Cheat Sheet: Eagles Offense Vs. Chargers Defense

Here are 10 things to know about how the Eagles’ offense matches up with the Chargers’ defense.

1. In front of a national audience, Chip Kelly’s squad put up 33 points against the Redskins, using a devastating rushing attack and a blistering tempo in the first half. The Eagles ran 77 plays and piled up 26 first downs. Their 49 rushing attempts and 263 yards on the ground were both league-highs. Now the question is: What will Kelly do for an encore? San Diego gave up 449 yards (fifth-most) to the Texans in last week’s 31-28 loss. The Chargers played late Monday night, blew a 28-7 lead, had the defense on the field for 75 snaps and now will travel across the country for a 1 p.m. EST kickoff. The Eagles are 7.5-point favorites, according to Bovada.

2. One takeaway from watching the coaches tape this week (all our breakdowns are right here) was that the Eagles left plenty of points on the field. The Eagles are an option offense, and it’s going to take some time for Michael Vick to perfect his reads and decision-making. He did a good job for the most part, but this will be a process. Vick also missed on some throws early that he usually makes, and while the offensive line played well, there were still some breakdowns throughout. If the coaches thought the players were feeling a little too good about themselves this week, they had plenty of errors to point out and correct in the film room.

3. The word of the week has been sustainability. As Tim and I discussed on our radio show Thursday night (podcast here), there are two aspects to the discussion. One is the scheme/tempo, and the other is injuries. I think the scheme is sound, and I think Kelly will adjust it throughout the course of the year. I think the tempo is achievable too. The Eagles aren’t the only team that wants to play fast. And this isn’t something Kelly decided on haphazardly a couple weeks ago. He’s been preparing to be an up-tempo team since the day he was named the head coach.

As for injuries, I understand the basic premise that increasing the total number of plays in what is a brutal, violent, physically taxing sport should also increase the opportunities for injuries. But certainly Kelly has taken precautions with all the sports science initiatives, and Redskins linebacker London Fletcher had an interesting point this week during an NFL Network interview.

“One of the great things about Chip Kelly’s offense is because they spread you out so much, often times it’s not that physical type of football that you get play in and play out in the National Football League where the running backs are getting hit by multiple defenders or the quarterback’s being hit by multiple defenders, and receivers as well,” Fletcher said. “Most of the time it’s one-on-one tackles. It’s guys tackling guys in space, the sideline, things like that to protect them from being hit so much by multiple defenders.”

Kelly has made similar arguments and said this week his teams at Oregon were always the freshest at the end of the season. We’ll see if that rings true with the Eagles come December.

4. This week, the Eagles will face another 3-4 team in the Chargers. San Diego has some talented players in its front seven. Left defensive end Kendall Reyes was a second-round pick in 2012. Cam Thomas is a 330-pound nose tackle whose Twitter handle is @Baby_Zilla76. Corey Liuget was a first-round pick in 2011 and was second on the team with seven sacks last year. Rookie Kwame Geathers is the brother of Eagles defensive lineman Clifton. How is that brother vs. brother matchup not getting the same hype as Eli vs. Peyton?

While the Chargers are a base 3-4 team, they are multiple. And they even get a little Jim Washburn-y in certain passing situations.

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Of course, even on 3rd-and-25, I’d expect Kelly to run the ball against the Wide-9. Just don’t think he’d be able to help himself.

5. Based on Week 1, the Chargers’ best pass-rusher is 33-year-old Dwight Freeney, who is in his first season away from Indianapolis. Freeney is technically listed as an outside linebacker, but he’s there to rush the passer. Per Pro Football Focus, Freeney dropped in coverage just three times on 41 passing downs last week. And he was effective too as a pass-rusher, piling up three QB hits to go along with half-a-sack. Freeney will get matched up quite a bit against Jason Peters. Peters had a couple minor stumbles here and there last week, playing for the first time since the end of the 2011 season, but overall, he looked good.

6. The Eagles’ issues in protection last week came on the right side. On one sack in the second quarter, they let Ryan Kerrigan rush freely.

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“It was communication,” Lane Johnson said. “The line slid left. I was thinking that we were basing to the right so it’s just communication-based.”

Johnson was supposed to block Kerrigan. That still would have left unblocked rushers off the edge, but Vick had Bryce Brown in the flat. The truth is, he had him anyway, but a Redskins lineman got a hand up, so Vick wisely held on to the ball.

The good news for the Eagles is that overall, Johnson played really well. He was consistent throughout in the run game and flat-out dominating at times. There could be some communication hiccups in the early part of the season, but he’s showing all the tools to be a really good starting tackle.

7. The Chargers’ other outside linebacker is Jarret Johnson. He’s a solid run defender and more of a drop ‘backer, but is not a prolific pass-rusher. Johnson made an athletic play last week, batting a Matt Schaub pass that resulted in an interception. In 2012, Johnson rushed 57.5 percent of the time and dropped 42.5 percent of the time on passing downs, per PFF. The Chargers’ inside linebackers are Donald Butler and Bront Bird. Butler is in his third year as a starter. And Bird made his first career start last week. They’ll have to deal with an athletic Eagles offensive line that consistently got to the second level against Washington. Jason Kelce, specifically, was pulling and pancaking defenders, showing no ill effects from last year’s knee injury.

8. San Diego will have its hands full with LeSean McCoy after his 31-carry, 184-yard performance last week. McCoy played 67 snaps, per PFF, tied for second-most among all NFL running backs in Week 1. He had six more carries than any other back in the league. McCoy will still carry a heavy load, but don’t be surprised if Bryce Brown and even Chris Polk mix in more. Brown played 16 snaps last week. That number should increase in Week 2. The Chargers held Arian Foster to 3.2 YPC in Week 1.

9. Schaub shredded the Chargers’ secondary, completing 34 of 45 passes (75.6 percent) for 346 yards (7.7 YPA). When healthy, cornerback Derek Cox had some good moments with the Jaguars in his first four seasons in the league. He signed with the Chargers in the offseason and had a rough debut against Andre Johnson, who caught 12 balls for 146 yards. Shareece Wright, a third-round pick in 2011, mans the other spot. He made his first career start last week. At safety, the Chargers have Eric Weddle and Marcus Gilchrist. Weddle is easily the best defensive back on the roster and has started all but three games for the Chargers since 2008. He’ll set all over the place, including up near the line of scrimmage, helping against the run and blitzing as well.

For the Eagles, DeSean Jackson got off to a great start, catching seven balls for 104 yards and a touchdown against Washington. All of his receptions netted first downs. Given how well the Eagles ran the ball last week, don’t be surprised if opponents cheat their safeties up and try to force Vick to find receivers downfield. That could mean a big day for Jackson.

Riley Cooper played every snap last week, but is more of a blocker than a receiving threat in this offense. Brent Celek should have his opportunities, and the Eagles could feature more 2-TE sets. They were in ’12’ personnel for just eight plays last week.

10. The Chargers rushed five 32.6 percent of the time last year, third-most in the NFL, per Football Outsiders. …They blitzed Schaub 23 times, notching a pair of sacks and an interception. But Schaub completed 67 percent of his passes against the blitz, throwing two TDs and compiling a passer rating of 100.7, per Stats, Inc. …Don’t be surprised if some of the packaged plays and wrinkles we saw from Kelly last week disappear in Week 2. He knows the Chargers will be watching last week’s tape and will likely look to capitalize on that.

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