All-22: The Education Of Nick Foles

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On Tuesday afternoon, Nick Foles stood behind the podium at the NovaCare Complex and was asked what it’s like.

What it’s like to throw for 428 yards, complete 62.5 percent of your passes and be labeled as inconsistent by many observers, including your own head coach.

“I agree with it,” Foles said. “We didn’t win. I missed some throws that didn’t give us an opportunity to win. And I’m a firm believer that as an offense we have to score more points than the other team no matter how many points they score. And I didn’t put us in a good position.”

Foles has now started 14 career games, two short of a full season. But as the quarterback, he sets the tone for accountability when things don’t go well. And he’s consistently accepted responsibility regardless of his individual performance.

Despite the 30-point, 475-yard output against Minnesota, the truth is Foles and the offense left too many plays on the field. With the Bears and Cowboys coming up, there’s a pretty good chance the offense will have to put the team on its back if it wants to play in the postseason.

And that starts with the quarterback. So let’s go back and take a look at some of the things Foles showed against the Vikings – both good and bad. Read more »

All-22: Adjusting the Offense For Foles

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Before the Cardinals game, when asked about the read-option offense, Chip Kelly took exception with the label.

“I don’t think it’s an offense,” he said, while also pointing out that the Eagles use the zone read, not the read option. “I think it’s a play.”

That distinction has been clear in the Eagles’ two games since the bye. The principle of using the quarterback’s legs to account for an unblocked defender has not been a major factor in wins over Arizona and Detroit. Read more »

All-22: How Foles, Celek Iced the Game

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With two minutes left in Sunday’s game, Chip Kelly put the decision-making power in Nick Foles’ hands.

The offense had called 14 straight run plays. But after Bryce Brown got dropped for a 2-yard loss, the Eagles faced a 4th-and-12. They had the game in hand (up 34-20), but a turnover on downs would have given the Lions at least a slim chance of scoring, kicking an onside kick and scoring again.

The call, like many others in the Eagles’ playbook, gave the quarterback options. He would have to read a key defender and then make a decision post-snap. Read more »

All-22: Eagles Add Zone-Read Wrinkle

sift2b_all22_400Asked after the bye whether LeSean McCoy had been encountering too much traffic in the backfield, Chip Kelly offered a brief response.

“I don’t think any running back likes to deal with defenders in the backfield too much, but I don’t see that occurring at a high rate,” he said.

The Eagles’ head coach prefers sometimes to not show his hand. The previous week, McCoy had been dropped for a loss five times against the Redskins. He had to deal with a defender in the backfield on 12 of 20 occasions, oftentimes spinning out of trouble and picking up positive yardage.

But that model didn’t seem sustainable. Part of the problem had to do with the Eagles’ zone read. Teams were using their unblocked defenders to crash down on McCoy. If Nick Foles kept the ball, so be it. They would live with the 5- or 6-yard gain and an opportunity to hit the QB. Read more »

All-22: Entering the ‘Ryans Zone’

ryans_all22_400After a rocky start to the season, Billy Davis and his assistants have done an excellent job of coming up with ways to maximize the abilities of the Eagles’ defensive players.

The scheme change has been dramatic, and there are still areas in need of a talent upgrade in the offseason. But overall, Davis’ group has made great strides throughout the course of the season.

The leader of the group is DeMeco Ryans, and according to Pro Football Focus, he’s logged more snaps than any other defensive player in football. Ryans is outstanding against the run. That has never been in question. And as we’ve written about at length, he makes the calls on defense to get everyone set up. Without him on the field, there would likely be a lot of confusion up front.

Ryans, however, is not a great cover linebacker. Offenses that can get him matched up man-to-man against a running back or tight end will have an advantage. In zone, Ryans often tries to keep opponents in front of him and limit the damage after the catch.

But there’s another way he’s contributing in coverage too – by disrupting shallow routes over the middle. Read more »

All-22: McCoy Carrying the Load

mccoy3b_400The giddiness in the Eagles’ locker room Tuesday after practice was at an all-time high.

Training camp in July led into the preseason and then 11 straight weeks of practice, game-planning and top-level competition. Chip Kelly’s guys were clearly ready to leave the NovaCare Complex behind for six days and get some free time before they reconvene in preparation for the final five games.

Perhaps no one was more excited to get a break than LeSean McCoy. And for good reason. The Eagles’ running back leads the NFL in carries (213), rushing yards (1,009) and total yards from scrimmage (1,408). Among tailbacks, only Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles has played more snaps, per Pro Football Focus.

While the numbers for McCoy are impressive, this has been a challenging year. He had a four-game stretch where he averaged only 3.4 YPC. Kelly challenged him to dance less and hit the hole more. At times, he was not on the same page as the offensive linemen.

But last week against the Redskins, McCoy was not only the best player on the Eagles’ offense, but his effort in doing the little things jumped off the tape. Read more »

All-22: What Foles Showed Vs. the Redskins

desean1b_400_all22In the days leading up to Sunday’s game, Redskins linebacker London Fletcher was asked if he still thought the Eagles’ offense was more dynamic with Michael Vick than with Nick Foles.

“I would say so,” Fletcher said. “From that standpoint as far as with the run threat, I mean you all know what Vick can do with the ball in his hands if he keeps it as a runner. Again, he’s turned some runs when he keeps the ball, he’s had big gainers in this offense in the past. With Foles, a big gain for him may be 10 yards. With Vick, it may be 40, 50, 60 yards in some cases.”

Fletcher’s response caught some observers by surprise. Foles, after all, had thrown 16 touchdowns and no interceptions on the season. And the Eagles had scored 76 points in their previous two games.

But the veteran linebacker wasn’t trying to slight the Eagles’ second-year QB. He was simply making a couple of points clear.

Number one, Vick is more difficult to prepare for, although that obviously doesn’t make him the better option. And number two, while Foles had been playing well, the Redskins still felt their best option for winning Sunday’s game was to make the him beat them. Read more »

All-22: The State Of the Defense

logan1a_all22_111413In the last six weeks, the Eagles are allowing just 17.7 points per game.

Before the season started, a stretch like that seemed unlikely. After the team gave up 33 to the Chargers in Week 2 and 52 to the Broncos in Week 4, it seemed even more unlikely.

But Billy Davis, his assistants and the players have turned things around. Overall, the defensive is allowing 24.4 points per game (20th) and 5.6  yards per play (22nd). Football Outsiders still has the Eagles’ D ranked 28th overall.

So while no one would deny that there have been massive improvements from the beginning of the season, the question is: With six games left, where is this defense?

As always, we go to the tape for answers, breaking it down category-by-category. Read more »

All-22: Foles, the Deep Ball And the Offense

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Nick Foles’ response struck the right tone.

He knew he had gotten a little lucky. But throwing a 55-yard touchdown in the NFL, regardless of circumstances, is not easy. So he was not about to apologize.

“I need to throw it a little further, but it just so happened that the ball popped up the way it did, and that happens in sports,” Foles said when asked to describe the 55-yard touchdown pass to DeSean Jackson against the Packers. “That happens all the time. Sometimes it doesn’t work out for you. That time it did. And I was very thankful it did.” Read more »

All-22: McCoy, Run Game Get On Track

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For the better part of five weeks, the run game left LeSean McCoy, the offensive line and the coaching staff somewhat frustrated.

Chip Kelly and company had trouble getting everyone on the same page. McCoy averaged just 3.4 yards-per-carry on 90 attempts from Oct. 6 to Nov. 3. He failed to tally a single run of 20+ yards during that span.

While we spend a lot of time in this space talking about scheme and X’s and O’s, sometimes it’s as simple as the best players doing things the opponent can’t account for.

That brings us to Sunday’s game against the Packers, which was easily one of McCoy’s best performances of the season. There have been seven instances this year where a running back has amassed 150+ yards while averaging 6.0 yards per carry or better. McCoy was the running back on two of those seven.

On Sunday, he carried 25 times for 155 yards (6.2 YPC). The blocking up front was better at times. But during other instances, it was just McCoy doing what he does best: making defenders miss. Read more »

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