All-22: What’s Ailing the Eagles’ Offense?
Win or lose, Chip Kelly believes in keeping the same routine every Tuesday.
The players arrive at NovaCare in the morning, and the day starts with a team meeting. They then split up to review film from the previous week’s game. And lastly they head onto the field to go over corrections.
“I hear and I forget, I see and I remember and I do and understand,” Kelly is fond of repeating.
After Sunday’s 53-20 loss to the Packers, there were plenty of corrections to be made on this particular Tuesday.
“I think the point is you don’t dispose of anything quicker,” Kelly said. “A loss is a loss, whether it’s a one‑point loss or a 21‑point loss. It’s about the same mechanics of what we do. It’s common sense that if you have a mistake, you’ve got to admit your mistake, you’ve got to fix your mistake, and try not to repeat it again. We keep the same formula in terms of what we’re doing. …But to quantify a loss by too many points or a loss by one point and then differentiate between it, it’s not the way we operate.”
Some have theorized that Kelly has schemed up a type of plug-and-play offense where many of the parts are interchangeable and easily replaced.
But the truth is, by pretty much any measure, this offense is struggling. The Eagles rank 18th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA. They have struggled to run the ball effectively or sustain drives all season long. And they are turning it over on 17.5 percent of their offensive possessions (30th).
While the defense (we’ll get to them) came up short against a hot quarterback in Aaron Rodgers, the offense failed to do its part as well. Below is a look at some of the things we saw.
RUN GAME STRUGGLES
There’s no doubt that the Eagles entered Sunday’s game expecting to be able to run the ball. In the end, LeSean McCoy carried 23 times for 88 yards, and the ground game looked pedestrian at best.
Unlike the previous week against the Panthers, the Eagles actually had some run-friendly looks. And there were times when it looked like they’d be able to get some things going.
“There were times where it was blocked up pretty good and we hit a couple in there, and then there were some other times where we’re just slipping off of blocks,” Kelly said. “We’re not sustaining blocks or hitting it the right way.”
Take this first quarter run, for example. The Eagles go to one of their staples, the split zone. Brent Celek comes across the formation to take on the edge defender.
Matt Tobin has the nose guard squared up, and it looks like McCoy will have a sizable hole.
But Tobin can’t sustain the block, the defender sheds him, and the result ends up being just a 3-yard gain.
Something else the Eagles have had trouble with this year is safeties rotating late.
“There were some looks where they did a good job of having a safety ready to play the run or the pass,” said guard Evan Mathis. “There were a lot of plays in the run that were blocked well, and then the safety came down and made the play. Usually that can be the guy who’s not accounted for.”
Here’s another example from the first quarter.
The Packers start out with two safeties deep, but Morgan Burnett rushes towards the line of scrimmage at the snap, and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix rotates back.
“They were trying to disguise a Cover 3 look where the safety was showing a two-shell look and then coming down and running down late into the box if he reads run,” said Jason Kelce. “We got to that early. We saw that after the first… I think we really started noticing they were doing that more in the second quarter. And then we started making adjustments off of that. But that was one of the things they were doing to stop a lot of the zone plays.”
A few other things to take note of on this play. You can see by the time McCoy gets the ball, Burnett is in position to fill a sizable hole.
But the Eagles will take McCoy vs. a safety in space. There were a couple other problems. For starters, Tobin can’t sustain his block. And also keep an eye on No. 50, A.J. Hawk.
Hawk doesn’t commit to a gap. The defensive lineman occupies both Kelce and Mathis.
Meanwhile, the player who slipped past Tobin ends up taking out Brent Celek. That leaves Julius Peppers (No. 56) pretty much unblocked.
Suddenly, a good-looking hole for McCoy closes up.
“We should have been a lot more successful last week in the game,” said Kelce, who admitted he has to play a lot better. “I thought we were a lot closer last week than what we were against Carolina. It’s just one block here, one block there. We’ve just gotta get better as a unit of just all being on the same page and really working together to make sure that those holes open up.”
SACKS AND TURNOVERS
The Eagles allowed sacks on each of their first three drives, and they turned the ball over four times.
On the first sack, Tobin got beaten badly one-on-one.
Kelce accepted blame for the second sack.
“It was a bad call by me,” he said. “All week, we were focusing on where one of the safeties rotated down, and I didn’t look out to the left to make sure there wasn’t any pressure out there. So I tried to keep it in the box, they fanned out. That was a mistake on my part. I should have been fanning out to the left.”
As you can see, Casey Hayward blitzes from the nickel. Kelce tries to pass off Mike Neal to Mathis, but Mathis is occupied with Hayward.
Had the Eagles blocked this up properly, they would have had a chance for a big play. The Packers were in man coverage behind the blitz, and Burnett was nowhere near Jordan Matthews, who was running free on a drag route.
Sanchez was locked in on Darren Sproles against a linebacker. Really, either pass probably had a chance to give the Eagles a first down. But Sanchez didn’t get rid of it, and he ended up getting sacked.
The coaches don’t get a pass for this one either. It’s easy to say players need to execute, but on some occasions, they didn’t have much of a chance.
For example, the Eagles ran a bootleg on 3rd-and-2 in the red zone in the first half. They left Clay Matthews unblocked. Take a look, and tell me if this looks like a guy who is confused by the run action.
“We were trying to run a naked [bootleg] and then Clay [Matthews] jumped outside at both the tight end and wing,” Kelly said. “Hadn’t shown that before. Good play by them. Good call by them. They got us.”
Then there was the pick-six.
The Eagles had a screen set up to the left and three players running routes to the right. Sanchez went away from the screen and looked for Celek, but Peppers was dropping right in front of him.
“He did make a mistake when Peppers dropped into coverage,” Kelly said. “Usually he doesn’t drop into coverage, but [it was a] good call. Give Dom Capers credit for making a good call. [Sanchez is] looking at it, and the middle linebacker was pushed to the inside, so we were supposed to throw the hot route to the tight end, and then the defensive end is in the picture.”
Added Sanchez: “The first one to Peppers, I thought he made a really good play. I thought they were coming with something. They kind of fooled me there. Sometimes that happens. I thought the ball was gonna be a little bit farther outside. He made a good play. He’s a really good athlete. I shouldn’t have thrown it.”
On the season, Sanchez has a 3.9 INT rate, fifth-worst among QBs who have attempted at least 100 passes.
Multiple Eagles offensive players said Tuesday that they feel the unit is close to putting everything together. Talk can be cheap, but the offense certainly did leave quite a few plays on the field vs. Green Bay.
In the first half, Matthews ran a corner route downfield and failed to come down with the grab.
And there were several others that were easily identifiable watching live. Sanchez missed Riley Cooper on a deep post and then was off-target on a throw to Darren Sproles down the sideline.
He couldn’t connect with Zach Ertz on a couple corner routes, and Josh Huff had a drop.
But the Eagles don’t appear to be panicking. Earlier in the season, they were dealing with offensive line injuries. Nick Foles was erratic and then went down with the clavicle injury, forcing Sanchez into action.
The parts have changed, but we still have 10 games worth of data. Results on offense have been mediocre, and win or lose, there will continue to be corrections.
The Eagles’ next three opponents – the Titans, Seahawks and Cowboys (twice) – rank 29th, 9th and 21st in defensive DVOA, respectively. We’ll find out during the next month whether this offense is an asset or a deterrent in the Eagles’ bid to make a run down the stretch.