All-22: McCoy, Run Game Get On Track

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For the better part of five weeks, the run game left LeSean McCoy, the offensive line and the coaching staff somewhat frustrated.

Chip Kelly and company had trouble getting everyone on the same page. McCoy averaged just 3.4 yards-per-carry on 90 attempts from Oct. 6 to Nov. 3. He failed to tally a single run of 20+ yards during that span.




While we spend a lot of time in this space talking about scheme and X's and O's, sometimes it's as simple as the best players doing things the opponent can't account for.

That brings us to Sunday's game against the Packers, which was easily one of McCoy's best performances of the season. There have been seven instances this year where a running back has amassed 150+ yards while averaging 6.0 yards per carry or better. McCoy was the running back on two of those seven.

On Sunday, he carried 25 times for 155 yards (6.2 YPC). The blocking up front was better at times. But during other instances, it was just McCoy doing what he does best: making defenders miss.

Take this first-quarter run, for example. Nowhere to go, right?

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The Packers have safety Morgan Burnett up in the box unblocked. B.J. Raji penetrates the backfield against Jason Kelce, and there's no crease for McCoy.

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His only option is to try to bounce it outside. But again, Burnett is unblocked and in perfect position to make the play.

However, McCoy against a safety often times is an advantage for the offense.

"I think today I had more lanes and a lot more one-on-one opportunities," McCoy said afterwards. "I was to the second level so fast today, and I was just hitting it."

McCoy's move at the line of scrimmage left Burnett in the dust, and he took off towards the sideline.

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McCoy ended up turning a potential loss into a 20-yard gain.

By the way, there's a reason Eagles coaches have raved about Allen Barbre this week. Look at his hustle on this play.

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Barbre is nearly 30 yards downfield on the defensive back. That kind of effort and athleticism makes coaches happy when they review the film.

***

Then there are the instances when the right play-call meets good execution.

"I think it’s one thing for a back to be confident to run the ball," McCoy said. "But it’s another when the guys up front want to run the ball even more than you do. So it says a lot about them up front, the way they played today."

On this sweep to the right, the Eagles have an advantage before the snap.

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There's a lot going on here. The Packers are in man coverage, and you'll notice Brent Celek to the left of Evan Mathis. Jason Avant is also in tight. There are five Packers defenders in the shot to the left of Kelce.

Barbre is set up to the right of Lane Johnson. They're both going to down-block on the defensive linemen. Meanwhile, Kelce and Todd Herremans are going to pull. Because of the formation, if the play works, the only defender for them to block on that side of the field will be linebacker A.J. Hawk.

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"We had ‘em out-leveraged on the right," Kelce said. "I think they only had one linebacker over there. They had everybody else pushed over to the left. So me and Todd pulled around. They only had one linebacker so I took A.J. Hawk. Todd tried to get to the second level."

You can see that the lineman slip past Barbre, but it doesn't matter. He's not going to catch McCoy, who is turning the corner.

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Kelce makes sure Hawk gets a good taste of the Lambeau grass, and poor Herremans does all that work for nothing. He's got no one to block.

The other key here is that the Packers are in man coverage. That means the Eagles can take defensive backs out of the play just by having the receivers run them off. Take a look at the cornerback circled in red. He has his back to the play as he tries to keep up with DeSean Jackson.

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There's nothing but open field for McCoy to that side.

"That’s one thing in man coverage is if you can break through that initial defensive structure, they really don’t have a lot of support because guys are running in man coverage and there’s no other safeties to read really," Kelce said. "So that was really the biggest thing on that play, and that’s what we’ve been trying to do against man coverage for awhile now. If you can break contain, if you can break through the initial stopping of the defense at the first two levels, those third levels often are taken up in routes and things like that."

McCoy picked up 30 yards for his biggest run since Week 3.

***

The final drive was huge for the Eagles. They ran the ball on 11 of 12 plays (not including three kneel-downs) and chewed 9:32 off the clock.

Kelly is still using read-option principles with Foles in the game. Here, the Eagles leave Mike Neal unblocked.

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A couple plays earlier, McCoy juked Neal and picked up 14. But this time, the defensive lineman gets his hands on McCoy. Looks like about a 1-yard gain, right?

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Wrong. McCoy shows great lower-body strength and power. Remember, this was his 24th carry of the game and 15th of the second half. But McCoy drags Neal with him for a gain of 7.

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***

Two plays later, the Eagles faced a 2nd-and-9. And they go zone-read leaving Neal unblocked once again.

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Neal is focused on McCoy, although he doesn't crash hard. In other words, this was a gutsy keep by Foles.

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My favorite trend on the Eagles' zone-read plays with Foles is that the camera-person refuses to acknowledge that it's possible he'll keep the football.

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We have a confused Neal, and we have McCoy carrying out his fake. But has anyone seen Foles? Or for that matter the football? You know, the thing everyone's fighting over?

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Ahh, there it is. Foles picks up 9 yards and a first down, essentially ending the game.

***

Overall, on designed runs, the Eagles piled up 179 yards on 31 carries, averaging 5.8 yards per attempt. Even though the Packers geared up to stop the run, the offense was able to pick up yards on the ground. That's something they'll have to continue down the stretch for the offense to be successful.

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

    Thanks Sheil.

    • Dr Rick

      Yes, Thanks Sheil.

  • CTAZPA

    “Kelce makes sure Hawk gets a good taste of the Lambeau grass”

    A picture and sentiment worth framing.

  • breakdown6

    Great analysis as always. Been waiting all day for it

  • BlindChow

    What’s amazing is Peters goes down and our offense doesn’t miss a beat.

    • damrvrhunter

      That’s what you get when the backup is coached up unlike Reid’s regime.

      • BlindChow

        All the OL problems in Miami and Watkins still can’t see the field…

        • Eagles4Life

          Quite telling.

          • BrickSquadMonopoly

            Just like King Dunlap. Right?

    • GEAGLE

      Coaching staff has done an amazing job…they had Goode,roc,Barbre all ready to play..
      ..
      Think back to how horrible our Oline was…now we have 5 stud hogs. Barbre is such a pleasant surprise. We forget that we still have the promising Dennis Kelly. Hoping stout and Peters are helping bring Bamiro along

  • Justin

    I wish Barbre tossing Clay Matthews away had made it into this.

    • Will

      Here’s one for ya…Pass protection execution perfecto…

    • Will

      I did find this Clay whiffing on Casey this proves he does play on the Offense…a much needed 1st down…

      • http://comic-book-nerd.blogspot.com/ SJ Mitchell

        All day long me and my kids kept saying Clay Mathews came at it “like a wrecking ball” LOL. God that thing covering his hand is ridiculous!

  • Will

    Thing of Beauty love the way McCoy can juke….and another Defender grabbing air..

  • Will

    This was a sweet Sack by Curry as well….Defense coming on strong….

    • GEAGLE

      Defense isn’t just playing well…they are starting to play NASTY!

      Meco better get sent to the probowl this year..

      If we win 4 of the next 6 games, we should get recognition and be sending some of our guys to Hawaii.. Shady is a lock. Desean has a good chance. we have 3 Olinemen who could get that honor,.

      Anyone but Meco have a chance to make it on defense? I guess the next best odds of getting an invite would go to Cox and Thornton

      • nicksaenz1

        Defense is playing well. I still do want to see how they fare against a top notch QB. I don’t say that to belittle their effort. D has been outstanding, which, to give proper kudos, you called early on. For me, it’s a test of how they’ll react in the playoffs if we can pull off winning the division.

      • anon

        does meco make it? Keuchly is def going along w/ all the lbs from sf probably. i think he’s our best d player though.

        • cliff henny

          helps they send about 4 alts too.

        • BlindChow

          Meco is #4 in tackles right now (with a couple interceptions). I think the only thing holding him back would be name recognition.

        • Jason

          Don’t forget this is the first year they aren’t doing Conference alignments for the Pro Bowl.

  • Will

    My Favorite…

  • BostonianEagle

    Note to Sheil: Great all-22s, but your plays sometimes could use some gifs. Gifcam is free, dude, and it is simple. Your all-22 would be such easier to follow!

    • Joe from Easton

      A GIF here or there probably wouldn’t hurt, but I actually like the still images and think they go a long in allowing Sheil to break it down for fans to understand. With GIF he wouldn’t have the boxes and arrows and all of that crap.

  • Myke Lowery

    how many times this game did Nick actually keep the ball? early on he did and that definitely helped the blocking get set up. compared to the other games where everyone knew he wasn’t running.

    • GEAGLE

      Are you confusing Nick with Matt? Nicks been running with the ball all year

  • Brent E. Sulecki

    where the heck was Foles in that one frame?

    • nicksaenz1

      Leaving the cameraman in the dust

  • jon h

    this coverage continues to be top notch – thanks Sheil.

  • nicksaenz1

    I love watching Foles run just enough to keep to keep the D honest.

  • Broadcasting Wisdom

    Biggest surprise from Foles to me is his functional mobility. If he can average 5 yards per carry and pick up first downs on short yardage situations, that is all we need him to do. He won’t break off 40 yard highlight reel runs, but he’ll keep the chains moving. He also seems to have a natural pocket presence that enables him to avoid rushers for an instant and then make a throw (or throw it away).

    • cliff henny

      some of the foles immobility talk is just because of who he competed against. vick is all world athlete, just unfair. there’s plenty of good starting qbs who are less mobile than foles and not just the older types like brady and manning. flacco, ryan, eli, stafford, mean these guys arent going anywhere. it’s not pretty, but not as bad as we made it out to be 6 nonths ago.

  • Don_the_Hun

    I really loved seeing McCoy also take the yards that the D and O-line were giving him instead of trying to hit a home-run everytime

  • theycallmerob

    Wait, where was Vick? How could Shady run so well without him?

    • Richard Colton

      Notice how they ran away from that argument too. A simple “I was wrong” would re-establish so much credibility.

      • Andy124

        Now it’s “We run better with Vick.”

        • Eagles4Life

          That’s what it’s always been, and it’s still a fact lol. I’m all for Foles going forward, but don’t be facetious. It’s still the truth.

          • theycallmerob

            May be. But if that’s the case, than we seem to win better with Foles :)

          • Eagles4Life

            Hey, no argument from me there. I think he has benefited from improved defense, but the numbers don’t lie. The kid is balling and we’re winning.

          • aub32

            The fact that we are playing better D and lesser competition has nothing to do with that at all huh. I like Foles, but would you really take him in a game against KC or Denver?

          • theycallmerob

            Note the smiley face in my post, which was my “this is tongue-in-cheek” notice.
            But with regard to your questions, I would. Absolutely. Today, I would absolutely take him against either team.
            Besides, even if he lost, outcome doesn’t change. But I think a lot of what had to do with those losses was the timing; scheme has been improving over the year.

          • aub32

            Andy can tell you I don’t may much attention to smileys so my misunderstanding. I would definitely take Denver or KC if we played them this week. I think you are letting wins against bad teams cloud your judgement. We disagree on Foles, which is fine, but it’s hard to deny that he has faced very little pressure the past two weeks. That would definitely cahnge against KC. Also, we saw Riley was owned by Sean Smith. Also, I don’t think Foles could keep up with the pace of Peyton. The D hasn’t seen a QB close to that caliber in ages.

          • theycallmerob

            Trust me, I absolutely see the holistic angle with re: to our recent improved play. But a big component of that has been from the QB position. As the sample size gets larger, the numbers take on both greater validity and reliability. Simple statistical proof. No QB gets the benefit of selecting which defenses they play against, nor whether or not lady luck is in their corner that day.

          • Andy124

            but don’t be facetious
            But, but that’s my thing man.

        • aub32

          It’s always been we run better with Vick. Shady is amazing and 2nd right now to only AD. He will get his regardless. Anyone who mentioned differently were clearly victims of hyperbole.

          • Richard Colton

            Well you were never part of that crowd. Plenty of the Vickophants argued that Foles was holding back the run game.

          • BrickSquadMonopoly

            Come on Dick no name calling…

          • Richard Colton

            Can’t recall your position Brick. You weren’t one of the “Vick first, Eagles…whatever” crowd, were you? Thankfully, most have left in despair, as we knew they would.

          • BrickSquadMonopoly

            I can honestly say I thought Vick was the best option for the Eagles until he got hurt. I’m still only 80% sold on Foles. I gotta see the bigtime division win and clutch gene

          • aub32

            Right I addressed them with my hyperbole comment. I think it’s assumed by all here that Shady will get his.

          • Andy124

            And while Foles’ drive was nice, without Vick stopping McCoy becomes pretty darn easy.
            —————————–
            Shadys going to average 40 yds per gamewith foles in there. I dont like either QB for the future but the run game is going to suffer with foles in there. No read option threat at all.
            —————————-
            There were also comments emphasizing the “better” part of the argument. But to say that It’s always been “better” is to pretend others didn’t speak in absolutes, which they did.

          • aub32

            hyperbole

  • Andy124

    Even though the Packers geared up to stop the run
    Sheil, I’ve read this a couple times, but based on Foles’ reduced passing attempts in a package offense, I’m wondering to what degree that is really the case. Especially coming off that Oakland performance.

    Would it be possible to get a breakdown of #men in the box by percentage of defensive snaps for this game vs. other games? Heck, a weekly breakdown of that would be awesome. It’s a simplistic way of measuring how dedicated a team is to stopping the run, but I think it’d at least be a real good starting point.

    • theycallmerob

      ^ THIS.
      Sheil, please make the magic happen. If you went back to the start of the year, it may also show if teams are playing differently against Shady with Vick/Foles, and (as Andy posited) whether or not the OAK performance, or DAL stinker, changed teams’ perceptions of Foles and the O

    • Jason

      Agreed, great point Andy

  • Richard Colton

    Thanks All-22. Pancakes for breakfast.

    • Joe from Easton

      It’s the pancake breakfast… we do it every month.

  • aub32

    You gotta love when the pass and run are working together. Foles’ willingness to take his shots this season is now finally starting to benefit the run game. DBs are so fearful of getting beat by DJax that they take off before even thinking to look back.

  • Max Lightfoot

    I learn so much on this site. Thanks, Sheil and Tim – you’re the best!!