Inside Voices: How the Eagles Tipped Their Hand

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at San Francisco 49ers
There is an overwhelming amount of evidence that suggests the Niners’ defense was picking up on the Eagles’ tells Sunday, which helps explain why a normally potent attack was shut down and shut out.

Matt Tobin said after the game that there were times when the San Francisco defense seemed to know exactly what was coming. David Molk echoed that sentiment on Thursday.

“I wouldn’t necessarily say the Niners as a group, but certain players within that group. I don’t know how they knew but they just [did],” said Molk.

Safety Antoine Bethea was one such player. His secret? He decoded a Nick Foles signal. From SFGate.com:

Bethea, who wore a microphone during the game (49ers.com video here), knew what was coming before the Eagles snapped the ball facing 1st-and-10 at the 49ers’ 20-yard line early in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Nick Foles surveyed the defense and called an audible by motioning with his hands over his helmet. In response, Bethea began pointing to his right and yelling: “Hey! Hey! Run! Run! Run! Run!”

The result: Defensive tackle Demarcus Dobbs drilled running back LeSean McCoy for a four-yard loss on a sweep left.

Earlier in the game, Bethea had told his teammates on the sideline a run was coming when Foles made a back-and-forth motion over his helmet, a tip that earned him an approving slap on the shoulder pad from defensive line coach Jim Tomsula.

“He saw it coming. He saw it coming. You saw it on film,” said Molk. “He’d be pointing out [where the play was going].”

According to Matt Barkley, the Eagles change their signals up just about every week so the Rams likely won’t benefit from the Niners’ discovery. But that wasn’t the only issue when it came to predictability last Sunday.

The Eagles’ third and fourth-down plays from the one-yard line against the 49ers were featured on the NBC Sports show Turning Point this week. As the piece explained, the fact that the Niners had the perfect coverage in those situations was no accident. They had seen both plays before on tape, including in the Eagles’ win over Oakland last year. Both plays against the Raiders resulted in touchdowns. This time around, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio seemed to be waiting for them.

“I don’t know if you ever plan for two plays from inside the two with the game on the line, but I will tell you this: the two calls that we made on third down and fourth down, we practiced during the week in those situations,” said Fangio.

Added cornerback Perrish Cox: “The two calls we had, I think they were actually the only two calls we went over at practice Friday. It worked out perfect.”

Bethea told reporters after the game that the Niners’ defense had a feel for what the Eagles were going to run based off the formations they were in. Asked about this, Chip Kelly suggested that he was limited in how much of the playbook he could use Sunday because of the situation up front.

“You self-scout yourself in terms of what you’re doing from a formation standpoint. But there are also sometimes when you are a little bit more limited in your game plan just because of who you have available to run what you want to run,” he said. “To say, ‘Hey, this would be great to run this because they won’t think it’s coming,’ well if your guy doesn’t think it’s coming either it’s going to be real difficult for you. You’ve got to know what you’ve got in the lineup and obviously you had some younger guys that were playing so we weren’t probably as wide open, as expansive as we could have been if we had guys out there with a little more experience.”

The Eagles get Lane Johnson back this week, but will be operating without Jason Kelce and Evan Mathis for the next four games. It will be interesting to see how much that ties Kelly’s hands in terms of what he is able to do schematically, because it seems pretty clear that some schematic tweaks are in order.

Cosell on Nick Foles

NFL Films Senior Producer Greg Cosell doesn’t see a different Nick Foles when he watches the tape, but rather a quarterback that is facing a new set of obstacles.

Really, it’s the defenses that are changing in Cosell’s view. Take, for instance, the Redskins and Niners. Both units largely remained in their base 3-4 against three-receiver sets when playing the Eagles, he said, which made it that much more difficult for the ground game to get going. With the run game stymied, Foles is frequently finding himself in third-and-longs .

“When Foles gets into more long-yardage situations — it’s tougher for any quarterback, that’s not just Nick Foles — but Foles is not the kind of quarterback that is going to stand in the pocket, sit on his back foot and drill the ball consistently between defenders,” he said.

Not only is Foles in a tougher spot when it comes to down and distance, but the windows he is being asked to throw into are often tighter than they were a year ago in Cosell’s opinion.

“Last year because all of this was new to defensive coordinators, we all agree that it looked last year like there were a ton of open receivers, which doesn’t happen that much in the NFL,” said Cosell.

“I think if you look at Foles the player, what you likely see is this: He’s got a good arm but not a gun; he’s not a power thrower, not a drive thrower. He’s a little more of a finesse thrower than a drive thrower. He does not have quick feet. There is no quick-twitch to his movement. There’s no explosive lower-body movement to him. When you look at Foles, I think what you see is a quarterback that needs the system to work for him and provide defined reads and good throws with the route concepts, just the whole system. He needs the system to work for him…

“I don’t think he’s really any different [from last year]. Because he’s not a quick-twitch guy, when he doesn’t feel comfortable making a throw he’ll start to look a little awkward because he’s not quick twitch, he moves around. There’s been more of that this year and I think that’s because defenses have done a really good job with the Eagles. Now it’s up to the Eagles to respond.”

HGH Testing Begins

It has flown a bit under the radar, but HGH testing is now a part of the NFL as of October 1.

DeMeco Ryans is the team’s player rep and he had all the pertinent info: Five players on eight teams will be randomly tested per week. Players can also be tested up to six times in the offseason for either HGH or other illegal substances. The HGH test is different in that blood needs to be drawn.

“It’s a real small amount of blood. It’s not as much blood as they take for like our physical exams,” said Ryans. “It’s like one of the little tubes they take for blood.”

Asked if he has spoken to his teammates about HGH testing, Ryans said that it will be discussed during a meeting next week.

A positive HGH test will result in a four-game suspension. It’s hard to say how much of an impact the new policy will have on the league because it’s unknown just how widespread HGH use is.

“I have no idea but I don’t think that many guys use HGH. I’ve never known anybody to use HGH so it will be interesting to see what happens over the next couple years,” said Connor Barwin. “I think it will be a really small amount [of positive tests], if any. Obviously there will be a couple but I think it will probably be less than what you see with the PEDs.”

Why?

“I don’t know. I mean I guess I never heard anybody talk about steroids but I’ve never heard anybody talk about HGH either outside of the media,” he said.

Added Ryans: “Im not certain because I don’t know if guys are using it so I don’t know how big of an effect it will [have]. I guess I’m just ignorant to it because I’ve never been around guys that use it that I know of. I’m just kind of oblivious to it.”

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  • 1972

    Weather the last two plays were predictable doesn’t really matter to me because they were open. Celek overthrow on 3rd, lineman runs the wrong way on 4th. Players gotta be better at converting

    • Token

      guess this posted up above as a guest, dunno wtf thats about. so ill delete this one

      • EAGLES

        Troll?

  • Guest

    I do wish Foles would have at least put the ball up to Cooper who was slightly ahead of his man and at least gave him a chance instead of throwing away the ball on the last down.

    • NickS, Combine Warrior

      I don’t disagree. My only counter would be he was throwing to a receiver he probably has a lot more confidence in right now in Maclin, instead of Big Catch Droppin’ Riley Cooper.

    • peteike

      I know that annoyed me also, basically the last play of the game INTs dont matter give the wr a chance.

  • JofreyRice

    wow, that explains a lot. How Bethea looked all world and how the 9ers were in the backfield on every play. Is Chip still using all those goofy pictures and stuff? Maybe they should go back to that. They’re dead in the water if they can’t get that fixed.

    • Reef215

      Chip was limited to what he could do. Also if Foles completed half of his missed passes we would of moved the ball not including the fumbles that cost us

    • B-West

      At least they switch things up game to game. The QB making a “shark fin” on his helmet was Quads 4 Verticals under Andy for like ten years. Switching these signs at half time seems like a great way to hit on a big play.

      • TheCatalyst

        I’m thinking they may need to switch it up quarter to quarter. There’s no way Bethea should be able to decode the same thing over the course of the whole game.

        • B-West

          Hasn’t Peyton talked about switching up his Omaha call to hit on big plays? It’s just like Chip’s outside zone run… It’s not the worst thing if they know its coming, because then they’ll over pursue and the cutback will be there. If they know these signs… just scheme up a play to burn them when they pursue incorrectly.

  • Addicted2MAmula

    TRADITIONAL PLAYS PLEASE

    • TheCatalyst

      I agree. If you go under center and run a sprint draw or I formation with Casey as your H-Back, you can surprise the defense because the Eagles haven’t shown that at all. 99% of the time Foles goes under center now is for playaction.

  • $121526476

    It’s a bit of a surprise the personnel at the line impacted playcalling, as well as play execution.
    I would have thought that the reserves would be just as adept with the playbook as the starters.
    I forgot how young those guys are.

    • anon

      yup young and they don’t learn the whole playbook every week. They learn a set of play calls. If those calls aren’t learning it’s hard to do something else with guys that (a) have little personal experience and (b) no experience with the guys next to them.

    • Dominik

      I think it’s more a question about execution. F.e. Molk may know a play where he has to pull to the left and take down the LB, but he can’t execute, while Kelce could. With all the reps our back-ups get, I think they know the playbook.

    • shady25

      Really surprised at Dennis Kelly going the wrong way on a play so crucial in the game. I would have expected that from Tobin but not Kelly. He has some kind of experience. But Tobin not getting the line call to Peters in time and then letting Justin Smith kill Foles on that int is very disappointing.

  • Deathstalker74

    Yeah, I just re-watched our last series and the Niners absolutely knew what was coming. They had everything shut down on the last series. Looking back on it, I’m not sure what the Eagles could have done other than try to put the ball in Sproles hands and have him run it in. Had Foles been faster, he could have decided to run it in the end zone but he was waiting for someone to get open. McCoy also royally screwed up by missing a critical block on 3rd down.

    • anon

      yeah it’s a shame he’s so slow. If they’re dropping everyone should be able to run that 5 yes and dive.

      • NickS, Combine Warrior

        Even if he’s a step or two faster I’m not sure he’s getting in there. I’ve thought about that a lot and it just seemed they had all of their guys in the right position to cover just about every angle to the end zone.

        • pjcostello

          Once the field was cut in half by the rollout, yes — it was like Grand Central Station down there!

          • bill

            The rollout and Dennis Kelly’s blown block.

          • Mr. Magee

            Chip did not get enough criticism for this play call… It was (is) literally a HS football play, ESPECIALLY down by the goal line. It has no place in a pro football play book. Good grief, I thought we saw the last of that play when Andy left.

    • Myke Lowery
      • eaglespur

        good one! there were a lot of plays that worked against the raiders

  • Jerry Pomroy

    Damn Julius Peppers looks like a different and younger player.

    • pjcostello

      On the interception return, I agree… but did you see him the rest of the game? I didn’t. Now, I didn’t watch every moment, but I haven’t seen him in their games at all. He’s been invisible.

      • peteike

        well, last 2 games it seems they are blowing teams out so maybe a different D. Well not until later in Chi game but ya I havent heard him much. They only need him to get explosive plays here or there I imagine at his age. Not sure they can hope for the old version every game.

      • Jerry Pomroy

        He did get to Ponder once that I saw. I believe it was a ½ sack. I was only paying attention in spurts. But I was referring more to just how he looked visibly physically. He dropped weight & moved surprisingly well. Just looked like it was someone else wearing a jersey with his name.

  • Tom w

    Sure does seem to me that foles is missing wide open guys 4-8 time a game … Dont think down and distance and base defense or man or nickel has anything to do w that except he isnt makin the throws ….

    Keeping an eye on brett hundley and the stanford qb …

    • OverreacSean Jackson, #culture

      Kevin Hogan is terrible.

    • livingonapear

      It all builds on itself. Foles missing passes leads to us going to the ground game. Ground game can’t get going because they key on it. That leads to us being one dimensional and going back to the pass. Being one dimensional and going to the pass means they can key on our routes. Them keying on our routes means Foles forces throws. Foles Forcing throws leads to missing passes.

      • anon

        That’s what we try to do on defense as well — unfortunately we don’t have the DBs to execute.

      • Jcrab59

        And with a shoddy O-line, he’s being rushed…I’m surprised he’s 3-1 at this point….

    • MediaMike

      Keep an eye on Hundley being a run first guy far too often and never learning how to set his feed, make progression reads, and/or stay upright on an NFL field.

    • miketd1

      If you don’t like our passing game now, I don’t see how you would want Hundley lined up at QB…

  • B-West

    Teams are telling Foles to beat them, plain and simple, as has been discussed. One silver lining though, we’ll know exactly what we have in Foles by the end of this season. As he comes to the end of his rookie contract and extension time, these 16 games will provide great film. Most of the risk of committing long term dollars to a guy who is simply a product of the system should be sorted out.

    • MediaMike

      System product QB season = Foles plays next year on his current deal.
      Improvement from Foles as the O-line / play calling settles in = Jay Cutler / Romo / Stafford deal in the $18 mil / year range, but written in a sneaky Riley Cooper contract manner with no long term risk.
      In any case with Foles, he’ll be able to paid a significant number of dollars in the form of guaranteed salaries and/or roster bonuses in the first two years of his new deal and we won’t be taking on a ton of risk beyond those two years. If you look at our cap and assume cuts of Cary / Trent / Todd / Celek; there is a ton of cap space available.

      • GreenScabs

        I don’t see us cutting all four that you mentioned, particularly Herremans or Celek. I think Casey makes much more sense to cut as he has contributed very little for that mega salary he has received the last two years. Seeing that Casey is scheduled to make $4 mil in ’15, and Celek is slated to make $4.8, I say keep Celek who is one of the best blocking TE’s in the league, will give you clutch catches, and bruising YAC where 9 times out of 10 his helmet will come flying off. Celek has also been a real proponent to the sports science mantra that Kelly has instilled in this program. Get rid of the dead weight, and keep the guy who contributes to the team on and off the field. Lastly, we can cut either Celek or Casey and no dead money will be involved, giving the Eagles a cap saving of $4 mil if Casey is cut or $4.8 if Celek is cut. I think the Celek has earned that additional $800,000.

        Herremans is a little different due to Barbre being on the rise, but as we have seen all too much already this season, injuries have plagued our O-line. Herreman’s versatility has been on display this season (though we always knew he could play both Guard position & RT), and has magnified his value in the organizations eyes (this just being my opinion). Kelly clearly values versatility over all other traits, so I envision the Eagles to possible approach him about a restructure, or flat out pay him the $5.2 mil he is owed on his current contract in ’15. The most important thing to remember with Herreman’s contract is that if we cut him we will only save $2.8 mil against the ’15 cap, and take a $2.4 mil hit in dead money. Herreman’s has proven to be too valuable to take a dead money hit of $2.4 to only save $2.8 against the cap.

        Ryans may be approached about a restructure as well, but again, I will not be at all surprised if we just pay him the $6.8 mil he is owed.

        Williams is all but gone IMO, but we will take a dead money hit of $1.66 mil when we cut him, so the actual cap saving is only $6.5 mil.

        Cole is probably in the same boat as Williams, BUT he does carry a lofty dead money hit of $3.2 mil if we cut him. Making the cap saving only $8.425 mil (which is still a large number, but I think many believe that we were going to save the entire $11.6 mil, which isn’t the case).

        Unfortunately we can’t cut Cooper. If we did it would be a $6.2 mil dead money hit and count $1.4 against the cap in ’15. Even when we cut him in ’16 he will carry a $2.4 mil dead money hit, but will save $2.9 against the cap.

        So if we cut Casey, Williams, & Cole it will be an $18.925 saving towards the cap in ’15. We are currently $16.3 under the ’14 cap, and we are allowed to carry over that entire $16.3 mil to the ’15 cap. And currently we are $5.9 mil under the ’15 cap with all of the players that we have signed. So all together with cutting those three players, carrying over the ’14 under-cap figure, and included the current ’15 under-cap figure, we will be sitting at $41.125 mil under the 2015 cap. Pretty awesome, but we have a ton of guys to extend (Possibly Foles, Kendricks, Cox, & Boykin), and four current starters & our back-up QB who’s contracts will run out after this season (Maclin, Thorton, Fletcher, Allen, & Sanchez). We could burn through that $41 mil pretty fast depending on how it all plays out.

    • peteike

      as long as we dont draft that choker Mariotta haha

      • paul from nc

        From you to God’s ear.

    • http://www.idonthaveawebsite.com theedevilsadvocate

      product of the system or not we are at 3-1 so i guess the system has worked out for him in the second half of games.

  • mtn_green

    Bethea still tackled shady one on one. So many times shady has to make one man miss, not this year.

    • Dominik

      Man has no rythm. RBs, like any other skill position players, need rythm. For Nick it’s sometimes the illusion of pressure, for Shady it’s the illusion of opponents gang tackling him.

      As soon as we get some push with our Line, both won’t feel the illusion anymore.

      • peteike

        yup but I dont recall many spots where Shady was one on one. More times than not it seems like hes running into a wall. Or when he finally does get space hes not in a rhythm.

  • Magmafromthedepths

    I had to stop watching Rodgers on Thursday. He could run backwards for 15 yards, hold the ball for 5 seconds, then throw a perfect pass to a wide-open receiver. Against a team which had been rated as pretty decent on defense. Must have been blocking and a smart experienced “quick-twitch” quarterback. Also a running game with a bulldozer, Eddie Lacey.

    • MediaMike

      That is why Rodgers is the best guy in the NFL. I can’t kill any guy for not being Rodgers.

      • NickS, Combine Warrior

        Maybe instead of doing yoga with his mom this coming offseason he works with a strength coach on improving his leg and core strength. May have been my only issue with him this offseason.

        • bill

          I really didn’t follow it that closely, but I do know that some forms of yoga are, in fact, VERY good at building functional core strength – you might say it’s their essential purpose.

          • NickS, Combine Warrior

            I’ve always equated it to stretching and core stability more than real strength building, and maybe that’s a misunderstanding on my part. Either way, I’d like to see him improve his explosiveness however he can.

          • Say No to Marc Mo From Easton

            Bikram Yoga will build some crazy core strength. It also may be why the dude can get beat into the ground and get up (flexibility).

          • NickS, Combine Warrior

            Good to know.

          • bill

            I have a feeling that no matter what he does, he’s just not an explosive athlete (low quick-twitch count or whatever). He can definitely improve through technique and training, but I doubt that’s ever going to be a strength (sorry) of his. Personally, I’ve noticed that his arm is significantly stronger this year over last, but that’s a somewhat subjective observation. His problem this year hasn’t been arm strength so much as timing and accuracy (they’re related in many ways) – he’s been a little (sometimes a lot) quick with his throws in many instances.

          • NickS, Combine Warrior

            He won’t be an explosive athlete, but that doesn’t mean that his explosiveness can’t be improved upon. That’s really all I’m getting at.

          • bill

            I got that. My response is just that I’ve actually seen some improvement there already, and there’s a limit to how much he can improve in that area.
            It also strikes me, while having this conversation, that his improved arm strength may be part of the issue with timing and accuracy. He’s got to “re-calibrate” to his improved velocity. Who knows.

          • Say No to Marc Mo From Easton

            I will play devil’s advocate here and say that a guy recruited by Georgetown, Baylor, Gonzaga, and Texas for basketball has some measure of explosion to his athleticism. Basketball is not really a sport built on long speed, but in bursts in small spaces. He’s never going to be confused for Colin Kaepernick, but when he’s in his comfort zone he’s more than capable of Big Ben type plays.

          • bill

            I can’t disagree with that. In fact, I think Big Ben is the closest guy to what I hope he develops into.

          • NickS, Combine Warrior

            I mean as far as NFL standards go. Sure, he’s athletic. You kind of have to be in the NFL. But you can play college ball without being explosive. He strikes me as pretty highly intelligent and under control SG.

          • fran35

            Right. I have a question: of the elite QBs, which ones are considered “quick twitch”? Luck and Rodgers–yes. Brady–no. Manning—haha, never. Brees–nope. I just think that this quick twitch thing is way overplayed.
            Foles is off and now he is pressing, which further throws his accuracy. McNabb was the same way. Except when he was off–man it was ugly. We need some short high percentage throws to get Nick in rhythm.

          • NickS, Combine Warrior

            I agree, and Brees has some “twitch” to him, I think.

          • ztom6

            These guys do have quick releases though. Foles needs to get on that train.

          • paul from nc

            It’s not just the “quick twitch”, whatever that means, it’s the average arm, slow feet issue.
            For all the hype he received last year, this is what a lot of people saw. I agree that he was a product of a system that the defenses hadn’t seen before, hence the great stats. This year, defenses are crowding the line to stop the run and the dink and dunk passes that resulted in huge YAC. On the zone options, they totally ignore to keeper and crash the RB. Their game plan is to make Foles beat them with the 15+ yd passes, and he’s not hitting them this year.
            He’s good at the outs, seam routes to the TE and screens; as long as he can get it out quickly, If not, he’s an average QB at best. SYstem QB seems to be the best term I’ve seen yet for him.

        • botto

          yeah yoga is all about building core strength. why woudl that be an issue with him?

          • NickS, Combine Warrior

            Yeah, I don’t think it’s about building core strength as much as stability. Allegedly Bikram does, but, even still, I doubt they’re throwing around medicine balls, etc, to build strength.

    • NickS, Combine Warrior

      The tempo game they ran looked pretty solid, too.

    • peteike

      ya, the way he just slings it and makes it look easy is an elite skill. He gets it out fast on some of those slants. That being said, the vikings secondary is one of the worst in the NFL, its bad. At least my Viking fan friend told me that last night, I didnt look it up. Those NFC west teams and getting signals, Sea did it to Peyton in superbowl now Niners do it to us. Interesting that CK said they are limited per the young O line, wouldnt have thought that.

  • MediaMike

    Cosell really nails it every time on QB play. Maybe we want to keep than in mind before calling too many rollout plays and/or forgetting to block people.

  • MediaMike

    In spite of my continued rage at the lack of functional blocking from backup o-linemen who were fluffed all pre-season by the coaches and reporters covering the team; they’re not going to have to block Justin Smith again any time soon, nor play a safety that tackles in the run game like Bethea.

  • Wiztopher

    Foles has to hit open receivers, then safeties will move out of the box to more of a cover 2 which will open things up for Shady. Come on, Foles.

  • Travis Papa

    I’m a huge Foles fanboy but I’d love for him to play out his rookie contract the more I think about it barring a SB run. No reason to pay anyone early really except to avoid a crunch on the tag between2 players. cosell makes some points but doesn’t factor in the OL problems. He also doesn’t point out Foles is more indecisive than last yr and a little less accurate. Foles is taking less sacks in gms which is something he said he would work on and has done so that’s a positive.

  • Andy

    So the Niners knew what was coming and still narrowly beat us at home. The predictability/signs thing should be fixable. Kelly will adjust.

  • botto

    he says defenses have done such a good job stopping the eagles but the points scored dont bare that out except for the niners game.

    • paul from nc

      We are 4th in the league in pts. @ 122. But the defense has scored 7 and ST, including FG’s has scored 37. So over 1/3 of the points were not from the offense.

  • Nancy

    Does Kelly sound like he has absolutely no faith in this team, let alone the offensive line? He seems so unsure of the players and like almost no one on this team can get it done. Chip doesn’t have the usual confidence and “we’ll be fine…” attitude. It’s more of a we suck and we’re going to suck…let’s move on.

  • Dustan M. Howell

    “When you look at Foles, I think what you
    see is a quarterback that needs the system to work for him and provide
    defined reads and good throws with the route concepts, just the whole
    system. He needs the system to work for him…”

    I have been saying this since last year…and I got killed for it.