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 »

All-22: The Eagles And Four Verticals

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At the start of training camp in July, Chip Kelly was asked about how Mark Sanchez was adapting to a new offensive scheme.

“A lot of things that all of us do, no matter where you’re coaching… it’s still four verticals,” he said. “We call it differently than the way Marty [Mornhinweg] called it, but they ran four verticals here at the Eagles. Marty runs four verticals when you watch the Jets tape. We run four verticals.”

Eagles offensive coaches mention four verticals often – usually when they’re trying to get the point across that they’re not doing anything all that innovative.

The passing concept is used around the league and really at every level of football. Quarterback G.J. Kinne says he remembers first learning it as a freshman in high school. Wide receiver Jeff Maehl says Oregon ran four verticals when he played for Kelly in college.

Once again, to help explain the concept, we called on our old friend Coach Flinn, along with some of the current Eagles players and coaches. Read more »

All-22: Y-Cross, a Staple Of the Eagles’ Offense

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Hang around Chip Kelly enough, and you’ll get used to hearing the number 53 1/3.

That’s the width (in yards) of the football field. Kelly’s offensive philosophy is predicated on making defenses account for every inch of that width, along with the vertical space between the line of scrimmage and the end zone.

Perhaps no play serves as a better example of that philosophy than Y-Cross, a staple of the Air Raid offense, and now a go-to play in the Eagles’ offense.

To break down the concept, we called on our old friend Coach Flinn. Flinn has helped us with the mesh concept, double posts in the red zone and snag. But I’ve never heard him more excited than when discussing Y-Cross. The guy flat-out loves this play. Read more »

All-22: Snag, Tempo And the Eagles

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During the early part of every Eagles practice, the robotic voice that emanates from the speakers at the NovaCare Complex announces a period called RVA, or routes versus air.

Five quarterbacks in red jerseys stand side by side in the middle of the field. Wide receivers, tight ends and running backs set up in one of five lines – three to one side, two to the other. The balls are snapped simultaneously, the receivers run their routes, and the passes are delivered without any defenders.

During one of the reps, the No. 1 receiver (closest to the sideline) takes off on a slant, but turns around at about 5 yards and faces the quarterback. The No. 2 receiver runs a corner route – upfield and then angling towards the sideline. And the No. 3 man (closest to the formation) shuffles towards the sideline near the line of scrimmage, keeping his eyes on the QB the entire time.

It’s a common passing concept called the snag – one that is utilized by teams across the league on a weekly basis.

To break down how the Eagles use it, when it works and when it doesn’t, we called on our old friend Coach Flinn, who explains this stuff as well as anyone out there. Read more »

All-22: How the Eagles Lean On Cover 3

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Your 2014 Eagles Almanac is now available for pre-order.

If you’ve missed this publication the past two years, it’s a comprehensive look at the season ahead with contributions from a variety of talented writers.

There are also some untalented writers who are allowed to pen chapters. That’s where Tim and I come in.

My piece this year focused on the defense as a whole. What did Billy Davis run in his first year as the Eagles’ coordinator? What were the strengths and weaknesses? What changes are in store going forward?

Below is part of what I wrote, focusing on one of the Eagles’ primary schemes on the back end: the Cover 3.

And remember, order your Eagles Almanac today! Read more »

Inside Zone: The Foundation Of the Eagles’ Offense

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Before the drill begins, Jeff Stoutland shouts out a two-digit number, signaling the call to his offensive linemen.

He sets up a couple yards behind the line of scrimmage as Jason Kelce prepares to snap the ball, flanked by guards Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans. With 16 offensive linemen in camp, Stoutland is in charge of the largest positional group on the roster. But that can be a good thing on days like this. Before it’s their turn for reps, a couple backups hold orange blocking pads and set up as down defensive linemen. Two more stand behind them imitating linebackers.

It’s an 81-degree day in early June, and the Eagles are on the practice fields at the NovaCare Complex working on the blocking scheme for a familiar call: the inside zone. It’s a play Stoutland ran frequently at his previous stop, Alabama. And it was Chip Kelly’s go-to-work play during his time at Oregon.

When Kelly made the jump to the NFL last year, the inside zone served as the foundation for an offense that set franchise records in yards and points. So there’s a good reason why Stoutland yells the same number for the same call over and over again during practice. The pre-snap communication has to be mastered. The footwork has to be flawless. The combination blocks have to be executed. And the second-level linebackers have to be driven down the field with authority.

“It’s something we work on every day,” said offensive tackle Lane Johnson. “It’s always gonna be our bread and butter.” Read more »

All-22: Double Posts In the Red Zone

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Chip Kelly doesn’t understand the typically accepted definition of the red zone.

“It’s always kind of been humorous to me where the line, the 20, became the official red zone,” he said during a PhiladelphiaEagles.com video last year. “It starts at the 20. And if you’re at the 21, it’s not a red zone.

“The red zone for us is the scoring zone. So what’s the yard to gain for us? And if we don’t score, can we put our field goal team out on the field and kick a field goal? Usually if it’s a good day, no weather involved, it’s somewhere between the 33- and 35-yard line. And that’s where the red zone starts for us offensively. For our defense, it’s the same thing.”

Regardless, one concept Kelly went to when the Eagles reached that scoring zone was double posts – a common red-zone call around the NFL. Read more »

All-22: Why Kelly Wanted Darren Sproles

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Chip Kelly is OK with a certain degree of predictability.

The Eagles’ head coach has acquired a handful of new offensive players in his first two offseasons, and in each case, common principles exist. He wants guys who are capable of contributing in multiple ways; players who can be productive lining up in a variety of spots; and playmakers who are good with the ball in their hands.

Which brings us to yesterday’s acquisition of Darren Sproles. The Eagles dealt a fifth-round pick to the Saints in exchange for the nine-year veteran.

Having seen Kelly’s offense in action for a year and having looked at how Sproles performed in 2013, we can get a sense of what his role might be with the Eagles. Read more »

All-22 Free Agent Profile: Malcolm Jenkins

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The one word that comes to mind with free agent safety Malcolm Jenkins is versatility.

And that was one of Chip Kelly’s main talking points during Year 1 with the Eagles. Last offseason, Kelly raved about Connor Barwin’s ability to perform a variety of tasks on defense. On the flip side, he stressed how tight ends like Zach Ertz could line up all over the formation and create mismatches.

So with the team in dire need of safety help, Jenkins is one of the mid-tier options to keep an eye on. Read more »

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