If you missed the first game review on the Eagles’ offense, click here.
Now onto the defense. Read more »
TAMPA, Fla. — Here’s what we saw during the Eagles’ 31-20 win over the Bucs. Read more »
Player I’ll be watching:
McManus: Zach Ertz.
Michael Vick told us this week that he believes Ertz will turn into one of the best tight ends in the game. The sooner that happens the better for No. 7. Defenses are keying on DeSean Jackson, as they should. The Eagles need another option to emerge in the passing game to help loosen the clamps.
Ertz could be particularly useful in the red zone. The tight end trio of Ertz, Brent Celek and James Casey still does not have a single red zone catch. Consider that Jackson has also been shut out inside the 20, and it’s no wonder the offense is stalling. Read more »
Here are 10 things to know about how the Eagles’ defense matches up with the Giants’ offense. Read more »
It’s time to run to the mailbox and steal the report card before Mom and Pops get their hands on it.
OK, fine. Apparently, that’s not how things work nowadays. But you get the idea. We’re a quarter of the way into the season, so it’s time to give out some grades. We’ll do the defense today (position-by-position) and deal with the offense in a future post. Read more »
If you missed the first cheat sheet, click here.
Now, 10 things you need to know about how the Eagles’ defense matches up with the Broncos’ offense.
1. I guess we need to start with Peyton Manning, huh? Don’t know how much I can add that hasn’t already been said. He leads the NFL in completion percentage (73.0), yards-per-attempt (9.4), touchdowns (12) and passer rating (134.7). A year ago at this time, the Broncos were 1-2, and many questioned the future Hall of Famer’s arm strength. But with a new stable of weapons, Manning looks as good as ever. The Broncos are the top-ranked offense in the NFL, per Football Outsiders – first in passing and fifth in rushing. Denver is averaging 42.3 points per game. No other team is averaging more than 32.
If you missed the first cheat sheet, click here.
Now, 10 things to know about how the Eagles’ defense matches up with the Chiefs’ offense.
1. Billy Davis and company used an effective blitz-heavy package to slow down Robert Griffin III and the Redskins in Week 1. But the Eagles’ D looked much more like the unit everyone was expecting going into the season last week against the Chargers. Philip Rivers completed 36 of 47 passes for 419 yards and three touchdowns. He was sacked once, and the Chargers were 10-for-15 on third down, effectively keeping the Eagles’ offense off the field. Through two games, the Eagles’ defense ranks 29th, according to Football Outsiders. The Chiefs have been efficient, though not spectacular. Kansas City scored 17 points in a win against Dallas last week, and Andy Reid’s offense ranks 12th overall, per FO.
2. The Chargers’ game-plan was pretty simple: Get Rivers to the line of scrimmage early, force the defense to show its hand, audible into a play that works, and move the football.
“They’d get up, take a look, then come back, sometimes they checked, we checked, and then they checked again,” Chip Kelly explained. “I think when you’re playing a quarterback like Philip Rivers, I think basically they put the game in his hands and he was making a lot of checks at the line of scrimmage depending on the looks we were presenting. That’s what you get when you’re going against someone as talented as him. You’ve got to get lined up and you’ve got to play because you just can’t say they’re not going to run a play here. When they’re ready to run a play, you’ve got to be lined up ready to run a play.”
Davis believes strongly in disguising looks and confusing opposing quarterbacks. But the Chargers’ offense controlled the game by lining up early and dictating when the ball was snapped.
“There were times they checked, we checked, and then tried to give them a different look, and then he came back with a play,” Kelly continued. “You know, it becomes a‑cat‑and‑mouse‑game and you get going, but they’ve got to snap the ball at a certain point in time, and we’ve got to be lined up and ready to go. …We have to be prepared with a defense when he gets up on the ball, and then we’ve got to do a job of trying to give them a disguise and make sure that it’s not totally something that he’s going to see, and then we can rotate into some things. But sometimes your disguise ends up being a liability because you’re not close enough in coverage when you’re that far off.”
3. The crew at NBC’s NFL Turning Point did a great job of catching wide receiver Eddie Royal talking to coaches about a specific look the Eagles were showing. It came late in the third quarter. Royal noticed that safety Nate Allen was stationed about 11 yards directly behind Patrick Chung, who was playing slot corner. He raised his hand as if to say, “Chung’s blitzing here. You got me.”
That’s exactly what happened, but Trent Cole manhandled the left guard and forced Rivers to roll to his right where he dumped the ball off to Ronnie Brown. If Rivers had time, he would have had Royal open in the middle of the field.
But with 3:11 left in the game, on the Chargers’ final touchdown of the day, they got the same look.
The safety’s lined up directly behind the slot corner, who is going to blitz.
As soon as he gets the snap, Rivers knows it’s coming and unloads to Royal behind the line of scrimmage. You can see how far away Allen is. King Dunlap takes care of Allen, Royal jukes DeMeco Ryans, and the Chargers have a 15-yard score.
Davis wants the Eagles to be unpredictable on defense, but that didn’t happen last week.
4. So far in Reid’s offense, Alex Smith is completing 60 percent of his passes, but averaging just 5.7 yards per attempt. That ranks 29th among starting quarterbacks. Last week, the Eagles wanted to guard against the big play. But this week, there’s far less need to play their safeties deep. Per Pro Football Focus, just 4.3 percent of Smith’s throws have traveled 20 yards or more from the line of scrimmage. That’s 31st among starting quarterbacks. Smith will look to be efficient and control the tempo of the game, while keeping the Eagles’ offense off the field.
5. Up front, from left to right, the Chiefs have: Branden Albert, Jeff Allen, Rodney Hudson, Jon Asamoah and No. 1 overall pick Eric Fisher. Albert will often get matched up against Trent Cole, who has exceeded expectations early on. Cole only dropped back into coverage three times last week, per PFF. Fletcher Cox leads the team with three QB hurries (coaches stats), but has been quiet overall. Isaac Sopoaga, Damion Square and Bennie Logan have been unimpressive at nose tackle. Same goes for Clifton Geathers at LDE. And Cedric Thornton has been OK. A lot of questions about Vinny Curry. My take? The Eagles don’t think he fits, and he won’t see the field unless someone is injured. We’ll find out about 90 minutes prior to kickoff (when inactives are announced) whether I’m right or not.
6. The Eagles have been blitz-heavy in each of the first two weeks. Against San Diego, Davis sent five or more pass-rushers at the QB 53.8 percent of the time. Rivers completed 76 percent of his attempts and averaged 8.4 yards per attempt against the blitz. But it must be noted that his numbers were even better when the Eagles didn’t send pressure (77.3 percent, 9.5 YPA). Alex Smith was not blitzed much through the first two games. He’s 9-for-11 for 73 yards against extra pressure and has been sacked twice, per Stats, Inc. While the Chiefs rely on a short-to-intermediate passing game, Smith doesn’t get rid of the ball as quickly as you might think. Per PFF, it takes him on average 2.76 seconds to make a decision (attempt a pass, run or get sacked). That ranks 20th in the NFL.
7. On the ground, the Chiefs feature Jamaal Charles. Ready for a stat that will blow your mind? Since 1920, among running backs who have had at least 300 carries, Charles has the highest yards-per-attempt average at 5.72, per Pro Football Reference. And last year, he piled up 1,509 yards while averaging 5.3 YPC. I know what you’re thinking: Good thing Andy won’t give him the ball! Charles is averaging 16 rushing attempts per game, 12th-most in the NFL and down slightly from last year’s mark (17.8).
8. Charles has also caught 11 balls, more than any other Chiefs player. The Eagles were a mess in coverage last week. Mychal Kendricks got worked over by Antonio Gates all game long. In the secondary, Cary Williams was called for three pass interference penalties. This week, the Eagles will get Bradley Fletcher back from a concussion. Fletcher played well in Week 1 against Washington. Brandon Boykin will go back to the slot full-time. The Chiefs’ top wide receiver is Dwayne Bowe. He’s got eight catches for 86 yards and a score through two games. Among Kansas City’s six players who have at least four catches, none has a yards-per-reception higher than 12.3.
9. At safety, the Eagles will once again go with Chung and Allen, but expect rookie Earl Wolff to once again rotate in. Last week, the Chargers killed the Eagles with in-breaking routes, and the safeties were slow to react and failed to provide adequate help all game long. There’s no need to be conservative against Kansas City. The Chiefs will also line up in the Pistol. It’s worth noting that the Pistol is not what Kelly and the Eagles run. It’s a formation where the quarterback sets up in shotgun, but is closer to the line of scrimmage (usually 4 yards). And the running back lines up directly behind the quarterback, instead of to one side or the other. Kansas City has hired Chris Ault as a consultant. Ault is credited as the creator of the Pistol from his time at Nevada. Matt Bowen has a good breakdown here of some of the new concepts the Chiefs are showing under Reid.
10. Brandon Graham has played just 21.6 percent of the Eagles’ defensive snaps through the first two games. …Casey Matthews saw some time at outside linebacker, backing up Connor Barwin vs. San Diego. …Derek Sarley has an excellent All-22 breakdown of the Eagles’ defensive woes on Philly.com. Also check out Tommy Lawlor’s always-informative detailed game review on IgglesBlitz.com.
“When God made him, he made him to be in this system right here,” Washburn said at the time.
He was of course talking about the Wide-9. Cox’s job last year was to pin his ears back and get into the backfield on every snap. On a defense that was a disaster, Cox was one of the few bright spots, finishing the year with 5.5 sacks, 24 hurries and seven tackles-for-loss.
But with the offseason changes came a new defensive scheme that now calls for Eagles defensive linemen to two-gap (All-22 explanation here) and play with discipline, rather than just attack.
“I think I’ve been doing a good job at it,” Cox said. “A lot of room for improvement. Just a lot of little things that I’m not doing right. At the end, once I get rolling, I think it’ll all come together.”
When the Eagles drafted Cox, they liked his versatility and felt he could play in a variety of schemes. While he’s been relatively quiet through the first two games, it’s not as if he’s been invisible. According to stats kept by Eagles coaches, Cox leads the team with three hurries and is one of four defenders who’s notched a sack. He also has been in on 10 tackles.
Asked if the scheme limits his ability to make plays behind the line of scrimmage, Cox said: “There are no times where I feel like I can’t be in the backfield. I feel I can be in the backfield every play.
“That right there always comes down to want-to. You never let things like schemes and all that get to you. I mean, you’ve gotta have the want-to to go make the plays no matter what kind of position they put you in.”
When the Eagles are in their sub packages, Cox turns into an interior pass-rusher. Sometimes the Eagles go with three down linemen in those situations, and other times it’s four. Cox often lines up at right defensive end in base, but has been moved over to the left side as well.
The 23-year-old figures to be one of the players the Eagles build their defense around, and he sounds confident he’ll find his way as the season goes on.
But asked if he prefers playing in a one-gap scheme to a two-gap scheme, Cox said: “Of course. Everybody wants to be in the backfield.”
WHAT YOU MISSED
T-Mac takes a look at Earl Wolff, Nate Allen and the continuity question.
The second part of our game review goes position-by-position on the Eagles’ defense.
The stars are aligning for DeSean Jackson, writes McManus.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Jimmy Kempski of Philly.com looks ahead to Thursday night’s Eagles-Chiefs matchup:
The Chiefs have a pair of good CBs in Brandon Flowers and Sean Smith. However, both players are at a matchup disadvantage against DeSean Jackson. Flowers has gotten every little bit out of his less than impressive measurables, but the bottom line is that he is simply not a fast player.
Tommy Lawlor of IgglesBlitz.com weighs in on the Colin Kaepernick/Russell Wilson rumors:
The part about focusing on Russell Wilson in the 3rd round is utterly ridiculous to me. If the Eagles made draft plans around Wilson, they would have taken him with pick 59, which they got when they moved down from 51 in a deal with the Packers. You don’t build a draft plan around a 3rd round player. If you like someone that much, you take them in the 1st or 2nd round, especially as a QB. I have a hard time believing this report as stated.
We’ll look ahead to Eagles-Chiefs and break out the All-22.