COUPLE days ago I wrote how in two steps the Eagles Spread Offense could be shut down. Those twos steps were: Play Cover Two and consistently send six. While I didn’t say it would be easy to do, it’s a sound and proven strategy against this type offensive system.
Hundreds of fans saw the story and fewer than 10 people disagreed with the strategy. This indicates that either Philly has some pretty knowledgeable fans overall, or that only the knowledgeable ones come to my website. I’m good with either.
The strategy itself brings up a couple of interesting questions. Who is equipped to execute such a scheme? What exactly do you need?
1) You need a DC with the balls to play Cover Two and give up all those easy completions underneath. Despite all the yelling some coaches do, having the stones to go out on a limb and do something bold is rare. Which is why you so often hear that “The NFL is a copycat league”.
2) You need excellent play from Safeties who play Safety, not quasi-Cornerback. On the surface that means of course the Safeties have to make tackles on those short easy completions. But with Chip Kelly’s system being run-based, it means the Safeties have to fill their run fits and reliably cause a pile, especially if they can’t make the tackle. For example, note what happens here with no Safety to fill the gaps.
You can’t beat a running team by thinking pass first. (New Orleans and Minnesota understood that.)
3) Consistently send six is easy to say and not so easy to do, yet if you can master it, you can cause headaches for any system, coach, or QB. Late Eagles DC Jim Johnson understood that you simply need to mix who you send, how often and from where. During his time here we couldn’t reach the passer with 4, so he took to sending anywhere from 5 to 7 players on almost every given down. In case you need a frame of reference: 1 blitz every 5 downs (20%) is a high number. Now here’s a breakdown of just how often JJ dialed up blitzes. (Seriously don’ skip it. Check it out.) We won the Division how many times behind that approach? That’s because if it’s well managed, it’s deadly. Again it also has a successful track record against this type of system.
So just who can pull this off? Provided that opponents can get quick penetration by an unblocked rusher, pretty much anybody. Free runners mean short passes, at which point you make the tackle underneath and deliver the big hit on the passer. Even if it’s late.
In today’s safety conscious NFL, late hits will mean 15 yard flags. Fine. As the expression goes it’s the “cost of doing business”. You follow it with another big hit. Even if it’s late. Look at it this way, if you were Chip Kelly would you sacrifice Nick Foles early in the season for a single TD drive? Of course not. We need him “next week”, so the smart thing is not to let him get beat to shit. So you keep either a RB or a TE in to block. This changes the Spread concept because now the defense is less spread, with fewer people to cover. This is known as a ‘win’ for the defense.
It’s throwback football. When your opponent is scheming you off the field, you shift into caveman and make it a war of attrition. You make ‘em too tired and sore to be clever. Done with some discipline, ANY team is capable of this.