All-22: Blocking At the Second Level

kelce2b_400Going into last week’s game, the Raiders were the only team in the NFL that hadn’t allowed a run of 20 yards or more.

Meanwhile, Bryce Brown’s longest run of the season had only been for 9 yards through the first eight games. But late in the first quarter, Brown found a huge lane up the middle, got outside and picked up 32 yards for the Eagles’ longest run play of the day.

It’s one of the Eagles’ most popular plays: an inside zone read combined with a bubble screen to the perimeter (to be clear, I don’t know if Foles actually had the option to run here, but you get the idea).

The Raiders have three defensive backs on the Eagles’ three receivers. That sets up six in the box. If Nick Foles can “block” the edge defender, it’s hat-on-hat blocking.

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The edge defender, Kevin Burnett, stays at home. The Eagles  – Jason Peters, Evan Mathis and Jason Kelce, specifically – do a great job, and Brown has a huge hole off the bat.

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There are certainly times when the unblocked defender will just crash in on the running back, but that doesn’t happen here. He pays attention to Foles.

“Bryce has got a two-way go,” Kelce said. “He can either go to the right or to the left on that zone play. I’m just trying to stay in a relationship with Bryce so that [he’s behind me] when I fit the block. Because if Bryce is to my left, and I try to fit the block, the guy’s gonna slip me to the inside. And if I’m behind it, he’s gonna slip me front-side.”

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Kelce did not have to block a defensive lineman here. He went straight to the linebacker. In the above frame, it looks like the defender is going to be able to get off the block and get to Brown.

But Kelce does a great job of maintaining his block. The key is squaring up and staying between the defender and Brown.

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The Eagles constantly aim to get running backs set up in one-on-one matchups against safeties. That’s what happens here. Brown breaks Charles Woodson’s tackle and gets outside.

“We were in really good sync so that when I took the guy on, I was able to square him up,” Kelce said. “And then when he tried to go this way, then Bryce just fits off of that.”

On the very next play, Kelce was again tasked with getting to the linebacker on an inside zone run. But this time, he wasn’t able to square him up.

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“There were a couple times in the game where I went too far,” Kelce said. “And then they’re able to get behind me.”

“If you remember the one play 94 made down in the red zone, I was too far in front so that when I come up on him, he slips me back side.”

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Here, it looks like the run has a chance to pick up big yardage. Peters is going to switch off to the linebacker. And Mathis is doing a good job on the defensive tackle. But Kelce’s too far out in front of Burnett.

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The result was a 4-yard gain that had a chance for much more.

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