Inside Voices: Deeper Into the Sports Science

ryans_400_111113The sleep monitor attached to the player’s wrist begins to gently vibrate when it’s time to wake up.

Instead of a screeching alarm clock that startles you out of your sleep, the device the Eagles wear draws you to consciousness slowly as the vibrations gradually increase.

During the night, the device records when you fell asleep, how well you slept and how many times you woke up during the night. This draws the competitive side out of these athletes. They want to improve those numbers, so they work on it. Maybe they’ll go to bed a half-hour earlier, maybe they’ll alter their night-time routine.

When Najee Goode — the Eagles’ reserve linebacker and special teams player — first moved into his new place, his numbers were terrible. He lives by a train, so his sleep reports weren’t so great early on as he got accustomed to the frequent rattling outside. Now it’s better. He would wake up maybe 10, 12 times during the night. Got it down to eight. Now it’s steadily at five or so.

The players’ sleep reports go right into a computer system that can be accessed by sports science coordinator Shaun Huls. That’s just the beginning of the data that the former Navy Seal trainer collects on a regular basis. Read more »

Eagles’ Takeaways Are No Accident

Eagles Defensive Coordinator Bill Davis Speaks to PressIn Chip Kelly’s final season at Oregon, the Ducks’ defense led the nation in takeaways with 41. They finished second in that category in 2010.

In his two-year stint as defensive coordinator  in Arizona, Billy Davis’ units were sixth in takeaways both seasons, generating 59 in all. He had similar success in that department as DC in San Francisco.

The 2013 Eagles are currently ninth in the NFL with 22 takeaways, and gaining steam. Nine of those have come during this current four-game winning streak.

What is it about the concepts and teachings of this coaching staff that helps create a turnover-friendly environment? Let’s take a look: Read more »

Self-Scouting: Taking Stock Of the Defense

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Tampa Bay BuccaneersWe went through the offense yesterday. Here’s a position-by-position look at where the Eagles’ defense stands going into the final five games.

DEFENSIVE LINE

The guys up front have been the key to the defensive improvement. Cedric Thornton leads all the team’s linemen with 58 tackles and has looked like a natural in the two-gap scheme since Week 1. He’s versatile, powerful and has been perhaps the Eagles’ most consistent defensive player all season long.

Fletcher Cox has really come on and has 13 tackles the past two weeks. He has three sacks and leads the team with 19 hurries; no other player has more than eight. Bennie Logan has been a huge upgrade over Isaac Sopoaga at nose tackle. He’s got 15 tackles in the last three games. That’s just three fewer than Sopoaga had in the first eight games.

Vinny Curry, Clifton Geathers and Damion Square round out the rotation. Curry has been the team’s most productive pass-rusher and is tied for the team lead with four sacks. Read more »

Wake-Up Call: A New Emphasis On Linebacker

Eagles LB DeMeco Ryans on field hyping crowdThe 2012 offseason marked a shift in thinking within the Eagles organization when it came to linebackers.

There was a formula in place during the Joe Banner/Andy Reid reign that helped decide where resources were allocated, and that formula served them well in many respects. The team invested heavily in linemen (both offensive and defensive), cornerbacks and of course the quarterback position. Occasionally they would pony up for a receiver. They prioritized a few positions, went light in other areas and put themselves in a situation where they had the most critical spots (in their view) covered but still enjoyed financial flexibility overall because of their selectivity.

Linebacker, judging by the team’s actions, ranked low on that priority list. Read more »

All-22: Entering the ‘Ryans Zone’

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

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

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

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

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

Five Eagles Numbers That Matter

desean_400_102713Here are five Eagles numbers that matter to get you through the bye week.

1 – The number of incompletions on passes thrown to DeSean Jackson in the last three games. According to Pro Football Focus, Nick Foles has targeted Jackson 14 times, and 13 of those have been completions for 312 yards. On the season, Jackson has caught 68.2 percent of the passes thrown his way. That number has never been higher than 61.3 percent during his first five seasons in the NFL.

And it’s not like the Eagles are dinking-and-dunking to Jackson. He has a league-leading 19 catches of 20+ yards on the season and is averaging 17.0 yards per catch. That would be his best average for since 2010.

Chip Kelly has done a masterful job of maximizing Jackson’s ability as a big-play threat while making him a more efficient receiver. Read more »

Three-And-Out: Predictions For the Stretch Run

mccoy_400Welcome to a special bye-week edition of Three-And-Out. Tim and Sheil make their predictions for the final five games.

Key player

Offense

McManus: LeSean McCoy

As we wrote about this week and discussed on our show Thursday night, McCoy has needed every ounce of his elite talent to keep the ground game up and running over the last several games. The open space that he enjoyed early on when Michael Vick was healthy has been filled with swarming defenders that are selling out to shut McCoy down. No longer concerned about the quarterback keeping the ball on the read option, the defense is able to flow towards McCoy without hesitation.

Recently, the 25-year-old has relied largely on his video-game like shiftiness to get his yards. With a lesser back, this offense might be in a little trouble.

McCoy put a scare into this organization when he grabbed for the back of his leg against Washington. The Eagles need him to stay healthy and fresh. He is on pace for 309 carries this season. His previous high was 273, set back in 2011. Read more »

Eagles Wake-Up Call: Defense Finding Identity

ryans_400_111113Entering the 2013 season, the identity of the Eagles’ defense was a mystery.

New scheme, new coordinator, new assistants and six new starters.

Four games in, they seemed to be developing an identity: a unit that would give up a lot of yards and a lot of points and was very much a work-in-progress.

But times have changed. In the last seven games, the ‘D’ is allowing just 17.4 points per game. And there’s been an unexpected consistency too. No opponent has scored more than 21 against the Eagles since Week 4.

“The thing that jumps off the table or the film is the effort our guys are playing with,” Billy Davis said. “They view themselves as a high-effort defense. We’re not a bunch of Pro Bowl names, pretty faces. We’re scrapping and keeping people out of the end zone. It’s hard work and high effort that’s getting it done.” Read more »

Defense Game Review: 10 Observations

NFL: Washington Redskins at Philadelphia EaglesIf you missed the game review of the offense, click here. Now, onto 10 observations of the Eagles’ defense after having re-watched the game.

1. The Eagles’ defense shut out the Redskins for three-plus quarters, but let’s start in the fourth where things got a little dicey. Trent Cole was trailing Darrel Young in coverage, and Patrick Chung was closing in from his deep safety spot down the left sideline. Robert Griffin III escaped pressure and lofted one to Young. Cole went flying at him, and Chung did the same from the opposite direction. They both whiffed and collided into one another as Young got free for the 62-yard score. Then on the 2-point conversion, the Redskins set up with a bunch formation to the right, and Chung completely lost track of Nick Williams.

2. Roc Carmichael had a rough fourth quarter. But his coverage wasn’t bad on the 41-yard TD to Aldrick Robinson. Griffin underthrew the ball, and Robinson made a great adjustment. I asked Carmichael last week when he’s taught to turn and find the football. He said he watches the receiver’s eyes and hands. Obviously he could have done a better job on that play. Carmichael also gave up completions of 19, 9, 28 and 7 in the fourth quarter. The most concerning of those was the 28-yarder. The Eagles had the Redskins with a 3rd-and-25, but they were able to extend their drive with a completion to Santana Moss. Carmichael might have been expecting more safety help, but the safeties are going to play particularly deep in that spot, focused on keeping everything in front of them. Read more »

The Matchup: Eagles Vs. Redskins

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Oakland RaidersAfter the Eagles’ 15-7 loss to the Giants in Week 8, Chip Kelly’s message to his team carried a tone of optimism.

The offense had managed just three points in two weeks. Outsiders were taking jabs at Johnny College Coach left and right. And the quarterback situation appeared to be a complete mess.

But Kelly wasn’t about to make any drastic changes. The focus would be on better execution, not the scheme.

“I think we stuck to what we like to do,” said wide receiver DeSean Jackson.

“One thing I can say about Chip is he’s not really into switching up too many things. He feels very confident and comfortable with the system and what we’re able to do out there. At times, teams do a good job of challenging us, but just sticking with it and getting the same opportunities and just knowing maybe one time they might guard us or they might be on our play, but as long as we’re able to keep grinding on it and stick with what we know to do, eventually it’s gonna open up.”

And it did. The Eagles put up 76 points in their next two games. They now find themselves in a first-place tie with the Cowboys, and the offense appears to be on a roll. Read more »

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