading the way downfield for McCoy after he turns the corner. Matthews shows great awareness in recognizing that Herremans and Molk are there to take care of the two defenders in front of them, so he heads downfield to block the safety. And that quick glimpse of two players on the left side of the screen as McCoy turns the corner is Jeremy Maclin blocking his man to the point that he’s almost taken him off the field.  I’d like to see Matthews improve on his technique on this type of play as Demps was still able to get a hold of McCoy to slow him down, but that’s something that can be worked on.
07 mccoy 28 yard gain

Darren Sproles scores on a 15-yard scamper on this sweep play. Once again, Celek is isolated against Jason Pierre-Paul and wins this blocking match-up. Celek impressed all night with blocks like this. There aren’t many tight ends in the NFL that can be matched up with a defensive end and constantly win that battle. Jason Peters and Molk pull to the outside to lead the way for Sproles. Peters clears out linebacker Jon Beason and Molk does his best Jason Kelce impression by getting downfield and crashing into safety Quintin Demps. Huff and Cooper also do a great job of sealing off their blocks, keeping their defenders from getting a hand on Sproles before he gets into the end zone.
08 sproles td

Here’s a look at the same play from the broadcast angle so you can see Huff and Cooper seal off their blocks. Look at how Huff hits his man, and then drives him to the left to help clear a lane for Molk to lead Sproles into.  Huff really impressed me with his blocking skills on Sunday night. When he got his hands on a defender, that defender was taken out of the play. Very impressive.
08a sproles td run huff and cooper block

Here is another single back mis-direction run, which is the same as the second play I showed in this post. This time McBride starts off in the box, and once again meets McCoy one-on-one on the outside. This time McCoy jukes him to the inside and Ertz does a great job of finishing his block on Demps to keep him from getting a hand on McCoy. At the end of the play, there is Maclin again blocking his man downfield which helps McCoy pick up an additional 10 yards on this play.
09 mccoy 18 yard gain

The last play I’ll show in this post is the failed reverse attempt to Josh Huff. Unfortunately, when Darren Sproles attempted to toss the ball to Huff, he hit his own left elbow and the ball fell to the ground. This play was set up perfectly though. Look at all of the open space Huff would have had in front of him had they been able to execute the handoff. You can be sure that we’ll be seeing this play again sometime in the near future.

10 huff reverseThat wraps up my review of the run game from Sunday night. The play calling, blocking, and running were about as perfect as you can get, and the result was a consistent ground game that picked up positive yards all game long. Out of the 29 combined carries between McCoy and Sproles, seven of them went for at least 10 yards. And just as importantly, only five of them went for one yard or less (and two of those came in the 4th quarter when the Eagles were already winning 27-0). What this means is that when they weren’t hitting big runs, they were still gaining positive yardage to put themselves in a good position for the next play.

The Eagles next game is against the Arizona Cardinals in two weeks. This will be a great test for the Eagles running game as the Cardinals have one of the best run defenses in the league. I think the Eagles are up for the challenge.

 

All-22: Front Seven Brings the Pressure Against the Rams

The front seven for the Philadelphia Eagles defense had their best game of the season this past Sunday against the St. Louis Rams. They racked up four sacks, forced and recovered three fumbles, and were in quarterback Austin Davis’ face for much of the day. Defensive coordinator Bill Davis did a good job of dialing up blitzes to free up rushers, and the players did an excellent job of executing and making plays when called upon. Let’s go to the tape…

On this play, Connor Barwin and Trent Cole run a stunt on the left side. Linebacker DeMeco Ryans initially looks like he’s going to blitz, but then ends up covering running back Benjamin Cunningham out of the backfield. This allows Fletcher Cox to be one on one with center Scott Wells as right guard Davin Joseph has his eyes on Ryans. Cole and Cox are able to get pressure up the middle, and this forces Davis to have to scramble to his left where Barwin is there waiting for him. Barwin then does an excellent job of breaking down in his stance and tripping up the athletic Davis for the sack.
01 barwin sack

Bill Davis does an excellent job of disguising a blitz on this play, which gives Vinny Curry a free path to Austin Davis. Cornerback Nolan Carroll shows blitz at the beginning of the play and takes a jab step forward before dropping back into coverage. This leaves Curry unblocked on a free rush from the outside. The Rams have five blockers to match up with the Eagles five rushers, but center Scott Wells ends up blocking no one on this play because he was fooled by the fake blitz of Carroll. Curry finishes the play by attacking the throwing arm of Davis, knocking the ball loose for a fumble which Fletcher Cox recovers.
02 curry sack fumble

Here is a close-up of Curry sacking Davis. Look at how he gets his left hand to the ball to knock it out of Davis’ hand. That is an amazing display of hand-eye coordination.
02a curry attack ball

On this next play, Trent Cole gets a strip-sack of his own. Cole uses his speed and athleticism to explode by left tackle Jake Long with an inside move. Like Curry, Cole does a great job of attacking the throwing hand of Davis while making the tackle. This forces a fumble which gets recovered in the end zone by Cedric Thornton for a touchdown.
03 cole sack fumble

Here is a close-up of the sack so you can see how Cole gets his right hand to the ball to knock it out of Davis’ hand for the fumble. Once again, another great display of hand-eye coordination.
03a cole attack ball

Malcolm Jenkins comes free on this blitz as once again Bill Davis does a good job of scheming to confuse the Rams offensive line. The Rams and Eagles have an even number of rushers and blockers, but the left side of the Rams offensive line ends up having two players blocking one. This leaves Jenkins unblocked. While he doesn’t get the sack, he forces Davis to have to throw this ball before he wants to and off his back foot and the result is an incomplete pass.
04 jenkins blitz incomplete

Connor Barwin ends up being left unblocked on this play and is able to bat this ball down as we’ve seen him do so many times since he was signed last season.
05 barwin bat ball

This play is from the last play of the game. It’s fourth down with 13 yards to go. Billy Davis dials up a blitz that gives the Eagles seven rushers to the Rams six blockers. Cornerback Brandon Boykin ends up being left unblocked as he races towards Austin Davis. This forces Davis to have to throw this ball up for grabs downfield, and it falls incomplete. This was a good aggressive play call from Bill Davis to end the game.
06 last play boykin blitz

Getting pressure will be key in the Eagles upcoming game against the New York Giants. Eli Manning is dangerous when he has a clean pocket, and with the Giants new look West Coast Offense, he’s been getting rid of the ball more quickly than ever. Manning still has a penchant for turning the ball over in the face of pressure though, so if the Eagles are able to pressure Manning like they did Davis, they could force him to make some ill-advised throws.

All-22: Run Game Woes Continue Against San Francisco

The Eagles’ run game troubles continued against San Francisco on Sunday as LeSean McCoy was held to just 17 yards on 10 carries. After reviewing the game film, the biggest problem that stood out to me was that on almost every running play, someone lost a one on one blocking battle which resulted in either the hole collapsing or, even worse, a defender getting into the backfield. In this week’s All-22 review, I’ll break down eight of McCoy’s 10 carries from Sunday and show what went wrong.

This first play was probably the one run from Sunday in which I thought the blockers actually did a good job, and McCoy might have made the wrong choice by bouncing this run to the outside as opposed to running north-south and hitting the hole hard.
01 mccoy bounce outside

This next play is an inside run. The Niners have six men in the box to match up with the Eagles’ six blockers. So the Eagles have the proper numbers on this play to make for a successful run. Left guard Matt Tobin is going to pull to the right to lead the way for McCoy, but the play breaks down as center David Molk and right guard Dennis Kelly fail to create a surge on their blocks. Tight end Brent Celek also fails to get good leverage and positioning on this block as his man gets inside to make the tackle.
02 mccoy inside no room

This next play is an outside zone run to the right. The Niners have seven men in the box, but Foles can freeze the unblocked defender on the left, so once again the Eagles will have six blockers matched up against six defenders. Molk and Kelly are going to start off with a combo block on defensive end Ray McDonald, and then Kelly is supposed to get off the block and get to the second level to block linebacker Michael Wilhoite. However, Kelly trips and falls on his way there leaving Wilhoite unblocked. This forces McCoy to have to bounce this run to the outside for no gain.

04 mccoy run kelly fall down

On this play, once again the Eagles and Niners have even numbers in the box. The offensive line does their job and opens up a nice hole for McCoy, but safety Antoine Bethea comes down to fill the hole and McCoy is unable to shake him. Credit has to be given to Bethea as well as he does an excellent job of wrapping up McCoy and bringing him down. Thanks to Bethea’s play, what could have been an extra yardage play for the Birds turned into a five yard gain. It should be noted that Bethea had a great game on Sunday and was around the ball at all times. McCoy had a few one on one opportunities with him but was unable to make him miss, which is uncommon to see.
05 mccoy hole bethea nice tackle

On the following play, it looks like there was some miscommunication between Jason Peters and Matt Tobin as they allow Justin Smith to get into the backfield untouched. This forces McCoy to have to abandon the play and try to cut back across the field to get back to the line of scrimmage. 06 mccoy run justin smith untouched

This next off-tackle run was set up nicely and looked like it had a chance to go for big yardage. Justin Smith crashes inside and takes himself out of the play which plays perfectly into the Eagles’ hands. Dennis Kelly is able to get to the second level to block linebacker Patrick Willis, and it looks like the Eagles are going to be able to spring McCoy to the second level untouched. However, Zach Ertz is unable to hold his block against linebacker Dan Skuta, as Skuta throws Ertz down to the ground and makes the tackle on McCoy. Once again, this play goes for five yards but had a chance for so much more if Ertz had been able to win his one on one battle with Skuta.
07 mccoy run ertz missed block

The Niners stack the box on this run, and there are multiple problems with it from the start. As you can see before the play, Bethea is calling out the direction of the run, so right from the start the defense is ready for this play. Matt Tobin then allows defensive end Demarcus Dobbs to get by him and bring down McCoy in the backfield for a four yard loss. Even if Tobin would have made his block, this run still wouldn’t have been successful because there were other breakdowns in the play. Once again, Ertz can’t hold his block against Skuta as Skuta sends him to the ground. Also, Patrick Willis shoots the gap on this play, which prevents Kelly from being able to get to the second level to block him. So Willis and Skuta would have been waiting in the hole for McCoy regardless. An audible may have been a good idea on this one as the Niners knew what play was coming.
08 mccoy run tobin missed block

McCoy gains five yards on this run, but it should have had a chance for more. Once again the Eagles have six blockers to six defenders. Kelly is going to pull to his left and then lead the way for McCoy downfield. However, when he goes to block Willis, he doesn’t get great positioning on him. I think McCoy was expecting Kelly to hit Willis square on, but Kelly ends up being on the side of him which forces McCoy to have to make a jump cut to the outside. Had Kelly gotten in front of Willis, he would have been able to seal off the hole and McCoy would have had a one on one opportunity with Bethea for a chance at a big gain.
09 mccoy run kelly missed block

That does it for this week’s All-22 review. The Eagles will look to get their ground game going this Sunday as they host the 1-2 Saint Louis Rams. Lane Johnson is back from his four-game suspension which will bode well for the depleted offensive line and allow Todd Herramans to move back to right guard. I’d look for head coach Chip Kelly to use a good amount of unbalanced line formations with Johnson lined up next to Peters to try to get something going on the ground.

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