Game Review: Eagles Offense Vs. Broncos’ D

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Here’s a position-by-position review of the Eagles’ offensive performance against the Broncos.

QUARTERBACKS


* This will probably surprise some, but I thought Michael Vick was the least of the Eagles' problems on Sunday. Coming off of a horrendous performance vs. the Chiefs, he made several "tight window" throws, and the first half was probably as accurate as he's been all season. Vick finished 14-for-27 for 248 yards, but two of those balls were throw-aways, and I counted four drops (two by LeSean McCoy, one by Brent Celek and one by DeSean Jackson). In other words, of Vick's 25 aimed throws, 18 were catchable.

* Specific plays that stood out: Vick showed good patience and made a nice throw to Celek for 24 yards in the first. Good ball placement to James Casey, allowing him to pick up yards after the catch. Great throw into a tight window to Jackson for 14 yards on 3rd-and-5 in the first. Terrific throw to Riley Cooper near the sideline as he was getting pressured for 15 yards in the second. Nice job reading the blitz and dumping the ball off to McCoy for 21 yards in the second.

* How did the Broncos attack Vick? On 36 pass plays, they only blitzed him eight times, or 22.2 percent of the time. On those plays, he was 4-for-5 for 77 yards. He was also sacked twice and ran once. On non-blitz throws, he was 10-for-22 for 171 yards.

* The storyline to watch with Vick going forward is: Will he pull the trigger even when his receivers aren't open? Vick took off to run seven times on called pass plays in this game, and he was sacked three times. There are clearly times when no one is open. I thought FOX's cameras did a good job of showing that. There was one play where the three receivers were Damaris Johnson, Jason Avant and Jeff Maehl. Vick ended up taking a sack.

But given the Eagles' current group of receivers, Vick may have to take more shots going forward even if guys don't appear to be clearly open. For example, on one throw to Jackson in the end zone, it looked like Vick held on to the ball too long. By the time he let it fly, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was able to recover and break up the pass. It's a fine balance between avoiding turnovers and taking shots. Vick will have to navigate the two in the coming weeks.

* Vick had seven total rushes for 41 yards. None was by design. All were called pass plays where he took off.

* Sidenote: I often get e-mails to the effect of, "Did you see what Peyton Manning did? Vick never does that." Who is arguing that Vick is Manning? Or Aaron Rodgers? Or Drew Brees? Or Tom Brady? No one who is sane. He's not in that same category. But overall on Sunday, I thought he did a lot of good things even when he wasn't getting much help.

* Nick Foles came into the game in the fourth quarter. Troy Aikman needs to read up on the read-option. "They're not gonna run the read-option with Nick Foles," Aikman said. Of course, that was right after the Eagles had just run the read-option with Foles on the previous play. In fact, the Eagles ran the read-option three times out of seven plays with Foles on the field.

RUNNING BACKS

* The Broncos came in with a stout run defense, but the Eagles still totaled 166 yards on the ground; 125 of those were courtesy of the running backs. LeSean McCoy battled the mile-high air, only playing 59 percent of the team's offensive snaps. He had 16 carries for 73 yards (4.6 YPC) and also added a 21-yard catch. McCoy was often dealing with defenders at or near the line of scrimmage. He had a pair of drops, although one was on a screen that wasn't going anywhere.

* Bryce Brown had eight carries for 19 yards. He put together runs of 9 and 7 in the first quarter. Brown also had a 35-yard catch on a screen. He bounced too many runs to the outside. TV cameras even caught Chip Kelly telling him as much during the broadcast.

* Chris Polk saw snaps on offense for the first time in his career. He scored a touchdown from 4 yards out in the second. Great effort to fight through defenders on a 13-yard catch in the second. He also had a nice 28-yard run with Foles in the game. On one sack in the fourth, it looked like Polk missed his blocking assignment.

* Overall, the Eagles ran the read-option 17 times for 92 yards (5.4 YPC). The quarterbacks didn't keep the ball on any of those plays. On other called run plays, the Eagles had 33 yards on 10 attempts.

WIDE RECEIVERS

* It was the same old story with this group. A lot of man coverage and not a lot of guys getting open. I'd have to check the numbers, but it seemed like the Eagles tried to use Jackson more in the slot. That didn't work all that well, especially considering it often meant Avant on the outside. Jackson finished with two catches for 34 yards on six targets. I mentioned above that Vick missed him for a potential TD. Jackson also had a nice 19-yard catch and run in the second that was called back because of an Evan Mathis penalty. Will have to watch the All-22 to see how much safety help the Broncos used on him.

* Cooper was a non-factor once again. He had two catches for 25 yards. One was a meaningless 10-yard gain on 3rd-and-14 in the red zone. He did a nice job of keeping his feet in-bounds for 15 yards on the other. At one point in the first half, it looked like Cooper might have been confused about where to line up, and the Eagles used a timeout.

* Avant had one catch for 7 yards on four targets. By my count, the Eagles were in '11' personnel with one RB, one TE and three WRs on 49 of 67 plays, or 73.1 percent of the time. With Vick in the game, it was even higher (81.7 percent).

* Maehl had a 37-yard grab and a 6-yard TD late in the game.

TIGHT ENDS

* Not a good game for Brent Celek. I know we've mentioned it multiple times, but his drop on third down in the red zone was enormous. A catch would have either scored or given the Eagles a first-and-goal inside the 5. Instead, they had to settle for a field goal. Celek had three catches for 57 yards, including a 24-yarder in the first. He had a linebacker trailing on a crossing route in the third, but couldn't create any space, and Vick's pass was broken up. Without Jeremy Maclin, the Eagles could benefit from some more athleticism from the tight end or slot receiver spots.

* Zach Ertz had a nice 38-yard grab in the fourth. He had a chance to make a play earlier, but couldn't reel in a Vick pass. Nice effort to lay out though by Ertz as the ball hit him on the fingertips. Ups and downs as a blocker. Poor job on a zone-read handoff to Polk that gained 1 in the fourth. But nice job late on the TD to Maehl. Ertz played a season-high 31 snaps.

* James Casey ran a drag route for a 12-yard catch and run in the first. He played a season-high 10 snaps.

* Overall, the Eagles were in '12' personnel (1-RB, 2-TE, 2-WR) for 18 snaps. But that number's a bit deceiving. They went 2-TE on the final seven plays with Foles. On the first 60 plays with Vick, the Eagles used multiple TEs just 11 times, or 18.3 percent of the time.

OFFENSIVE LINE

* This group is tough to evaluate. Kelly always points out how different areas on the team are connected. Sometimes, wide receivers weren't getting open. Sometimes, protection was breaking down. And sometimes, Vick failed to pull the trigger. The offensive line wasn't horrible, but this group still made plenty of mistakes.

* Jason Peters played better than he did against Kansas City, but still had some issues. At times he looks dominant, like when he chucked a defender to the side on McCoy's 10-yard run in the first. Peters lined up outside Lane Johnson for an unbalanced line on multiple occasions. They double-teamed an edge defender as McCoy picked up 9 on one play.

But Peters had mishaps too. He was beaten by Shaun Phillips, who brought McCoy down after a 1-yard gain in the third. In pass pro, Peters failed to sustain his block on one first-half play, and ended up on the ground as Vick took off and scrambled. He failed to switch off his man on a stunt on third down in the third and got beaten around the edge in the fourth, forcing Vick to slip and throw incomplete.

* Uneven performance for Evan Mathis too. He had trouble in pass pro on the first series, giving up a hit on Vick. Mathis was beaten in the second and called for holding, negating a 19-yard completion to Jackson. He and Jason Kelce let a defender split them and pressure Vick on the very next play. But there were plenty of good moments too. Excellent block on the 35-yard screen to Brown. And Mathis got tremendous push up front on Polk's 4-yard TD. Good seal block also on McCoy's 15-yard run in the third.

* Jason Kelce was probably the toughest from this group to assess. He did a great job pulling on a 7-yard McCoy run and got downfield on Brown's 7-yard scamper. He showed great hustle on Brown's 35-yard screen and did a nice job on Polk's 4-yard TD. Great job by Kelce of getting to the linebacker on McCoy's 15-yard run in the third.

But there were some issues too. There were at least two high snaps. And on play-action in the first, he got beaten by Kevin Vickerson, forcing Vick to take off. Kelce was later beaten badly on a run play. I had to rewind the DVR to make sure the Eagles weren't leaving the defender unblocked on purpose. But that wasn't the case. Kelce just got beaten, and McCoy was dropped for no gain. He also failed to get to the linebacker on a McCoy run that lost 2 yards in the first. Ups and downs throughout the course of the game.

* Todd Herremans was OK. Mitch Unrein knocked him off-balance in the first, and Vick had to scramble. Herremans missed his block on a screen to Brown that went for 6 in the first. He and Johnson let Derek Wolfe through in the third, and Vick had to scramble. He also got pushed back into Vick's face in pass pro in the third. The good? Herremans did a nice job pulling and blocking the linebacker on Brown's 9-yard run in the first. And he did a good job on McCoy's 15-yard run in the third.

* Lane Johnson had a lot of issues in pass protection with upfield rushes off the edge. Kelly has talked multiple times about Vick not being able to get to the top of his drop without pressure. Many of those instances were on Johnson. On at least three of those occasions, Vick had to take off and run. Another time, Vick was sacked. Johnson was also called for holding in the red zone in the first. He and Herremans appeared to have a communications issue in the fourth and let a rusher go free to pressure Vick. It's clear Johnson's still in the learning stages, specifically in pass pro.

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  • theycallmerob

    As always, we are all much obliged. Thanks Sheil.
    You’re right about Vick, the WR/TEs definitely win the blame game. Even as bad as the offensive line has been- at least compared to our expectations and their paper-strength- good pass catchers who can get off the line are a must. It’s shameful to see Casey and Ertz “under perform”, at least with respect to their monetary and draft value; Cooper and Avant are basically playing to their respective ceilings.
    Granted, Kelly could make schematic changes, but this should work. Those TEs in particular must be especially underwhelming if they can’t beat out Celek for snaps (blocking skills be damned).

  • jabostick

    I’m not sure this is actually the case, but it seems like we’ve hardly seen the packages from the preseason with the WR/TE screen option on the outside. If Cooper can’t get open and DeSean is getting doubled with a Safety, why not more in the screen game to him (or Ertz or Damaris, etc)?

    • Richard Colton

      the double stack TE look from preseason had us salivating. two mirrored bubble screen options on the same play. Where did it go?

      • Nah__Roots

        When the D presses at the line outside…not much you can do. It’s not even an option.

      • https://www.skinnypost.com/ GayleSaunders

        I was thinking the same thing…at least try to get DJax involved with screens he is the only home run hitter out of the group. They have to get better with the screen game moving forward.

      • All In Eagles

        I hear ya, everyone else is running bubble screens except us. We have Djax and Damaris, get them the ball near the line and see what happens, give Vick or Lane a break from having to block or get smacked, get the ball out early and try something new.

  • Richard Colton

    The Celek drop and Jackson drops were both brilliant passes – no help for Vick from the receivers this week. It was depressing watching how open the Denver WR/TEs were all game, while our guys were blanketed.
    The only thing I’d add to Sheil’s analysis is the three head first slides in the first half. Probably not worth noting, because they’re Vicktypical plays. If Vick wants to hold the ball that long, dive into tackles, and run for 60 yards a half…we’re going to see Foles sooner than we should.

    • cliff henny

      at least with the sliding, he’s going down before contact, not trying to run thru. think too much of head vs feet is made, just get down early, refs will blow whistle. what is still the issue is on half roll outs when pressured, he jumps right before getting hit. then, defender gets a little more momentum and heigth to really slam back of vick’s head into turf.

    • poetx99

      the feet first slide is what desean did and his cleat got caught in the turf and he tweaked his knee or ankle. that’s the problem with FAST players trying to slide feet first.

      i haven’t seen any football players who run like RBs / WRs who slide feet first.

      so i’ve given up on vick being able to slide like that.

      what he’s doing now is at least better than before.and he seems to be taking the better part of valor and not trying to truck anyone for the last yard, and going out of bounds (or using the threat of going out of bounds to get a clean, head first slide after the defender steps to the edge).

      i’m more concerned with how many times his head is bouncing off the turf when he is hit on or after releasing the ball. (and it has been a few times because he’s often letting the ball go w/ a guy about to smash him, like on the td to avant last week).

  • cliff henny

    3 straight games of being down 10+ points with minutes of the anthem being sung. just straight uphill battles all game. not many teams are, but this team really isnt built to play like that. like to see how many ills would be solved by getting early lead.

    • Chris

      not to mention, started the skins game 0-7 after that weird backwards tipped pass. Tough to play catch up in every game thus far.

  • http://abigbuttandasmile.com/ A Big Butt and a Smile

    “But given the Eagles’ current group of receivers, Vick may have to take
    more shots going forward even if guys don’t appear to be clearly open.”

    Vick doesn’t trust these guys to make those catches. And if he does that and the ball gets intercepted – then we will have a whole other type of argument happening. Turning the ball over is a sure recipe to lose ’cause our D ain’t stopping anybody. I don’t mind Vick having a little Alex Smith in him. Unlike Alex he can stretch the field.

    “Did you see what Peyton Manning did? Vick never does that.” Who is arguing that Vick is Manning? Or Aaron Rodgers? Or Drew Brees? Or Tom Brady?”

    That argument annoys me (no it’s not a VIck thing – just the basic principle of the argument). Who were the two QBs in the superbowl last year. How many rings does Eli have compared to those guys on that list not named Brady.

    Football is a team sport. If your QB is playing well (and overall Vick is) and the rest of the team is playing sh*ttily, it’s not a QB issue and wishing for a “better” QB isn’t going to change the other issues.

    • Richard Colton

      Im not sure there’s a QB in the league that could have won that game for the Eagles last night. The team isn’t that good right now.

    • EaglePete

      yes but the QB gets all the love and all the blame, just the way it is. They are screaming for Shaubs head in Houston and as someone on mike n mike pointed out this morning some of the mistakes werent his fault. Fans always think another QB can make a difference. The comment boards here are fairly objective which is rare.

      • BlindChow

        To be fair, I’m pretty sure the pick six that tied the game was his fault.

        • anon

          3 pick 6′s in 3 games.

  • atlvickfan

    Vick played fine, but I got the impression that he was trying unusually hard not to turn the ball over and possibly passing up some chances to take shots down the field in the process. I don’t mind him throwing a pick if he is also going to complete a few extra 25+ yard passes.

    As far as Aikman’s commentary goes, “read option” nowadays in the media seems to have become code for “that thing those black QBs do”.

    • http://abigbuttandasmile.com/ A Big Butt and a Smile

      “As far as Aikman’s commentary goes, “read option” nowadays in the media
      seems to have become code for “that thing those black QBs do”.”

      Well with the new crop of QBs coming out of college, that will change soon. White and black alike are running the r/o these days.

    • LostInChiTown

      Yeah, that comment from Aikman bothered me too. Partially for the same reason and partially because Kelly’s read option is often a pass-run read that doesn’t rely on Vick keeping it at all. It just goes to show how good the coverage here is. Tim and Sheil have really educated themselves on Kelly’s offense and spoiled us all!

    • http://abigbuttandasmile.com/ A Big Butt and a Smile

      What did he say exactly?

    • BlindChow

      Or maybe he was referring to, you know, the fact Dontari Poe could beat Foles in a foot race.

      • BrickSquadMonopoly

        That’s scary.

  • atlvickfan

    The lack of any reliable WR on this team other than DeSean is killing this team, though. If they can get Josh Gordon for a 3rd or 4th round pick they should do it. I doubt they will find anyone better in the draft at that spot.

  • jabostick

    This week is going to be interesting. Peyton may be on a mission and this mightn’t have been the best game to make any conclusions out of.

    The Giants right now remind me a bit of the Chargers, though, and there’s no reason that Eli can’t pull off the game plan that Rivers did (even with his horrid play of late). So, the offense will still need to prove that they can be efficient in scoring, and not just moving the ball.

    • All In Eagles

      We should all be salivating at that horrific Giants O Line but I’m honestly worried we won’t be able to get pressure. Even though Peyton rifles out passes so quick, the times he wanted to hold it he had a ton of time and a huge pocket, we just aren’t getting in there (and Clady is out).

  • Erasmus

    Only reason Bronco’s run D is so good is because they are always ahead. Teams dont even bother running.

    • BlindChow

      The games have typically been close in the first half. Denver usually doesn’t pull away until after half time.

  • LostInChiTown

    Great analysis as usual Sheil. When you do the All-22, can you take a look at how long Vick is holding the ball? I understand that the receivers might not be getting open, but in the Washington game, I think Vick averaged around 2 seconds before getting the ball out. Yes, I know Washington stinks worse than hot garbage, but from all I’ve read, that’s what Chip Kelly ideally wants to do. Fast read, fast play. That game is the only one that looked like what we expected from Chip Kelly’s offense. Maybe it’s the press man coverage, but ever since Vick’s success against the Chargers, it seems he’s holding the ball longer and longer and the plays look more and more like a West Coast offense.

    Someone else commented that our OL is more suited for run blocking and many of our read option plays use run blocking even when it’s a pass. Vick may have had a pretty good game statistically Sunday, but if he’s holding on to the ball longer than Kelly wants, that could very negatively affect our OL and the timing of the plays. Do you see Vick playing within Kelly’s scheme well? Or just plain playing well?

    • http://abigbuttandasmile.com/ A Big Butt and a Smile

      - You’re making a circular argument. Vick is holding onto the ball longer ’cause his receivers aren’t getting open. In the Washington game that wasn’t an issue – hence the faster release.

      - Now there are times Vick just holds onto the ball too long – but he does that every game so that’s not the big issue here.

      - You’re also missing the point where Vick is often getting hit at the top of his drop – the line is screwing up – once again the line played better in the Washington game than it has in recent games.

      • Token

        So he holds the ball longer than anyone in the league, yet his line stinks? Interesting argument.

  • Brandon

    Hey Sheil,
    Great job with articles like this. I love this type of post game analysis. I have one gripe. You do realize that read-option plays aren’t strictly running plays. Many of them have a pass component as well so it would interesting to know the pass stats Vick has with them rather than just a YPC. Keep up the great pieces!

  • Broadcasting Wisdom

    Boy did that offense look smooth as butter once Nick Foles and Jeff Maehl got in the game! Don’t give me we were playing against back-ups, because Maehl still had that starting CB on him that was shutting down Cooper all game. We’re wasting a season of the Nick Foles development process. It wasn’t Vick’s fault – not in the least – that we lost, but now that we’re 1-3 can we just accept that we’re not winning the Super Bowl this year and start to groom Foles (or even Barkley?)

    Also Sheil, those people saying why can’t Vick be as good as Rodgers/Brees/Brady/Manning are crazy! Those are once in a generation players (or four times in a generation at most). All I would ask for is that he be as good as the Ryan Tannehill, Jay Cutler, Matt Stafford, Andy Dalton, Andrew Luck, Jake Locker, Alex Smith, Phillip Rivers, Tony Romo, Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub, Big Ben, Joe Flacoo, and Carson Palmers of the world. Vick’s completion percentage is 55.1% in an offense predicated on short throws. To put that in perspective, the only QBs with a worse completion percentage than Vick this year are Brandon Weeden, Josh Freeman, and Blaine Gabbert.

    Before I get too many down votes, I will reiterate that the losses aren’t all Vick’s fault and I don’t think Foles would be any better than 2-2 by now, but there is no future in Vick whereas there could be a future in Foles.

    • http://abigbuttandasmile.com/ A Big Butt and a Smile

      ” Vick’s completion percentage is 55.1%”

      - He’s also responsible for 228 yards on the ground and 2 tds. His total offensive production tends to be on par with those with higher completion percentages.

      - He was also the beneficiary of 4 drops and he had 2 throaways – that will screw anyone’s completion percentage.

      Vick is the least of this team’s problems.

      • anon

        Actually the completion percentage for a truly elite QB is closer to 70%, he should be checking in an out of plays at the line of scrimmage so put our receivers in he best position to catch the ball. He then should be anticipating and throwing the receivers open while not throwing an interception (bc that is so Vick), the ball should be thrown crisply, but soft enough that when it bounces of their jersey’s it should land in their hands. He should do all of this, but know that he’s getting fired at the end of the year.

        *or so the haters say.

      • Broadcasting Wisdom

        The least of the team’s problems is RB and WR1. Every QB throws the ball away and has drops (that’s an average of one per game – not an unheard of amount).

      • Dubiy

        http://imgur.com/a/WGzPu

        Shows vick has less completions, less tds, LESS drops, more incompletions, and more batted down passes than the league average.

    • Allan

      So be like Cutler with multiple picks and a fumble? Or like Dalton who couldn’t even get in double digits? Matt Schaub and his 0 points in the second half and back breaking pick 6? Big Ben and his fumble to lose the game? Flacco and his 5 picks? Palmer and his 2 picks and horrible, horrible game? His completion percentage isn’t helped by the fact that most of his throws have to be in tough coverage, and all of these guys are still working with their true #1 and #2 receivers. But if those guys are what rocks you boat, more power to you. Completion percentage doesn’t tell the whole story

      • anon

        Tannehill had 3 picks and a fumble last night, just to round out the analysis.

        • Broadcasting Wisdom

          Please see response above and also note Tannehill is in his second year and still developing and is still 3-1 throwing to a trio of wide receivers that’s quite similar to ours with one explosive target in Wallace, and then two bottom of the barrell receivers who can’t stretch the field but Tannehill still finds them.

      • Broadcasting Wisdom

        Hey you guys stay on the Vick bandwagon if you want and it will lead directly to the same place it has led for his entire career: missing the playoffs or if lightning in a bottle win one playoff game.

        Win at Green Bay: 12-25 for 117 yards and 1 TD. This is considered his finest playoffs experience and look at those stats.
        Loss at Philly: 22-38 for 274 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT. The Bobby Taylor game.
        Win v. St. Louis: 12-16 for 82 yards, 2 TDs. His only other win and he didn’t even crest 100 yards passing.
        Loss at Philly: 11-24 for 136 yards, 0TD, 1 INT. We were too excited about going to the Super Bowl to remember how terribly Vick played in this game.
        Loss v. Green Bay: 20-36, 292 yards, 1TD, 1 INT.

        Fact is all I care about are wins and those QBs I listed would be 2-2 or better in this offense, with the same weapons and same defense. All of them lose the Denver game (though closer). All of them win the Redskins game and the Chiefs game when Vick handed the game over on a silver platter. And a number of them win the Chargers game. It’s just mind-boggling that people still think Vick will ever be a playoff winning QB. People are mesmerized by his play making abilities, but he just isn’t an above average quarterback overall and is never going to become one. That’s why we let Foles grow – at least we have a chance that Foles develops.

  • BrickSquadMonopoly

    This potential top 5 o line is looking horrendous. Every year I get too caught up playing into stats overestimating the ability of some position on our team.

  • John J. King

    I have followed Kelly for years at Oregon. His teams have always had the kind of issues mentioned here, missing blocks etc. The bottom line is that as the players become more familiar & confident, they execute well the majority of the time and the plays are so big they negate the errors. It is a fun offense and will develop as the season progresses. The folks who turn off their TVs too soon will miss out.

  • Loke1988

    Howie, Chippah, you guys REALLY needed to nail that 4th overall pick. You needed to wash away the sins of the past that you (Im talking to you now Howie) SUPPOSEDLY had nothing to do with. I don’t care if it was a punter u poicked at 4 as long as he kicked the shiznit out of the ball pinning opposing teams inside the 5 regardless of field position AS LONG AS HE FLASHED! What is inexcusable is to read lines like this on this site:

    “The rookie, Lane Johnson, is currently rated 70th out of 72 tackles in pass protection,”

    Rutt ro, not good Howie, Chip…WTF??