All-22: Why the Run Defense Faltered


Since the day he was hired as the Eagles’ defensive coordinator, Billy Davis has talked about competing against opposing play-callers and quarterbacks on gamedays.

Last week against the Saints, he went up against one of the best duos in the league in that respect: Sean Payton and Drew Brees.

“He’s probably one of the best in formations and matchups and adjustments,” Davis said of Payton. “He’s got a great mind as far as he makes you defend the width and the depth of the field.

“And I think him and Drew are really one and the same person. They have worked so much together that their understanding together that no matter what is in Sean’s head, Drew can execute. And that’s the key to great offensive football is when the quarterback has the same understanding as at coordinator or the head coach in this case, and they play very efficient.”

The Saints entered the postseason with the reputation as one of the league’s more pass-happy teams. That figured to be even more the case Saturday, considering they were without their leading rusher in Pierre Thomas. The Eagles, meanwhile, had the fifth-best run defense in the NFL since Week 10 and had shown vulnerabilities against the pass.

All week, the question was whether the Eagles could handle Brees. No one paid much attention to the Saints’ running game. Read more »

All-22: When Foles Holds On To the Ball


Asked earlier this week why the Eagles’ passing game stalled in the second half against Dallas, Chip Kelly pointed to two factors – neither of which had anything to do with Nick Foles.

“They did a decent job generating the pass rush on a couple things, and there were a few times down the field where we just couldn’t get off of some jams,” Kelly said. “It was a combination of the two things.”

Kelly has not hesitated to criticize Foles in the past – when warranted. After the Vikings game, for example, he labeled the quarterback’s play inconsistent.

So was he protecting his quarterback here, or did he really feel like the breakdowns had more to do with protections and the receivers?

Based on the tape, it’s the latter. On most occasions when Foles held on to the ball, he didn’t have anywhere to go with it. For examples, let’s go to the All-22. Read more »

All-22: On the Kendricks-Graham Matchup

Last year against the Eagles, Jimmy Graham was targeted 11 times and ended with eight catches for 72 yards and a touchdown. Three of those catches came with Mychal Kendricks in coverage, including the one in which the 6-7, 265-pound athletic phenom found pay dirt.

With the Saints set up deep in Eagles territory late in the third quarter, Drew Brees found Graham in the flat. Kendricks moved in for the tackle. Read more »

All-22: Kelly, Offense Turn To Sweep


The Eagles’ offense took the field with 11:46 left against the Cowboys in need of a serious boost.

Chip Kelly’s squad had come up empty on six of its previous seven possessions and clung to a 17-16 lead with the division on the line. So Kelly leaned on what the offense does best: running the football.

The Eagles put together an 11-play, 60-yard drive that resulted in a 6-yard Bryce Brown touchdown. Nine of the 11 plays were runs. And one run in particular gave the Eagles a boost: a new sweep play from an unbalanced line that was just installed during the week, according to players. Read more »

All-22: Kelly’s Principles At Work


When Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker met with reporters Monday, he noted that the Eagles basically used the same five run plays out of different formations Sunday night to pile up 289 yards on the ground.

If Chip Kelly heard that assessment, it would probably put a big smile on his face – because it’s true.

By now, we’ve seen Kelly’s Eagles team take the field 15 times, and we have a pretty good idea of what he head coach values offensively. He wants his offense to play fast – which means simplifying things and going back to the same concepts until the defense proves it can stop them.

He wants to run first and take shots downfield. He uses packaged plays to put defenders in situations of conflict. And he wants to spread the field both horizontally and vertically.

Sunday’s 54-11 victory against Chicago was a pretty good example of all those things at work. Read more »

All-22: The Education Of Nick Foles


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


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


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 »

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