All-22: New Wrinkle Sparks Eagles Run Game

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Through the first five games, it seemed everyone had a different reason for why the Eagles’ run game was struggling.

Most pointed to the injuries on the offensive line. Some suggested LeSean McCoy was injured or had lost a step. And others simply figured it was out how defenses were playing the Eagles.

But there was another factor at play, one that the coaching staff could control. During the Week 4 loss to the 49ers, there were indications that San Francisco knew some of what was coming. Against St. Louis, to a lesser extent, there were similar sentiments.

“They knew what plays were coming,” said Lane Johnson after the win over the Rams.

“I just think defenses have more knowledge of what’s coming. Last year everything was so new, and I think they’ve kind of seen a lot of what we do, so just moving forward, we’ll probably throw in a few more wrinkles.”

Chip Kelly would not be offended by Johnson’s comments. The Eagles’ offense is based on running a series of foundation plays effectively, dressing them up differently and moving at a fast pace. The problem at times this season has been that defenses have game-planned well against those foundation plays. Because of injuries up front and inconsistent quarterback play, the offense has not run as smoothly.

But against the Giants, a team that limited McCoy to 94 yards on 35 carries in two meetings last year with an inside stunt, Kelly broke out some wrinkles that helped jump-start the run game and the offense as a whole. Read more »

All-22: The State Of the Eagles’ Offense

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After Sunday’s win against the Rams, Chip Kelly discussed the process of feeling out opposing defenses early in games.

“Just try to loosen them up,” Kelly said. “A lot of times as we play teams, it’s figuring how they decide to defend us. They were in a big man scheme, different than some of the other teams we face. Trying to get a feel for what they are going to do from a defensive standpoint.

“They have done a good job of playing zone and man. Just what are they going to choose to play us in, and they chose to play us in a lot more man today than we had seen. Even any of the other games we had played, I think Jacksonville and San Francisco played us in a ton of zone. These guys, their choice was to play us in man. Just have to do a better job with some of our man beaters. We had some guys there, but we have to do a better job. We knew what we were getting. We just have to execute.”

For the second week in a row, the offense looked shaky, managing two touchdown drives while turning the ball over three times. Read more »

All-22: Dissecting the Eagles’ Defensive Breakdowns

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Knowing that he was about to field several questions about the defense’s near-meltdown against the St. Louis Rams, Billy Davis went for the humor route as he walked up to the podium Tuesday afternoon.

“You guys rather have [special teams coach Dave] Fipp?” he joked. “I can bring Fipp up. He deserves it.”

The first nine possessions against the Rams resulted in one touchdown, five punts and three turnovers. However, the Eagles allowed three touchdown drives of 60+ yards in the final 18 minutes and needed a late stop to hang on to a 34-28 lead.

Davis fields questions about his starting cornerbacks on a weekly basis. On Tuesday, he offered a passionate defense of Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher. He also provided context for some of the team’s late-game breakdowns. Read more »

Ertz Calls On Peters For Run Blocking Help

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The same scene played out after every practice this week.

While the rest of the Eagles were stretching, Jason Peters and Zach Ertz stood off to the side. They would line up across from each other, fire off the ball, and Ertz would try to block Peters, who was playing the role of a defensive end or a linebacker.

Afterwards, Peters would offer some instruction, and they would do it again.

“I want to be a complete tight end in this league,” said Ertz. “Obviously the route-running, I’m very comfortable with that. I feel like I can get open pretty much whenever I’m on the field. You’ve gotta have that mentality. But the run-blocking I’ve gotta work on each and every day. Jason’s probably the best run-blocking player in the NFL, so to have that ability to learn from him is something I’m working on.” Read more »

All-22: Jenkins Looking Like a Perfect Fit

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Back in March, there were bigger names on the free agent market, but the Eagles insisted Malcolm Jenkins was the top safety on their board, ahead of guys like Jairus Byrd and T.J. Ward, both of whom played their college ball at Oregon.

Some (including yours truly) questioned the decision. Given the franchise’s track record in evaluating safeties over the years, it was fair to wonder whether Jenkins would just add to a long list of guys who were unable to adequately fill the void on the back end of the defense.

But four games in, the opposite appears to be true. Jenkins has three interceptions in his last three games and has shown the versatility that Chip Kelly and other team officials raved about back in the spring. Read more »

All-22: Maclin Gets Loose On Jailbreak Screen

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In Chip Kelly’s first game as an NFL head coach against Jim Haslett and Washington last season, he used a look in the second quarter that we would see pretty much on a weekly basis throughout the year.

It featured stacked receivers to both sides and a single back. Read more »

All-22: Issues Plaguing the Eagles’ Defense

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Billy Davis has had to strike a balance quite a bit since taking over as the Eagles defensive coordinator last year.

He is honest in admitting when his unit doesn’t play well, but he’s also a positive person by nature and tries to look ahead. After all, it’s not like the defense is loaded with talent, and the team is 3-0 heading into Sunday’s game against the 49ers.

“We weren’t playing well at all in that game, and we gave up a lot of yards and all those things,” Davis said Tuesday. “And most teams I’ve been with would let those bad plays ‑ we had five X plays. Most of the time you get in such a tank that at the end of the game when you have to defend 6 yards to win it, you don’t have the mental toughness to do it because you’re still frustrated from the bad game you’re playing. And our group didn’t show any signs of that. They showed such mental toughness and strength that we had to defend 6 yards for four downs, and they stepped up and got that done.”

On seven of 12 possessions, Washington’s offense either scored a touchdown or set up for a field goal. Kirk Cousins went 30-for-48 for 427 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. While Malcolm Jenkins and Brandon Boykin made some nice plays down the stretch, this was the definition of a defense getting picked apart.

Cousins played at a high level for most of the game, getting rid of the ball quickly and making some impressive throws into tight window. But this is the NFL, and there are a lot of good quarterbacks. At some point, just giving the other guys credit is no longer valid.

Keeping that in mind, below is a look at some of the key issues that hurt the Eagles Sunday. And in case you missed it, yesterday we provided a player-by-player breakdown. Read more »

All-22: The Emergence Of Zach Ertz

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With 5:15 left in the third quarter of Monday night’s game against the Colts, the Eagles needed someone to step up and make a play.

They were trailing 20-6 and faced a 3rd-and-11 from their own 43. They had a good hunch of what the Colts were going to do on defense: rush three and drop eight.

Zach Ertz lined up in the slot. He would run an over route downfield to the opposite hash mark. Read more »

All-22: Strong Start For Eagles Defense

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Billy Davis is expecting improvement on the defense to come from two separate areas.

One is that players from last year are more comfortable in the Eagles’ 3-4. And two is that he’s now able to add more layers to the scheme.

“Looking at last year, a lot of things we did, we were growing into this,” Davis said. “And it’s nothing more than a progression of growth from the end of last year to again a couple pieces we added and a couple schematic things we added to it and just threw it all at them. We will continue to grow that and hopefully continue to grow that way with both the understanding they have in our scheme and the scheme itself.”

Sunday’s Week 1 win against the Jaguars was a good start. It must be noted that Jacksonville could end up being one of the five worst offenses in the league. But after a couple lapses early, the Eagles’ defense dominated in the second half. Jacksonville was held scoreless on eight second-half possessions: five punts, a turnover on downs, a fumble and the end of the game.

The pass-rush, a question mark going into the season, looked like a strength against the Jaguars’ below-average offensive line. And players like Fletcher Cox and Mychal Kendricks turned in outstanding individual performances. Below is a look at what we saw in Week 1. Read more »

All-22: What We Saw From Foles In Week 1

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During his post-game press conference Sunday, Chip Kelly pointed out that he did not throw any chairs during halftime against the Jaguars.

Eight scoreless possessions through two quarters did not call for any grand adjustments. The Eagles saw what Jacksonville was doing defensively – a heavy dose of Cover 3 – and felt like they had the right answers in their arsenal.

“Halftime wasn’t a major, ‘Hey, we have to overhaul this whole thing. …We took the wrong approach coming into this. They are doing what we didn’t expect them to do,’ ” Kelly said. “Really they played right to the schedule in terms of what they were doing. They played a lot more zone than they played man.

“It’s not like things weren’t there. We had plays. We didn’t change anything. If you watch the game what we did, there wasn’t a huge change from a play-call standpoint in terms of what we were doing in the second half from what we were doing in the first half.”

The tape reflects Kelly’s comments. Cover 3 leaves the seams open, and that’s where the Eagles attacked with their wide receivers and tight ends all game long. But on multiple occasions, Nick Foles had trouble taking advantage. Read more »

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