All-22: What We Learned About the Eagles’ Defense

The NFL gave football geeks everywhere our wish this offseason, announcing it would release All-22 coaches’ film to the public (for a small fee, of course).

Unlike TV footage, the All-22 angles account for every player on the field on any given play.

I took a look at the coaches’ tape and came away with some new observations from Sunday’s Eagles-Browns game. We’ll start with the defense here and post on the offense next.

A little disclaimer first: There’s still guesswork involved. What coverage was called for the defense? What protection was called for the offensive line? How many reads did the quarterback go through? And so on. The players are making split-second decisions and reacting. But football is best explained when you slow things down. If you have ideas for how I can make these more useful, please let me know.

In the meantime, let’s get started.

Play 1: We’ve been talking all week about what a good job DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks did. Ryans, specifically, seemed to make good reads all game long. He had three tackles for loss, and was often a step ahead of the offense, allowing him to get to his spot without even having to shed any blocks.

The Eagles were one of the worst tackling teams in the NFL last season. And you can see from the first photo that in this scheme, a missed tackle by a linebacker can lead to a huge gain in the running game.

Philadelphia Eagles linebacker DeMeco Ryans
On this play – 3rd and 1 from the Cleveland 40 – it’s Ryans vs. Trent Richardson, one-on-one behind the line of scrimmage. You can see the huge running lane between the Eagles’ defensive tackles, who were blocked on the play. If Richardson gets past Ryans and can race between the safeties, he has a monster gain. But Ryans made the tackle, dropped him for a loss, and the Browns were forced to punt.

Plays 2 and 3: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had a pair of interceptions. Chances are, he’s going to get targeted quite a bit this year with Nnamdi Asomugha on the other side. But look at the coverage by all three cornerbacks (Brandon Boykin included) on Rodgers-Cromartie’s first pick.

Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie

Brandon Weeden had nowhere to go with the football. Asomugha’s at the top of the screen, Rodgers-Cromartie is at the bottom, and Boykin is in the middle. Weeden decided to take a shot at Rodgers-Cromartie, who was step-for-step with Travis Benjamin, a rookie receiver who ran a 4.36 at the combine. And DRC came away with the pick. It’s worth noting that Fletcher Cox took on two offensive linemen and got good push up the middle on the play.

Later, it was the same story on Rodgers-Cromartie’s second interception. This time, the Eagles had four receivers blanketed. Weeden decided to take a shot with Benjamin again, and DRC (bottom of your screen) made another nice play on the ball.

Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
Play 4: Let’s stick with Rodgers-Cromartie, shall we? There were actually a couple plays where he got beat, but Weeden couldn’t find his receiver. Mohamed Massaquoi got him on a double-move on third down in the second, but Weeden sailed the throw way over the receiver’s head. Pressure from Cullen Jenkins and Jason Babin had something to do with it, but the Browns could have easily had a 25-yard completion.

Earlier in the game, Rodgers-Cromartie got beaten for what would have been a touchdown, but Weeden again overthrew his receiver.

Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
As you can see, Massaquoi is all by himself near the 25-yard-line. Rodgers-Cromartie got turned around and is inside the numbers at the 30. The Eagles had safety help with Nate Allen, but he wouldn’t have arrived until after the pass was completed. Fortunately for the defense, the ball was way over Massaquoi’s head.

Play 5: Rodgers-Cromartie wasn’t the only one with a little luck on his side. Kendricks played a really good game, but he got beaten by tight end Jordan Cameron in the end zone.

Philadelphia Eagles LB Mychal Kendricks.

Weeden overthrew Cameron, and once again pressure played a role. Babin and Derek Landri were sandwiching Weeden as he let go of the football. The officials called the Eagles for holding on the play. They didn’t announce a number, but it was likely on Kendricks, who got a hand on Cameron once he realized he was in trouble.

Play 6: Nate Allen finished last year strong, and he played well in Week 1. On Kurt Coleman’s first interception, Allen made a great play on the ball in the red zone, breaking up a pass intended for Greg Little.

Philadelphia Eagles safety Nate Allen
Check out where Allen is and where Little is when Weeden releases the ball. He’s a good 5 or 6 yards away, but Allen reacted and closed quickly to get the Eagles the ball back. If the Birds want to improve on their poor performance in the red zone from a year ago, they’ll need more plays like this.

Play 7: The front four and the back end of the defense are supposed to work together. That means Babin probably owes Rodgers-Cromartie and Asomugha a thank you for his sack Sunday.

Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Jason Babin
As you can see, the two Eagles starting cornerbacks were all over their respective receivers. Weeden had nowhere to go with the football, allowing Babin to pick up the sack and force a fumble.

Later, when Cox got his first career sack, Weeden initially was looking in DRC’s direction, but the coverage was good once again.

Extra point: Remember the early play where it looked like Asomugha was playing way off in coverage, and the Browns hit Massaquoi for a 24-yard slant? Not so sure that was on the cornerback. It looked like the Eagles were in zone, and the area where Massaquoi caught the ball was the responsibility of linebacker Akeem Jordan. But Jordan, and some other Eagles defenders, moved towards the line of scrimmage and were expecting run. If you take that catch off of Asomugha, he didn’t allow a completion all day. Hat tip to Derek, formerly of Iggles Blog fame, for noting this on Twitter.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.

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