Eagles’ Front 7 Getting the Job Done Against the Redskins in Week 11

Don’t be fooled by the box score and the amount of yards the Eagles’ defense gave up this game.  While it wasn’t a complete and all out domination for 60 minutes, the defense, and specifically the front 7, made some big stops at key moments in the game to help lead the Eagles to victory. Here are some of the highlights:

Brandon Graham knifing through the offensive line to tackle Alfred Morris for a 3 yard loss.Graham 3 yard loss

Bennie Logan showing great agility to meet Alfred Morris in the hole and stuff him for a 1 yard loss.Logan 1 yard loss

Connor Barwin with a huge sack and fumble in the redzone.Barwin Sack Fumble

Fletcher Cox and Connor Barwin with a huge stop on 3rd and 2. Cox does a great job here of fighting off his block and filling what could have been a nice hole for Morris to run through.Fletcher Cox 3rd and 2 stop

Najee Goode with a sack on Griffin.Goode sack

Trent Cole with a sack on Griffin. He does a great job here of knocking left tackle Trent Williams’ arms away, preventing Williams from getting his hands to his chest.Cole sack

Cedric Thornton getting a great push against the run, stopping Morris for a 1 yard loss on 2nd and 1. I pause the clip midway through, take a look at how he surges at the end to push the offensive lineman back into Morris once he sees Morris trying to cut back.Thornton penetration

Vinny Curry getting a good jump off the snap and getting into the backfield, forcing Morris to have to cut back into the teeth of the defense. Curry also gets a hand of his jersey, slowing him up a bit. The line of scrimmage is at the 25 yard line. When Curry forces Morris to cut up field, he’s at around the 21 yard line, 4 yards deep into the backfield.Curry penetration

Great to see the front 7 playing aggressive, swarming to the ball, and making plays.  Enjoy the week off fellas, you’ve earned it.


Anatomy of a Play: Week 11 vs. the Washington Redskins

As this blog is brand new, this will be the first of what I plan on making a weekly segment titled “Anatomy of a Play”. In these segments, I’ll analyze a few key plays from the Eagles game using the All-22 coach’s film and show how and why the play developed the way it did, and try to show you things that may not have been made aware during the live broadcast of the game. In this week’s edition of Anatomy of a Play, I’ll analyze three offensive plays from the week 11 matchup against the Washington Redskins.  Here we go…

49 yard pass to LeSean McCoy on a Wheel Route

On this play, a simple wheel route turns into a 49 yard play due to the Eagles offense exploiting a mismatch in the Redskins defense. Here is a diagram of the play. McCoy wheel route_1st and 10

The route in red is McCoy’s. I have the other players’ routes in green and the Redskins assignments in yellow.  As you can see below, the Redskins are in man coverage, with one deep safety, but he is on the other side of the field from where McCoy runs his route. Furthermore, the Redskins have outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan matched up 1 on 1 with McCoy, that’s a huge mismatch for the Eagles to exploit. And as you can tell, there is going to be nothing but wide open space for McCoy to run his route.  Foles hits him perfectly in stride which allows him to run for an additional 32 yards after he catches this pass.

Here is the play in motion
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43 yard screen pass to Brent Celek

This big play is the result of a great play design and perfect execution.

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The player circled in red is Brent Celek. The three offensive linemen with red lines are (from right to left) Jason Peters, Evan Mathis, and Jason Kelce.  These are the three linemen who are going to go out to block for the screen.  The play starts by having Bryce Brown go in motion (shown in blue) which draws London Fletcher with him, clearing out the middle of the field.  Peters, Mathis, and Kelce do an excellent job of selling their blocks and waiting until the last moment to go out and block for the screen, which prevents the Redskins’ defensive linemen from sniffing this play out.

Here is the play in motion.  Watch in the middle as I pause the clip and circle Todd Herramins who lays an excellent crack-back block on a defensive linemen who might have had a chance of tackling Celek from behind.
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19 yard pass to Desean Jackson on a Corner Route

This last play was not a huge play like the other two, but I wanted to highlight it because it really was a perfect pass by Nick Foles in difficult coverage, and it was on 3rd down with 11 yards to go.  Here is the diagram of the play.Djax deep out_3rd and 11

Jackson’s route is in red, with the other receiver’s routes in blue.  Washington is playing a zone defense on this play.  As you’ll see from the following clip, to complete this pass, Nick Foles has to throw this ball over the hands of the outside cornerback but put enough zip on it and throw it with such precise timing that it gets to Jackson before the safety can get there. If this ball had been late or underthrown, it is at risk at being intercepted. But Foles throws it with perfect timing and accuracy and completes it to Jackson for a 19 yard gain.  Here is the play in motion
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Well that’s it for this week’s edition of Anatomy of a Play.  Hope you enjoyed it and have a great bye week!

Inside the Numbers: YAC YAC YAC

Yards after the catch, otherwise known as YAC.  It’s an important stat in any offense and it’s a staple of the Chip Kelly offense. It’s one of the main reasons why the Eagles lead the NFL in the amount of 20+ yard pass plays with 56.  The next closest team is the Denver Broncos who have 46 passing plays of 20 yards or more (The Eagles also lead the NFL with 16 passing plays of 40 yards or more). Getting good YAC is a sign of 3 things: a) A quality play design which results in a player having the opportunity to catch the ball in space, b) An accurately thrown pass that hits the intended target in stride and allows the player to run after the catch, and c) The intended target being able to haul in the catch while maintaining his speed and being able to make a play once the ball is in his hands. The Eagles got a ton of all three on Sunday vs. the Redskins and it was a big factor in their explosive offensive output.

Nick Foles completed 17 of 26 passes on Sunday for 298 yards.  Of those 298 yards, 178 of them came as a result of yards gained after the catch.  That’s nearly 60% of his total output. Furthermore, 178 yards on 17 completions comes out to 10.5 YAC per completion.  That’s a lot of YAC.

Some of these plays came as a result of properly timed and executed screen passes which caught the defense off guard, such as the 24 yard screen to Bryce Brown and the 43 yard screen to Brent Celek. Other plays came as a result of accurate throws by Foles which allowed his receivers to pick up chunks of yards after the catch, such as the 26 yard pass to Desean Jackson (24 yards gained after the catch), the 16 yard catch by Zach Ertz (12 yards gained after the catch). and the 49 yard pass play to LeSean McCoy shown below (32 yards gained after the catch).
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Bonus Stat

Nick Foles has been performing very well against the blitz this year, consistently finding the open man and making teams pay for sending additional rushers.  Sunday was no exception.  The Redskins blitzed Foles 10 times.  Of those 10 blitz attempts, Foles completed 5 of 8 passes for 104 yards (13 yards per attempt), ran once for 7 yards, and was sacked once.  He would have completed 6 passes but Zach Ertz dropped a pass that would have gone for a first down.  4 of his 5 completions went for first downs, and on the play where he ran for 7 yards, he picked up a first down.  So out of the Redskins’ 10 blitz attempts, the Eagles picked up a first down on half of them.

As a defense, when you blitz it’s a battle of risk vs reward, and you hope that the reward of forcing the offense into a negative play (ie sack, incomplete pass, interception) outweighs the risk (giving up a big play, first down, touch down).  On Sunday, the Eagles won that battle.

Extra Point

Bonus points to me for resisting the urge to name this segment “YACkety YAC, don’t talk back”.

Key Matchups for Week 11 vs. Washington Redskins

It’s been 10 weeks since the Philadelphia Eagles took the Washington Redskins by surprise with their new offensive scheme, putting up 33 points of offense in just over 31 minutes of game time.  This Sunday is a date that I’m sure every Redskins player and coach has had circled on their calendars since then.  Some things have changed for both teams since the season opener.  For the Redskins, their offense is starting to come back to life as Robert Griffin III continues to shake off the rust stemming from his off-season recovery from knee surgery, and Alfred Morris is finding his stride as he’s averaged 112 yards and 5.1 yards per carry over the past 4 games.

For the Eagles, Nick Foles is now the quarterback and is on an incredible hot streak, Riley Cooper has emerged as a serious playmaker, and the defense is starting to find its groove as they’ve held their last 6 opponents to 21 points or less. Neither team can afford to head into this game thinking they are going to see the same team they saw in Week 1.

Here’s a look at two key matchups heading into the rematch between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Washington Redskins.

LeSean McCoy vs. Redskins’ Linebackers and Defensive Backs

This first one is not a 1 on 1 matchup, because frankly, you can’t tackle Shady McCoy with simply 1 defensive player.  The Redskins tried that in Week 1 and the results were dreadful for them as missed tackles lead to huge gains for Shady.  McCoy had 31 carries for 184 yards (5.9 ypc) in that week 1 game.  On 8 of those 31 carries, McCoy was able make a defender miss and pick up additional yards.  84 additional yards to be exact.  That’s over 10 yards per missed tackle, and is a sign of a team not swarming to the ball.  4 of those missed tackles lead to first downs, while 1 of them lead to a 34 yard touchdown (27 yards gained after the missed tackle). Now, I know it’s been 10 weeks, so here’s a few clips of McCoy making defenders look silly to refresh your memory and get your palette wet for Sunday’s game.
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Ok, are you back with me?  Good. A big part of the reason the Redskins had so much trouble with the Eagles run game in week 1 is that for a majority of the game, their defense played with 2 deep safeties.  This is an absolute no-no when facing a Chip Kelly offense.  Since Kelly likes to run a lot out of spread formations (mostly shotgun with 1 tight end and 3 wide receivers), playing with 2 deep safeties opens up too many opportunities in the run game as the defense becomes too spread out to be able to swarm to the ball effectively.  It also opens up easy opportunities for the Eagles to run their basic read option play, where the 3 options are 1) handoff to the RB, 2) seam route to the TE in the middle of the field, and 3) bubble screen to the slot receiver.

When a defense plays with 2 deep safeties against this read option play, it forces their 2 linebackers to have to guard against the run AND a pass to the tight end at the same time.  If a linebacker goes to cover the tight end, it leaves 5 guys in the box which opens up huge lanes for the runningback.  If both linebackers stay in the box, then the tight end will be open on the seam route for an easy pass, such as what happened on this play from week 1 which resulted in a 28 yard pass to Brent Celek.
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And here’s what happened when one of the linebackers went to cover the tight end, leaving only one linebacker in the box to guard against the run. photo 03_zps0d5d6897.jpg

You could drive a truck through this hole. photo 04_zpsb49e9b66.jpg

So look for the Redskins to bring one safety closer to the line of scrimmage this week and play him over the tight end, which will allow the two inside linebackers to keep their attention focused on LeSean McCoy and the run game. And if the Redskins want to stand a chance against the Eagles tomorrow, then they’re going to have to do a much better job of swarming to the ball and paying much more attention to McCoy than they did in the week 1 matchup. This should open up some big opportunities in the passing game, which brings me to my second key matchup of the day…

Riley Cooper vs. Josh Wilson/David Amerson

Despite Riley Cooper’s recent emergence, Desean Jackson will still be the Redskins’ primary concern in the passing game.  And with only one safety playing deep, Jackson will undoubtedly draw double coverage more often than not.  This will leave Riley Cooper single covered for a good portion of the day like he has been in recent weeks.  Cooper has been a key cog in the Eagles offensive explosion these past few weeks (in addition to the obvious key player in Nick Foles who has thrown 16 touchdowns and 0 interceptions so far) as defenses have been daring the Eagles to beat them by throwing to Cooper. And the Eagles and Cooper have been doing just that. In the past 5 weeks, Cooper has caught 20 passes for 462 yards (23.1 yards/catch) and 6 touchdowns and has shown that he can make teams pay when he’s left single covered.

The 6’3″ Cooper has a 6″ height advantage over the 5’9″ Josh Wilson.  If Wilson is matched up against Cooper in single coverage, look for the Eagles to try to take advantage of this early and force the Redskins to make an adjustment to their defense. Because of this height difference, the Redskins may look to put 6’1″ rookie cornerback David Amerson on Riley Cooper.  While he is most likely a better matchup from a physical standpoint, he’s also a rookie.  And we all saw what Riley Cooper did to rookie D.J. Hayden (who was the 12th overall pick of this years draft) two weeks ago in Oakland.

It will be interesting to see what adjustments the Redskins make to try to slow down the Eagles offense, and it will be even more interesting to see what Chip Kelly comes up with to exploit their adjustments.

If Jason Peters can’t go on Sunday, Allen Barbre is More Than Ready to Step In

During the first quarter of the game against the Packers, All-Pro left tackle Jason Peters had to leave the game with an injury.  He tried to come back in to the game, and on his first play back, he injured his leg and was out for good.

Enter Allen Barbre.  An unheralded journeyman lineman on his third team in five years who has started only seven games in his entire career.  But none of that mattered on Sunday.  On Sunday against the Packers, he filled Peters’ shoes and then some.  Aside from an early holding penalty call on a Byrce Brown run, he played an excellent game.  He did not get beat once in pass protection, and he made some monster blocks and showed a mean streak in the run game, including multiple plays where he pancaked Clay Matthews, putting him on his back.  Here is a look at some of his key blocks this past Sunday:

His first play of the game was where Nick Foles hit Desean Jackson for a 55 yard touchdown (Foles got a lucky bounce on this play off of the defender but that’s neither here nor there).

Here is a look at the formation from behind the line. Barbre is circled in red

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Barbre is going to start out this play by double teaming #96 Mike Neal.  But then watch as he locates the safety, #43 M.D. Jennings blitzing from the outside and quickly moves back to shove him downfield, allowing Nick Foles to step up in the pocket and deliver his throw.

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In this next play, Barbre puts a great block on outside linebacker Clay Matthews, allowing LeSean McCoy to get to the outside and turn the corner.  In this play the Eagles came out in an unbalanced line, and have Barbre lined up on the right side of the ball as a tight end outside of right tackle Lane Johnson.

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And here is the play in motion:
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On this running play, Barbre is going to start out with a double team on outside linebacker #53 Nick Perry.  He then quickly gets off the block and heads upfield to put a hat on cornerback #38 Tramon Williams, shoving him back a good 5 yards and opening up a hole for McCoy to run behind for a 7 yard gain.

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These next two plays are just silly. In the first run, he throws outside linebacker Nick Perry to the ground on an outside run, allowing Byrce Brown to get to the sideline and turn the corner.  The Eagles are again in an unbalanced line with Barbre lined up as a tight end on the right side of the line.

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Look at how he finished his block on this play as he throws Perry to the ground.
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And on this play, watch how Barbre throws Clay Matthews to the ground like a rag doll as Nick Foles scrambles downfield.  Matthews had to play the game with 1 hand completely taped up like a club, but 1 hand or not, that is a 250 pound 4 time pro bowler that Barbre is tossing around.
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So have no fear Eagles fans, if Jason Peters can’t go this Sunday, we are in good hands with Allen Barbre.


Chip Kelly: He’s Playing Chess While His Opponents are Playing Checkers

One thing that Chip Kelly has done an excellent job of in the passing game, is anticipating how the defense is going to play us on a certain situation, and dialing up a play to exploit their set up.  At times, this causes their defense to be in a situation where they have a lone defender having to cover two people at once.

An example of that from the Green Bay game was the deep post route that Nick Foles connect with Riley Cooper on for a touchdown.  Here is a diagram of that play:cooper diagram

We run a playaction on this play that sucks the 2 linebackers in.  Brent Celek blocks on the right side of the line to sell the fake.  After the fake, Bryce Brown continues to run to the flat, where the safety has to pick him up.  Zach Ertz runs across the field behind the line of scrimmage which draws the nickle back in to make sure he isn’t going out for a pass.

We only had 2 downfield routes on this play.  DeSean Jackson runs an intermediate crossing route, and Cooper runs a deep post.  Jackson beats his man to the inside and is open running across the field, and since the playaction caused the linebackers to take their first steps towards the line, there is plenty of room to drop a pass in over their heads to Jackson.  Meanwhile, Cooper has inside position on his man as he runs downfield.

The deep safety now has a conundrum.  If he drops back in coverage to provide over the top help for Cooper, he’ll leave Jackson wide open across the middle, and if he comes up to help cover Jackson, then the cornerback has no inside deep help for Cooper. The safety ends up taking his first few steps towards Jackson, which is all the movement Foles needs to be able to put the ball in space for Cooper to run under.  As the safety tries to turn around and head back towards the endzone, it’s too late and he’s unable to get to the ball.

Now, the throw wasn’t perfect.  A perfect throw would have gone a few yards into the endzone so that Cooper wouldn’t have to take such a hard angle at the last second and make a diving catch, but it was thrown in the perfect spot horizontally, which doesn’t allow the CB to catch up to it, and doesn’t allow the safety to recover and make a play on the ball.

Here is a picture from the All-22 film just as Foles is about to throw the ball downfield.  As you’ll see, had the safety dropped back to provide over the top help for Cooper, Jackson would have been wide open for an easy throw that could have turned into a big gain.
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This next play is the corner route touchdown pass to Riley Cooper.  We again run playaction which draws the linebackers in.  Brent Celek runs across the field behind the line to then block the edge rusher on the right side of the field.

The outside corners are in man coverage. Jeff Maehl is going to run a deep post route, taking his man with him.  Desean Jackson is going to run a circle route, taking his man with him while also occupying the safety on that side of the field.

The nickle corner over Cooper is playing a short zone, he’s going to release Cooper to the safety behind him, and then he’s going to start running towards LeSean McCoy in the flat.  This is where the fun begins.

The safety is now 1 on 1 with Cooper and he has absolutely no inside help.  Cooper is going to run a fake slant route, and then cut to the outside and run a corner route.  He does an excellent job of selling the slant route, causing the safety to bite and take a few steps forward, and when Cooper makes his cut, the safety is completely off balance and out of position to recover, leaving Cooper wide open for an easy pitch and catch.

Here is the diagram of the play:
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And here is the All-22 picture, showing the point at which Cooper is running his fake slant route and about to turn it into a corner route. With Jeff Maehl taking his man with him on the deep post route, there will be nothing but open space for Foles to throw too for Cooper’s corner route as the safety bites on the fake slant.
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Plays like these are why the Eagles currently lead the entire NFL in plays of 20 yards, 30 yards, and 40 yards.