How the Eagles Package the Zone Read And Bubble Screen

Back in early June, Chip Kelly sat at the head of a conference table in the NovaCare Complex and spent a full hour answering reporters’ questions about his program, his offensive scheme and his philosophies.

Not surprisingly, the topic of tempo was brought up. And the first-year Eagles’ head coach tried to explain that he didn’t always want to go at a super-fast speed.

“If they didn’t line up right and they have nine guys standing over there and you have a play called that’s going to run into those nine guys, then maybe playing fast wasn’t the smartest thing to do,” Kelly said. “Sometimes you need to let things get settled down and get an opportunity to make sure that you’ve got the right look.

“A lot of things we’re doing, we’re trying to throw it versus the best-located safety. Well, we better make sure we locate the safeties before we snap the football. Do we want to run it at one guy or run away from another guy? You’ve got to make sure some of those things you can see before you start it. It’s just not all driven on let’s see how many plays we can get run.”

While the truth is the Eagles are going to move quickly, Kelly’s response serves as the foundation for much of what he wants to do offensively: spread the field out, look for a numbers advantage and count on the quarterback to make the right decisions.

After the first preseason game, we showed how the Eagles scored two touchdowns on what was essentially the same play, a run-pass option out of a double-stack formation.

Against Carolina, we saw a similar idea executed over and over and over again. It combined the zone read with a bubble screen out of a 3×1 formation (three receivers to one side, one to the other).

The first time we saw this play was on 2nd-and-14 during the Eagles’ first offensive possession. Let’s start with the look:

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The Eagles have Chris Polk in the backfield. Jason Avant, Brent Celek and DeSean Jackson are set up to the right. Riley Cooper is the lone receiver to the left.

Pre-snap, you can see the Eagles have a numbers advantage: three receivers against two defensive backs. The safety to that side of the field is deep, 15 yards off the line of scrimmage.

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You can see the Eagles have the zone read option. If this were a straight running play, Nick Foles would read the unblocked defensive end and either hand the ball off to Polk or keep it himself.

But it’s not a straight running play. It’s a run/pass option. And because he noticed the numbers advantage to the perimeter, he pulls the ball and targets Avant, who has a couple blockers set up in front of him.

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“You’re looking for numbers,” Foles explained. “Anybody can look and say, ‘OK, you’ve got five guys blocking, there’s five guys in the box. It’s a good box.’ If they try and bring something, you’ve gotta do something else because we can’t block everyone, so it just gives you other options away from running the ball right into the extra defenders.”

On the perimeter, it’s essentially three receivers against two defenders. The only unblocked player to that side of the field is the deep safety, and he’s coming from a depth of 16 yards off the line of scrimmage. The truth is Avant is probably the Eagles’ slowest wide receiver. And Jackson gave good effort here, but he is not a great blocker. Still, the play picked up 10 yards, and the offense went from 2nd-and-14 to a manageable 3rd-and-4.

One reason the Eagles are able to play fast and carry out their fakes so well is because the decision is solely in the hands of the quarterback. Polk, who was in the backfield on the above play, didn’t know he wasn’t getting the ball until the last second when Foles pulled it.

“We never know,” Polk said. “There’s just some times where they pull it, we’re still running through the hole because we’re expecting to get it, but you never really know when he’s gonna pull it. You’ve just gotta react and carry out the fake.”

The Eagles ran the same play with Matt Barkley in the third quarter. Here’s the pre-snap look. The key is the Panthers sneak a seventh defender, a defensive back, into the box. The TV camera had a great up-close shot of Barkley looking at the DB right before the ball was snapped.

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That gives the Eagles a 3-on-2 advantage with the bubble screen.

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And this time, they have Damaris Johnson running behind blocks from Clay Harbor and Zach Ertz, essentially two tight ends (even though Harbor is technically practicing at receiver).

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Panthers linebacker A.J. Klein actually makes a nice play here, eventually chasing Johnson down, but not until he’s already picked up 15 yards.

“It’s just an extension of the run game to where we’re getting 10 yards, 15 yards on those bubbles and the defense can’t cover both,” Barkley said. “So it puts them in a bind.”

Again, Johnson just does what he’s supposed to, regardless of Barkley’s decision. Sometimes the quarterback is going to throw it his way. Other times, it’s going to be a run. The offensive line simply blocks for the run. Because it’s going to be a quick throw, failing to hold their blocks and giving up a sack is a non-issue.

“Whatever the quarterback thinks,” Johnson said. “I’m just going out and running the routes. I’m not reading the defense. I’m just trying to be out there. If he throws me the ball, I have to catch it and make a big play.”

Wide receiver Jeff Maehl, whom the Eagles acquired from the Texans last week, ran variations of this play hundreds of times while he was playing for Kelly at Oregon.

“If we’ve got more numbers than them, that’s a no-brainer,” Maehl said. “It’s based on what Coach Kelly wants to do and based on what the quarterback’s seeing.

“We try and put the defense in a situation where they really can’t win. That’s kind of what this offense is all about, just giving us the advantage wherever it may be and taking what the defense gives us.”

The non-screen option is to run the zone-read. In these instances, the quarterback is making two decisions. First, he’s deciding whether to throw the screen. If he’s not going that route, he’s deciding whether to hand the ball off or keep it himself, depending on how the unblocked defender reacts.

Here’s what we saw from Barkley later in the third quarter.

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You can see the Panthers have three defensive backs on the Eagles’ three receivers, so there’s no numbers advantage with the bubble screen.

The Eagles have five offensive linemen against six defenders in the box. But since this is a zone read, they leave the right defensive end unblocked. The threat of Barkley running is meant to occupy or “block” him.

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The play only picked up 3 yards because the linebacker got past right guard Matt Tennant, but you can see how the design works.

“It’s all based upon how the defensive player that we’re reading is playing,” said Jason Kelce. “If the defensive player that we’re reading stays inside the box or goes with the run play, now we’re gonna be minus hats on the run. He’s gonna do something on the perimeter or something else at a different spot. If we have numbers on the run play, we’re gonna take advantage of that.”

Todd Herremans made an interesting comment when asked about what’s impressed him about Kelly so far.

“I think the flow and the way that he calls the game is really good,” Herremans said. “It seems like you’re always setting up the next play, which I think is smart.”

That brings us to one final variation, which we saw in the fourth quarter of last week’s game. Here, the Eagles again have trips to the right side.

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At first glance, it seems like they’re running the same play.

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But there are differences. This is a straight pass play off a fake handoff, not an option play. The offensive linemen are pass-blocking, and there is no unblocked defender for the zone read. However, it still appears to be a bubble screen, something the Panthers’ defense had been seeing all night.

While Harbor and Greg Salas initially set up for the blocks, and Barkley looks at Johnson, this is just a fake. Harbor and Salas sidestep the defenders and take off on vertical routes.

Wish we had the All-22 here, but as you can see, suddenly the Panthers only have one safety against two Eagles receivers going deep.

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Barkley’s pass goes right through Harbor’s hands. Otherwise it’s a big play.

Even though it’s an incompletion, it’s a play on film that other teams will see, making defensive backs think twice before charging the line of scrimmage and attacking the bubble screen.

***

Pat Shurmur has coached in the NFL for 14 years. But the Eagles’ offensive coordinator is now getting an up-close view of how offenses are changing, and he appreciates what the Eagles are trying to accomplish.

“You know, in the old days, the audible systems used to be to get you out of a bad play, not necessarily get you into the best play,” Shurmur explained. “And then there are offenses where you’ve got run/pass options.  You’re just trying to do what’s best. I think all offenses have certain percentage where you want it, or if it presents itself, you throw it. We just package it up a little different, that’s all.”

As we noted last week, there’s a growing buzz among Eagles’ offensive players, who seem to be buying into Kelly’s methods, specifically the run/pass option plays and the tempo.

“It’s a lot of pressure [on a defense] because we feel like no matter what you guys do, we’re gonna make you wrong,” Polk said. “You put too many in the box, we’re gonna throw it out. You stack the outside, the box is always gonna work. So it’s gonna be real interesting to see how people play us, but as of right now, we’ve just gotta make them wrong no matter what they do.”

Added Harbor: “It puts a ton of pressure on them. It really comes down to numbers. If they have too many guys inside, we’re gonna throw it. If they have too many guys outside, we’re gonna run it. Whatever they do, we win.”

***

For more on the “packaged play” concept, be sure to check out Chris Brown’s terrific piece on Grantland.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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Eagles-Panthers Game Review: The Defense

Below is a position-by-position review of what stood out from the Eagles’ defense against the Panthers, after having reviewed the game. If you missed the offense, click here.

* Note: Snap counts are courtesy of Pro Football Focus.

DEFENSIVE LINE

* Bennie Logan looks like a player. He manhandled the left guard and got a big hit on Cam Newton in the first. Later, he dropped Tauren Poole after a 2-yard run in the second. Logan used his 34-inch arms to bat down a Newton pass at the line of scrimmage in the second. And he tackled Poole after a gain of 4 on the very next play. If the coaches think he’s big enough, Logan could get bumped up to nose tackle and replace Isaac Sopoaga with the first team pretty soon.

* Cedric Thornton had some good moments. He showed excellent strength against right tackle Byron Bell, pressuring Newton out of the pocket and forcing him to throw the ball away in the first. The Panthers decided to just not block Thornton later in the quarter, and he burst through the backfield, tackling DeAngelo Williams for a 5-yard loss.

* Fletcher Cox looked better than he did vs. New England. He wasn’t the first man to break through, but hustled to chase Newton out of the pocket and into a throw-away on the first possession. Later in the series, Cox showed his athleticism, rushing from the LDT spot, chasing Newton out of the pocket and hitting him.

* Vinny Curry showed up again. He burst through the backfield and dropped Poole for a 2-yard loss in the third, got in the backfield again on the next series, got pressure up the middle as a pass-rusher and tackled Kenjon Barner after a 1-yard run. Maybe this will be the week he moves up the depth chart?

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS

* The jury’s still out on Trent Cole. Billy Davis hopes his scheme will create one-on-one rushing opportunities for his outside linebackers against tight ends and running backs. That was the case in the second when Cole got the better of TE Richie Brockel and forced Newton to scramble. Later, Cole had a good bull-rush on third down, pushing the left tackle back into Newton. He blew up the fullback and dropped Williams for no gain in the second. Per PFF, Cole was on the field for 15 passing plays. He rushed the QB on seven of them and dropped back on eight. Apparently, Davis is still evaluating that part of his skill set.

* Brandon Graham got into the game in the second quarter. Really don’t know how many snaps he’s going to get once the real games start. But he was productive in this one. Graham and Logan combined to drop Poole after a 4-yard run in the second. He beat tackle Garry Williams off the edge, drawing a holding penalty and forcing a Newton incompletion on third down late in the second. Graham got off his block and dropped Poole after a 2-yard run in the third. He shed a block and dropped Barner for a loss late in the third and had a nice pass-rush on the very next play. Graham played LOLB with the second unit. He only dropped back three times on 14 pass plays, per PFF.

* The Eagles have mostly been going with four down linemen in nickel looks, but I think that’s a case of Davis not wanting to show his hand in the preseason. On a 3rd-and-20 play in the first, we got a glimpse of how I believe he’ll use Connor Barwin in nickel situations.

Here, you can see him standing up next to the nose tackle, threatening the A-Gap between the center and left guard before the ball is snapped.

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Mychal Kendricks is also lurking as a potential blitzer.

But when the ball is snapped, both players retreat into coverage, and the Eagles only rush three.

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With eight players in coverage, Newton had nowhere to go, forced a throw and was nearly picked off by Brandon Boykin.

When the regular season starts, look for a lot of pre-snap movement from Barwin in nickel.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS

* The standout player here was clearly Mychal Kendricks. What was notable was how Davis used him on passing downs. Per PFF, Kendricks was on the field for 16 passing downs, and on five of those, he blitzed. Keep in mind, he only played the first half. To put that into perspective, Kendricks blitzed a total of 37 times all of last year, or 2.3 times per game. He blitzed five or more times just once in 16 regular-season games.

Clearly, Davis wants to be creative in how he uses one of his more talented defensive players. As a junior at Cal, Kendricks had seven sacks. In the first quarter here, he blitzed the B-Gap (between the guard and tackle), side-stepped Williams and forced Newton out of the pocket on third down. Later, Kendricks blitzed the A-Gap and hit Newton. He was good even when he wasn’t rushing the passer. Kendricks brought Newton down one-on-one in the open field in the second. He also shot into the backfield and dropped Williams for a 1-yard loss. Excellent all-around game for the second-year player.

CORNERBACKS

* This is always a tough position to judge without the benefit of the All-22, but Cary Williams played exactly like we should have expected him to play, based on last year’s performance. He gives up a lot of catches, but is a sure tackler.

Williams allowed a 16-yard completion to Brandon LaFell on the first play of the game. He later allowed a 10-yard completion to Steve Smith and a 15-yarder on 3rd-and-6. Smith is on the short list of “guys you don’t mess with” in the league. The feisty wide receiver tossed Williams to the ground on an early run play.

Williams was recovering from a hamstring injury, but again, this seems like what you should expect from him. Physical player, not a shut-down corner.

* I have a feeling we’re going to be saying this about Bradley Fletcher all season long: “He gave up the reception, but had really good coverage.” That’s been the story through the first two preseason games. Every time he’s targeted, it seems Fletcher is in the receiver’s pocket. Sometimes, he gives up completions, like the 20-yarder to tight end Greg Olsen. Other times, he makes the play, like forcing an incompletion to Smith in the end zone. Overall, though, I’d say Fletcher’s been solid so far.

* Brandon Boykin played nickel with the first team and then played on the outside in the second half. He dropped an interception in the first and gave up completions of 14 and 21 yards while on the outside. But Boykin came back with a couple really nice plays. He forced an incompletion on a back-shoulder throw in the end zone in the third, nearly coming up with a pick. And he had excellent coverage on the next play too. Boykin also turned in a great kick return, giving the Eagles’ offense field position at its own 43 in the second half. He’s clearly the most athletic corner on the team.

SAFETY

* Another position that’s difficult to evaluate off of TV tape. But we have to mention Patrick Chung, who played really well. Nice job reading the screen and bringing Williams down after a 3-yard gain in the first. On the very next play, Chung came up in run support and dropped Williams after a 3-yard gain. He also made a tackle after a 1-yard run in the first half. Per PFF, Chung has not missed a tackle through two preseason games.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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Eagles-Panthers Game Review: The Offense

Below is a position-by-position review of how the Eagles’ offense looked against the Panthers, after having reviewed the game.

* Note: Snap counts are courtesy of Pro Football Focus.

QUARTERBACKS

* It was an up-and-down performance for Nick Foles. He played 19 snaps, fumbled twice (recovered both) and threw one interception. On the other hand, he was 6-for-8 for 53 yards. In four preseason drives, Foles has led the offense to a pair of touchdowns, but has turned it over twice. On the first drive, Foles showed good anticipation on this throw to Riley Cooper.

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You can see Cooper has a defensive back all over him when Foles releases the ball. But the throw is put on the money where only Cooper can catch it.

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Later in the quarter, Foles kept the ball on an option play and picked up 6 yards. He also made a smart decision in taking off on the 7-yard touchdown. Through two games, Foles looks capable of running the offense and has made good decisions for the most part. Even the interception in the end zone was more bad execution than bad decision-making.

* There’s no denying that Michael Vick brings a dynamic element to the offense. Through his first four preseason drives, he was 12-for-13 (92.3 percent) for 190 yards (14.6 YPA). Vick also had two rushes for 20 yards and had not been sacked. On the final drive at the end of the first half Thursday night, he was finally sacked and threw an up-for-grabs interception. But there’s no denying that he looks comfortable in Chip Kelly’s offense. Vick is averaging a whopping 13.3 yards per attempt, compared to 7.1 for Foles.

He looked patient, poised and accurate on a 15-yard strike to Jason Avant on 3rd-and-12. And Vick threw a laser to Emil Igwenagu for 15 more. He avoided a rusher, rolled to his left and delivered to Cooper for 22 yards in the second.

Is there room for improvement? Sure. It looked like Vick was late on a throw to DeSean Jackson on a corner route near the sideline. And he still seems to absorb awkward hits every time he takes off and runs. But if this really was an open competition, Vick is the winner through two games.

* I did not review the fourth quarter, but Matt Barkley went 8-for-14 for 72 yards. He made a nice throw to Zach Ertz in between defenders for 21 yards in the third. Overall, though, too many throws that seem to get his receivers crushed. Don’t know if that’s an arm strength issue, a timing issue or something else. But it’s something to keep an eye on in the final two games.

RUNNING BACKS

* If the offensive line stays healthy, LeSean McCoy is going to have a monster year. He looked great, carrying eight times for 47 yards and catching three balls for 16. McCoy has been up-and-down with his blitz pickup in the past, but he looked excellent in that aspect vs. Carolina. Take a look at the first play of the game:

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The defensive back is going to blitz untouched from Foles’ back side. McCoy has to recognize him inching up pre-snap, then carry out the fake handoff and then stone the pass-rusher. Not an easy play, but he executes his blocking assignment flawlessly.

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McCoy did a great job here of finishing the play too, carrying out his block deep into the end zone until the whistle blew.

As a runner, he showed his usual wiggle. On the first series, the Eagles ran the read-option, and even though the defensive end crashed inside, McCoy made him miss and picked up 8. He juked linebacker Luke Kuechly on 3rd-and-4 to pick up 5. And of course, everyone saw the 21-yard highlight where he made most of the Panthers’ defense look silly.

* Chris Polk mixed in with McCoy on the first series and had runs of 5 and 7 yards. Later, he did a great job of running through a Kuechly arm tackle for a 12-yard pickup, but the play was brought back because of a holding call. Polk, of course, had the costly fumble with the team driving. Other than that, he played pretty well, carrying five times for 24 yards.

WIDE RECEIVERS

* It looks like the Eagles are going to be content taking the underneath stuff if defenses guard against the deep ball with DeSean Jackson. On this 12-yard completion in the second, you’ll see the Panthers have only one safety deep, and it’s to the other side of the field.

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That means the corner opposite Jackson is bailing at the line of scrimmage. He can’t afford to get beat deep. Jackson runs a simple comeback route and gets a huge cushion. Easy throw for Vick and a 12-yard pickup.

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Jackson had two catches for 28 yards. And while he’ll never be the best blocking receiver in the game, I thought he gave good effort in that aspect.

* Jason Avant was his reliable self, picking up 10 on a bubble screen in the first, flashing great hands for an 11-yard grab on third down and picking up 15 on a 3rd-and-12. Same ole, same ole. Nothing to see here.

* Good job by Riley Cooper turning into a blocker on Foles’ touchdown run. He also did a nice job of coming back to the ball for a 22-yard catch from Vick in the second.

* If preseason is any indication, the Eagles are going to be massively improved on special teams. Damaris Johnson made a great cut on his 18-yard punt return in the first, making a pair of Panthers defenders look silly. In the third, he picked up 15 on a bubble screen, running behind Zach Ertz and Clay Harbor. And Johnson went up in between defenders for a 7-yard gain in the third. Overall, four catches on five targets for 21 yards.

TIGHT ENDS

* Zach Ertz only had two balls thrown his way, but he made nice grabs on both of them. One was a sliding 15-yard catch on the first possession. The other was a 21-yard pickup from Barkley in the third.

* Brent Celek only had one catch for 6 yards, but he and Allen Barbre did a good job with their double-team on Polk’s 5-yard run in the first.

* In case you missed it, we posted a No-22 breakdown of how the Eagles used 4-TE packages to their advantage.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN

* The Eagles’ five starters played the entire first half together (40 snaps) and looked great. Let’s start with the rookie. Lane Johnson had two issues in pass protection. On one, Vick got away from the defensive end and made a nice play. On the other, Johnson gave up a sack. Other than those two plays, though, he was really good. Johnson showed his athleticism getting to the linebacker on McCoy’s 8-yard run. He was good in protection on Foles’ 15-yard completion to Ertz and picked up a blitzing cornerback on Vick’s first throw.

McCoy’s 21-yard run probably presented a learning moment for Johnson. After initially executing his assignment, he sees McCoy on the other side of the field, probably figures his work is done and decides he can get ready for the next play.

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But after breaking a couple ankles, McCoy reverses field, and Johnson realizes he better kick it into high gear and help out his running back.

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Granted, McCoy’s already going down, but Johnson finally finds someone to hit, about 28 yards downfield.

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Gotta like that (eventual) hustle.

* We criticized Todd Herremans in this space last week, but he was probably the Eagles’ best offensive lineman vs. Carolina. Good job pulling on Polk’s 7-yard run. Really nice job getting to the linebacker on McCoy’s 7-yard red-zone run in the first. Pulled again and got to the linebacker on McCoy’s 21-yard run. I also thought the holding call against him was bogus.

* The Allen Barbre pickup is looking like a good one. He showed a lot of improvement this week. I didn’t see Barbre give up a hurry all night long. He showed good athleticism on the double-team with Celek on Polk’s 5-yard run in the first. And did a good job again on McCoy’s 7-yard run. Barbre had an issue with the defensive end on a McCoy run that got stuffed at the line, but overall, he played well. He looks like a competent, versatile backup lineman through two preseason games.

* Jason Kelce and Evan Mathis each had a couple issues, but played well overall. Kelce got to Kuechly on McCoy’s 8-yard run in the first. And he did a great job on the linebacker on Polk’s 12-yard run. In the first, he nearly got pushed back into McCoy on a red-zone run. Mathis might have let his defender through too early on a screen that was blown up in the first. He also had some trouble on the play where McCoy was stopped for no gain. Good blocks by Mathis on Polk’s 7-yard run and 12-yard run.

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How the Eagles Scored Two TDs On the Same Play

Nick Foles saw five defenders in the box, and so his decision was simple: hand the ball off to Bryce Brown.

Matt Barkley got a 2 vs. 2 matchup he liked on the perimeter, and so he threw the screen outside to Greg Salas.

The play-calls were exactly the same. Yet the quarterbacks made two different decisions, both which resulted in touchdowns.

We talked about run-pass options in this space over the weekend. And Grantland’s Chris Brown explained them further in his terrific piece about Chip Kelly’s offense. After Monday’s practice, we caught up with several players to gain a better understanding of the “packaged play” concept.

Let’s start with the touchdown run to Brown. The Eagles had a first-and-goal from the Patriots’ 8. When Foles got to the line of scrimmage, his eyes focused on how many defenders were in the box to guard against the run.

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“It was a two-safety look, and the inside backers were out,” Foles explained. “So you get a five-man box, you’ve got five guys to block five, you really want to take it. You want to take your O-Linemen on any five any day.”

Foles’ other option on the play was to throw the quick screen to either side. But with two safeties back, the Eagles would have been faced with a 3-on-2 disadvantage on the perimeter.

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Clearly, Foles made the right call, and Brown scampered into the end zone.

But how does the QB communicate his decision to the rest of the players? The answer I got from several Eagles was simple: He doesn’t.

“No matter what, we’re blocking whatever zone play or man scheme, whatever the scheme is for the run blocking, that’s what we’re blocking,” said center Jason Kelce. “Most of the time, I get the running play, and I don’t really know what the quarterback’s doing.

“All the reads for the most part are designed to take advantage of what the defense is giving us, and you never really truly know until after the ball’s snapped. And then guys expose themselves on what gaps they have, what responsibilities they have, and that’s what it’s designed to take advantage of.”

Five blockers against five defenders. That’s a win for the offense.

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Left tackle Allen Barbre has the edge defender. Evan Mathis and Jason Kelce start out with a double-team. Todd Herremans and Lane Johnson get one-on-one blocks.

Mathis then does an excellent job of switching off his double-team, on to the linebacker. Kelce and Herremans open up a gaping hole for Brown.

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Let’s move on to the next play, the Barkley 12-yard screen to Salas.

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The running back is flipped. Otherwise, it’s the exact same look as the first play. But this time, the Patriots have six defenders in the box against five offensive linemen.

Meanwhile, to the top of the screen, the Eagles have two receivers against two Patriots defensive backs.

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That’s just the look Barkley wants to throw the screen to the perimeter.

“It was just a double-screen look with a handoff option,” Salas explained. “So if we have the look that we want on the outside, we can throw it. If it’s light in the box, then they can run it. We had the look for the throw on the outside. He threw it to me, I made a guy miss and scored a touchdown.”

The safety to that side of the field was 8 yards off the line of scrimmage. Executed correctly, Emil Igwenagu blocks the outside shoulder of the cornerback, allowing Salas to get to the sideline where it’s even harder for the safety to get to him. Of course, plays on the field don’t always go according to plan. And in this case, Salas didn’t get much of a block from Igwenagu. But he was able to make three defenders miss on his way to the end zone.

“That’s the preference, two-on-two,” Salas said. “Three, you’re outnumbered. So if you have three out there, the box’ll be light for the run. That’s the way the play’s designed, and it worked well.”

Salas backed what Kelce said above: that the players are never sure what the quarterback’s going to do.

“You just do it, and it’s the quarterback’s decision,” Salas said. “He’s gotta pick the side he wants to throw to or hand off the ball. I just knew I had an opportunity, so you know when to be a little bit more prepared than other times.”

It’s clear why Kelly places an emphasis on all players understanding concepts in his offense. While the quarterback is ultimately the one making the decision, plays are run more smoothly if everyone on the field identifies the numbers and has a good idea of what’s going to happen.

The other factor is tempo. The Salas touchdown was the first play of the fourth quarter, but the Brown score happened just 21 seconds (real time) after the whistle blew ending the previous play. While at its foundation, these plays are based on simple math, the opposition can shift defenders around and try to disguise its look – if given the opportunity.

“Sometimes guys move,” Foles explained. “Guys move at the snap of the ball. There’s blitzers coming in. So you really have to be able to react quickly when the happens. It’s just one of those things where you’re out here in practice, you’re rep’n, you’re rep’n, you’re seeing it. And then when you get in a game, you’ve repped it and you can just react.”

Added Kelce: “It’s particularly hard once you’re doing the tempo when you’re really getting on ‘em and then they don’t have time to get set, notice the situation, the personnel of the offense. It doesn’t give them time to figure all that stuff out. So now all they can do is just get their defensive play and line up where they’re supposed to line up at just before we snap the ball. And doing that repetitively really wears on a defensive player, especially a defensive lineman.”

While the quarterback makes the call, he can have (headset) communication with the coach or offensive coordinator for the first 25 seconds of the play clock. But the onus is placed on the guys on the field.

“When we call a play, we’ve rep’d them numerous times and we trust that everybody on the field makes good decisions,” said offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. “So when the play goes in, typically when I was calling them, you could give maybe a hint or two to what’s going on. But for the most part, the guys are out there making decisions and running the plays we call.”

Barkley said he’s been running this specific inside run/perimeter screen option play for years.

“You’re looking for numbers,” he explained. “They can’t win because if they put enough guys on the perimeter, then you’re gonna have an advantage if you run the ball. And they had one extra guy in the box so, I mean, that’s a play I’ve run since high school. So you kind of learn to see that and just get the ball out there.

“There should be an answer on every play, and so it’s just your job of making sure that you make the right decision of putting the team in that right play, whether it’s the read on that play or whether it’s an audible where you change into the right play. But there should be a favorable answer on every play.”

Kelce agreed that making the right decisions based on the numbers should make these packaged plays difficult to defend.

“That’s all blocking is, period,” he said. “And that’s all football is really. That’s the whole point of the spread offense, the read offense. It’s all about taking advantage of where the offense has positive numbers. That’s the whole reason pretty much this has come about.”

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Eagles-Patriots Game Review: The Offense

Lane JohnsonWe went over a couple specific offensive concepts on Saturday, and you can click here for a breakdown of the defense.

But below is a position-by-position look at how the offense performed, after having reviewed the game.

QUARTERBACKS

* Michael Vick was sharp on the Eagles’ first two possessions, completing four of five passes for 94 yards and a touchdown. He showed great patience in the pocket, finding Jason Avant for 22 yards over the middle on the first possession, a big-time throw with three defenders closing in. And his 47-yard bomb to DeSean Jackson was a beauty. It’s worth noting that pass came against a blitz from New England. The ball traveled 48 yards in the air and landed right in Jackson’s hands. Later, Vick delivered a strike to Riley Cooper on a rollout to his right. The Eagles slowed things down to start the game, and I don’t recall seeing Vick run a true zone read. But don’t be surprised if we see him go no-huddle next week vs. Carolina.

Nick Foles played well also, although the style of play was different when he was in the game. The Eagles pushed tempo and went with a more controlled attack. While Vick chucked it down the field, none of Foles’ six attempts traveled more than 10 yards from the line of scrimmage. He showed good command in the no-huddle though and completed five of six passes for 43 yards. The Patriots brought a five-man blitz on third down in the second, and Foles got rid of the ball quickly, finding Bryce Brown for 8 yards and a first down. He also did a great job with the play-fake before rolling to his left and finding Avant for a gain of 12. Foles will get the start Thursday vs. Carolina.

* Up-and down performance for Matt Barkley. He underthrew Russell Shepard deep on his first pass attempt and made too many throws that left receivers vulnerable to big hits. There were at least two throws that could have been picked off. Barkley made the right decision on a zone read. The DE crashed inside, and he took off for 8 yards. He seemed to settle down later in the game, finding Clay Harbor for a couple of big gains and leading the Eagles on a touchdown drive.

RUNNING BACKS

* The coaches decided to start Chris Polk since he played well in camp. He carried four times for 7 yards, and none of his attempts picked up more than 4 yards. Polk is the Eagles’ best blocking back, and that showed on the 47-yard touchdown to Jackson. He did an excellent job picking up blitzing linebacker Jerod Mayo.

Chris Polk

polk2

You can see Vick has a clean pocket to deliver.

* I thought Bryce Brown really played well. Five carries for 22 yards and two catches for 19 yards. Brown hasn’t flashed good hands at practice, but he got matched up against a linebacker and had a nice 8-yard catch and run on 3rd-and-5. He picked up 11 on another reception. There were a couple occasions where it looked like he might have missed his blocking assignments. One was when Foles faced an unblocked defender and scrambled for 11 yards. Brown also had the 8-yard touchdown run.

* Felix Jones did not look good. Eight carries for 31 yards. He also had a drop, and it looked like he missed a blitz pickup assignment.

* Matthew Tucker only had 33 yards on 10 carries, but he caught the 2-point conversion. Has a chance to stick if Jones doesn’t improve.

WIDE RECEIVERS

* Not much to add that hasn’t already been mentioned on DeSean Jackson. Vick said he went deep because the Patriots had a single high safety. I’m curious about what his route would have been had the coverage been different.

* Great job by Jason Avant not only going up for the 22-yard catch in between three defenders, but also getting down quickly and avoiding a big hit.

* Riley Cooper got the start opposite Jackson and came down with a 19-yard grab in the second.

* Russell Shepard led the team with six targets, but didn’t get much of a chance to make plays. He had just one grab for 4 yards. Nice effort on the deep ball from Barkley that was underthrown.

* Ifeanyi Momah simply does not look like he’s ready. Poor job as a blocker when Barkley took off on the zone read in the second. Momah then had a false start on the very next play. He got laid out down the right sideline in the third. And Momah was shoved out of bounds by the defender on the next play. Practice squad seems likely for 2013.

* Very nice 62-yard punt return by Damaris Johnson.

* I probably haven’t shown Greg Salas enough love up to this point. I thought Kelly said it best after the game: Salas just keeps showing up. Great individual effort on the touchdown in the fourth. Salas got no blocking on the quick screen, but avoided three defenders and scampered into the end zone. He also made a sensational 35-yard grab on the final drive. He’s got a chance to stick.

TIGHT ENDS

* Per Pro Football Focus, 14 of Zach Ertz’s 22 snaps were pass plays. And Ertz went out into his route on 13 of those 14. He was in the slot on the first two plays from scrimmage. Two catches for 10 yards on three targets. Did not look good as a blocker. Ertz was slow to get to Brandon Spikes on an early Polk run.

Did you see Brent Celek in the backfield on the Eagles’ first play? He fumbled after making a grab in the second. At this point, looks like a much better blocker than Ertz.

* Still not sure if there’s a spot here for Clay Harbor, but he made a couple nice grabs – a 22-yarder and a 20-yarder from Barkley in the second half.

OFFENSIVE LINE

* Really liked what I saw from Lane Johnson as a run-blocker. This was the second play of the game. Johnson is matched up with outside linebacker Rob Ninkovich.

johnson1

johnson2

Couldn’t get a good shot of Johnson taking Ninkovich to the ground, but that’s exactly what he did. And afterwards, Johnson used Ninkovich to prop himself up.

johnson3

Later, he showed off his great athleticism, starting off on a double-team with Celek, before peeling off and looking for a defensive back to hit downfield. Johnson had some issues in pass protection, but an encouraging start for the rookie.

* Given his resume, there’s probably no need to panic, but Todd Herremans did not play well. He whiffed on his block, pulling to the left side on a Polk run that picked up just 1 yard. And Herremans got beaten badly by Tommy Kelly on the Foles sack/fumble. The bright spot for Herremans was his block on Brown’s TD run.

* As for the rest of the starters, Jason Kelce looked good, especially on Brown’s TD run. Evan Mathis was solid as usual. And Allen Barbre was up and down. No one’s going to confuse him for Jason Peters, and he had some issues in pass protection, but was OK overall.

* In terms of the backups, Danny Watkins had a few good moments. He did a nice job on Barkley’s deep attempt to Sheppard. And later, he switched off his man against a stunt on a Barkley incompletion. Watkins was called for holding in the third. Matt Kopa had issues. And Julian Vandervelde played center with the second team. He got overpowered at times and was called for holding, but otherwise was OK. Looked better than he did last preseason.

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Eagles-Patriots Game Review: The Defense

Here’s what we saw from the Eagles’ defense during Friday night’s preseason game against the Patriots. We’ll go position-by-position, identifying performances that stood out one way or another.

DEFENSIVE LINE

* The biggest surprise of the night was the play of Vinny Curry. He’d been quiet all summer long, but showed up in a big way against New England. Curry showed some versatility, playing defensive end in three-man fronts and lining up both inside and outside in four-man fronts. In the second quarter, he set up at left defensive tackle (nickel) and shot right past the offensive lineman, getting a hit on Ryan Mallett. Later, he showed an impressive inside move, getting past the right tackle and combining for a sack with Jake Knott on Tim Tebow. Curry’s effort showed up throughout. On the last play of the first half, the Patriots ran a screen, and he was blocked on the ground near the 38-yard-line.

Vinny CurryBut Curry got up, hustled to the ball and ended up making the tackle 15 yards downfield.

Vinny Curry

We’ll see this week if Curry gets bumped up the depth chart.

* On the flip side of Curry was Fletcher Cox. Don’t want to put too much stock into one preseason game, but offensive tackle Nate Solder threw Cox to the ground on the 62-yard run in the first quarter. Don’t remember seeing a lineman do that to him at all last year. Cox was blocked on the next play too, an 8-yard scamper. And the Patriots blew him off the line of scrimmage with a double-team on a 3rd-and-1 carry during that drive. Cox bounced back on the next possession, hitting Tom Brady and forcing his only incompletion. No need to overreact yet, but he did not play well.

* Undrafted free agent Damion Square had some nice moments. He rotated between nose tackle and defensive end with Bennie Logan on the second team. Square did a good job on Shane Vereen’s 3-yard run in the first and showed some pass-rushing chops too. Square and Emmanuel Acho combined to hit Mallett in the second. He lined up at RDT and looped outside on the play. Later, he was one of three defenders to land a hit on Tim Tebow. Square looks like he has a good shot to make the team.

* Logan flashed as well. He stopped Vereen after a 3-yard run in the second and showed great hustle to chase Vereen down from behind on a screen later in the game. Logan was really good on one possession in the third. He got some penetration, dropping LeGarrette Blount after a 2-yard run. On the next play, he tackled Blount again after a gain of 2. And finally, he and Chris McCoy combined for a sack. Nice debut for the third-round pick.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS

* Trent Cole did not look comfortable. He was caught upfield and blocked easily by rookie tight end Zach Sudfeld on the two runs to start the game. Derek Sarley of Iggles Blog has a good breakdown up of the first two plays. According to Pro Football Focus, Cole played 16 snaps. Eight were run plays, eight were pass plays. On the eight pass plays, he dropped back in coverage only once. A sign perhaps of how the Eagles plan to use him?

* Credit Brandon Graham for making a good special-teams tackle to start the game off. He came in for Connor Barwin at left outside linebacker and also lined up at left defensive end in nickel looks. Graham twisted inside behind Curry and hit Mallett to force an incompletion in the second. He looked bad, as many of you saw, on Blount’s 51-yard touchdown run where he reversed field. Graham was on the field for 21 pass plays, per PFF. He rushed 17 times and dropped four times.

* Connor Barwin did a nice job early on against the run. He lined up both standing up and in a three-point stance on nickel downs.

* Chris McCoy has quietly had a nice summer. He did a nice job with his pass rush from the RDE spot in the second and funneled Blount back inside on the 51-yard run. McCoy pressured Tebow near the end of the first half and combined with Logan for a sack in the third. If roster cuts were today, I think I’d have him on the team.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS

* DeMeco Ryans did not look good. He got caught out of his gap on the 62-yard run to open the game and couldn’t get off the block of the pulling guard on the next play, an 8-yard run. Ryans was outstanding, specifically against the run, last season. So no need to panic yet.

Mychal Kendricks had issues against the run too. He got handled by the tight end on Blount’s 8-yard carry. Later, on third down, Kendricks met Blount head-on but couldn’t make the play. His coverage on the Vereen touchdown was good. Tom Brady just made a perfect throw.

* Jamar Chaney (shoulder) and Casey Matthews (knee) left the game with injuries. Chaney did not look good, missing a tackle on Sudfeld’s 22-yard catch and run. Matthews had some nice moments. Both are squarely on the roster bubble.

* Another undrafted free agent who showed up was Jake Knott. He batted down a Mallett pass at the line of scrimmage in the second and did a nice job as a blitzer. Knott combined with Curry for a sack in the second and tackled Tebow behind the line of scrimmage in the third. He has been quiet at camp, but played well during the game. Knott has a chance to earn a backup spot.

CORNERBACKS

* If you’re a glass half-full kind of person, at least Bradley Fletcher hustled downfield and brought Ridley down on the 62-yard run. That might have been a touchdown with last year’s corners. Fletcher made a tackle in run support on the next play too. He gave up a few completions, most notably a 6-yard catch on 3rd-and-4 and later a 23-yarder. But to be fair, it’s not like Fletcher was caught out of position or got beaten badly on either play. Let’s see how he does the rest of the preseason.

* Brandon Hughes got the surprise start at left corner. Chip Kelly said after the game that was Billy Davis’ decision. Hughes gave up a 7-yard slant and a 12-yard back-shoulder completion, but was OK.

* Boykin played nickel with the first team and then moved outside. He looked good, shadowing Aaron Dobson on a fade in the back of the end zone to force an incompletion.

* If you were looking for improvement from Nate Allen, you probably were disappointed. The 62-yard run would have been a 15-yard run had he been able to bring Ridley down in the open field. Allen later missed another tackle on Sudfeld’s 22-yard catch and run. Put Allen in the “believe it when I see it” camp for now.

* The good news on Patrick Chung is he looks like a sure tackler. The bad news is I’m not sure he can cover. Chung started at safety and then moved to nickel corner so the coaches could get a look at Boykin on the outside. He did a nice job blowing up a screen on third down in the second, but couldn’t keep up with Julian Edelman on a 22-yard completion near the end of the first half. Chung is still in line to be one of the team’s two starting safeties.

* Kenny Phillips made a nice play at the line of scrimmage, stopping Ridley after a 1-yard gain. He did not look good though on Blount’s 51-yard TD. Tough to evaluate him in coverage without the All-22.

* Earl Wolff was up and down. He missed a tackle on Tebow’s 12-yard run in the third, but played up in the box and had a tackle-for-loss in the third. Again, tough to evaluate in coverage. Overall, I’d say Chung is in line to be a starter, but the other job is up for grabs.

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No-22: What We Saw From Chip Kelly’s Offense

Chip Kelly said after Friday’s game that his up-tempo package is just one of many tools in his toolbox.

The truth is, it’s likely to become the foundation of his offense. It’s what Kelly had so much success with at Oregon. It’s what the Eagles have been practicing all offseason long. And it’s a style that other NFL teams are already having success with.

But as we saw Friday night, there’s more to it than just tempo.

Last August, Chris Brown of Grantland wrote about the concept of “packaged plays.” The idea is to give the offense multiple options on any given play, while allowing the quarterback to decide where to go with the football:

The rise of “packaged plays” is important on its own, but it becomes essential when combined with the other trend in football — the up-tempo no-huddle. The no-huddle, especially when operated by quarterbacks like Rodgers or Tom Brady, is an invaluable weapon when combating modern defenses that rely on constant movement to maximize confusion. “In the no-huddle context, the advantage of packaged plays becomes particularly acute,” says Grabowski, adding, “An offense that can run these packaged plays at the fastest tempos can get a vanilla look that further simplifies the read on a key defender.” If you’re going to go fast-paced no-huddle to prevent defenses from substituting or setting up in something exotic, you have to do it, well, fast, and slow audibles with lots of words and gyrations at the line are not that.

Brown will be writing about Kelly and the Eagles in the coming days, but it sure looked like the offense was doing just what he described above.

All offseason, the Eagles’ offensive players have talked about how the new scheme gives them many options. When Nick Foles got into the game, we got a glimpse of what they’ve been talking about.

Unfortunately, there’s no All-22 available for preseason games, but here are some shots off the TV tape.

The pre-snap look on first down:

Play1a

The Eagles are in 12 personnel with one running back, two tight ends and two wide receivers. They have a stacked look to both sides, with Brent Celek and Zach Ertz in front of DeSean Jackson and Riley Cooper. Bryce Brown is in the backfield.

Take a look at what happens when Foles goes to hand the ball off to Brown:

Play1b

It looks like Foles has four different options on this play, depending on how the defense lines up. He can hand the ball to Brown. But he also has screens set up to both sides, which the defense has to account for.

The fourth option?

Play1c

Foles can keep the ball and run. All summer long, I’ll admit I’ve poked fun at this as a possibility. But look at how Foles carries out the fake, starting to run to the left. Brown clearly has the ball at this point, but right defensive end Chandler Jones is looking at Foles in the backfield.

That allows Brown to find a lane and pick up 8 yards.

We saw similar concepts during the 10-play, 62-yard touchdown drive in the second. This looks like a zone read with an unblocked defender. Foles can hand the ball off, keep it and run or go to a screen on the perimeter to either side.

Play2

And finally, the 8-yard Brown touchdown run. This one comes down to basic math. Take a look pre-snap. The Patriots only have five defenders in the box.

Play3a

The Eagles have a numbers advantage. Again, you’ll see WR screens set up on the perimeter.

Play3b

The Patriots keep six defenders on the perimeter. That means the offensive line gets “hat-on-hat” blocks up front. Left tackle Allen Barbre struggles with his guy, but everyone else does their job, creating a lane that any back in the league would be able to run through. Todd Herremans and Jason Kelce, specifically, do a great job.

Play3c

This is a bit of a guess on my part, but the safety (No. 27) probably could have cheated up, if not for the threat of the screen to his side. By the time he makes his way over to Brown, it’s too late. He’s already in the end zone.

The Eagles went no-huddle, up-tempo for the entire drive. And they only changed personnel once (after the first two plays). The game clock stopped on one incompletion. Taking that play out of the equation, on average, only 18 seconds came off the game clock in between snaps.

We’ll have more after reviewing the game, but these are some of the concepts that stood out the first time around.

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Eagles DL Production: Checking In On Graham, Curry

Philadelphia Eagles DE Brandon Graham.Coming off an outstanding performance in Week 15 against the Bengals, the Eagles’ defensive line was not nearly as impressive Sunday afternoon against the Redskins

The D-Line failed to sack Robert Griffin III, although the Eagles certainly pressured him at times. Alfred Morris had 91 yards rushing, but he needed 22 carries (4.1 YPC).

Once again, the defense got no help from the other two phases. Washington’s five scoring drives started at its own 28, its own 41, its own 47, midfield and the Eagles’ 25. This is nothing new. Opponents have dominated the Birds in terms of field position all year long.

Focusing back on the pass-rush, here’s a look at opportunities (from Pro Football Focus), sacks, hurries (as tracked by the coaching staff) and pressure percentage (frequency with which each player notched a sack or hurry).

 
Pass-Rushing Opportunities
Sacks
Hurries
Pressure Percentage
Trent Cole21029.5%
Brandon Graham18015.6%
Cullen Jenkins15000%
Derek Landri13000%
Fletcher Cox11019.1%
Cedric Thornton11000%
Phillip Hunt6000%
Vinny Curry4000%

A lot of zeroes on that board.

Trent Cole led the Eagles with two hurries. Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox added one apiece. Everyone else was shut out.

The Eagles made the decision to sit Darryl Tapp and give his snaps to Vinny Curry. But they’re also playing the starters (Cole and Graham) more, which resulted in Curry only getting four opportunities to rush the passer.

Below is the player-by-player review.

Brandon Graham – He didn’t produce eye-popping numbers, but I thought Graham played well once again, with a hurry and five tackles. He got pinched inside on Santana Moss’ 12-yard end around in the first, but hustled to eventually bring him down. Graham showed good discipline on a play-fake in the first, chasing Griffin to the sideline on a 4th-and-2 incompletion. Really nice job breaking up a shovel pass in the second. And Graham shoved the right tackle back before stopping Morris on a 1-yard gain in the second. He forced Griffin out of the pocket on a third-down incompletion in the second. And Graham came from the back side to tackle Morris after a 2-yard run in the fourth. Active game, and the effort has been outstanding all season.

Trent Cole – He had a tough matchup with Trent Williams and was up and down, finishing with two hurries and five tackles. Good read on the end around, but couldn’t make the tackle as Joshua Morgan picked up 7 in the first. He tackled Morris after a 1-yard run in the second. Good pressure on a third-down play in the second where Williams got away with a hold. Cole couldn’t get off of Williams’ block on Morris’ 9-yard run in the third. He tackled Morris after a 5-yard run in the third. Cole batted a pass at the line of scrimmage and shoved Griffin to the ground in the third. He tackled Morris after a 1-yard run in the third, but was blocked by Chris Cooley on Morris’ 14-yard run in the fourth.

Fletcher Cox – The reason he didn’t see more snaps is because Cox suffered a concussion. He had a hurry and three tackles before being sidelined. Cox combined with Graham to stop Morris after a 1-yard run in the second. He chased and hit Griffin on the next play – a third-down incompletion. And Cox got into the backfield on Morris’ 5-yard run on 2nd-and-27 in the third. Already a very good player. Has a chance to be a Pro Bowler based on what we saw during his rookie campaign.

Cullen Jenkins – Very quiet game. No sacks, no hurries, two tackles. Todd Bowles went out of his way to praise Jenkins last week, but didn’t see much out of the veteran in this one.

Derek Landri – With Cox sidelined, he saw increased snaps. Landri had a quiet game as well with no sacks, no hurries and two tackles. A huge hole opened up between him and Cole on Morris’ 14-yard run in the fourth.

Cedric Thornton – Two tackles for Thornton. He did a good job stuffing Morris for no gain in the second. And Thornton brought Morris down after a 2-yard run in the fourth on the Redskins’ final drive. He was called for an illegal block in the back on Colt Anderson’s interception.

Phillip Hunt – He spelled Graham at left defensive end, but did not have a good showing. Hunt got caught way upfield and left Morris with all sorts of room on his 10-yard touchdown run in the third. He had a chance to tackle Griffin behind the line of scrimmage on an option play in the first, but couldn’t get a hold of him. Hunt had a chance to sack Griffin in the second, but let him escape.

Vinny Curry – As I mentioned above, Curry did not play a lot – 11 snaps total. He only had four chances to rush the passer and was a non-factor there. Against the run, Curry had ups and downs. He did a really nice job of slipping past Williams, getting penetration and forcing Morris inside, where Thornton made a tackle for no gain in the second. But Curry was blocked to the ground by Williams on Morris’ 4-yard run in the second. Overall, he’s had some nice moments against the run, but Curry has zero sacks and zero hurries. He’s had 32 chances to rush the passer, per PFF.

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Eagles DL Production: Cox, Cole And Graham In 2013?

The Eagles’ defensive line turned in its best performance of the season Thursday night against the Bengals.

Brandon Graham had a career game. Trent Cole looked like the old Trent Cole. Fletcher Cox continued an impressive rookie campaign. And guys like Cullen Jenkins and Cedric Thornton contributed as well.

In all, the defensive line combined for six sacks and eight hurries. Andy Dalton was under constant pressure and completed just 13 of 27 passes for 127 yards.

In a future post, we’ll break out the All-22 and look at why the Eagles defensive line was successful. But first, the player-by-player breakdown.

Sacks are tracked by the NFL. Hurries are tracked by Eagles coaches. And pass-rushing chances by Pro Football Focus. Pressure percentage measures the frequency with which each player notched a sack or hurry.

 
Pass-Rushing Opportunities
Sacks
Hurries
Pressure Percentage
Trent Cole33129.1%
Cullen Jenkins28103.6%
Fletcher Cox271.5214.8%
Brandon Graham272.5322.2%
Derek Landri130N/AN/A
Darryl Tapp9000%
Cedric Thornton80112.5%
Vinny Curry4000%
Phillip Hunt3000%

As you can see with the numbers, Graham added a team-high three hurries to his 2.5 sacks. He notched either a sack or hurry once every 4.5 chances. Cox had 1.5 sacks and two hurries for the second-highest pressure percentage among linemen – impressive, considering he’s rushing from the tackle spot.

There appears to have been an error with Derek Landri’s stats. That’s why you see an N/A next to his name.

Vinny Curry only had four chances to rush the passer. Those came from the right defensive end spot.

Below is the player-by-player review, after having re-watched the game.

Brandon Graham – I feel confident in saying he turned in the most productive game of any of the team’s defensive linemen this season. Graham had 2.5 sacks, three hurries and 10 tackles – the best single-game mark for an Eagles DE this season. Graham and Colt Anderson stopped BenJarvus Green-Ellis for no gain in the red zone in the first. He went around right around right tackle Andre Smith for his first sack. Graham and Jenkins forced Dalton to escape the pocket and throw incomplete on third down in the first. He and DeMeco Ryans brought Green-Ellis down after a 4-yard gain in the second. Great bull-rush vs. Smith, causing Dalton to throw high on a second-quarter incompletion. Graham used his speed and hands to get around Smith in the second, sacking and stripping Dalton. He drew a holding penalty on a run play in the second. And another one that negated a 9-yard Dalton run in the second. Great hustle to bring Dalton down after a 2-yard gain on a scramble to the other side of the field. Graham just overpowered Smith on the sack he split with Cox in the third. He bull-rushed Dennis Roland and drew a holding penalty in the third. Another excellent bull-rush against Smith in the third, forcing Dalton to scramble. In the fourth, he forced Dalton to scramble again and throw the ball away. Graham and Cox brought Green-Ellis down after a 1-yard run in the fourth. A career game for the former first-round pick.

Trent Cole – He had seven solo tackles, a season-high. To put that into perspective, Cole had seven solo tackles in the previous five games combined. In the second, he looped inside and sacked Dalton. It helped that the left guard slipped on the play. Excellent job of shedding the tight end and tackling Green-Ellis after a 2-yard run in the third. Cole pressured Dalton and forced him to scramble in the third. He fought through a trap block and tackled Green-Ellis after a 3-yard run in the third. Nice job setting the edge and then making the tackle on Green-Ellis after a 1-yard run in the third. Cole tackled Green-Ellis after a 4-yard gain in the third. And he hit Dalton as he threw the ball away in the fourth. If you’re wondering about Cole’s future, given the way his contract’s set up, he’s definitely coming back in 2013. He turned 30 in October. While Cole’s best days may be behind him, he provided reason to believe he can still be a productive player with his performance on Thursday.

Fletcher Cox – The future is bright for the first-round pick. Actually, the current is pretty bright already. Cox had 1.5 sacks, two hurries and six tackles. On the season, he leads all Eagles defensive linemen with 62 tackles and 44 solo tackles. The next closest is Cole, who has 52 and 30. Good interior pressure, forcing Dalton to take off in the second. Cox abused the left guard and sacked Dalton in the third. He got the better of him on the next play too, splitting a sack with Graham. Cox and Graham combined to bring Green-Ellis down after a 1-yard run in the fourth. Another good game.

Cullen Jenkins – One sack, no hurries and three tackles. Jenkins and Graham forced Dalton to leave the pocket and throw incomplete in the first. Good pressure, forcing Dalton to take off in the second. He lined up at LDT and looped all the way around Cole at RDE to sack Dalton and force a fumble in the second. Nice play against the run, drawing a holding penalty in the third. He and Mychal Kendricks dropped Green-Ellis for a loss in the fourth.

Vinny Curry – He played 15 snaps. Most were running plays though. Curry had one tackle, stopping Green-Ellis for no gain in the fourth. He did a nice job getting into the backfield on a Green-Ellis run that lost 2 yards in the fourth.

Darryl Tapp – No sacks, no hurries, no tackles. Tapp played 13 snaps.

Phillip Hunt – No sacks, no hurries, one tackle – on Green-Ellis after a 3-yard run in the fourth. Hunt played 14 snaps.

Derek Landri – One tackle, no sacks. Landri took on a double-team and forced Green-Ellis to cut back on a 1-yard run in the first.

Cedric Thornton – Active game for Thornton with six tackles and a hurry. He split a double-team and tackled Green-Ellis for a 2-yard loss in the second. Thornton chased Dalton to the sideline and got a hit on him in the third. The moment most will remember though was him fumbling the short kickoff away. Thornton took full responsibility for the turnover after the game.

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Eagles OL Review: Mathis, Scott Get Tested

Here’s a player-by-player review of how the Eagles’ offensive line performed against the Bengals, after having re-watched Thursday night’s game.

King Dunlap – The veteran held up well in pass protection. I didn’t see him give up any hits on Nick Foles. Dunlap did a nice job pass-blocking on the 17-yard completion to Jeremy Maclin in the third. He rarely gives you much in the run game and was up and down in that aspect. But Dunlap did a nice job on Bryce Brown’s 6-yard run in the third and again on his 8-yard run. He got pushed into the backfield on Brown’s run that lost 2 yards in the second.

Evan Mathis – He’s had a great season and was battling an ankle injury, but Mathis was up-and-down in this one, going up against some talented defensive linemen like Geno Atkins. Let’s start with the good. He did a nice job on Brown’s 6-yard run in the red zone. And Mathis got his hands on Vontaze Burfict on Brown’s 6-yard run in the third. He held up well in pass protection on Foles’ 17-yard completion to Maclin in the third. Now, the issues. Mathis whiffed on his block against Pat Sims, leading to the Foles/Brown fumble and the Bengals’ defensive touchdown. He was driven into the backfield by Atkins on a Brown run that was stopped after 1 yard in the fourth. Mathis had some trouble with Atkins in the first, but Foles stepped up and found Jason Avant for 25 yards. He gave up a sack in the third as Wallace Gilberry came Mathis’ way on a stunt. But to be fair, Foles held on to the ball for awhile on the play.

Dallas Reynolds – He had ups and downs as well. Good block on the screen to Brown that picked up 11 in the second. And nice job pulling on the 6-yard Brown carry in the red zone. But he couldn’t hold his block on the linebacker on Brown’s 3-yard carry in the second. And Reynolds had a costly illegal snap when the offense had a 1st-and-goal from the 2 late in the first half. They ended up settling for a field goal. Burfict went right around him and dropped Dion Lewis for a 4-yard loss on a screen in the third.

Jake Scott – He did not play particularly well. Scott was called for an illegal block in the back on the screen to Maclin where he fumbled. Atkins shoved him deep into the backfield, disrupting a Brown run that lost a yard in the first. He let Domata Peko get past him on Brown’s 3-yard run in the second. Scott got abused by Atkins in the third and was called for holding. And he was shoved into the backfield by Atkins on a Brown run that lost 2 yards in the third. The good moments? He did a nice job out in front of the screen to Brown that picked up 11 yards. And Scott blocked Burfict on Brown’s 6-yard run in the red zone.

Dennis Kelly – He also had his share of issues. Kelly gave up a hit on Foles in the second on the play where the QB was called for intentional grounding. He did a poor job of handling a stunt in the second, allowing pressure on Foles. It looked like Carlos Dunlap tossed him to the side on a Brown run that lost a yard in the third.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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