All-22: What We Saw From the Eagles’ Offense

Before we get started, thanks to everyone for the kind words in the comments, through e-mail and via Twitter. It’s been an amazing few days for the Kapadia family.

Also, a HUGE thank you is in order for T-Mac, who’s been flying solo and killing it with his Eagles-Giants coverage all week. Tim’s got a five-month old at home. Now I get to rack his brain about important topics, like how to get off diaper duty.

While I still am taking a couple days to get back into the swing of things, I did get a chance to take a look at the All-22 of Sunday night’s game. Here’s what I saw out of the offense.

Play 1: Last week, we talked a lot about how the Eagles’ game-plan against the Cardinals focused on downfield passes that required extended pass protection. Against the Giants? Adjustments. Take this second-quarter play, for example. Giants linebacker Michael Boley comes unblocked on a blitz.

Against Arizona, often in these situations, wide receivers would have their backs to the quarterback, making their way downfield, and Michael Vick would have to escape the pocket. Here, he finds Damaris Johnson, who is wide open.

Initially a 6-yard completion, but the rookie wide receiver makes a move towards the sideline, and suddenly the Eagles have a 17-yard gain. Good read, good throw by Vick. Good move after the catch by Johnson. And good design by Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg.

Play 2: I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say DeSean Jackson is playing some of the best football of his career. Think the Giants were worried about him getting deep? Take a look at the attention he draws on this first-quarter play (right of the screen).

Not one, not two, but three Giants defenders are around Jackson deep downfield. That leaves three Eagles open on one side of the field. However, Demetress Bell got beaten badly by Jason Pierre-Paul on the play, and Vick had to scramble to the other side for 3 yards. But just another example of how Jackson can open things up for his teammates.

Play 3: A lot to like about the Jackson touchdown in the second quarter. First of all, the overall concept is one that can work for this team on a weekly basis. The Giants send seven defenders after Vick. But the Eagles keep eight players in to block.

Only Jackson and Jeremy Maclin go out into pass routes. They were going up against three Giants defenders in the secondary. Stevie Brown (No. 27) has to hang out near the line of scrimmage in case Stanley Havili or Brent Celek goes out into a route. Overall, good protection. Below, check out where Jackson is when Vick releases the ball.

The safety is over the top to help, but the far side of the field is wide open, so he can’t cheat over early. Jackson runs a terrific route, making the cornerback look silly, and heads to the left corner of the end zone. Also, an excellent throw by Vick. He gets rid of the ball before Jackson is actually open. Great execution all around.

Play 4: A lot of talk about Maclin only having one catch (on three targets) for 7 yards. Reid offered his thoughts yesterday, but the game tape shows there were at least a few occasions where Maclin was open, but didn’t get the ball. Take a look at this 3rd-and-11 play early in the second quarter.

Maclin is open at the top of your screen (red box), with the corner back-pedaling. But Vick chooses to go to Jackson on the other side of the field. Not a terrible decision. He had some space too, but Vick’s throw was a little off-target because he had an unblocked blitzer hitting him as he threw.

Play 5: Another chance with Maclin. Here, Vick scrambles to his right, but look at who’s streaking down the sideline behind the defense, open for a potential touchdown.

These frames are from when Vick is just about to cross the line of scrimmage. Not an easy throw on the move, but then again, not a high-risk throw either, considering how much open space Maclin is working with. From another angle:

You can see Maclin’s got his hand up, calling for the ball. The Eagles ended up with the game-winning field goal on the drive, so maybe I’m nit-picking.

Play 6: Vick’s taken plenty of heat for holding onto the ball too long in the past. But there is also sometimes a downside to getting rid of it quickly. On this fourth-quarter play, Maclin gets open deep. But Vick has pressure from both defensive ends, steps up and takes a safe throw to Havili for 7 yards.

Let me be clear. Vick did nothing wrong here. It was first down in a tight game, the offense picked up 7, and he didn’t get hit. That’s a win. However, as you can see, Maclin’s route takes him to the sideline. Yes, there was safety help, but Vick would have definitely had a window to hit on a big play (maybe even a touchdown) had he been able to buy time, or had the protection been better.

As for Maclin, Eagles fans (and fantasy owners!) should not be worried. Had three different plays gone a little bit differently, we’d be talking about what a great game he had. He’ll get plenty of looks going forward, and even though he was coming off an injury, Maclin got open on several occasions in this one.

Play 7: A perfect example of how play-action can work in the third quarter. On the Eagles’ opening drive of the second half, they ran the ball down the Giants’ throats. LeSean McCoy had runs of 34 and 22 yards, respectively. On the next drive, the Eagles ran play-action on 2nd-and-10.

After the play-fake, two linebackers and a safety rush towards the line of scrimmage, leaving all kinds of open space for Celek. Vick makes one of his easiest throws of the day for a 27-yard completion.

Play 8: You really have to feel for back-side defenders who play against McCoy. Take a look at this fourth-quarter run.

McCoy’s going straight ahead, right? Look at that huge running lane. No back in his right mind would cut outside Jason Pierre-Paul in this situation.

The man sees things. McCoy has made a habit of making backside defensive ends look silly by reversing field or making one extra cut-back. Sometimes on these plays, he gambles and loses yardage. But often times, he picks up huge chunks – 13 yards in this case.

Play 9: For as good as McCoy was, am I crazy to say there were probably some plays he left on the field? For instance, this 4-yard run from the Giants’ 8 on the Eagles’ final drive looked like it was headed for the end zone.

McCoy is basically one-on-one with cornerback Prince Amukamara. That’s a matchup the Eagles will take every time. But Amukamara does a nice job slowing McCoy down and gets some help to stop him short of the end zone.

And finally, some other things I noticed:

* One bright spot here is that the offensive line did not play particularly well, yet the Eagles didn’t get greedy and put together a game-plan that made sense. In other words, they can win a lot of games with this formula the rest of the way.

* I thought Bell was very up-and-down. I’m not ready to say he’s clearly a better a option than a healthy King Dunlap. Also thought Todd Herremans was way too inconsistent Sunday night, particularly in the first half.

* Vick really played a good game. So far on the season, two pretty good games (throw Baltimore in there) and two poor ones (Cleveland and Arizona).

* The question at Lehigh was whether Havili could be an effective lead blocker in the run game. The answer Sunday night appeared to be yes. Good job on McCoy’s 34-yard run, and great effort on his 22-yard run. Probably not a bad idea to get him in the mix a little bit more.

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