All-22: What We Saw From Foles In Week 1
During his post-game press conference Sunday, Chip Kelly pointed out that he did not throw any chairs during halftime against the Jaguars.
Eight scoreless possessions through two quarters did not call for any grand adjustments. The Eagles saw what Jacksonville was doing defensively – a heavy dose of Cover 3 – and felt like they had the right answers in their arsenal.
“Halftime wasn’t a major, ‘Hey, we have to overhaul this whole thing. …We took the wrong approach coming into this. They are doing what we didn’t expect them to do,’ ” Kelly said. “Really they played right to the schedule in terms of what they were doing. They played a lot more zone than they played man.
“It’s not like things weren’t there. We had plays. We didn’t change anything. If you watch the game what we did, there wasn’t a huge change from a play-call standpoint in terms of what we were doing in the second half from what we were doing in the first half.”
The tape reflects Kelly’s comments. Cover 3 leaves the seams open, and that’s where the Eagles attacked with their wide receivers and tight ends all game long. But on multiple occasions, Nick Foles had trouble taking advantage.
To his credit, the QB once again held himself accountable.
“I simply didn’t execute,” he said Wednesday after watching the tape.
Below is a look at what we saw from Foles and the offense in Week 1.
One question facing the Eagles this season is whether the scheme will be able to produce explosive plays in the passing game. Foles had a shot for one of those about halfway through the first quarter.
As Chris Brown pointed out on Twitter, the Eagles ran the switch concept to the bottom part of the screen.
James Casey is set up in-line and runs a wheel route. Jeremy Maclin crosses him and runs vertical inside the numbers. The Jaguars were in Cover 3, with two cornerbacks and the single high safety splitting the deep part of the field into thirds.
The cornerback matches up with Casey at the bottom of the screen, Maclin gets past the underneath coverage, and the safety is on the other side of the field.
This should have been a 75-yard touchdown. But Foles held onto the ball, took a sack and ended up fumbling.
I asked him about the play after practice Wednesday.
“I was trying to get the ball to him,” Foles said. “It was one of those things, instead of going right, if I just step up in the pocket, I think I deliver the ball down there and we get some points.”
The tape shows Foles going through his two initial reads to his left before coming back to Maclin. You can see the offensive line doing a fantastic job. A pocket this clean is rare.
But as Foles said, rather than continuing his progressions, stepping up in the pocket and hitting Maclin, he slid to his right, making life difficult for his offensive linemen and easy for the Jaguars’ defense.
The result was a sack, fumble and turnover.
“It’s just important to step up in the pocket,” Foles repeated. “There’s lanes there. Just stepping up in the pocket, staying in rhythm. Staying in rhythm with your feet and delivering the ball.”
In the second half, Foles hit Maclin for a 68-yard touchdown. Afterwards, Kelly was asked if that was a play the offense had tried previously.
“About five times,” he said. “So we finally got it. If you watch film, we’re just trying the vertical package against a single high safety. They lean to one of the vertical routes. The second vertical route got down the field to Mac and Nick spotted him.”
The Eagles ran four verticals all game long. The basic concept is one we went over with Coach Flinn in the offseason.
It’s effective against Cover 3 because the offense has two vertical routes attacking a single high safety. What’s going to be fascinating this year is how the Eagles attack vertically from the slot now that they have Jordan Matthews.
As friend of the blog Sam Lynch pointed out when the Eagles drafted Matthews, the rookie’s size is nice, but what makes him so different from Jason Avant is his 4.46 speed.
What was evident in Week 1 is that Matthews is going to be counted on to hit on big plays downfield.
Here’s the four verticals concept from the first quarter.
Matthews is the No. 3 receiver, meaning third-closest from the sideline. He’s going to take his route to the opposite seam.
The play-fake sucks the linebacker up, and with the safety paying attention to the other two vertical routes, Matthews is wide open.
But Foles’ throw is high and turns Matthews around.
“I was open a few times, but we’re gonna be able to hit those,” Matthews said Wednesday. “I’m not even worried about it. We’ve just gotta keep working at it.”
Matthews was targeted four times against Jacksonville. Three of those targets came on four verticals.
And in the second quarter, he and Foles connected.
Same concept. It’s trips to one side again, and Matthews climbs above the linebackers while heading for the opposite seam.
This time, Foles puts the ball on the money, and the result is a 30-yard gain.
In the second half, the Eagles went back to Matthews on four verticals, but Foles missed with the throw. It’s not a stretch to say Matthews could have very easily had a 100-yard game in his debut.
It’s a different world in Eagle-land nowadays. The offense scores 34 points in the second half and wins by 17, yet much of the conversation has been about the plays left on the field.
As I wrote earlier this week, an average Foles probably breaks Donovan McNabb’s franchise record for yards in a game (464). Maclin could have had a monster game. Zach Ertz and Brent Celek had missed opportunities. And we already talked about Matthews.
But it wasn’t Foles’ finest outing by any stretch.
Overall, the missed throws, like the one shown in the second play above, are not panic-worthy. Foles showed last year that he’s usually accurate with the ball. All quarterbacks have bad days, and none of them hit every throw. If the accuracy issues surface again vs. the Colts, the topic will be worth exploring.
From this perspective, the issue to monitor more closely is how he maneuvers in the pocket going forward. When quarterbacks feel perceived pressure, they miss on opportunities downfield. We saw that from Foles on multiple occasions against the Jaguars.
Going forward, he’ll be playing at least three games behind a makeshift offensive line. There will be times when Foles gets hit and is pressured. His ability to remain calm in the pocket and deliver the ball on time and on target when given the opportunity will dictate how successful he is in the first month of the season.