THE Eagles coaching staff (with straight faces), keeps telling us fans that there will be a REAL competition between QB Jalen Hurts and QB Joe Flaaco, for the starting job. We’re being told that nobody is being handed anything. I have yet to meet the Eagles fan dumb enough to buy what this coaching staff is selling.
Can we be honest here? Flacco was brought in, so that when Hurts “wins” the job, dipshits can say things like “Hurts beat a former Super Bowl MVP to win the job. So of course Hurts has to be legit, right?” Prepare to hear that repeatedly, from the sort of fan who unironically, still wears aKevin Kolb jersey.
Understand, while head coach Nick Sirianni has designed plays before, it was never his responsibility to define the philosophy of a system. As a HC, he now gets to decide that. He’s no longer designing plays within the framework of what his boss wants. Now he gets to decide what that framework looks like.
So who’s skillset do you think the Eagles offensive system will be built around? Flacco’s overall fading skills, and limited athleticism? Or will it be Hurts’ upside and dynamic mobility? When passing plays are drawn up, will they include a heavy percentage of RPO’s, Options, and Bootlegs? Or will they almost entirely consist of 3 and 5 step drops?
In four starts last year, Hurts ran for 272 yards. (BTW: That projects to 1,156 rushing yards, over 17 games.) Flacco? He ran for 292 yards. He didn’t do that in 2020. He did that over the last 7 seasons. Combined. Keeping in mind that Flacco can’t be dangerous running RPO’s, Options or boots, do you really think the new coach will handcuff himself to an anchor? Neither do I.
When Training Camp opens, both the system and the playbook, will be built to suit Hurts, not Flacco. So in what universe is this a real competition? Being that Flacco can’t excel in this system, Hurts will win the starting job in a walk.
Besides, if Hurts finds himself involved in real a competition with what’s left of Flacco, then basically the Eagles 2021 season would already be a yellow mustard and jizz sandwich. Seriously. It’s embarrassing that the Eagles are even trying to sell this “competition”.
LAST year the Philadelphia Eagles basically drowned in a toilet. We went 4 – 11 – 1 overall, and 2 – 4 in the division. The toilet I speak of, was the NFC East. We won just 4 games and it still took all of 14 games to eliminate us from playoff contention. Which of course was followed by a form of Front Office seppuku, because hey… why not, right?
Head Coach Doug Pederson was fired and Nick Sirianni was hired to replace him. Right now it has all the ear marks of a horrible, just horrible mistake, but… Either he’ll win us over, or we’ll just keep drinking until paper beats scissors.
So here is what the Eagles look like now, exactly a week prior to the start of the 2021 NFL Draft.
QB: Ignore all this nonsense about “guys competing for the starting job”. Jalen Hurtsis the guy. Whether or not he’s “The Man”, remains to be seen. However, unless we draft his replacement in 7 days, Hurts is the guy. He will not come into this season being a year wiser in the system. The new coach is bringing a new system, and no one has even seen it yet. So in a very real sense, Hurts will still be a rookie that everyone already has NFL tape on. While that tape shows a dynamic player, it also shows an arm that is questionable at times. Local productJoe Flacco,was signed to be just bad enough, to legitimize Hurts even to his detractors. REAL TALK: In a very real sense, Hurts has to start and play well,to save General Manager Howie Roseman’s job. If Hurts turns out to be a dud, then having traded away Carson Wentz, pretty much guarantees that Roseman will be escorted out of the building by security, before the New Year. In the meantime, while the Eagles have the most dynamic player at this position in the division, the coaching staff refuses to even name a starter. And I don’t give away free pluses. (-)
Miles Sanders has electrifying ability, but his durability and reliability have both been inconsistent. He went from a player who could be split out wide as rookie, to a player who couldn’t break a Swing pass in 2021. (Regardless of which QB played.) He missed 4 games in 2020, all of which were against division rivals. The Eagles were 2 – 2 without him vs the division, and went 0 – 2 with him vs the division. Boston Scott is at his best when catching passes (the game winner he caught from QB Carson Wentz to beat the giants, was a thing of beauty)
The Eagles however, seem to think he’s rotational back, despite him wearing down noticeably with increased use. The recent re-signing of Jordan Howardwas a stroke of pure genius! Provided the Eagles actually let the man play. He gives the team a legit lead back if Sanders were to get hurt, and also gives the team a tough between the tackles runner, who can make an opponent pay if he gets daylight. This is already very well-rounded group. Whomever they add as their fourth, will be a luxury. (+)
Travis Fulgham has good/not great speed, and good/not great size. He’s most dangerous on intermediate routes, and knows how to use his body to box-out defenders. He can however get downfield, and make huge plays when he sees favorable coverage. He’s a solid #2 that the Eagles tried to pass off as #1, unsuccessfully. Greg Ward in the Slot gets open quickly, so he led the team in catches in 2020. Unfortunately, many of his catches were for meager gains, so in 2021 he will likely take a back seat to a much more athletic Jalen Reagor. Reagor is said to be the team’s new Slot, presumably to take advantage of his ability to elude and break tackles. John Hightowerhas real speed to stretch a defense, and showed the ability to uncover quickly, but his 34.5% catch rate is a problem that may provide an opening forQuez Watkinsor J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. There’s a number two playing as a one, and a couple guys fighting over the Slot, but there’s no one in this group that scares anyone. With a legit #1, these five would be an interesting tool-kit. But without a hammer, you can’t say that you have legit toolbox. (-)
TE: The Eagles as an organization have decided that Dallas Goedert is the future at this position. In a 1-2 combination, Goedert is a great second option. As number one, he lacks elite traits, and may not be as necessary as many fans think. During the four games when he was on Injured Reserve in 2020, the Eagles scored 22 or more points in every game. In the eleven games when Goedert did play, the Eagles hit that mark just three times. It’s funny. Even from week one last year, everyone knew the Eagles Front Office was trying to sandbag Zach Ertz, and they did a great job of it. Now they want to trade him and SURPRISE! they aren’t finding any takers for a 30 year old, 12 million dollar player that they smeared, and essentially demoted. The irony is, he’s probably still better than 80 percent of NFL players at his position. Including Goedert. For the moment, it’s still a great 1-2 combo. (+)
OT: RT Lane Johnson had an awful 2020. He only saw seven games, and in those seven he was never himself, due to an ankle surgery that he didn’t let heal properly before coming back. When he’s healthy he’s one of the best in the game. Word is, he’s plenty healthy right now. LT Jordan Mailata made a bit of a name for himself last year, when he went from long-term project, to possible diamond in the rough.
Andre Dillard was drafted to inherit that LT spot, but he was lost for 2020 with a torn bicep. So expect ACTUAL competition on that left side in camp. Jack Driscollnotched four starts throughout his rookie year, before going on IR with an MCL injury. A perennial Pro Bowler on one side. Competition between experienced young players on the other side. Then a second year man, with a few starts under his belt already. It may not be what it used to be in 2017, but this group is the most solid group in the division. (+)
G: RGBrandon Brooks returns after missing 2020 with a torn Achilles tendon. When healthy, Brooks is a premier player at this position. Isaac Seumalo is the LG. He’s got above average movement skills, but lacks the aggression, power, or size that is generally coveted at this position. He also doesn’t always anchor well, and so he can be driven back into the QB more often than any coach should be comfortable with. Nate “Real Big” Herbig started twelve games and was serviceable. He could stand to turn some of his fluff into muscle, and to fire-out on his run blocks with more of a mean streak, but for a second year man, he’s great depth to have. Matt Pryormay make the 2021 roster due to his experience also playing OT, but he took a huge step backward in 2020. He had ten starts all over the line, but he seemed to struggle everywhere he lined up. Iosua Opeta notched two starts as a rookie. Without Brooks, this group is just slightly subpar. However, with him in the lineup, the Eagles interior has to be taken very seriously again. (+)
C: Not wanting to go out on a 4 – 11 – 1 record, Jason Kelce has decided to put retirement off for at least one more year. His presence will add solidity to a right side that could be dominant in 2021, and give the new coaching staff a platform to build on.Luke Juriga saw 14 snaps during the Cleveland game when Kelce had to go off with an injury. Kelce raised hell on the sideline and Juriga soon had his seat back. Nate Herbig can also play this position, as can G Ross Pierschbacher. While Pierschbacher is listed as a G, the Eagles depth there and his history of playing the pivot as a college senior, likely means he’s here to provide depth and versatility inside. While the Eagles won’t carry four during the season, they currently have an array of solid options to pick from for their back-up. (+)
IN A NUTSHELL: Kelce, Brooks and Johnson, will likely give the Eagles a dominant right side on the Offensive Line. It will be unlike anything Hurts had to work with, when he took over for final four games of the 2020 season. Better still, Jeff Stoutland is still the Offensive Line Coach/Run Game Coordinator. Miles Sanders, Jordan Howard and a running QB. If the Eagles can find a #1 WR, and if the new offensive system is any good, this team is going to turn heads hard enough to break necks. That said, while there is plenty of talent on this roster, the Eagles don’t have that #1 WR, and the new system hasn’t even seen a single practice yet. So again, passing grades aren’t free around here. (-)
DE:Brandon Graham started off hot last year. He notched 7 of his 8 sacks, 11 of his 16 QB hits, and 9 of his 13 tackle for losses, in the first eight games. Then he went cold as a dead man, posting 1 sack, 5 hits, and 4 TFLs, over the remaining eight games. In short, he disappeared when the playoff hunt began in earnest, making his first Pro Bowl nod feel hollow. After four seasons, Derek Barnett seems like a player who has maxed out his ceiling already. He produced 5.5 sacks while playing 49% of the defensive snaps in 2020. Yet he’s still making 10M$ in 2021. Josh Sweat on the other hand, seems to have a ton of upside. He had 6.0 sacks and 3 FF last year, despite playing just 38% of the snaps. Joe Ostman is a high-effort type, with a low athletic ceiling. In last year’s Wide Nine system, fresh players produced more results than individual talent. If this new system asks for a more classic approach, all indications are that the Eagles won’t fare well here. (-)
DT: Fletcher Coxmeans more than stats to this defense, but his numbers have spent the last two years trending in the wrong direction. Especially for a player making 24M$ in 2021. He had 10.5 sacks and 34 QB hits in 2018. He had 6.5 sacks and 9 QB hits in 2020. It’s not a three year slide, so he isn’t a has-been. Yet. However, this year those numbers need to tick up, or he’ll be on par with DeMarcus Lawrence.Javon Hargrave took a while to hit his stride as a new Eagle, but he settled in nicely near the end of the year. Perhaps the Eagles have found Cox the partner in crime that he’s needed for so long. Returning from a bicep injury that ended his 2020, is Hassan Ridgeway. Ridgeway was a solid, and highly disruptive rotational player who will likely see even more snaps with the departure of Malik Jackson. That is, if he can stay healthy. He’s missed nine games in each of his two years as an Eagle. Two good starters and a quality back-up. (+)
OLB:Alex Singleton, started last season as a Special Teamer. However due to Nate Gerry being injured, during Week four Singleton got an opportunity to play Defense. The result was that him being the difference in the Eagles first win of the season. Two weeks later he was a starter, and showing the NFL why he was the CFL Defensive Player of the Year (2017).
Now Singleton enters 2021 as a starter with a fresh new contract. America! Land of motherfuckin’ opportunity! Davion Taylor was drafted as a project, and so didn’t see much time as a rookie. That said, it’s hard to know if he fits in the new coaching staff’s plans, or if they’ll have the patience for a project. That’s especially true with the signing of free agentEric Wilson, formerly of the Vikings. Wilson put up 122 tackles, 3 sacks, and 3 picks last year. Which incidentally was his first as a starter. Did I mention that he’ll be just 27 this season? Suddenly the Eagles have two legitimate starters at this position for the first time since 2017. (+)
MLB:T.J. Edwards is said to have athletic limitations, because he’s a Tackle to Tackle player, and not a sideline to sideline player.
He’s a young, so he still has room to improve, but he already slips blocks well enough, wraps up, can get home on a blitz, and even pull down a pass. The biggest hole in his game, seems to be how often he’s subbed out for Nickel and Dime packages. Shaun Bradleyhas to learn how to get off blocks faster, and not let eye candy pull him out of position. He has a lot of energy and could be an emotional spark plug, but in his second year, he’ll have to be a more disciplined player. (+)
S:Rodney McLeodseemed a long-shot to make the 2021 roster, but at least for the moment, he’s still here. He has the eyes and mind of a seasoned veteran, but after suffering another season-ending leg injury (knee), it’s reasonable to question how much speed he’ll still have at age 31. Free Agent Anthony Harris comes over from the 38 – 7’s . Sorry, the Vikings. He has experience playing for new Defensive CoordinatorJonathan Gannon, when both were in Minnesota. With six years of NFL experience, Harris has only been a primary starter for the last three. Statistically, he looks like a ballhawk one year, and then an in-the-box player, the next year. Now with a new team (on a one year deal), he seems like a seventh year player who is still trying to find himself.
With three starts to close-out last season, Marcus Epps made a strong enough case for the Eagles to feel good about letting Jalen Mills leave via free agency. K’Von Wallace is the reason that Harris’s deal is one year. He’s expected to step up this year. Still, there are too many question marks back there, right now. (-)
CB:Currently the Eagles have ten players under contract at this position, but really only four or five of them matter. Darius Slayis coming off of his worst season as a pro. For over a decade now, I’ve been telling Eagles fans (first on Yardbarker, and then here onEaglemaniacal.com), that the Eagles Cover One/Cover Three look, has been making chumps of even the top CB’s. With Slay we saw it happen yet again,just last season. Doesn’t matter. New DC Gannon is said to be bringing a Cover Two look, that lets Corners play Corner. Slay still has his physical capabilities, so it stands to reason that in a scheme that isn’t working against him, he’s still at least better than average. Avonte Maddox was a feisty Nickel in his rookie year, but injuries and opponents taking advantage of his 5’9’’ frame, seems to have destroyed his confidence. He’s just out there going through the motions, and ending up being less than average. But hey, maybe a new system will enable him to recapture his swagger at Nickel. (I say ‘maybe’ because the Eagles will draft a Corner pretty early. Maddox won’t be the starter on the outside.) Grayland Arnold, Craig James, and Michael Jacquetall got a chance to play, and all them allowed completion percentages of 80 or higher. Again, there are ten players here and only one of them is worth starting. (-)
IN A NUTSHELL: Many of the players here, seem to have been picked for a defensive system that the Eagles are no longer going to run. The Wide Nine system is so specialized that it’s hard to see this unit being successful without a couple of high-impact changes at a couple of positions (DE, CB). (-)
K: Jake Elliottlooked like trash last year. He connected on just 14/19 field goal tries (73.6%), yet again proving useless from 50 or more (2/5, 40%). His extra point kicking 24/26 (92.3%) was a career-low, as was his 61.8 yard kickoff average. Worst of all, the moldy fondant on the over-priced wedding cake… was his (1/3) field goal kicking from 20 to 29 yards. (-)
P: Arryn Siposs is a 29 year old, ex-Australian Football League player, who’s never played an NFL game. He had a cup of coffee with the Lions before they cut him last year. His AFL highlights make him intriguing, but he’ll be impossible to me to co-sign until we at least see him a preseason game. (-)
IN A NUTSHELL:
There are no clutch legs on the team. So close games and defensive battles where winning field position matters, looks like it will be a problem this year. (-)
BOTTOM LINE: Right now, there is no aspect of the game(Offense, Defense, Special Teams) that the Eagles can be given a passing grade in. On the one hand, there so much change coming with a new coach who has never called plays in a game. Talent-wise, the roster isn’t awful at anything. It just isn’t great at anything. And you need to be great at something to win a division. If the newness of the Eagles gets traction, they could take the NFL by total surprise. That said, history is not on their side. Which you realize, makes the Eagles an underdog. And NOBODY on Earth loves an underdog, more than Philadelphia.
WE’RE heading into the 2021 season with a largely unproven QB in Jalen Hurts. Long established NFL wisdom is that a strong running game is QB’s best friend. This goes double for a young QB. Even if our run game isn’t particularly strong, Hurts needs it to be at least convincing.
The difference between strong and convincing? If an offense can typically rely on their run game in running situations to produce decent yardage, that is a strong run game. A convincing run game means that the offense calls enough run plays, to keep the defense from playing exclusively in pass rush mode.
The Eagles have to call enough runs to keep the defense from teeing off on our QB, and give him enough room, and time, to operate. Our Offense has to keep opposing defenses guessing. This also helps make play-action more credible. (See: THE 12 #4)
Last year Hurts looked at his shakiest while IN the pocket. Without a convincing run game, defenses will scheme to keep him there, all at once taking away what makes Hurts dangerous, and forcing the Eagles to rely on him strictly as a passer.
If the Eagles expect to see any measure of success from our QB, he needs a convincing run game to set the table for him. Especially since he’s going to run a lot of play-action bootleg, and RPO stuff. If it develops into a strong run game, great. Excellent! But even if it doesn’t, we need to stick with it for four quarters.
EXPECT the Eagles to get off to a fast start. Head Coach Nick Siriannihas been an assistant for years, so he knows the NFL. In fact, right now, he knows the NFL better than it knows him. That will eventually change once teams get film of what he calls, when he calls it, who he leans on, how he uses time outs, how skilled he is in using the environment as a weapon, etc.
But for now…
Like any coach, Sirianni is going to try to develop certain strengths. Some things will develop on schedule. Some things possibly not at all. When things don’t pan out, he’ll have to adjust. However, when something happens that’s better than he was hoping for, or faster than he was hoping for, he needs to adjust to that too.
Use any advantage, like an advantage.
FOR EXAMPLE! Last year, WR Travis Fulgham came from out of nowhere. He had a few hot games, then he disappeared. He got targets, but the former coaching staff didn’t try very hard to scheme him open, or scheme to his strengths.
Nothing special was done during Fulgham’s emergence, so perhaps the feeling was that nothing needed to be specially adapted for him, once he’d made his presence known. This turned out to be a mistake.
That can’t happen again. If we stumble across another hot player, we need to scheme opportunities for them to capitalize on. Think of it as sleight of hand. While the opponent struggles to figure out how to stop our new shiny toy, Sirianni can focus on nailing down the principles that he wants to install as cornerstones.
This is me highlighting a possible path to Sirianni having long-term success, as an Eagles coach. Stay loose. Stay fluid. And capitalize quickly on opportunities, when players become them.
THIS is another one that I’ve mentioned in the past, and it’s hard not to. The Eagles are moving on from the Wide Nine, and we have no idea to what. That said, all early signs indicate that we’re sticking with the 4-3 alignment. If a team plays a 4-3 system, wrecking those “A” gaps (the spaces between the C and the G), is just smart football.
This is the first step in ruining an opponent’s passing game. Yes, making it harder for receivers to release into their routes, plays a huge part as well. (If you recall that from earlier articles, then you get a Gold Star! Wait. No star. Fuck stars. We hate stars. A gold…tooth?) Like I said, ruining the protection is the most important step.
Crashing the “A” gaps, inverts the pocket, and doesn’t let opposing QB’s step up into their throws. That costs velocity, and gives our Secondary more time to react to balls in the air. This means more tipped passes, and more chances at interceptions. Even if the coverage didn’t start out super tight.
The flip-side is, an inverted pocket might encourage a mobile QB to run. That however, would still mean that our Defense was forcing the offense off-schedule. While that would result in surrendering a big play here and there, most of the time the offense would be erratic and unsettled.
Today, at the moment, fingers crossed, (Howie don’t fuck us on this!), we still have DT Fletcher Cox. Cox has never put up huge sack numbers, but he’s about as disruptive as you will get at his position. Coming on late in 2020, was last year’s big free agent addition, DT Javon Hargrave. Regardless of scheme, these two will be a dominant interior.
So were set at starting DT’s. Momentarily we still have DT Malik Jackson, but rumor has it that he may be a cap casualty. There are a couple of solid role player types like T.Y. McGill, who have flashed, but you’d have to have an eye like mine, to have noticed them.
Regardless of who’s on the roster, we still need to crash the “A” gaps!
THIRD down is the biggest dividing line between a terrible offense and high powered one. However, before all the yardage, and the score rankings, an offense needs to be able to consistently sustain drives. This is why many will say that 3rd down is the most important down.
That’s wrong. The most important down is 2nd down. For instance, I’m sure we can all agree that 3rd and 10 is a far different situation than 3rd and 1. If the offense can’t convert on 3rd down, the distance to go, will play a huge role in whether the offense “goes for it”on 4th down.
On 3rd and 10 the defense generally knows that a pass is coming, and they plan accordingly. On 3rd and 1? Well on 3rd and 1 it could be anything. The play-book is wide open, and the offense is less predictable. That steals confidence from the defense.
This is why 2nd down is the most important. It’s true, 3rd down is generally the ‘make or break’ down. However, converting before a 3rd down, or setting up shorter 3rd downs, drives up an offense’s confidence, while breaking a defense’s.
The point of 1st down is for running to set up the pass, or taking a gamble on a big play. When that dust settles, however it settles, the 2nd down which follows needs to be a down where our Eagles are thinking “Convert NOW!”
Sound silly? Hey, have you ever seen the Eagles face a 3rd and 8, only to have a receiver “take what the defense gives”, run a 7 yard route, make the catch, and be immediately tackled? Oh you have? How did you react? Oh yeah? Well me too. But if that same thing happens on 2nd and 8, we’re clapping.
What we don’t get on 1st, we need to chase aggressively on 2nd, with the idea of not seeing a 3rd. This way when we do see a 3rd down, most of them should be easily converted, or helpful in setting up a 4th down conversion.
EARLIER in the THE 12, I covered taking away a TE’s clean release. Here we’re going to get into disrupting a QB’s rhythm with his WR’s. The idea is to get one of two things to happen:
1) The QB either holds the ball a little longer, as he goes to his next read, giving the pass rush time to get to him.
2) The QB forces an ill-advised pass, in an attempt to “make something happen”.
Again, disrupting the TE was covered earlier. That said, trying to treat a WR like a TE can set an entire secondary on fire. So the approach has to be different. It has to be more cerebral. Generally a defender cannot rely on one approach all game long, but here are just a few that they can mix and match for 30 minutes or so.
Man Press gets a CB in the WR’s face, and makes the QB sort out whether the WR can win that down and get open. As long as the CB can keep the WR in front of him, this approach is golden. Problem is, when the WR gets past the CB, the defender is left in the trail position. Given the speed, and leaping ability of many WR’s, man press played wrong, could be a death sentence. (High risk/High reward)
Hand-fighting is for WR’s who like to stem their routes to get the defender off balance. Hand-fighting at the line of scrimmage, gets the defenders hands into the chest/shoulder area of the WR. It doesn’t allow the receiver to lean quite the way he wants. This erases the time the receiver would use to stem, and forces him to go directly into the route.
Hand-fighting is not quite the same as press, because hand-fighting “feels” the route and bails sooner than press. All a defender is doing, is taking away what the early part of what the receiver wants to do. The idea isn’t to stop, it’s to delay, and maybe get the QB to look elsewhere. (Moderate risk/Low reward)
The next two are a one-two combo, that not only affects the receiver, but it can make offensive coordinators question how they utilize their players, and call the game.
The 100 Yard Defender. The sideline is a defensive player. Stepping on it end plays, and a receiver who steps on it prior to catching the ball, can’t catch a forward pass on that down. If the WR lines up close enough to the sideline, shoving him out of bounds (within the first 5 yards), is totally legal, and basically takes him out of the play. (Low risk/High reward)
Lowering The Boom comes with a great deal of risk, since refs are very aggressive about throwing flags for the same hits that used to comprise the entire opening sequence of a Madden game. Still, a CB taking away the sideline, basically “opens up” the middle of the field for the receiver. Which is where beasts like LB’s and S’s roam.
While a ref may throw a flag and award 15 yards as a result of that play, coaching staffs may think better of running that player into harm’s way again. Question: Is a potential 15 yard penalty during the first possession, worth limiting how the opposing team calls the rest of the game? Answer: You bet your ass! (Just don’t do this in the second half.)
Not to mention how rattled the QB would be for getting his buddy fucked up, to start the game.(Sky high risk/Sky high reward)
So there are tools. We just have to be willing to use them.
THIS is not a new gripe for me. Too often we’ve let TE’s into their routes with little or no challenge. The results are high completion percentages, and easy scores. In fact, until OLB Nate Gerrywent on IR last year, he was being victimized on a weekly. Some of it was his slow feet, but most of it was the scheme that told him to allow clean releases.
Here’s hoping that a new Defensive Coordinator means asking new things from the OLB’s. Specifically, not letting TE’s routinely set up for quick passes, within 3 to 6 yards of the line of scrimmage. A ball coming out of an opposing QB’s hand that fast, means that our pass rush won’t have time to get home.
It also means that we aren’t seeing that the opponent is using a timing or rhythm based passing game. Or even worse, maybe we are seeing it, but refusing to adjust to it. If an opposing QB keeps executing ‘1, 2, throw’, ‘1, 2, throw’ then it behooves us to slow up that TE, and take away that quick pass.
This can be done with all receivers (later article!), but the TE has to be played a little differently. Their position lets defenders beat-up on them more, but being physical with them can backfire easily. So TE’s have to have their routes disrupted in few different ways.
Jammingcan and should be used, but it needs to be used sporadically. Trying to jam a TE too often, will tell an opposing coach to run the ball, since the defender is putting himself in position to be blocked easily. We should jam primarily on long downs. The run risk decreases, and it allows the SS to not have to immediately crash down to pick up that TE.
Re-directing in Man Coverage. All a re-direct is, is aggressively pushing a receiver (within 5 yards!) to an area where you have help in coverage. While a defender likely won’t know the route, if the TE is escorted to a more populated area of the field, the odds of a completion go way down, and the chances for big hits, tipped passes, or quick fumbles, go way up.
“Holding”. Used to be if your hands were inside the shoulders, you were allowed that grasp. Today, at no point are you allowed to hold. That said, TE’s get held all the time near the line of scrimmage. Particularly if they line up tight to the formation.
In that situation the refs can’t know if a held TE was supposed to run a route, or was supposed to block, and did a good job. Holding a TE has to be a quick, grab-pull-release, right around the line of scrimmage, and look just enough like fighting off a block. Just long enough for the QB to decided to go elsewhere with the ball.
Chippingis thought of as something that only offensive players do, but that’s a myth. In Zone Coverage, an OLB delivering a hard bump to the TE, then settling into a shallow area as the SS patrols the intermediate, is generally enough to cause a QB to think “Nope”, before progressing to his next read.
If the idea is to rush the passer with just our front four, then taking away the opponent’s quick and easy options, will give our defense the best chance of forcing their plays to run off-schedule. Plenty of tools here. We just need to finally start using them better.
PLAY-ACTION makes a mobile QB more deadly. However, we have to be better at selling the run, in order to make our play-action more effective. On first and ten or in short yardage situations, we have to make opponents believe that a QB Sneak, a HB Dive, etc. is immediately on the table. All of that is far easier to sell with a QB lined up under Center, vs being in the Shotgun or the Pistol.
When a QB uses play-action from the Shotgun or Pistol, he has to thrust it forward to the RB. Generally with both hands on the ball to prevent a fumble. A defensive lineman who sees two hands on the ball, immediately knows it’ll be a fake. The fake doesn’t sell, and the QB ends up sacked. Sound like something you’ve seen?
From under C, when the QB fakes, he turns his back to the defense. This helps hide the ball momentarily. A defensive lineman has to honor the hand-off, and identify whether or not the RB truly has the ball. That right there, that second’s pause, helps slow the pass rush and gives an offensive lineman a chance to secure his block. (Which we are always thankful for!)
During a real hand-off, what happens? The QB clears out of the way, and no one really chases him because they’re chasing the ball. When it’s a fake, the QB can take his clearing momentum and turn it into a bootleg. This gets him far away from pressure, and gives him a clear view of the field. In which case he can throw it, or pick up some quick yardage with his legs.
Lining up under C makes play-action more dangerous, because it is the most legitimate alignment to run from. Again, your QB Sneak, your HB Dive, yadda and so forth. This is especially true for teams that run 12 Personnel (1RB, 2TE). With the Eagles being a team that is still rumored to favor such a package, lining up under C needs to be the rule and not the exception.
SINCE the days of Defensive Coordinator Jim Johnson, the Eagles have been a Single-high Safety team. That started in 1999. Stated plainly, the Eagles have been almost an exclusively Cover One, for the last 21 years. It’s time we went to a more Cover Two based system.
Some of you may be new to football. Some may not know, and have been ashamed/afraid to ask. So let me start by quickly, and very basically explaining what Cover One and Cover Two are. Trust me, no matter how new you are to football, these concepts will be super easy to follow.
Lots of teams like to walk the Strong Safety “into the box” (closer to the line of scrimmage) to help take away the run. That leaves the Free Safety back in coverage. In theory, he’s sort of a Center Fielder, keeping the action in front of him, acting as the last line of defense.
Sometimes he’ll cheat towards one side or the other, to help a CB “bracket” a particularly talented WR. While that CB has some help, the other CB is mano-a-mano with his assignment. Every mistake there is potentially a killer, so that CB has to play the assignment, and not gamble. Lest his desire to make a big play, cost his team six points.
In this alignment the Strong Safety comes out of the box, and plays about as deep as the Free Safety. Instead of a single “center fielder”, these two can now each take half of the back end. Even better, they can each help a CB cover a WR. This can allow the CB to gamble on interception opportunities, while still having someone back there in case he misses the ball.
While Cover Two takes a man out of the box 1) That man shouldn’t be there anyway, and 2) It means the LB’s have to be able to handle their business up front, instead of stealing a man from the Secondary to get their job done.
If Single-high was working, why change it? The thing is, it’s been working less and less for us. On the one hand, interceptions have been really hard for us to come by. Especially in recent years. Our Super Bowl win? We gave up 505 passing yards, which is both a Super Bowl, AND a playoff record. Guess how many of our stating Secondary players missed that game? Zero. That was done vs our starters.
Jim Johnson. Sean McDermott.Juan Castillo. Todd Bowles. Bill Davis. Jim Schwartz. Six coaches over 21 years. Imagine that each was a chef, and they have all tried to improve dessert by serving the same vanilla ice cream (Cover One), in a different bowl.
In the meantime, how many good, free agent CB’s did this team spend big money on, only to have pretty much every one of them flop? How many bad CB’s did we draft? Contrast that against how many Pro Bowlers we’ve produced at that position since CB Asante Samuelin 2010. That number by the way is zero.
I’ve been saying for years now: The CB’s aren’t bad, the scheme is. They can’t gamble, undercut some routes, and make plays, because they frequently have had no deep help behind them. The result is the Eagles, year in and year out, hemorrhaging passing yardage. The result is hurries and hits that should have been sacks.
Switch to a Cover Two base. Give the Defense a chance to be truly dominant again.