Our Nickel line: Kerrigan-Ioannidis-Allen-Smith. Ioannidis and Allen lined up directly over the guards to take away any Outside Zone and Power runs.
Last week McVay dialed up about a dozen Outside Zone runs, but against this formation he didn’t try it once. When they did run outside it was away from Jonathan Allen who showed last week against Philly he could run that stuff down.
To the top of the screen you see the WRs in a stack formation, they rolled that out a ton. We played it with Fuller underneath, since he’s the screen destroyer our DB coach Torrian Gray built.
The 3-4 had a starting line of McGee-Hood-McClain flanked by Anderson and Galette. McGee lines up over Tackles and tight ends, McClain over the guard and Hood is at nose.
We rotated the defensive ends and OLBs somewhat, but for the most part Kerrigan and Smith had their hand in the dirt in our Nickel front, while Anderson and Galette were stand up OLBs in our 3-4.
Positions that seem set:
3-4 Line: Anderson-McGee-Hood-McClain-Galette
Nickel Line: Kerrigan-Ioannidis-Allen-Smith
Inside Backers: Brown and Foster
Corners: Norman and Breeland backed up by Dunbar
Slot Corner: Fuller
Free Safety: DJ Swearinger
Strong Safety is the lone question mark. It looks to be a two-way battle between Everett and Nicholson with rookie Fabian Moreau working his way in for a couple of snaps. In week 1 it was Everett’s job to lose, as it stands now the winner of that battle might be whoever makes the fewest mistakes.
If it weren’t for Smith and Kerrigan getting pressure the line would’ve finished on the wrong side of zero. The interior doesn’t have a QB terror like Jason Hatcher or Chris Baker just yet, the closest guy is Ioannidis who charted a couple of pressures. He’s been holding up to doubles against zone runs and the QB pressures are a pleasant surprise, the only knock on his game is speed to the outside:
The guard doesn’t even check him on his way to sealing out Foster. The center had the impossible task of cutting him which tells me the plan was to beat him with speed. I contrasted that with a clip from last week where Allen was sliding down the line, fighting off blocks and making plays at the sideline. That right there is why they didn’t poke at the beast.
[After the jump: Coverages, linebackers, predictions]
Cousins threw for just 156 yards and 5.8 yards per attempt, yet it was enough to overcome a Rams team who seemed to be in the process of slipping from last years 16th ranked rush defense. Just under 6 YPA turned out to be enough thanks to an offensive line that played like the line we saw last year moreso than the line we saw last week. When asked in the post game presser about what made the offensive staff feel like they could run it today against the Rams front 7, Gruden replied:
well, you know, we played the Rams before…we felt like we could run the ball
And run they did for 229 yards on 39 attempts for a whopping 5.9 ypc–a full yard per carry better than the 2015 game Jay was referring too, in which they plowed through a similarly undersized front to the tune of 37 carries for 182 yards.
But as with most games that involve men clanging heads for 60 minutes, stats didn’t tell the whole story: toughness helped us in the end as Norman (forced fumble) played through an AC joint sprain, and Foster overcame a separated shoulder to seal the game with an interception.
If a yawn of an off-season and 2 decades of a Danny Snyder led regime have led some fans to become complacent, today’s game may have started to turn the tide, restore the fire, and give a few reasons to root for this blue-collar squad.
Nothing too fancy except for on a couple passing downs:
that’s a 2-4-5. We also slid the line around and grouped defensive ends to the same side, in an effort to confuse blocking schemes and generate pressure. Outside of that we stayed in our base 3-4 and Nickel the whole way.
Foster usually lined up to the wider side of the field, while Brown took to the boundary. We kept 2 linebackers in the whole game, Dime packages were scrapped for this one.
Eagles kept anywhere from 1 to 3 tight ends. Before their left tackle (Peters) went out the game they used their 6th offensive lineman as a blocking tight end. On a few plays we treated Ertz as a WR and kept an extra CB in the game even when they had 2+ tight ends. That might have had something to do with Everett struggling with Ertz early.
2: Just A Guy, won’t hurt but isn’t going to disrupt either.
2.5: Able to hold up to doubles and recognize all blocks.
-3: Discussion below
3: Way stronger at the POA, especially at nose. Thanks Tomsula.
2: Just A Guy #2, except not really. Can get under blocks and disrupt occasionally.
6.5: Just need to fine tune a rookie and we have a unit that can go. Thanks Tomsula.
Jonathan Allen checks in for his first NFL game and it was up and down as one could expect from a rookie. Eagles tend to base their runs with outside zone stuff and will occasionally change it up with a wham block. You would like to see your DL stop the OL from reaching the linebacker behind him: the whole intent of a wham block. Ionnandis did this, Allen (circled) not so much:
They ran it a few times when Allen was in the game to the tune of 6.0 ypc; this would-be change up became a fastball.
On the good news front, Allen seemed more than able to handle zone blocking, both outside and inside:
He can let his 1st round athleticism take over on the basic stuff, he just needs to get comfortable handling blocks coming at him from his blind spot.
Ionanndis and Hood were the most improved guys on this roster. Technique and strength at the point of attack were night and day from last year. Last year, Hood was struggling inside and mutterings out of Redskin park hinted he was miscast as a Nose and would be at defensive end if not for depth issues. All that seems to be resolved now as he took the majority of his snaps at nose and held up just fine.
McGee is probably slated for 5 technique. He struggled with doubles inside and let guys get under his pads. Against tackles and tight ends however, his 341 pound frame was more forgiving of that issue.
4: lined up to the open side more often. Less TE crushing, but better paths to the QB.
3.5: Picked up where he left off last year
10.5: Biggest upgrade of the offseason. Run defense is A level. Coverage…check back later
-1.5: Struggled a bit holding the edge on outside runs
19.5: Zach Brown baby.
A couple new faces entered into this corps with Zach Brown being the most welcome sight for sore eyes. This here blog has officially placed Compton along with Pot Roast in the Please Never Again HOF. Brown occasionally struggled with finding his zones in coverage, hence the minuses, but that is the stuff that can be coached up. What can’t be coached up is this SPEED:
Also worth noting: both Brown and Foster understand the importance of depth with their zone drops. I can’t count how many 3rd downs we gave up last year because Compton didn’t realize he had a receiver behind him that needed to be covered. Zach Brown is the FA pickup off the off-season and is a big reason we could have a competent defense this year.
Galette and Anderson seem to be on a pitch count. The only thing that popped up was Anderson’s inability to set the edge, something I’m not too worried about. Manusky’s coaching cloth is cut from his days as an OLB coach and Tomsula is right behind him to teach leverage to any rookie who needs to know.
Kerrigan and Smith were asked to do more zone drops compared to last year. Getting after the QB is still goal #1 for them, but we are going to mix up who drops into the hook zones a lot more this year, it won’t just be our inside linebackers.
The pick 6: This one was set up early in the game on the 2nd drive. Sproles and the WR to his side ran a corner/flat route combo that Hi-Low’d the OLB. In this case it was Smith who was put in conflict:
Two drives later they brought out the same formation and we spread out our 5 man line to shorten the distance Kerrigan needed to cover in his zone drop. They ran the same corner/flat route combo and that was all she wrote:
-4: Got picked on early
7.5: Blew up screens all day. Thanks Torrian Gray?
-6.5: Drew the shortest straw. Manned up Ertz often
0.5: exotic blitzes caused a few busted coverages
Kendal Fuller was a terror on outside screens. Someone somewhere coached this DB corps on how to handle WR blocks and a quick check of the coaching roster shows DB coach Torrian Gray spent the last 10 years in the fertile spread offense land of Blacksburg and Gainesville dealing with outside screens on the regular. I don’t even know why Philly kept trying to test us outside, I mean fine…go right ahead please and thank you:
When tested deep, Fuller was in the receiver’s hip pocket and got the pass breakup:
What didn’t work as well were the guys behind our corners. In the last clip you can see Fuller take outside leverage and funnel to the deep safety, in this case Swearinger. But DJ got baited by an underneath route and was left hoping Fuller could save him from a public Monday scolding. Everett’s shaky day was easier to tolerate since he got manned up on Ertz whose got route running chops I don’t see any DB not named Josh Norman able to shut down.
What does it mean for the future?
Allen will probably be tested with trap and wham blocks until he proves he can handle them.
Ionnandis and Hood version 2.0: Thanks Tomsula
Underneath crossers and wheel routes are the scariest to watch right now as the back 7 adjust to the new zone drops.
We aren’t giving up any easy yards on WR screens
We don’t play a Zach Ertz in week 2, that gives Everett a break.
Holy crap Zach Brown, where have you been all my life.
Versus our 11 personnel, Detroit went with their Nickel:
When we went heavy, the Lions usually responded with a 4-4 look that had Cover 3 behind it:
Detroit sometimes messed around with their DL alignments. Here they have 3 defensive lineman aligned from the left guard to outside the left tackle and the safety is stacked behind them:
In the chart, I called that one, “Nickel Trips DL”
RT: Moses (73)
RG: Scherff (58), backed up by Kouj (15)
C: Long (73)
LG: Lauvao (73)
LT: Williams (72)
TE: Davis (71), Paul (12), Nsekhe (11)
FB: Paul (7), Kelley (2)
RB: Thompson (43), Jones (22), Kelley (8)
WR: Garcon (57), DeSean (54), Crowder (55), backed up by Grant (20) and Mo Harris (4)
Rob Kelley got both his Fullback snaps at the goal line. Scherff missed 15 snaps with an injury and was backed up by Kouj. Nsekhe is really a 6th offensive lineman, but he’s eligible for a catch when he checks in so I’m classifying him here as a tight end.
The biggest theme from the 1st drive was missed opportunities. It started on the third play of the first drive, where we ran Counter on 3rd and 1. Lauvao and Scherff will eliminate 2 guys each–something that rarely happens at this level–and Niles Paul is left to dig out the most immediate threat as he pulls through the line:
As Paul pulls through he doesn’t see his target coming from the left:
If he did, Matt Jones is one on one with a safety and has a chance to flip field position and/or put us in field goal range. Instead Paul got blind sided:
We end up getting the first but were so close to getting much more.
[AFTER THE JUMP: The ‘9-6’ route, Grades, Cliff Notes, and a link to the Chart]
We were in a 3-4 defense for about a quarter of the snaps throughout the game, otherwise we were mostly in Nickel with the line shifted toward the tight end:
In passing situations we lifted Foster for Cravens or Garvin. Cravens is seen here in our “Okie” front. Okie means all the lineman and linebackers are standing at the line pre-snap:
A few times, we replaced a safety for a 4th cornerback (line is ‘split’ for a better pass rush):
Depth Chart – Nickel (out of 53 snaps):
DE: Kerrigan (40) and Smith (38), backed up by Murphy (31)
DT: Hood (44) and Baker (43), backed up by Francois (16), Jenkins (10) and Ioannidis (4)
ILB: Compton (53), Foster (40)
Cravensbacker: Cravens (11), Garvin (3)
Strong Safety: Whitner (44) backed up by Nacho (9)
Free Safety: Blackmon (39) backed up by Whitner (9)
CB: Breeland (49) and Norman (28), backed up by Dunbar (27) and Toler (5)
Slot/Nickel CB: Fuller (40)
‘Cravensbacker’ is the hybrid Linebacker/Safety position we play in place of Foster in passing situations. With the 3-4 defense, Fuller gets lifted for an extra defensive lineman which was usually Francois. Compton and Whitner were the only guys to play all 53 snaps.
Against the Giants we faced guards pulling from side to side which created moving gaps that our second level backers struggled to defend. This time around the Lions tested us not with pulling guards but with pulling H-Backs (red path). The tight end lined up in front of Murphy (red X) is running a route, just pretend he’s not even in the picture:
We responded to the pulling H-Back by bumping down a Safety and the front 8 gap coverage went like so:
Whitner replaces Compton’s gap, so
Compton can replace Foster’s gap, so
Foster can replace Murphy’s gap, so
Murphy can play contain on the extra gap added to his side by the pulling H-Back.
All gaps are accounted for. Ioannidis comes off his block to make initial contact with the back and Whitner is in position for the fill:
[AFTER THE JUMP: The Last Play, A Link to the Chart, Grades, Safeties, Safeties WTF!]
Welcome Mbu: There was some chatter about Pot Roast, Phil Taylor and 3 other defensive lineman being brought in for workouts to replace the departed Kendall Reyes. This blog’s opinion: ABPR, Anyone But Pot Roast. If you read the breakdowns last year you already know why.
It was a little confusing as to why we were going to waste a roster spot on a washed up veteran when Ioannidis was grading out neutral as a backup nose tackle. He’s willing to play a position Baker doesn’t want too and he’s not a liability when inserted into the line up. Sounds like an upgrade over the other option. Thankfully no extra fat was added to the roster and instead we signed former Falcon Joey Mbu to the practice squad:
According to Pro Football Focus he played 55 of 133 possible snaps over those two games earning a slightly below average grade of -1.6. He played as well as you would expect an undrafted rookie to play. Mbu played the run decently while offering no pass rush. He posted four tackles over those 55 snaps.
So a 6’3 311 pound run stopper with an arm length of 35 inches–almost 2 full inches longer than Reyes. He fits the mold of a 5 technique meaning, if activated to the main roster, he could back up Francois and moonlight at the other 2 interior positions (nose and 3 tech.)
The Eagles opened up with 13 (1RB, 3 TE) personnel:
and, for the first time I think ever, we responded with a Nickel defense. Normally we come out in a 3-4 if there is more than 1 tight end or a fullback is in the game. This matchup got us a sack as Kerrigan matched up one on one with the tight end closest to the center.
Otherwise it was mainly our Nickel vs their 11 and our 3-4 vs their 12 and 13. On 3rd and longs we gave a few exotic looks. A couple of times we went 3(DL)-3(LB)-5(DB):
and a couple of times we showed a 3-2-6, the 3 lineman in this play–which resulted in a sack–were Kerrigan, Murphy and Smith:
On 3rd and 5 we pulled Compton off the field and went into a Dime package (4-1-6) with Terence Garvin at linebacker:
We also had a few plays where we lifted the slot corner off the field in favor of a 3rd safety.
Depth Chart for our Nickel:
DE: Kerrigan and Smith with Murphy off the bench.
DT (Nose and 3Tech): Baker, Hood, with Francois and Ioannidis off the bench
ILB: Foster, Compton with Garvin on some 3rd downs
CB: Norman the whole way. Breeland shared time with Dunbar on the first drive. Dunbar had a hard time getting lined up with Whitner on one play and I don’t think we saw much of him after that.
Slot CB: Fuller, sometimes replaced by a 3rd safety.
Strong Safety: Nacho with Whitner off the bench
Free Safety: Blackmon with Whitner off the bench.
In the 3-4, where we replace the slot corner with a 5th defensive lineman, Francois got the start. I’m going off of memory so if I missed a guy let me know in the comments. Also you can like, comment in the comments.
Where the disembodied head of EA Sports’ Kirk Herbstreit revolves around me and repeatedly chants “He just simply used POWER”:
The Power play reared it’s ugly head again. In the preview I talked about how the Eagles like to fake like they are going to run Power and throw a bubble screen to the outside. This time they switched it up and actually ran the Power play, because it’s us, so obviously you have to try. Instead of passively reading blocks and getting run over, we attacked it with our play side linebacker (Foster in this case) and Safety. Both guys will aim for the pulling guard and stop this play for a short gain:
Philly ran Power 3 times for 11 yards. It’s become a non-factor which is something that seemed light years away from happening after the Giants’ game. Having a safety willing to fill against the run has been the most important addition to this defense for the season. On a Power play in the 4th quarter, Foster and Whitner did the same thing to the pulling guard, forcing Sproles to bounce outside into Smith and Breeland.
[After the jump: All-22 video, Counter, Link to the Chart, Grades…and more words!!]
the Eagles like to pull their guards and tackles to the tight end side. Leaving a hapless defensive back (probably Nacho in our case) left alone to sacrifice himself against an oncoming 300 pound lineman.