All-22 Review: Philadelphia Eagles vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

Welcome back to the NFL regular season Eagles fans. Here at Inside The Eagles, I’ll be providing you with
All-22 recaps of each game every week. To any new fans here, welcome and I hope you enjoy the analysis provided. To my loyal followers, welcome back. Let’s get started.

The Eagles came away with a 34-17 win against the Jacksonville Jaguars in week one it what could best be described as an erratic and up and down performance. Miscues on defense and missed opportunities on offense made this game much closer than it should have been (and that’s saying something considering the Eagles won by 17 points). I’ll start off with the negative plays and then finish with the positive plays to show how the Eagles came away with the win.

Offensively, quarterback Nick Foles did not look comfortable early on and just did not look like he was seeing the field clearly as he took a few bad sacks. The Jaguars played zone defense on a majority of the Eagles’ passing plays, and I think that caught Foles and the coaching staff off guard as they may have been expecting to see more man coverage. Playing so much zone defense can be a risky proposition against the Eagles’ high tempo offense. With plays being run so quickly, it forces the defensive players to really be on the ball and focused. With a zone defense, one guy being in the wrong spot can result in a huge play being given up. That happened multiple times this game, it just so happens that the Eagles weren’t able to capitalize on all of them. Here were a few instances where the Eagles left big plays on the field.

This first play comes from midway through the first quarter. A blown assignment results in wide receiver Jeremy Maclin running free downfield, but Foles doesn’t see him and ends up taking a bad sack and fumbling the ball.
02 Foles fumble maclin open

On this next play, Foles is able to freeze linebacker Geno Hayes with a playaction fake, but then is off the mark on his throw to wide receiver Jordan Matthews who gets open on a deep slant.
04 foles misses matthews

This next play comes from the third quarter. Once again Maclin is going to be open on a fly route, but Foles doesn’t pull the trigger. To make matters worse, Cooper ends up being left completely uncovered as Foles scrambles to his left. The end result is a five yard pass to runningback LeSean McCoy, but it could have been much more.
08 maclin and cooper open

Now onto some positive plays. The Eagles went back to the same play I showed above where Foles missed Matthews on the deep slant. This time, it’s linebacker Telvin Smith who bites on the playaction fake, opening up a throwing lane for Foles to hit Matthews right in stride for a 30 yard gain. Unfortunately, this drive ended with Foles throwing an interception in the red zone.
05 foles hits matthews

With the Eagles trailing 17-0 early in the third quarter, a Darren Sproles 49 yard touchdown run sparked their comeback. This play highlighted the importance of the Eagles’ versatility on offense as well as showed why defending against a high tempo offense can be so difficult. On the play leading up to Sproles’ touchdown run, it was third down and nine to go. The Jaguars were in a nickle package to defend against the pass. The Eagles ran a screen pass to Sproles which resulted in an eight yard gain, setting up a fourth and one. The Eagles immediately got lined up without subbing, meaning that the Jaguars could not sub out of their nickle package. So now it’s fourth down and one yard to go and the Eagles have called a run right up the middle. The Jaguars are left defending a short yardage run play with the same package of players that were on the field to defend against a third and long situation. This puts them at a huge disadvantage because offensively, the Eagles have no problem running an inside zone run with the same package of players that was on the field for third down. To make matters even worse for the Jaguars, not only do not they not have a package on the field suitable for the situation, but the Jaguars coaches had little time to get a play in to their defense and the defenders have little time to get properly lined up as only 15 seconds elapsed from the time Sproles was tackled to the time that the Eagles offense was lined up to run the next play. Here is the play:
06 sproles td run

The Eagles made it a three point game on the very next drive when Foles hit tight end Zach Ertz on a seam route for a 25 yard touchdown on 3rd down. Ertz runs his route straight downfield getting in between linebackers Paul Posluszny and Telvin Smith, and Foles does a good job with the timing of his throw to drop it into Ertz before the safeties can make a play on the ball.
07 ertz TD

This next play lead to the Eagles tying up the game on a 51-yard field goal from rookie kicker Cody Parkey. Foles is able to freeze linebacker Posluszny with a play-action fake just long enough to open up a throwing lane as Ertz runs his seam route downfield splitting linebackers Posluszny and LaRoy Reynolds. The result is a 26-yard gain that puts the Eagles in field goal range.
09 ertz playaction

On the Eagles’ first play of their very next drive, they run a play very similar to the one shown above (albeit from a slightly different formation). Once again the play starts off with a play-action fake and Zach Ertz is going to run a seam route with Maclin running a fly route next to him. The Jaguars are in zone defense with safety Chris Prosinski as the single high safety. As he sees the play develop, he charges forward towards Ertz thinking that the play is going to him again. By doing this, he abandons his deep coverage responsibility, and Maclin is left uncovered as he runs down the field. The result is a 68-yard touchdown pass.
10 maclin td

Defensively, things started off a little shaky for the Eagles. The offense didn’t do the defense any favors by turning the ball over in their own zone, but the defense still allowed two 20+ yard touchdowns to undrafted free agent receiver Allen Hurns.

This play is the first touchdown pass to Allen Hurns. As Hurns runs downfield and gets into his post route, cornerback Cary Williams takes an outside position and it looks as if he’s expecting safety Nate Allen to have deep help to the inside. However, Allen steps forward to cut off tight end Mercedes Lewis on an out route, which opens up a window downfield for quarterback Chad Henne to lead Hurns to the end zone for the touchdown.
01 allen deep TD

Two plays after the Eagles turned the ball over for the second time in their own zone, Henne connects with Hurns again for a 21-yard touchdown. Safety Malcolm Jenkins is going to move to his left after the snap as he’s reading the bubble screen to the slot receiver, however this opens up a window for Henne to throw to Hurns on a deep slant route, and Hurns picks up some yards after the catch to get into the endzone.
03 jenkins bites on td

The Eagles’ defense settled down as they only allowed three more points for the rest of the game, and this played a huge part in their come from behind victory. One of the key factors to the defense’s success for the rest of the game was their ability to get off the field on third down. This was an area they struggled with in 2013 so it was good to see them show some early improvements here. The Eagles were able to stymie the Jaguars on third down as they stopped them from picking up a first down on 12 of their 14 third down tries. Here are a few third down plays from the game.

This first play comes from late in the first quarter on a third down and ten. Safety Nate Allen is going to come on a blitz, and Trent Cole (lined up as a defensive end on this play) is going to fake a rush but then drop back into coverage. Cole does an excellent job of selling the rush, causing left tackle Luke Joeckel to completely miss Allen as he runs by. Allen is able to get to Henne and knock the ball out of his hands which goes into the stat book as a nine-yard sack.
def 01 allen sack

The Eagles defense stops running back Toby Gerhart from converting this play on third and one. Nose tackle Benny Logan does a great job of holding his ground and linebacker Conner Barwin does a an excellent job of crashing into tight end Mercedes Lewis, pushing him into the backfield to clog up the hole.
def 02 3rd down stop

The Eagles were able to stop the Jaguars from converting another third-and-one in the second quarter. Newly acquired defensive end Brandon Bair does an excellent job of holding the point of attack on this play as he’s being blocked by two offensive linemen. Bair not only holds his ground against two blockers on this play, but actually surges through and ends up making the tackle with linebacker DeMeco Ryans coming in at the end to clean up any mess.
def 03 blair stop on 3rd and 1

That does it for this week’s All-22 review. The Eagles head to Indianapolis for a Monday night showdown this week as the Colts look to rebound from their week one loss to the Denver Broncos. Be sure to check in during the week for my All-22 review of that game. You can also click the “follow” button on the right side of this page and you will get an email notification when it is up.

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Nick Foles and the Art of Throwing Receivers Open

As a quarterback in the NFL, timing is extremely important when it comes to completing a pass. When a defender is in tight coverage, there is a small window of opportunity for the quarterback to be able to get the ball to his receiver. This window opens up immediately after the receiver makes his cut and creates separation from the defender, and then begins to close rather quickly as the defender recovers and gets back into position to make a play on the ball. This is where timing and anticipation come in. If the quarterback is able to begin his windup just as the receiver is beginning to make his cut and is able to put the ball in a spot that allows the receiver to catch it in stride as he is coming out of his break, the result will be a completed pass, even if the defender had great coverage on the play. If the quarterback waits too long to deliver the football, that window of opportunity may have already been shut and now the defender is able to make a play on the ball and break up the pass. For the folks watching the game at home, the play looks like a simple case of great coverage and a great play made by the defender. For the coaches and players reviewing the game film afterwards, this was a missed opportunity for positive yardage.

The act of being able to properly time and anticipate throws like this is dubbed by many analysts as “throwing your receiver open”. It is called this because at the time the quarterback begins his throw, the receiver is covered, but at the time the ball gets to the receiver, there is now separation between him and the defender because he has just completed making his cut and created a few steps of space between them. Thus, the quarterback has effectively “thrown” his receiver open. When a quarterback is able to do this, it makes the pass nearly impossible to defend.

Nick Foles showed last year that he possesses this skill, and it’s one of the many reasons why I think he’ll have another successful season this year. There is no defense for a perfectly thrown ball, and I see Foles getting even better at throwing his receivers open this year than he was last year. The following are some examples of Foles throwing his receivers open during the 2013 season. In each clip, the play is paused at the time that Foles begins his windup, and each time you’ll see that there is no separation between the receiver and the defender.

The first play comes from the week five game against the New York Giants. Foles throws a touchdown to wide receiver DeSean Jackson on a fade route to the back corner of the endzone. On this play, Foles begins his throw just as Jackson begins to make his cut. The cornerback defending Jackson has no idea that the ball is even in the air, which gives Jackson the freedom to make his move and create space, and then go up and get the ball before the defender even knows what happens.
001_jackson fade nyg

This next play is another fade route. This time it’s to wide receiver Riley Cooper during the Oakland Raider game. Foles throws this ball to the back pylon, and once again he begins his throw before Cooper is open. The result is a touchdown.
01_cooper fade oakland

This next play is a wheel route to runningback LeSean McCoy against the Washington Redskins. McCoy is covered by Ryan Kerrigan, which is a mis-match that Foles exploits for a big gain. Once again, Foles doesn’t wait until he sees that McCoy is open to begin his throw. On this play, he doesn’t necessarily “throw” McCoy open as there is no chance that Kerrigan catches him from behind, but he still does make the throw before McCoy has broken free.
02_mccoy wheel washington

This next play comes on a post route to tight end Zach Ertz against the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals are in a zone defense on this play, and Foles is able to lead Ertz into the space in between the two safeties for a touchdown. The timing and accuracy of the throw are key on plays like this. Since Foles is able to begin his throw before Ertz begins his cut, by the time the ball arrives the safety is in no position to be able to make a play on the pass. All he can do is tackle Ertz into the end zone. Had Foles waited a split second longer to make this throw, the safety would have been in position to be able to get a hand on the ball and break up the pass. And that’s how a split second can be the difference between an incomplete pass and seven points.
03_ertz post corner AZ

The following play comes on a deep square-in to Riley Cooper against the Washington Redskins. Once again, note the timing. Foles begins his throw as Cooper is making his cut, and the result is a 20+ yard play as the ball gets to Cooper just as he’s coming out of his break and has created separation between himself and the cornerback.
04_cooper square in washington

This last play is another deep square-in to Riley Cooper. This time it comes against the Arizona Cardinals. Just as in the play above, Foles begins his throw as Cooper is making his cut. At the time Foles begins his wind up, there is no separation between Cooper and the cornerback, but at the time the ball gets to Cooper, there is now a little over a yard of separation between himself and the defender. The defender is able to close in after the fact and make the tackle, but not before giving up a 15 yard gain and a first down.
05_cooper square in AZ

Foles’ ability to consistently make throws like this will make it very hard for defenses to prevent the Eagles from moving the chains and getting into the end zone in 2014. A perfect throw almost always beats perfect coverage, and the Philadelphia Eagles have a quarterback who can routinely make the perfect throw.

All-22 Review: Philadelphia Eagles vs. Arizona Cardinals

In this week’s segment of All-22 film reviews, I break down 4 plays from the Week 13 game vs. the Arizona Cardinals.  Let’s get into it…

Desean Jackson 14 yard Bubble Screen

This first play comes from the first drive of the second quarter for the Eagles.  On this play, Jackson, Brent Celek, and Zach Ertz are going to be out wide to the right, with Celek and Ertz set up as blockers for the screen pass to Desean.  Here is the diagram of the play.01

As you can see, the numbers for the screen pass are in the Eagles’ favor.  They have 3 receivers to the right, and Arizona has only 2 defenders.  Celek and Ertz are going to lay good blocks on their men, springing Jackson for a 14 yard gain.  Here is the play in motion.
Desean Jackson bubble screen on Make A Gif

Riley Cooper 24 yard reception

This play came later in the 2nd quarter, and it’s a play we’ve seen before with similar success.  Here is the diagram of the play.01

McCoy is going to come across Foles for the handoff, but Foles reads the weakside safety creeping up to the line of scrimmage, leaving Riley Cooper single covered as he runs a curl route.  Foles pulls the ball back and fires it out to Cooper.  The pass is high, but Cooper bails Foles out with an amazing one-handed grab, makes the cornerback miss, and takes this play for a 24 yard gain.  The Eagles ran this same exact play against Tampa Bay a few weeks back and turned it into a 40+ yard gain.

Here is the play in motion.
Riley Cooper Curl Route on Make A Gif

Nick Foles 9 yard read option keeper

This play came on the first drive of the 3rd quarter that lead to the touchdown that gave the Eagles a 24-7 lead. Here is the diagram of the play.01

The Eagles are set up for the bubble screen on the left side of the field, but the Cardinals have 3 men on that side and have it covered.  McCoy comes across for the handoff, but the unblocked outside linebacker (John Abraham) crashes in on McCoy, leaving the outside wide open for Nick Foles to run. Jason Peters does a great job on this play of getting to the second level and putting a good block on Karlos Dansby, guaranteeing that Foles will have a comfortable running lane on this play.

Here is the play in motion.
Nick Foles Read Option on Make A Gif

Zach Ertz 24 yard TD reception

This play gave the Eagles a 24-7 lead early in the third quarter.  The Cardinals are in a zone defense on this play.  Ertz is going to run a deep post route, and be 1 on 1 with safety Rashad Johnson.  Here is the diagram of the play.01

Ertz does a great job of selling the corner route, drawing the safety away from the middle of the field just enough to make Foles’ job a little easier.  This play is a textbook anticipation throw by Nick Foles.  As you’ll see from the clip below, as Nick Foles releases the ball, Ertz is just starting to make his cut.  Foles throws the ball with perfect accuracy, hitting Ertz right in stride on the post route, and with perfect timing as Johnson can’t get there in time to make a play on the ball.  Here is the play motion.
Zach Ertz TD on Make A Gif
That’s it for this week’s All-22 review, see you next time!

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”.