All-22 Wake-Up Call: The Eagles’ New Defense

Jim Schwartz. (USA Today Sports)

Jim Schwartz. (USA Today Sports)

Jim Washburn had a problem. The year was 1999, and he was the Tennessee Titans’ defensive line coach, but they weren’t getting enough sacks.

Washburn had difficulty determining how his defense could be more aggressive without overhauling the scheme, so he approached a defensive quality control coach in a trailer one day. It was especially tough figuring out what to do with the defensive lineman who lined up in front of the tight end, so Washburn suggested the lineman should shift outside the tight end, or from a 6-technique to a 9-technique.

“Hold on a second,” Washburn said. “Look, we’ve got eight guys to defend eight gaps. Why can’t one of my guys’ gaps be the edge? Be the nine technique? Let all you other a—holes cover those other gaps. Why can’t I have that one?” Read more »

All-22 Wake-Up Call: The Eagles’ New Offense

Doug Pederson. (USA Today Sports)

Doug Pederson. (USA Today Sports)

If Doug Pederson is successful with the Eagles, and he’s able to turn around Philadelphia’s offense, you can thank Paul Brown and Bill Walsh. That’s the duo widely credited with bringing the West Coast offense to the NFL, a variation of which you’ll see Pederson run.

You can even follow the lineage from Walsh down to Pederson, as Mike Holmgren was a quarterbacks coach under Walsh, Andy Reid was a quarterbacks coach under Homlgren, and Pederson was a quarterbacks coach — and offense coordinator — under Reid.

Still, the Eagles’ new head coach warns against using a blanket label to describe his offense.

“You say West Coast, I think that has kind of gone by the wayside just a touch,” Pederson said on Tuesday. “I’ll tell you this: the core values of the offense, the core principles, some of the core plays are West Coast-ish. We have developed a hybrid-type system.” Read more »

Coaching Candidate All-22: Gase’s Adaptability

Adam Gase. (USA Today Sports)

Adam Gase. (USA Today Sports)

Much has been made about Adam Gase’s adaptability. Whether you talk to his former players or media members who have covered him, it’s one of the first things they’ll mention.

Sure, he helped the Broncos win a playoff game with Tim Tebow starting, but how much can you actually attribute that to the quarterbacks coach? Peyton Manning had the best statistical season for a quarterback ever when Gase was his offensive coordinator, but wasn’t Manning probably most responsible for that?

And now, as the Bears offensive coordinator, Gase helped Jay Cutler achieve a career-high passer rating, but Chicago ranked just 17th in offensive points per drive this season, per Football Outsiders.

To get a better feel of how, exactly, has Gase adapted, and how much praise he deserves for his quarterbacks’ successes, we took to the film and pulled an example from his time with three of his most recent quarterbacks.
Read more »

All-22: Lessons From the First Washington Game

Pierre Garcon and Nolan Carroll. (USA Today Sports)

Pierre Garçon and Nolan Carroll. (USA Today Sports)

Eric Rowe is still kicking himself over a minor mistake he made 12 weeks ago. It was just the second NFL game he had appeared in on defense, and the first time he played more than 15 defensive snaps.

With just 26 seconds left in the Week 4 matchup, Kirk Cousins connected with Pierre Garçon to give Washington the 23-20 victory over Philadelphia. Nolan Carroll was the defensive back covering Garçon, but Rowe wasn’t far away.

“I have better technique now, but I could’ve had a lot better eyes,” Rowe said. “My eyes were all over the place, especially that last play where Pierre Garçon scored in the red zone. I could’ve jumped it earlier.

“I should’ve kept them on the receiver instead of in the backfield. When you look in the backfield and your total focus isn’t on the receiver, you’ll be late in reacting.” Read more »

Eagles All-22 Wake-Up Call: Blitzing Bradford

Sam Bradford. (Jeff Fusco)

Sam Bradford. (Jeff Fusco)

For three quarters against Arizona, Sam Bradford was slinging the ball around the field, seemingly upping the value of his next contract with every big third down completion. But then came the fourth quarter, which included two interceptions, that all but put the fire out on his previously excellent performance.

Bradford finished the day completing 28 of his 41 passes for 361 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. He averaged 8.8 yards per pass attempt and recorded a 91.6 passer rating.

“I thought Sam played well,” Chip Kelly said after the game. “Again, I think we have got to catch the ball better for him. I thought he threw the ball well tonight. He got hit, but he stayed in there and delivered the ball.” Read more »

All-22: Why Fletcher Cox Is So Dominant

Fletcher Cox. (Jeff Fusco)

Fletcher Cox. (Jeff Fusco)

Billy Davis is a bit worried, and it’s not difficult to understand why.

Metrics traditionally used to evaluate pass-rushers and run-stoppers don’t reflect that well on Fletcher Cox, who doesn’t rank in the top-20 in the NFL in sacks or in the top-50 in tackles-for-loss.

The defensive end is tied for sixth in forced fumbles, but so are 20 other players around the league. His impact is clear and indisputable to those who watch him, but the problem with his Pro Bowl candidacy is most people don’t see his film.

“He’s not overlooked by his peers. The players will vote him in and the coaches will vote him in. Anybody that puts a tape on or has gone against him, that’s a no-brainer. They will vote him in,” Davis said. “The problem lies in the fan vote and that’s what we have to help Fletch with is getting that fan vote up. People look at stats and say, ‘Hey, let me vote on a guy with stats.’ If you played against [Cox], you’re going to vote for him. If you coached against him, you’re going to vote for him. Now we’ve just got to get the fans out there to vote for him.” Read more »

Eagles All-22 Wake-Up Call: Bradford’s Growth

Sam Bradford. (Jeff Fusco)

Sam Bradford. (Jeff Fusco)

Pat Shurmur seemed as though he wanted to get something off of his chest. The normally hushed offensive coordinator was asked about his quarterback’s pocket movement to open his press conference yesterday, and he responded with a 171-word breakdown of Sam Bradford, without really addressing footwork.

“His overall play has improved each week,” Shurmur said. “I certainly expected it. I’m starting to see the things in him that I remember seeing when he was a rookie. It takes a while to come back from what he went through (tearing his ACL twice), and he’s getting more and more used to the way we’re doing things.

“Certainly, it was easy to connect the dots when he first got here, and he was very well aware of what we try to do offensively. But it just takes a little bit of time. Much like an offensive line working together, the quarterback with everything that he has on his plate along with getting himself really physically ready to handle it all, it just kind of takes a little bit of time. I think we didn’t know what to expect as we moved along.

“Certainly, expectations are high whenever you’re talking about an NFL football team and an NFL football player. But we just saw him getting better each day, and I think it’s showing on Sunday.” Read more »

All-22: Inside Agholor’s First-Career Touchdown

Josh Huff and Nelson Agholor. (Jeff Fusco)

Josh Huff and Nelson Agholor. (Jeff Fusco)

Dennis Kelly put the Eagles in a huge hole. After Jason Peters exited Philadelphia’s game against Buffalo with an ankle injury, Kelly was called for holding on his first two snaps.

The Eagles were 0-for-12 in converting first downs when facing third-and-16 or longer, so they needed at least a dozen or so yards on second-and-26. Instead, Sam Bradford launched a bomb to Nelson Agholor, who hauled in a 53-yard touchdown catch for the first score of his career.

“It felt great, obviously, because it was a play that helped us out. It was not a touchdown just because; it was a touchdown that put us in position to make other plays,” Agholor said. “It meant a lot to score a touchdown in the situation I did, and for my teammates. You’ve got to think about it, the series, we kind of got pushed back a little bit and we needed to make a play and we did.” Read more »

All-22: How Murray Compares To McCoy

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Chip Kelly stood before reporters at the NovaCare Complex yesterday defending a trade he made back in March.

The deal — sending LeSean McCoy to Buffalo in exchange for Kiko Alonso — couldn’t have turned out much worse for the Eagles so far. Out of 46 running backs who have the qualified number of carries, McCoy ranks 12th in yards per rush this season, while Alonso has battled injuries and struggled.

“I think we did the right thing at the time,” Kelly said yesterday. “We traded an outstanding running back for a linebacker. But we also traded $700,000 for $11.9 million. I think with all of those situations, there’s money involved. One of the things we had was, we had a lot of players who were older and at the ends of their contracts that were making big money.” Read more »

All-22: How Billy Davis Confused Tom Brady

Billy Davis. (Jeff Fusco)

Billy Davis. (Jeff Fusco)

It was a laughing matter. Literally.

Tim and I explained in last week’s Press Coverage how the Eagles would need to generate a good pass rush and force turnovers against Tom Brady to pull off the unlikely upset over the Patriots. How unlikely? We treated it more as a joke than as something that could actually happen.

But Billy Davis’ unit, after allowing 90 points in the previous two weeks, helped do just that as their four sacks and two interceptions played a pivotal role in Philadelphia’s 35-28 win.

“It’s a tough place to go in,” Davis said. “First of all, I thought the players did a great job. They showed a lot of character, being in the hole we were in the last two weeks and them fighting through it and having that challenge of going in there to beat Brady and Coach [Bill] Belichick in Foxborough is a big deal.

“A big part of it was the three- and four-man rush winning there and the cover guys just holding. We knew we were going to get our share of their passing game. That’s what they do and that’s what their strength is. In the last couple weeks, we were not having much success in that area and the guys stepped up and made a lot of plays.” Read more »

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