Cheat Sheet: Eagles D Vs. Tampa’s Offense

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If you missed the first cheat sheet, click here.

Now, on to 10 things about how the Eagles’ defense matches up with Tampa’s offense.

1. The Eagles get to face a struggling offense for the second week in a row. A week after coming up with three fourth-quarter interceptions against Eli Manning, Billy Davis’ crew goes up against a Bucs unit that ranks 30th in the NFL, according to Football Outsiders. Overall, Tampa is averaging 11.0 points per game (31st). The Eagles, meanwhile, rank 29th defensively, according to Football Outsiders. They are giving up 31.8 points per game (30th).

2. Two weeks ago, rookie Mike Glennon made his first career start in a 13-10 loss to the Cardinals. Glennon completed 24 of 43 passes (55.8 percent) and averaged just 4.5 yards per attempt. He threw one touchdown and was picked off twice. One of his interceptions was especially costly as Glennon threw behind Vincent Jackson and gave the Cardinals’ offense possession in the red zone where it scored its lone touchdown of the game. Overall, the Bucs have the 28th-ranked pass offense, per Football Outsiders, and the Eagles are 28th against the pass. Glennon (6-7) is a pure pocket passer. In his debut, he took two shots on throws 20+ yards downfield, but didn’t complete either one, per Pro Football Focus.

3. On the ground, the Bucs feature a heavy dose of Doug Martin. The second-year back had a fantastic rookie season, piling up 1,454 yards and averaging 4.6 YPC. But he’s struggled to get going this year, averaging just 3.4 YPC. The Bucs are 26th in rushing, per Football Outsiders. The Eagles’ defense ranks 21st. Last year, Martin had 11 runs of 20+ yards. This year, he’s got just one through four games. The Eagles have only allowed one run of 20+ yards all season. Chip Kelly likes to spread the field to run. The Bucs do not. Fifty-one of Martin’s 100 carries have come with multiple backs in the backfield, per STATS, Inc.

4. On the outside, the Bucs’ biggest weapon is Vincent Jackson. The big, speedy receiver is averaging 73 yards per game, but he’s caught just 41.5 percent of the passes thrown his way. That’s tied for the fourth-worst catch rate among the 90 receivers who have been targeted at least 16 times, per Football Outsiders. Jackson is a big-play threat, averaging 17.2 yards per reception, and he has six grabs of 20+ yards. Mike Williams complements Jackson and has 15 catches for 164 yards and a pair of scores. But he’s dealing with a hamstring injury and is listed as questionable.

5. The Eagles will once again start Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher on the outside. The Giants tested Fletcher deep all game long. He won some battles, and lost some others, but competed throughout. The officials let him get physical too, something Davis credits to Fletcher’s calmness when playing the ball.

“The thing that jumped out to me about Fletcher is how calm he was at the ball,” Davis said. “You know, there’s an art to playing the deep ball, and a lot of it is a calm confidence that you’re running with a guy, you’re in stride, you’re in a good position, and then there’s really a timing of when to look back for the ball that a lot of guys panic at that point and they don’t know when to look back and there’s all kind of contact.

“Fletcher is very calm on the deep ball.  It’s a little bit of the veteran in him that knows how to, you know, ‘I’ve been here before and I know when the ball gets here and I know when to make my play.’ And he did a great job.  He had three or four where he really played the deep ball nice.”

The Eagles’ mentality all season long has been to avoid getting beat deep. That means a lot of in-breaking short and intermediate routes are open. Teams that will give them the most problems will have efficient, accurate quarterbacks who can move their offenses up and down the field, picking up first down after first down.

6. I asked Earl Wolff what he saw on film from the Giants game.

“Regardless of what you think before, every time you watch the film, it always looks worse,” he said. “It continues to humble me. I still feel like I did OK. I feel like I did alright. So when I watch the film, I still find it OK, and OK is never good to me. I want to do great every game. That’s my goal. And you’ll never be perfect in a game, but my goal is to be perfect, so I continue to stay humble and continue to work.”

Wolff continues to make his share of mistakes. But as far as I can tell, they are more mental than physical. For a rookie, that’s probably a good thing. And it’s certainly not all bad. For instance, on one red-zone play in the second half, he found himself singled up with Victor Cruz in the slot.

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Cruz runs an in-breaking route, but Wolff sticks with him.

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The throw is out in front, but even if it was perfect, Wolff was all over Cruz.

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“I knew he was gonna try it,” Wolff said. “I said, ‘He’s about to try it. Eli sees this one-on-one with me and Victor Cruz. He’s gonna try and throw him the ball.’ I was like, ‘OK, let’s go, let’s compete.’ I thought I did a pretty good job.

“I got kind of hyped, man. I just covered Victor Cruz in the slot one-on-one in the red zone? I’m ready. I’m ready. That’s kind of what I said, man.”

Wolff is the most athletic safety on the roster. Patrick Chung is expected to return this week, but it makes sense to let the rookie take his lumps and improve.

7. Typically, the Bucs’ line from left to right is: Donald Penn, Carl Nicks, Jeremy Zuttah, Davin Joseph and Demar Dotson. But Nicks, a two-time Pro Bowler, is dealing with the MRSA infection and is unexpected to play (listed as questionable). The Bucs have given up nine sacks on the year (two in Glennon’s debut) and rank 11th in Football Outsiders’ adjusted sack rate. Look for Davis to dial up extra pressure. He likes to disguise looks and blitz from all areas of the field. In his debut, Glennon was 7-for-21 for 56 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions against the blitz, per STATS, Inc.

8. For the Eagles, Connor Barwin and Fletcher Cox lead the team with two sacks apiece. Cox also has a team-high six hurries (per coaches stats). Nine different players have accounted for the team’s 11 sacks. Cedric Thornton has been the Eagles’ best defensive lineman through five games and has drawn heavy praise from Kelly, Davis and the coaching staff.

The Eagles continue to present a variety of looks and combinations to generate pressure. For example, look at these wide splits with four down linemen.

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And then three down linemen. But look at the personnel: Vinny Curry, Cox and Brandon Graham. Barwin is set up at left outside linebacker.

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Curry’s effort really showed up on tape last week (and really does every time he’s out there). On one specific play, he rushed the passer and then was in on a tackle 20 yards downfield after a completion. Graham also had some good moments last week as a pass-rusher.

9. Neither team has a strong special teams unit. The Eagles rank 29th and the Bucs 23rd, according to Football Outsiders. Colt Anderson leads the team with seven ST tackles. James Casey, who is questionable, is second with four. And Kelly singled out Chris Polk for his special teams performance.

“The one thing Chris has done an outstanding job, he’s played really, really well for us on special teams and really getting a lot of contributions from him as a wing on our punt team, doing a good job of covering kickoffs,” Kelly said. “He’s the other returner back there deep with Damaris [Johnson]. He’s doing a really good job from that standpoint.”

10. The Bucs have scored touchdowns on 57.1 percent of their red-zone trips, good for 13th in the NFL. The Eagles rank 19th in red-zone defense, allowing touchdowns 60 percent of the time. …Tampa is converting on 37.7 percent of its third-down chances (16th). The Eagles are 29th in third-down defense, allowing conversions 43.8 percent of the time. The Eagles are averaging 1.8 takeaways per game, tied for 15th. Tampa is turning it over two times per game, tied for 21st.

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