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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Philadelphia Eagles vs Detroit Lines All-22 Film Review

What a game, what a game, WHAT A GAME!  I’ll keep this short and sweet and let you know up front that there won’t be much “analysis” going into this week’s All-22 review. I can’t even use any film from the first half since the snow was so bad it was hard to even make out who was who while watching it. So what I have done here is take 5 big runs from the monstrous 4th quarter the Eagles put up and will show them here from the endzone view so you can see how the line opened up the holes they did.

In the first half, I felt that Chip Kelly was calling too many east/west runs for the weather conditions. I think what we saw in the 4th quarter was a combination of the following things: Kelly calling more north/south runs, McCoy hitting the hole harder, and the offensive line getting a great push and wearing down the Detroit Lions’ defensive line. In a game in these types of conditions, it’s all about momentum. Once you can get a solid push on the guy you are blocking, it’s very hard for that player to recover and stop you from pushing him backwards. I also think that in this game, you saw the difference in conditioning between the Eagles and the Lions. When the ground is covered in snow like that, it makes it that much harder to move and you have to exert extra strength and take extra strides to move the same distance you normally would. And I think that played a big factor into why by the 4th quarter, the Eagles’ offensive and defensive lines were able to win the battle in the trenches.

First up is McCoy’s 40 yard touchdown run. Todd Herramins does a great job of clearing Ndamukong Suh out of the hole, and Lane Johnson does a great job of getting to the second level and putting a block on linebacker Stephen Tulloch, and Shady does the rest on this 40 yard TD scamper.
McCoy 40 yard TD run on Make A Gif

Next up is McCoy’s 57 yard TD run a few minutes later. The line again does a great job of opening up a running lane for McCoy, and this time Jason Avant makes a great block downfield to spring Shady for this 57 yard TD.
McCoy 57 yd td run on Make A Gif

This next play is just ridiculous. Check out some of the jump cuts McCoy makes on this run. It’s like someone forgot to tell him that it had just snowed 6″. I literally have no idea how he was able to keep his footing on this run.
McCoy 25 yard run on Make A Gif

Nick Foles decides to get into the action on this next one, as he takes this read option keeper for a 20 yard gain.

Foles read option on Make A Gif

Next up is Chris Polk’s 38 yard TD run to put the game out of reach and take a 34-20 lead. Tight end James Casey does a great job of getting across the line and putting a block on Lions’ safety Louis Delmas to seal off the weakside for Polk.
Polk TD run on Make A Gif

And finally we end with the 4th and 12 yard play to ice the game (no pun intended). This play is a simple read.  Foles has two options on this play, handoff to Chris Polk, or throw the seam route to Brent Celek. On this play, Foles reads the safety, and if the safety stays back, he hands off to Polk, if the safety bites on the run fake, then throw it to Celek. As you’ll see below, the safety comes in, making this an easy choice for Foles to make an easy touch pass to Celek to end the game.

Celek catch game ender

Good teams find ways to win no matter the circumstance or conditions, and that’s what the Eagles did on Sunday. And with Dallas losing to Chicago on Monday night, the Eagles are now in sole possession of first place in the NFC East as they travel out to Minnesota for next week’s game against the Vikings.

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
McCoy wheel route on Make A Gif

43 yard screen pass to Brent Celek

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

celek screen_1st and 10

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.
Celek Screen Pass on Make A Gif

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
D Jackson deep corner on Make A Gif
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).
KF8kJS on Make A Gif, Animated Gifs

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.
AsZF0d on Make A Gif, Animated GifsyzbWin on Make A Gif, Animated Gifs
Lw2MZ5 on Make A Gif, Animated Gifs
VvAus0 on Make A Gif, Animated Gifs
kUOrJF on Make A Gif, Animated Gifs

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.
 photo readoption01_zps5243fa69.jpg

 photo readoption02_zps64c28b63.jpg

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.

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.
Posted Image

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:
Posted Image

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.