All-22: Defensive Failures Against Dallas

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In the days leading up to the Eagles’ rematch with the Cowboys, Billy Davis made it clear that he was expecting to see a different Tony Romo.

On Thanksgiving, the Birds’ defense applied consistent pressure on Romo, and the Cowboys’ quarterback struggled to connect with open receivers when he did have opportunities.

Sunday night was a different story, and Davis ended up being right. Despite a mostly ineffective run game, Romo picked the Eagles apart, completing 22 of 31 passes for 265 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.

“I think the biggest difference in the two games that we had… was the play of Tony Romo and the throws,” Davis said this week. “The throws on Thanksgiving were under-thrown and bad, and we were coming back and making plays. The throws the other night were on the money, and they were right where they needed to be.”

Romo certainly deserves credit for playing well in a big spot. But Dez Bryant scored three touchdowns one-on-one against Bradley Fletcher. Was the Eagles’ game plan sound? Was it just a matter of the more talented unit winning? We explore those issues with the All-22. Read more »

All-22: Why the Eagles’ Offense Got Shut Down

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A single response from Pat Shurmur Tuesday explained a lot about the Eagles’ ugly offensive performance against the Seahawks.

“They played exactly… they did less on defense than we expected,” Shurmur said. “They played single-safety middle like we expected. They played a combination of man and zone, and on third down it was very similar until we got in third-and-long and you saw split safeties. They did less on defense than what we had planned for.”

In some ways, what Pete Carroll does on defense is similar to what Chip Kelly does on offense. It’s not about volume. It’s about finding an identity, having answers for every situation, getting a lot of reps and allowing players to make plays in a scheme that they know inside and out. Read more »

All-22: The Good And Bad Of the Eagles’ Defense

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Eagles defensive players – well, most of them anyway – know by now not to make excuses.

The offense wants to play fast every week, regardless of opponent, situation or anything else. The defense’s job is always to get off the field and give the offense another chance to score. Since Chip Kelly took over, that formula has worked pretty well. But there are games, like Sunday’s, when the offense is stagnant. And that puts the defensive players in a bind.

For example, to start the game, the defense gave up a 10-play, 43-yard drive that took 6:35 off the clock. The offense went three-and-out in 25 seconds. And Billy Davis’ guys were right back out there.

That is just how it is. It’s why the Eagles train the way they do. And it’s why in a perfect world, they’d like to rotate players on defense even more.

“I think they are fine,” Kelly said Monday. “I don’t think it had anything to do with the fourth quarter. I just think that they are built for it. They are in great condition. They train at a really high level. They practice against us. They understand what it takes. We didn’t come out of it with any injuries or anything like that. I would imagine they will all be ready to go.” Read more »

All-22: The Challenges Against Seattle

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Go around the Eagles locker room and ask players what makes Earl Thomas so good, and you’ll get a variety of answers.

“He’s a freak,” said Jordan Matthews. “You can tell he has a desire to be the greatest in the game. No different than my lockermate, 27 [Malcolm Jenkins]. I feel like both of those guys have that same mentality. The dude is full speed every single play the entire game. You’ve gotta be able to match that intensity and go out there and play your hardest if you’re gonna compete against him.”

“His speed,” answered Mark Sanchez. “He’s just got a nose for the football. He diagnoses plays fast. One of the most intense players. The film doesn’t have any sound, but that guy almost puts a soundtrack to the film. You see him just completely sell out – against the run, against the pass, breaking plays up.” Read more »

All-22: Option Football With Sanchez

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As LeSean McCoy made his way from the locker room to his post-game press conference at AT&T Stadium last week, a defensive assistant congratulated him on his 159-yard effort against the Dallas Cowboys.

“Them boys up front,” McCoy shouted back. “They were blowing [stuff] up.”

McCoy and others noted that the offensive performance reminded them of 2013. Last season, the Eagles relied on a dominant run game, play-action and a downfield passing attack for the most successful offensive season in franchise history. But those second two things don’t work unless the first one gets on track. And that was the story offensively from the Eagles’ 33-10 win.

The offensive line opened up holes, McCoy made guys miss, Mark Sanchez took care of the ball, and the Eagles had themselves a happy Thanksgiving. Read more »

All-22: Forming the Wall And Stopping the Stretch

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Billy Davis was asked Tuesday about the difficulty in making potential scheme changes, given that teams are approaching Week 13.

“It’s tough to change who you are at this point in the season,” he said. “You have to stick with what you have success with and try to correct and get better at the things you’re struggling with.”

Davis’ comment applies to teams around the NFL. In the offseason, coaches assess personnel and decide what they want their squads to look like from a schematic standpoint. They then practice, tweak and practice some more. Wrinkles can be added, and ideas can be scrapped. But as we approach Thanksgiving, for the most part, identities have been established.

And for the Dallas Cowboys, that identity is clear: A balanced offense that is finding success running the football on a weekly basis.

The Eagles, meanwhile, are a team that focuses on stopping the run. Read more »

All-22: Zeroing In On the Eagles’ Defense

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Billy Davis pointed out during the summer that part of the reason the Eagles play a two gap 3-4 is because it’s the most effective scheme against a lot of the things Chip Kelly likes to do on offense.

And as we all know, Kelly likes to run the football.

So almost every week, when the coaches are game-planning for their opponents, they emphasize stopping the run. A rare exception was last year’s playoff game against the Saints when Davis decided to guard against the pass. But the Eagles defensive coordinator did not make that same exception for Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.

“I don’t think he came out with any intention to run the ball to start with,” Davis said. “I was anticipating some running game coming.

“I think a lot of people try to establish the run early. Green Bay has really worked for a balanced attack. A balanced attack means you run a little bit more than they did. But it wasn’t long until you knew right away they were going pass, pass, pass. He was checking into some runs, I think, but I think they were looking at our presentations, so it makes us have to have a little broader plan against them. Again, I could have done better with the plan, too.” Read more »

All-22: What’s Ailing the Eagles’ Offense?

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Win or lose, Chip Kelly believes in keeping the same routine every Tuesday.

The players arrive at NovaCare in the morning, and the day starts with a team meeting. They then split up to review film from the previous week’s game. And lastly they head onto the field to go over corrections.

“I hear and I forget, I see and I remember and I do and understand,” Kelly is fond of repeating.

After Sunday’s 53-20 loss to the Packers, there were plenty of corrections to be made on this particular Tuesday.

“I think the point is you don’t dispose of anything quicker,” Kelly said. “A loss is a loss, whether it’s a one‑point loss or a 21‑point loss. It’s about the same mechanics of what we do. It’s common sense that if you have a mistake, you’ve got to admit your mistake, you’ve got to fix your mistake, and try not to repeat it again. We keep the same formula in terms of what we’re doing. …But to quantify a loss by too many points or a loss by one point and then differentiate between it, it’s not the way we operate.” Read more »

All-22: On the Eagles’ Run Game Struggles

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Chip Kelly was asked earlier this week whether the win over the Carolina Panthers represented the Eagles’ most complete game of the season.

“No,” he said after a short pause. “We didn’t play well offensively at all.”

Considering Mark Sanchez posted a passer rating of 102.5 and the Eagles put 45 up on the scoreboard, Kelly’s response caught many by surprise. But the truth is the Eagles had trouble sustaining drives, with seven of 13 possessions gaining 10 yards or fewer.

To Kelly, not having an effective run game is like not having a morning cup of coffee. Regardless of what else happens, it’s likely to ruin his day. And on Monday night, Eagles running backs totaled 38 yards on 18 attempts (2.1 YPC). After the victory, the mood among the offensive linemen was different than many others in the locker room. Read more »

All-22: Sanchez’s Movement In the Pocket

Photo Credit: Bill Streicher - USA Today

Photo Credit: Bill Streicher – USA Today

Like most NFL coaches, Chip Kelly is obsessed with preparation.

The Eagles go into games expecting certain things. But Kelly believes there should never be true surprises. His players should be equipped to handle whatever’s being thrown their way. When the coaches got their game plan together for the team’s matchup with the Panthers, they saw that Carolina liked to play a lot of zone with two deep safeties.

Given that the Panthers were allowing a league-worst 4.8 YPC, the Eagles were prepared to gash them with LeSean McCoy and the ground game.

But when the offense took the field for the first time, it was clear defensive coordinator Sean McDermott was opting for a different approach. Read more »

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