All-22: How the Eagles Are Beating the Blitz

One reason why Andy Reid is sticking with Michael Vick is because the quarterback has actually shown real improvement in a couple key areas.

Most notably, against the blitz.

In the first three games, teams killed the Eagles with extra pressure. The offense had breakdowns in protection, Vick held on to the ball, receivers ran routes way downfield. Overall, it was a disaster.

But in the last three games (while the offense has still had plenty of issues), the Eagles have done damage against the blitz. Just look at the numbers. Vick is 29-for-42 for 405 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions against extra pressure. That’s a 69 percent completion percentage and 9.6 yards-per-attempt.

If you’re a glass-half-full kind of fan (c’mon, there has to be one or two of you out there), this is something to be optimistic about looking ahead to the final 10 games.

Since the Eagles were on bye last week, there’s no new All-22 to break down. So instead, let’s take a look at some of the ways the offense has beaten the blitz in the last few weeks.

Play 1: Here, the Lions show blitz at the line of scrimmage. It’s 3rd-and-6, and they’re going to bring seven rushers, including the slot corner.

The Eagles are in a 1-RB, 4-WR set with no tight ends on the field. That means they lose the numbers game up front. It’s six blockers against seven defenders. Someone is going to be unaccounted for. But everyone executes their one-on-one blocks.

Here you see the linebacker rush unblocked between Danny Watkins and Todd Herremans. But again, that’s nobody’s fault. It’s on Vick here to get rid of the ball quickly.

The routes are key too. You’ll notice three of the four receivers are running short or intermediate routes. Vick actually has multiple options.

The key is getting rid of the ball before the unblocked rusher gets home. Vick does that, stands in the pocket, fires a strike to Riley Cooper for 8 yards and takes a hit, allowing the Eagles to extend their drive.

Play 2: Those 8-yard gains are nice. But good offenses burn teams with big plays when they blitz. Here, the Lions send safety Louis Delmas. The key to blocking him is going to be running back Bryce Brown, who has to first recognize the blitz and then get to Delmas across the formation.

Brown does a really good job here. And Vick does a good job too, taking a couple steps to his right to create space in the pocket.

The other key is the throw. As we showed last week, there are times when Vick is making good reads and good decisions. He’s just misfiring. Here, he throws a beauty. Check out what the coverage looks like when Vick gets rid of the ball.

The pass has to hit Jackson in stride, but also has to angle towards the sideline so that the safety can’t get there in time. Here, you can see the window Vick is working with. The result is a 30-yard completion and one of his best throws of the day.

Play 3: Big plays don’t always have to mean deep throws downfield. The key to the next play starts before the ball is even snapped. Jackson starts in the backfield to Vick’s right, but then motions out to the left.

Cornerback Ike Taylor goes with Jackson, signaling man coverage. The Eagles set up a bunch look. They’ve had some success in the past few weeks hitting on big plays out of the bunch (like Jeremy Maclin’s 70-yard touchdown last week).

Jackson is the outside receiver, but he runs a drag route across the middle of the field. Taylor is in man coverage, but Jackson runs behind Brent Celek, who picks the cornerback.

Jackson is wide open over the middle. It’s only a 6-yard completion, but he picks up 19 yards after the catch for a big play.

Of course, since the Steelers were rushing six at Vick, protection too was key. As you can see below, the offensive line did an outstanding job. And most importantly, LeSean McCoy, who was charged with blocking James Harrison, takes his man to the ground, giving Vick plenty of time to find Jackson.

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  • PhilaPhans

    It really is time to dispose of the meme that, somehow, Mike Vick can’t read defenses. His work against the blitz clearly shows that he can. It helps when the routes are appropriate for the situation and provide options when the other team brings pressure. Great work pointing this out, Sheil.

    • morgan c

      Right. What is so frustrating, however, is that this shows that the Eagles CAN be so good. The biggest problem was Vick “reading the field” and “adjusting to the blitz.” As phans points out, he can do that… yet we’re still losing!!!!! God, if we could just fix the turnovers, and not randomly change what’s working on defense (K.I.S.S.), we are right there! THAT is what is so frustrating as a fan. One step forward, one step back.

      • PhilaPhans

        Reid and MM simply must get their act together with the play calling. That’s the root of the entire problem on offense. The TOs will disappear when the high wire act stops and the game plan is systematic and efficient, rather than “aggressive” and reckless.

  • 1972

    i thought he couldnt read blitzes or stay healthy. u sure this is mike vick your talking about? Sheil your posts are so down the middle and accurate the haters really dont have much to say on this site. i love it!!! anyway, vick stop fumbling, and marty stop calling max protect go routes and we should be ready for the next 10 games. Nicky foles wait your turn buddy

  • 1972

    wheres that matt jacobs idiot that always posts on here saying vick cant read the blitz? where are the vick haters on this article.Stop listening to people you hear on t.v and the radio and do some of your own analysis

  • Kimbafuzz

    I’m glad there is proof that Vick has adjusted to the blitz positively. Now, he just needs to get the turnovers under control. Progress is good.

  • Peteike

    Sure, this is good examples but earlier in the season there were examples of him not reading a loaded side rush where there were more d linemen than O lineman to block. Vick would miss those reads, several talking heads pointed this out in back to back weeks. This is good news however. Im not a non stop basher like some, but you cant take this as a complete picture but as good progress. I think they can go on a decent run here in the next 5 to 6 weeks and get in the playoff picture. They cant keep up this turnover rate and I think that will change and hopefully the D gets even better with Bowles. Maclin has to emerge a bit more as well.

    • PhilaPhans

      Earlier in the season, Reid/MM didn’t have the packages installed to help Vick. They weren’t running the modified no-huddle, designed to get Vick the time to make reads. You can see the blitz, you can know it’s coming, but if you don’t have a place to go with the ball, it’s not exactly your fault as a QB. As Sheil points out, now Reid/MM are giving Vick a place to go when the blitz shows.

  • I”m all for team blitzing if he keeps up these numbers. If MM and crew can just keep their pass happy ways under wraps I feel good about the next six games.

  • Sorry next ten games.

    • BlindChow

      No, you were right, there’s no way MM can keep his pass happy ways in check for the full ten…

  • UncleCarm

    Hang on folks, I’m glad he’s improving too, but three games does not make a season. Maybe two more like these and I’ll be a believer. I agree with Sheil that the plays called did not give him any hot reads in the first three games, so kudos to whoever made that change. And thanks too, Sheil, for the All-22 fix during the bye.

  • Myke Lowery

    I get the feeling Vick has had enough of the criticism this year and I won’t blame him for “sitting out” an extended amount of time after he takes his next big hit.