1. The one word I would use to describe Nick Foles is comfortable. He was calm in the pocket, delivered the football on-target and did a great job on the little things like setting up screens. Foles threw a beautiful ball to DeSean Jackson in between Redskins defenders for 19 yards in the first. He connected with Zach Ertz for a 15-yard pickup and lofted one to LeSean McCoy for 49 yards down the sideline. In the second, Foles motioned Bryce Brown to the right, pump-faked to him and then came back to Brent Celek for a 42-yard gain on a screen. In the third, he delivered a nice ball to Ertz, but the rookie dropped it. That was no issue for Foles, who came right back to him on the very next play for a 16-yard gain. Overall, 17-for-26 for 298 yards. He easily could have had three touchdowns, but receivers were brought down inside the 5. Foles’ play was not the issue in the second half. He wasn’t asked to pass a lot, but still went 8-for-11 for 81 yards. Read more »
The following Eagles are inactive for today’s game against the Dallas Cowboys: QB Michael Vick, safety Patrick Chung, CB Shaun Prater, RB Chris Polk, OT Matt Tobin, OT Dennis Kelly and DL Damion Square. Read more »
The Eagles downgraded Chris Polk from questionable to out for Sunday’s game against the Cowboys because of a shoulder injury.
In order to have a third running back available, the team decided to bring Matthew Tucker up from the practice squad and released cornerback Jordan Poyer. Read more »
Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters left early in the third quarter with an apparent shoulder injury.
Peters was initially engaged with former Eagle Daniel Te’o-Nesheim on a running play to LeSean McCoy before coming off the block to hit linebacker Lavonte David. He went to the ground after the hit and eventually walked off under his own power. Peters was replaced at tackle by Allen Barbre.
He has since returned.
Read more »
Here’s a position-by-position review of the Eagles’ offensive performance against the Broncos. Read more »
Here’s a look at how Chip Kelly divvied up playing time Sunday afternoon against the Broncos. Read more »
For the past four seasons under Andy Reid, the popular argument was that McCoy did not get the ball enough. Now one game into the Chip Kelly era, and the concern is that his workload will be too large.
“Which one is it?” he asked.
You tell us. Were the 31 carries and 32 overall touches too much? Not enough? Just right?
“I didn’t mind it Monday night,” he said. “I think we can do a better job rotating because it’s a long season. I don’t think I need to have the ball 31, 32 times in a game for us to be a successful offense. We have too many different weapons. I think the running backs we have here can definitely play. Bryce Brown showed you last year he’s definitely a talented back. So I think we have to do a better job of monitoring the reps.”
On Monday, Brown had nine carries while Chris Polk had none.
McCoy said that while there are some packages that don’t include him, the majority of the time the coaches give him the option of whether he stays in the game or not. So some of the snap management falls on his shoulders.
“You try to give 100 percent on every play, and there’s times when you get gassed or you get nicked up a time or two and that 100 percent drops a little bit, and I think that’s the time you come out and get the other guy in that’s fresh and get his 100 percent,” he said.
“They just talk about, if you’re tired, come off, because the coach understands that it’s a fast tempo. We train hard and are in good enough shape to run the offense but we’re only human so we’re going to be tired.”
McCoy’s high-water mark for carries came in 2011 when he ran it 273 times (in 15 games). If he keeps up Monday’s pace for a full 16 games, he will have run the ball 496 times. In other words, that average is coming down. Has to.
Safe to say, though, McCoy is going to get his opportunities. There will be no talk of play-calling holding him back this year. Does has he set any new personal goals?
“I don’t really get into yardage and the different type of records,” he said, “that stuff will come. We’ve got to worry about winning. My focus is winning. The last couple years we haven’t been winning. When I got to the Eagles we were a winning team and teams kind of feared to play us. I want to get back to that level before I can start talking about yards and all that other stuff.”
WHAT YOU MISSED
Zach Ertz hopes that his drop “spell” is now behind him.
Sheil uses the All-22 tape to break down the Eagles’ touchdowns against Washington. Good stuff, as always.
Is Kelly’s offense sustainable? We give our take in the latest Twitter Mailbag.
DeSean Jackson says the Eagles have to keep their foot on the gas.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
New opponent, new defensive approach, writes Phil Sheridan.
“It’s a completely different challenge this week,” [Connor] Barwin said. “It’s that West Coast offense. Their run game is inside the tackles. Last week, their run game was outside the tackles. The quarterback sits in the pocket and gets the ball out on time, which is the opposite. Last week, the quarterback ran. They ran bootlegs and play-action. San Diego is completely different.”
So the Eagles’ defense will look completely different. Or it will look the same and then behave differently. Much of what coordinator Bill Davis has his players do is reliant on their reading the offense and reacting to it.
“The scheme is built to where any member of the defense can be blitzing at any given time,” Davis said. “We have blitzes for every position — corners, safeties, nickels, dimes, Mike ‘backers. Anybody can be a blitzer, either through an active call or a check.”
Fletcher Cox says that a published report alleging that he received improper benefits from a booster while in college will not become a distraction. From Reuben Frank.
Because Cox is not currently in college, the NCAA does not hold subpoena power over him. Of the five players identified by Yahoo!, only Tennessee defensive end Maurice Couch, who is currently on the team, would be bound to speak with NCAA officials.
Cox’s Twitter timeline is full of messages from people asking him about the allegations.
“I don’t worry about those things,” Cox said. “I barely check all of that, and I’ll just go forward when I hear from my agent.”
Preparation for the Chargers continues. We have plenty to get to.
If you missed the defense, click here.
Below is the position-by-position game review of the offense.
* It was an uneven performance for Michael Vick. He went 15-for-23 for 184 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He also ran seven times for 53 yards. Vick did a nice job escaping pressure and finding Jason Avant down the sideline for 20 yards on the first play. He threw an absolute laser to Riley Cooper for the 9-yard TD. But he did leave plays on the field, like when he overthrew Brent Celek on the wheel route. And as Derek Sarley pointed out, he was too hesitant when he had receivers open. Vick can make up for breakdowns in protection, and he can hurt teams with his legs. But the number one factor that will determine his success in this offense is decision-making. We’ll find out where he’s at with that aspect when the Eagles take on the Redskins at FedEx Field two weeks from tonight.
* Hard to argue with the numbers for Nick Foles: 10-for-11 for 112 yards. Foles misfired on his first pass, a screen to Damaris Johnson, and then connected on his next 10. Most of them were underneath throws; only one traveled more than 10 yards from the line of scrimmage, per Pro Football Focus. But he averaged 10.2 yards per attempt as guys picked up yards after the catch. Foles moved the team and looked comfortable running the offense against Jacksonville’s backups.
* LeSean McCoy only played 18 snaps and carried five times for 9 yards. But he had a nice 15-yard run in the first, breaking Jason Babin’s tackle behind the line of scrimmage. He’ll rest now until Week 1.
* Bryce Brown continues to dazzle and frustrate at the same time. Eleven carries for 92 yards and a touchdown, including impressive gains of 7, 11 and 23. But he had the big fumble trying to get into the end zone in the second half.
This will come down to coaching. It’s up to Chip Kelly, Duce Staley and company to find a way to get Brown to secure the ball better. The talent is there. He’s got a unique blend of size and speed. But opposing defenses will be looking to punch the ball out every time he’s in the game. I still think Brown will get it down at some point. But it’s something to watch every time he’s on the field. As a blocker, Brown did a poor job with his blitz pickup on 3rd-and-8 in the first. Needs to get better in that area.
* The numbers for Chris Polk – six carries for 23 yards – weren’t great, but thought he ran well. He dragged defenders with him on a 4-yard pickup in the third and then gained 12 around the right end. Polk ran over a defensive back at the goal line on his touchdown. Normally reliable in blitz pickup, he whiffed on a play where Vick escaped and picked up 10 yards with his legs.
* DeSean Jackson continues to look comfortable in this offense. He finished with three catches for 48 yards on four targets. Jackson has six catches on nine targets this preseason and is averaging 20.5 yards per catch without a drop. A career year for No. 10 is in play.
* Avant was his usual self, keeping his feet in bounds for a 20-yard completion. He had the amazing one-handed grab on the ball that was tipped at the line of scrimmage. Overall, three catches for 36 yards on four targets. He also showed up as a blocker, doing a nice job on Polk’s runs of 12 and 11 yards, respectively.
* Cooper came down with the touchdown and made nice blocks on a screen to Avant and an 11-yard pickup by Brown. He also did a good job on Brown’s 23-yard run. Cooper figures to play a lot of snaps even if he’s not a big factor in the passing game.
* Johnson fumbled the one return but bounced back with a 61-yarder. As a receiver, he had two catches for 24 yards on three targets. On one play, he went up in traffic between defenders and snagged a 10-yarder from Foles.
* Russell Shepard got more involved, catching two balls for 38 yards. He showed good YAC ability, taking a screen 29 yards. Shepard’s firmly on the roster bubble.
* Brent Celek had four catches for 54 yards on seven targets, but he could have had an even bigger game. Vick overthrew him on the wheel route and also on another player early on. Celek made a nice grab for 26 yards on third down, ran hard for yards after the catch and blocked well on a bubble screen to Avant in the second.
* Zach Ertz lined up in the slot, found a soft spot in the zone and made a 13-yard grab in the first. He couldn’t hang on for what would have been a tough catch off play-action in the first as a defender delivered a forearm to his head. Up and down as a blocker. Poor job on McCoy’s 4-yard loss in the second. But excellent job on the screen to Shepard.
* James Casey was quiet again with one catch for 3 yards. He set up as a lead blocker, but whiffed on McCoy’s 15-yard run. Good block on the Shepard bubble screen in the fourth.
* Jason Peters looked great in pass protection. For the entire game, with one exception, he did not let his defender get close enough to even breathe on Vick. Even on the one play where he allowed a pressure, Vick held on to the ball for awhile before throwing it away. He was OK in the run game, but not his usual dominant self. Peters was slow to get to the linebacker on a second-quarter run that lost 4 yards. He couldn’t quite get to the linebacker on a Polk 4-yard run. Overall, though, encouraging performance from No. 71.
* Evan Mathis’ performance was shakier than usual. He had trouble with Tyson Alualu on third down during the first series and was later called for holding on 3rd-and-8, negating an 18-yard completion to Celek. Mathis got beat by Jeremy Mincey in the first and then again by Sen’Derrick Marks, who put a big hit on Vick. As we showed earlier in the week, he and Jason Kelce had an issue with a stunt and gave up a sack. Mathis was better in the run game. He threw a defender to the ground on Brown’s 5-yard run in the second. Nothing to panic about, but he did not play particularly well.
* The same goes for Jason Kelce. On the first play play, he had trouble with defensive tackle Roy Miller. On another play, Jason Babin looped inside from the left edge, and Kelce was slow to pick him up. He also had two errant snaps. One was high and ruined the timing of a zone read/bubble packaged play the Eagles had on. Vick had to throw the ball away. The other was low and fumbled by Vick. Kelce was mostly good in the run game, getting to the linebacker on McCoy’s 15-yard run and again on Brown’s 23-yard run. Still think he’ll have a good year, but not a clean performance.
* Todd Herremans has been shaky in two of three preseason games. On the second play, he had trouble with Miller and Vick ended up getting sacked. Herremans did a poor job picking up a blitzing linebacker on 3rd-and-8 in the first. Marks beat him badly on the Vick interception. Herremans, too, was better in the run game. Nice blocks on McCoy’s 15-yard run, Brown’s 7-yard run and Brown’s 23-yarder. We pointed out earlier that he and Johnson had a miscue that resulted in a 5-yard loss for McCoy. Worth keeping an eye on him early in the season, and also worth noting that Herremans was dealing with knee inflammation.
* Lane Johnson had some issues early on with Babin, getting beat on a spin move and then around the edge in the first quarter. But I thought he settled down and eventually played fine. In fact, Babin tried the same spin move in the second, and Johnson stoned him as Vick found Celek for 26 yards. Will get better as the season goes on, but Johnson should be pretty good from the start.
* A couple notes on the backups. Julian Vandervelde continues to take second-team reps at center. If he and Allen Barbre make the team, Danny Watkins could be on the outside looking in. Also, Michael Bamiro has a good chance of sticking.
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:
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.
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.
“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.
That gives the Eagles a 3-on-2 advantage with the bubble screen.
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).
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.
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.
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.
At first glance, it seems like they’re running the same play.
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.
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.