Zone Read: Eagles-Vikings, the Day After


CAN SOMEONE PLEASE EXPLAIN…

1. What the deal was with Kelly’s kickoff strategy?

The Eagles decided to avoid Cordarrelle Patterson altogether by having Alex Henery boot the ball short on kickoffs (explanation here).

The strategy was far from perfect, but to pin the loss on the kickoffs is silly.

Henery kicked off five times. The Vikings’ starting field position on those possessions was: the 25, 38, 25, 34 and 46. On average, that comes out to the 33.6 yard line.

Patterson entered the game averaging a league-high 33.3 yards per kickoff return. Granted, that takes into account yards accumulated out of the end zone. But overall, given how poorly the Eagles’ coverage units played against Detroit, it’s reasonable to assume that they really didn’t give up much field position with their strategy.

The real issue here is that Kelly clearly doesn’t have a ton of confidence in his coverage units. And for good reason. According to Football Outsiders, the Eagles’ kickoff coverage units were fourth-worst in the NFL entering Sunday’s game.

The Bears feature Devin Hester, who is fifth in kickoff returns (28.6), and the Cowboys have Dwayne Harris, who is second (30.5). In other words, this issue isn’t going away any time soon.

2. What made Bradley Fletcher shove Jerome Simpson?

After a fourth-quarter run play, Simpson and Fletcher appeared to be engaging in some good-natured ribbing. The two players were walking side-by-side and smiling.

Simpson gave Fletcher a pat on the backside, and suddenly Fletcher’s expression changed as he shoved Simpson to the ground.

“I was patting a guy on the butt, telling him, ‘Good job,’ ” Simpson said, via ESPN.com. “He was smiling and whatever, too, and then he pushed me and I fell. They huddled there — the refs — they huddled there for a minute and they called it on me. I don’t know. They said I was taunting. I really don’t know how that was called on me.”

Perhaps Fletcher was taking a stance against the outdated practice of the butt-pat? Maybe Simpson told him he didn’t believe in Santa? I don’t know. We’ll try to get to the bottom (pun intended) of it this week, but Fletcher sure can flip the switch from It’s all good… to I’m gonna whoop your *&^ very quickly.

***

THE NO-22

The Eagles had a touchdown taken off the board in the second quarter on a double-reverse. Foles faked the handoff to McCoy, tossed the ball to Riley Cooper, who then then flipped it to DeSean Jackson.

folesblock1a

I’m not crazy about a play that moves the ball-carrier 11 yards behind the line of scrimmage on 4th-and-1. But this one clearly should have worked.

folesblock1b

Above you can see linebacker Erin Henderson is really the only Vikings player changing direction with the potential to make a play.

folesblock1c

But he has no chance of catching Jackson, who has space from the numbers to the sideline to get away from Henderson.

In other words, Foles’ illegal block was not necessary for the play to have worked.

foleblock1d

If you want a bright spot, check out the effort by McCoy as a blocker on the safety.

folesblock1e

The play got called back, and the Eagles had to settle for a field goal, taking four points off the board. Luckily, neither Henderson nor Foles was injured on the play.

***

THE NUMBER THAT MATTERS

9 – The number of pass plays of 15+ yards the Eagles allowed against Minnesota.

In the first quarter alone, Billy Davis’ unit gave up gains of 18, 26, 57, 22 and 19. When the Eagles were in zone, they left huge holes for Cassel to find receivers. In man coverage, Fletcher, Cary Williams, Patrick Chung and Mychal Kendricks all got beat for big plays.

Nate Allen and Colt Anderson chipped in with missed tackles or poor angles.

In other words, pretty much everybody had a hand in the abysmal performance – and that includes the guys up front who failed to pressure Cassel.

Not a good sign with Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall coming to town.

***

GAME BALL OFFENSE: DESEAN JACKSON

He caught 10 balls for 195 yards and helped carry the offense at times.

Having said that, this game ball comes with a caveat. Jackson failed to make a play on the ball on Foles’ interception, not-so-quietly voiced his displeasure on the sideline and had to be calmed down.

Jackson is a great talent and has put together a tremendous year, having set career highs in receptions (75) and yards (1,275). He’s also tied a career-high with nine receiving touchdowns. And there are still two games to go.

But he has a habit of showing his frustrations and creating negative energy when things aren’t going well. It’s good that he cares so much, but the last thing the coaches and his teammates need when the team is losing is to have to worry about calming Jackson down.

Great game overall, but Jackson needs to cut some of the sideline stuff out.

GAME BALL DEFENSE: BENNIE LOGAN

I thought about not handing one out, but Logan actually seemed to be one of the only defensive players who was doing his job.

Logan had a couple QB pressures (one hit) and deflected a Cassel pass that was intercepted by Kendricks in the second half.

He had three tackles in the run game as third-stringer Matt Asiata averaged just 1.7 YPC. Logan has played well and figures to be the Eagles’ starting nose tackle for years to come.

***