Zone Read: Eagles-Cardinals, the Day After

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Philadelphia EaglesChip Kelly stood at the podium late Sunday afternoon and prepared to answer questions about his team’s performance against the Arizona Cardinals.

“It looked like the offense had a lot of trouble after that touchdown drive to start the second half-” a reporter started before Kelly interrupted.

“Can we go positive with the first question on a win?” he joked.

About 10 minutes later, the Eagles’ locker room opened up to reporters, and while it was clear that players were happy to have gotten a win, they knew there were plenty of mistakes that needed to be corrected.

After putting together an impressive 13-play, 82-yard drive to start the third quarter, the offense stalled in a big way. The Eagles totaled 22 yards (not counting penalties or kneel-downs) on six drives. They managed just five first downs during that stretch and did not move more than 16 yards on any single possession.

“We try to stay out of this situation,” said LeSean McCoy. “We just have to do a better job of closing out the game. We have gone through this a couple of times and we just have to do a better job.” Read more »

Three-And-Out: Eagles-Cardinals Predictions

Nate AllenPlayer I’ll be watching:

McManus: Nate Allen.

Did you know that through 11 games, Allen has only been charged with two missed tackles? He exceeded that number by Week 3 last year (and missed 13 tackles overall). It really has been something to watch the former second-round pick transform into a steady, effective safety after a couple really shaky seasons. It’s to be determined whether he can keep it up, but there’s no question Allen is playing the best football of his career right now.

“I think Nate has continued week‑in and week out to take big strides and just playing solid football,” said Billy Davis. “It’s not all these big plays and everybody says oh, there is Nate.  It’s just down in and down out, Nate is taking care of his job and it’s helping the defense.” 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 »

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 »

The Matchup: Eagles Vs. Raiders

mccoy_400102713Editor’s Note: This feature will post every Friday. We’ll bring you nuggets from the locker room, scouting reports on the upcoming game, reader e-mail and more.

***

LeSean McCoy took heavy breaths in between sentences, his forehead glistening with sweat from extra conditioning work after practice.

On the surface, everything is good for the 25-year-old running back. At the halfway point of the season, he’s the NFL’s leading rusher (733 yards). He’s carrying the ball more than ever (19.5 times per game). And he’s averaging a healthy 4.7 yards per carry.

Yet McCoy is in the midst of a mental tug of war in his fifth NFL season. In the past four games, he’s averaging 3.4 yards per carry. The Eagles’ offense has scored just three points the last two weeks, failing to hit on explosive plays and finding difficulty in sustaining drives.

“Just more attention to really try and contain the backs, keep everything in front of them,” McCoy said when asked this week about opposing defenses. “The backers are way more into the line than usual. And everything just seems so cluttered, seems so packed. That’s probably the biggest difference I’ve noticed. Even on some of the fakes, if it’s a half-fake or an average fake, they’re all on it. So that’s probably the biggest difference I’ve noticed from just early in the season to the last couple weeks.”

Defenses game-plan for the Eagles and make No. 25 their first priority. With a shaky QB situation and one true dangerous threat in the passing game in DeSean Jackson, it’s really a no-brainer. But that has led to tough times for McCoy, who has been critical of himself after each of the last two games. Read more »

Eagles Wake-Up Call: Midterm Grades (Defense)

barwin_400_103013We went over the offense on Tuesday. Now here’s a look at how the defense grades out through the first half of the season.

Defensive line: B-

This group has shown more improvement than any other on the team from Week 1 to Week 8. And defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro deserves credit for that.

Cedric Thornton is playing lights-out on a weekly basis and leads all Eagles D-Linemen with 45 tackles. Fletcher Cox has really come on as of late and has three sacks to go along with a team-high 15 hurries (no other Eagle has more than seven). Isaac Sopoaga was a non-factor, but players like Clifton Geathers on the second team are starting to show flashes.

Opponents are averaging 3.7 YPC vs. the Eagles. Only five teams have posted a lower number. Read more »

Three-And-Out: Eagles-Giants Predictions

mccoy_400Player I’ll be watching

McManus: Nate Allen.

Billy Davis was armed with a few interesting stats when he met with reporters this week. One was that the Eagles’ defense is being thrown on an average of 45 times per game (44.28, actually). That number is so high in part because the Eagles give up a lot underneath in the name of preventing the deep ball.

The Giants were undeterred by this style of defense the last time these two teams played. By Davis’ count, Eli Manning threw deep 11 or 12 times against the Eagles in the first matchup. Manning attempted 52 passes overall in that game.

Safe to say the secondary will be busy again. Allen has been playing better of late, but faces a pretty stiff test on Sunday. Read more »

All-22: State Of the Eagles’ Defense

Barwinb_All22_102413Back in the spring, new Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis was asked if he had spent time looking at Jim Johnson’s scheme and concepts.

“He had some great dynamic pressures, and I’ve studied a lot of them,” Davis said. “They were out-of-the-box thinking. But when you really break him down, it was more guys up in the A-gaps with the illusion of pressure than actual [sending] more than four rushers.

“There were times that he brought more. …But he did a great job of keeping offenses off-balance through both pressure, illusion of pressure and non-pressure. And you need all elements to attack an offense because there’s some times you pressure some of the stuff Coach [Chip Kelly] does, you’re going to get eaten alive.”

Davis’ comments serve as a good launching off point to examining what’s working well for the Eagles on defense. Last week, they were able to keep Tony Romo off-balance and free up rushers all game long, both with the blitz and the threat of the blitz. Read more »

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