The Matchup: Eagles Vs. Redskins


1. All around the league, middle linebackers make the calls on defense. What does that mean? They wear the headsets, get the plays from the coordinators and relay them to the rest of the team.

But the process is a little different with the Eagles, especially now that Billy Davis has given DeMeco Ryans more freedom to make adjustments based on what he sees from the offense.

“He quarterbacks the defense ‑ we give him a lot of leeway,” Davis said. “He can get us in and out of defenses. Gets us in the best defense possible. And as the season has gone on, we as a staff have gotten more and more comfortable in his ability to put us in good situations, and he has.”

Asked specifically what he means, Davis said: “I’ll give him options within a call at times. Sometimes I’ll hard-call a play, and this is what we’re playing, and he’ll set it for us off the formation. And there’s other times I’ll give him two defenses. He can call either of the two, depending on things that are coming at us, and he’s got the ability if things get crazy to get us into a base call that everybody is out of harm’s way.”

Connor Barwin agreed that Ryans has more on his plate than the typical outside linebacker. On certain plays, he takes cues from Ryans to know whether he’s rushing the quarterback or dropping back into coverage.

“He’s really like a quarterback on our defense where especially this week where the Redskins, they motion and move and try to disguise everything, but they’re just running the same three or four plays,” Barwin said. “And it’s DeMeco’s job to get us in the right call because we change our defense as they move their motions around. So it’s really important. It’s a lot on his plate from a mental standpoint to be able to think about all that, call it, be right and then play football at a high level. So he does a great job.

“Our defense has evolved just from going against Chip where it’s what do we call it now… a no-huddle defense or something? But yeah, we play through hand signals, we change our defense a lot more than other defenses do.”

Ryans has drawn plenty of praise from the coaching staff in recent weeks. He’s been outstanding in the run game especially. But a big reason for the compliments is what he does before the ball’s even snapped.

“I just have the discretion to make different checks and get us in the right defense,” he said. “Like a quarterback gets the offense in a right play, a play that’s favorable to them, I have the leeway to put our defense in a favorable position.”

2. It’s time to start showing Nate Allen a little love. The Eagles’ fourth-year safety is playing the best football of his career. And the biggest difference has been his tackling. According to Pro Football Focus, Allen has missed just two tackles all season. Among the 82 safeties who have played at least 25 percent of their team’s snaps, that is tied for sixth-fewest. And it’s not as if Allen is never around the ball. Per PFF, he has 48 tackles, tied for eighth-most among safeties.

Davis said that when the coaches reviewed last year’s tape, they noticed a fundamental issue with Allen and some of the team’s other defensive players.

“I think the one thing in tackling that we saw from a year ago is everything was an arm tackle because the head placement was wrong,” Davis said. “I think we work hard on the head placement, which turns an arm tackle into a body tackle. And I think Nate has benefited along with the rest of them from that.”

Allen agreed.

“Just our head across their body,” he said. “So getting your head across and fitting and wrapping.

“It’s something we talk about all the time. And I think it’s something we’ve been getting better at every week and it’s starting to show.”

Added Brandon Boykin: “It’s really improved from last year. We’ve been able to wrap guys up one-on-one open field. And it’s been huge for us this year.”

3. Fletcher had a rough time with the Eagles’ packaged plays in Week 1. He was often the “read” defender, and the Eagles kept him guessing all game long.

I asked Fletcher this week why the packaged plays can be so effective.

“It does present a problem for you as a defense,” Fletcher said. “That’s why they do it. It’s to create conflict for the defense as far as do you come up and try to stop the run or do you hold off and try to play the pass? There is a conflict of who’s gonna stop the run, who’s gonna stop the pass. With the quarterback being a part of the run game as well, there’s another guy that you have to worry about and be concerned about as far as keeping the ball. It’s 11-on-11 football. So it’s difficult and it does present different challenges. That’s why they’ve been able to have success with it and that’s why they do it.”

4. McCoy doesn’t want to make it sound like he’s obsessed with winning the rushing title, but clearly it’d be a nice feather in his cap.

“The good thing is the linemen really keep track of all them things,” he said.

Mathis backed up that claim.

“Offensive linemen, what kind of stats do you have?” he said. “The rushing yards, you like to think you had a hand in that. You do have a great back who’s making some great plays, but you do like to think you have a hand in that and that you were part of that. …You do take pride in it, absolutely.”

Going into last week’s game against the Packers, McCoy was third. But he piled up 155 yards and regained the lead. McCoy how has 932 yards on the season, 61 more than Marshawn Lynch.

“During the game, they put the rushing… I think they put the top-10 rushing leaders on the scoreboard in Green Bay,” Mathis said. “You could see LeSean at No. 3. And then you see how far away he is, and then after the game… ‘Hey Shady, how many yards did you get? 155. OK, we’re good.’ ”

5. The one full-time staffer Kelly brought with him from Oregon was defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro. We’ve already written in this space about the work Azzinaro’s done with the guys up front, but he also holds the title of assistant head coach.

What does that mean exactly?

“Coaches me a lot,” Kelly said. “I mean, he’s a really special guy to be around. I think, again, he’s extremely intelligent. He’s got a great view and great mindset in terms of how he looks at not only the game but looks at life. We all seek Professor Azzinaro’s counsel a lot of times to be honest with you.”


1 2 3< Previous Next >View as One Page

Around The Web

Be respectful of our online community and contribute to an engaging conversation. We reserve the right to ban impersonators and remove comments that contain personal attacks, threats, or profanity, or are flat-out offensive. By posting here, you are permitting Philadelphia magazine and Metro Corp. to edit and republish your comment in all media.

  • theycallmerob

    “We really try to major in what we major in and force defenses to adjust accordingly.”

    Yea, screw that liberal arts approach to coaching. I’m glad our lineman are getting a Master’s in offensive engineering, and DJax and McCoy are already working on their Ph.D’s in defensive deconstruction.

  • anon

    haha Nate Allen! Earl Thomas who?

  • BlindChow

    Kelce: “You can have the one approach where you just throw a bunch of stuff at the guys and try and get in perfect situations with plays and whatnot against particular defenses…”

    Does anyone think he’s talking about Andy Reid here?

    • Adam

      Absolutely. First thing I thought when I read that. Maybe MM.

  • Explorer51

    Sheil, I think they seek Professor Azzinaro’s counsel…

  • nicksaenz1

    If Shady can get another 150+ yard game (preferably 200) he can likely maintain the rushing lead throughout the bye week…. Foles is going to have to get the ball out quick in this game with Barbre starting. Not a knock on Barbre, he played very well in GB, but I can see a lot pressure coming his way being the newbie on the line. Can’t afford for Foles to be getting crushed by Kerrigan/Orakpo….. I don’t discount this game as a gimme, at all, but I think it’s one we should win, even with the home field disadvantage. Keep Foles upright, make some lanes for Shady, and keep stopping the run and we’re tied for division lead, barring another Dallas meltdown.

    • theycallmerob

      Barbre did very well on Matthews. I doubt Kerrigan or Orakpo have played to that level yet this year, even if he was 1-handed. It’s not as if Peters was lights out on that side when he was starting, I honestly can’t say I saw much of a dropoff at all.

      • nicksaenz1

        Like I said, he looked good at GB. I thought he played very well. I’m just of the mindset that, if I’m a DC and notice there’s a backup on the line, I’m going to try to exploit that and see if I can confuse him/overload him, especially since it’s the QBs blindside.

        • Brian

          Then Chip takes advantage of the lineman’s over aggressiveness/lack of discipline.

          • Jerry Pomroy

            Yup. If they’re dumb enough to keep shooting wide up field, we’ll have a field day with inside zone runs to that side & I’m sure you’ll see Celek chipping the LB & releasing looking for the hot read.

    • Adam

      Did my own little All-22 on the first snap for Barbre that game. Not sure how well it’s going to look as I did it in paint.

      It really stood out to me and I’m surprised no one broke it down this week.

      This was the TD to DJax, and it was Barbre’s first snap of the game so they came right at him. He had the DE coming at him with a slight delayed blitz from the safety. He initially blocks the DE and see’s the DB coming.

      • Adam

        He blocks the DE then drops off his block perfectly times it to pick up the DB blitz, which gives Foles time to climb the pocket and hit Jackson for the TD.

        • Brandon Boykin, OLB

          Good job Sheil, er, Adam.

          • Adam

            If only I were as handsome.

  • Johnny_P

    This game has all the trappings of a statement division win by the Eagles at home, thereby shedding the “cant win at home” label and building the notoriety of Nick Foles. Foles needs to prove that he can pull out wins in November/December (in the elements) against divisional foes. Test #1 comes Sunday.

    • anon

      No. That was the Dallas game. We are a better team in all phases than the skins; this is a should win for us and a statement game for them.

  • jabostick

    I think Allen deserves extra props. Not only has he improved significantly but he’s done so in the face of Philly Fan criticism and pretty much being our poster boy when the D played poorly.

    I imagine that takes some big time focus and perseverence

    • Richard Colton

      Dude, I always knew he’d get it turned around, lied everyone here.

      • Adam

        I’ve actually never given up on him. I just couldn’t ignore that rookie season before he got hurt, he showed some flashes of being a really good player. Caught a ton of flak earlier in the year for saying a change of scheme and a coach with half a clue might is just what he needed.

        Not saying he’s made up for his miserable years here or that he’s lived up to the 2nd round bill, but I think he might turn out alright.

    • nicksaenz1

      I’d have disconnected my internet if I were in those shoes. Make sure I couldn’t hear/read what people were saying.

  • Adam

    I think there will be riots in the streets of Philly if Nate Allen gets resigned this off-season. I hope he does.

    • Jerry Pomroy

      I wouldn’t be opposed to re-signing him at the right price. But I would still look to add another young safety to develop and increase the talent pool at the position or possibly challenge to start.

      Based on the 3-4 concepts, I think they’ll be looking to add top-tier talent at WOLB & CB. If they can draft studs at just these two positions, the D is well on its way to making a huge leap fwd.

  • Adam

    People laughed at me when I said Azzinaro was Chip’s consigliere, but I still think it’s a very accurate description.

    If things don’t work out with Billy, I wouldn’t be shocked in the least if Azz was promoted to DC. I think Chip wanted to get him some NFL experience before he did anything like that.

    • bentheimmigrant

      Better still would be Billy moving on to a HC job after next season…

    • Mr. Wu

      well lets hope it wont be Jeff Stoutland

      • Wilbert31


  • A Big Butt and a Smile

    This isn’t a game about what happens offensively. They should easily put up 30+ on the Skins, Shady should have a big day. Offensively things should be fine.

    Defensively is where the story is going to be told and where the game will be won or lost. Rg3 is looking more like his normal self and Morris and Garcon are forces to be reckoned with. That bend don’t break defense will likely be tested heavily Sunday.

    • EaglePete

      absolutely. That beind said, I think were all waiting for a good offensive game at the Linc since SD.

    • OregonDucker

      I think our D might generate some turnovers. They’re feeling good about their gap responsibilities and I think will try some “extra” things.

    • theycallmerob

      It’d be great if Garcon was the only receiving threat, but the TE (j reed) has come on strong. he worries me the most on that O

    • Richard Colton

      how will Shady have a good day if Foles is the QB? You predicting a Willis Reed entrance for Vick?

      • A Big Butt and a Smile

        Still a willfully ignorant jack@ss I see. At least you’re consistent.

        • Richard Colton

          Awww. Come on. Admit when you’re wrong. or log in as one of your other personalities and downvote me.

  • Justin

    I think the most impressive thing about the way this team is playing right now is how young so many of our guys are. Look at all these rookies and second year guys stepping up.

  • Brandon

    Hate to nitpick, but why do people keep saying Carmichael played well? He gave up 100+ yds to Jarrett Boykin. Backup or not letting up 100+ receiving yds (to Boykin who is also a backup) is not “playing well” where I’m from. I just hope Fletch can come back soon, I see Carmichael getting abused more and more the longer he has to play.

    • theycallmerob

      They sold out to stop the run; yards are overrated. Plus, 36 came on the non-catch. And a starting safety was out. I’d imagine if fletch doesn’t play this week, he’s back after the bye anyway

    • Justin

      How many touchdowns did he give up?

    • Adam

      I’d check those stats. He gave up 5 completions for 59 yards.

      • Brandon

        Where you getting that from?

        • Adam

          Pro Football Focus

          • Brandon

            Ah got ya. I don’t have a subscription to them.

          • UKEagle99

            What do you have a subscription to? I’d drop it it. Roc played OK but it wasn’t Rogers pulling the trigger. Give him a decent chance before we throw him under the bus. One game a career does not make…apparantly.