FFODC Previews The Eagles

WHAT Skins (3-2) vs Eagles (5-1)
WHERE Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, PA
WHEN Monday, October 23, 8:30 PM
THE LINE  Skins +4.5 (O/U: 49)
WEATHER  H: 77, L: 64; Partly Cloudy

The Eagles offense is coached by three former quarterbacks in HC Doug Pederson, OC Frank Reich (Terp), and QB Coach John DeFilippo.

Pederson is an Andy Reid disciple so we can expect a healthy dose of option football and small wide receivers blessed with smurf speed.  Reich was responsible for Phillip Rivers’ best years (and yes he’s the guy who led the biggest comebacks in college and the NFL) and DeFilippo somehow managed to eek out a Pro Bowl tight end in 2015 with Johny Manziel and Josh McCown at quarterback.

All three heads put together generate an attack that looks to create confusion with mesh routes (air raid), stretching of defensive flat zones (west coast), and dual threat quarterbacks that force you to keep one guy protecting a keeper or bootleg at all times (option.)  So basically this is Kansas City’s offense all over again, except it’s Philly so the concepts aren’t clever, they’re just prickish and annoying.

Run Defense vs the Eagles

Wham:  In week 1 the Eagles ran a package of “wham” runs.  Basically a wham run allows for 1-2 offensive lineman to release immediately into the linebackers, creating a 200 pound mismatch and lots of room for the running back to run.  From what I have seen, they use wham with Blount at running back probably because it helps him build up a head of steam and do this:

LeGarrette Blount has averaged 4.9 yards AFTER CONTACT per carry in 2017. Only 8 running backs currently average 4.9 yards PER CARRY

It’s a deception play that Ioannidis was able to recognize, while Allen was not.  The result was a series of runs that yielded 6 yards per carry:

It’s a play that our offense uses, so whoever replaces Allen on Monday will have practiced against it.  Ioannidis shut this down by holding onto the lineman (legally, of course) who were trying to release to the linebacker level; that’s the cliff notes on how to beat it.

Otherwise, the Eagles core run package consists of inside and outside zone.  Those were the runs Allen excelled against; Ioannidis and the linebackers all perform well versus zone, how we do will probably come down to how Allen’s replacement (McClain/McGee/Hood/Francis) performs.

Versus DBs:  With the perimeter runs, the 49ers had success targeting our secondary whether is was catching us off-balance with motion:

Or targeting Baushaud Breeland in the run game:

Philly saw that and probably wants a shot at our DBs as well.  They have a couple of formations designed to target DBs, a twins formation like San Francisco used:

And a 3 tight end formation that will force our corners to stick their nose in the run game:

Zone Reads:  Another formation they like to roll out is a bunch formation split out wide which allows the QB lots of room if he keeps on a read option:

against Preston Smith this has no chance of working; he’s shown the athleticism to shut down both the quarterback and running back by himself on zone reads (see: Terrelle Pryor in Cleveland 2016.)  But what about Junior Galette and rookie Ryan Anderson?

Key Matchups:


If Breeland can’t go, rookie Fabian Moreau will most likely get the start and we have no idea how willing he is to take on pulling lineman and tight ends.  Best case scenario is for us to put DJ over the tight end side whenever possible.


Outside zone was Jonathan Allen’s specialty, it will be trial by fire as we try to find our #2 DT next to Ioannidis.  Versus Nickel, the Eagles like to play a 3 on 2 game with their left guard, left tackle and tight end vs the defensive end and linebacker.  They let their center try to reach/hook the defensive tackle, if he’s successful there is a big run in the making.

Hood has lost his swag the last couple of weeks as Centers have been dominating him one on one.  If that happens this week there will be huge alleys for running backs to cutback into.  Nose tackles are paid to dominate centers and stalemate against double teams at the very least.  If Hood can’t win, it will be up to newcomer AJ Francis, Stacy McGee (not his natural position) or Terrell McClain to take over.


We know Smith can handle them, but does Galette have the discipline–he tends to get up field and lose contain–and does Anderson have the eyes to contain zone reads?  No false steps allowed with the amount of space the Eagle’s formations will put them in.

Pass Defense vs the Eagles



Trips:  Three receivers to one side of the field is the Eagles base formation, they love to run every route they can from it and occasionally pound it up the middle.  The 3×1 formation spreads defenses out creating well defined mismatches.

It can put our rookie FS Montae Nicholson alone with deep coverage.  To exploit that, the Eagles have run a cross/post route combo which puts the Free Safety in conflict:

And attacked the FS directly with the inside receiver:

To the single receiver side the Eagles like to line up either 6’3 218 pound WR Alshon Jeffery or 6’5 250 pound TE Zach Ertz.

Related to that, Quinton Dunbar likes to “press and go”:

Can he get away with that technique versus guys who are Megatron clones?

2×2:  In week 1 they deployed a lot of 2×2 formations which put a safety one on one with Zach Ertz in the middle of the field, and they found success with Ertz vs Everett.  But ever since then, they have been rolling with Trips (3×1) and it’s been working for them.

Bubble Screens:  They have been calling bubble screens out of trips about three to four times a game in an effort to bait aggressive coverage and then attack deep.

FWIW: the Cardinals ID’d two formations that the Eagles liked to run the bubble out of, one is with the backup TE lined up as the #2 receiver:

with the other being Agholor lined up in the slot and Alshon Jeffery lined up outside him as the lead blocker; in both cases Arizona removed their OLB from the line and placed him over the trips side.

That being said, the screen is a play Kendall Fuller has blown up since week 1.  If they try it again, it will be in an effort to set up something over top like this slant (the underneath route isn’t a bubble, but same concept):


Key Matchups:


Trips formation puts us in a single high safety look which means Nicholson will have to win one-on-one matchups.  He is a rookie and you got 3 former quarterbacks on the coaching staff, I’d expect at least one or three deep shots thrown in his direction.


Dunbar has one thing he’s really good at, but I don’t think he’s faced guys this big on every snap.  It will be interesting to see if he keeps pressing at the line or backs off and lets his off-coverage skills do the work.

Three Predictions

  • McClain or Francis (they signed him for a specific reason) wins the Jonathan Allen job in our Nickel front
  • Nicholson gives up one big play
  • Wentz eludes 3 sacks.  Gruden loses his mind, anoints him the GOAT.

Skins 24-20, IF Breeland (or Norman?) starts.


Skins DEFENSE vs the 49ers


We used a 3-3-5 (3DL, 3LBs, 5DBs) on 3rd and longs in an attempt to confuse and deceive:

The above formation had Jonathan Allen (R.I.P.) at linebacker depth.  He’s going to vacate his zone and rush the QB:

The RB runs to where Allen left and gets an easy catch.  Meanwhile, we tasked Kerrigan to play zone coverage; he takes off to cover a spot on the field without even checking to see where the RB is going.

So that’s a pass rusher playing zone coverage and a defensive lineman lined up as a linebacker, and for what?  If anything we just helped a rookie QB make an easy throw on 3rd and 8.

We have done this 3-3-5 look almost every week going back to the Joe Barry days.  Preston Smith is usually the deceiver–lined up at middle linebacker instead of being at defensive end–and it usually fails.  Please shelve this.

In exotic formations that did work:

That’s Ioaniddis and Jonathan Allen lined up over the Right Guard.  Ion bull rushes the guard, while Allen gets a push on him with his free hand: that’s 1 and 1/2 men vs 1 and it sends the guard backpedaling into the QB’s lap:

It’s a formation that confuses the blocking scheme and doesn’t ask guys to play out of position.  We ran that same concept again, this time with Allen (circled) slanting into the right guard, freeing up Ioannidis to get another sack:

(Brown sees the same route that Garcon got an offensive Pass Interference on late in the game–the one he posted to his Instagram–notice how Brown avoids Garcon on this play.)

The Allen-Ioannidis combo will be missed.

Substitution Notes:  Moreau and Dunbar split snaps opposite Breeland, with Dunbar getting the clear majority.  After Breeland went out, it was Moreau and Dunbar on the outside.  After Moreau went out, Holsey took over at slot and Fuller bumped outside.  Good grief.

At safety, DJ is the only safety asked to play in the box against the run AND in man-coverage.  Nicholson is strictly at deep safety.  Usually we ask both safeties to play all styles (in the box, man-to-man, and deep) but it appears other than DJ, no safety is coached up on the linebacker and corner reads needed to play every style.

What Happened

The Niners tried to make due with the fact they had no passing game by playing formations with multiple tight ends, hoping to gain angles and leverage in the run game.  Our front 8 responded with stunts and linebackers knifed through the zone blocks.

We ended up ceding 3 points which turned into 7 after a penalty by Swearinger (who swung at Garcon for celebrating a hit that did this to Nicholson.)

Pressure was sacrificed for coverage as we asked our defensive ends to jam receivers at the line before they rushed the quarterback.  Starting quarterback Brian Hoyer was forced to hold onto the ball and make throws into tight coverage.  After two missed throws to ‘out’ routes run to the far hash, Shannahan yanked him and put in the rookie CJ Beathard.

After fixing the QB issue, the next issue was how to replace their injured fullback.  First they tried with a TE:

But that didn’t work so they went with 2 running backs in the backfield yielding mixed results.

In the second half they successfully targeted their runs at Breeland, but were not able to score a touchdown until Vernon Davis fumbled and gave them the ball at the one yard line.

Working against the clock, San Francisco had to ditch the run and start throwing.  After Breeland went out with an injury they marched down the field by targeting Moreau and Nicholson.

The last drive saw Moreau leave the game with an injury and our secondary was barely recognizable with rookies at two spots and slot CB Kendall Fuller playing outside.  Zach Brown bailed us out by drawing an offensive pass interference call that put the 49ers in a hole they couldn’t dig out of.


The Show

Defensive Line
Player + Total
McGee 6 3 3
Hood 2.5 4 -1.5
Ioannidis 5 0 5: pay the man?
Allen 2.5 0.5 2
McClain 0 2 -2: over-paid
Total     6.5

Allen and Ioannidis’ pass rush combo were discussed above.

Stacy McGee turned in his best performance yet.  He usually lines up against tackles and tight ends, kept away from shorter guards and centers that are more apt to win the low-man leverage battles.

He was able to reset the backside edge when Kerrigan went too far up field and left a gaping hole behind him.  On this counter-run, he was able to stand up the center, shed and hold the RB until #91 could recover:

When they ran away from him, he was able to slant and get under the tackle:

Level of competition was low but these are difficult tasks–set the edge and chase down runs away from you–when you’re a 341 pound big man, regardless of opponent.

[After the JUMP: Linebackers, DBs, the 45 Yard TD and predictions]

Continue reading Skins DEFENSE vs the 49ers

FFODC Previews the 49ers

WHAT Skins (2-2) vs 49ers (0-5)
WHERE FedEx Field, Hyattsville, MD
WHEN Sunday, Oct 15th 1:00 PM ET
THE LINE Skins -11 (O/U: 46.5)
WEATHER  H: 82(wtf!), L: 51, Partly Cloudy

The Men of Shanahan along with familiar faces Aldrick Robinson, Logan Paulsen and Pierre Garcon invade FedEx field equipped with an offense that a lay person watching next to you would find familiar if they watched the Skins play between 2010-2013; mainly running sideways 20 times a game and occasionally faking you out with a bootleg that goes the opposite way.  I mean it’s Shanahan’s offense.  You know what’s coming.

Run Defense Vs the 49ers

The Cardinals run a 3-4 front similar to ours, it’s a front that should get a lot of use on Sunday since Shanahan likes to deploy a fullback on the regular.  The backside backer (labeled as the would be “Zach Brown”)  has 3 guys in front of him: 2 biggins and an OLB and they will absorb blocks from the LT, LG and Center.  Next to the backside backer is the playside backer (lined up toward the TE).  Notice he’s a few steps in front, closer to the line.  That would be Mason Foster/Martrell Spaight.  Foster loves to creep up to the line when he smells outside zone coming, and lots of outside zone is coming.  Playside backers lined up like so will either beat their block or kamikaze into the line and take an OL with him.  With guys all around him absorbing blocks, Zach Brown should be free to roam and MAKE PLAYS as the studio suits like to say.

One note of caution: outside zone runs tend to induce lots of flow going in one direction, so if the RB wants to cut it back, or the QB is running play action, Brown needs to keep up.

Key Matchup: Zach Brown vs FLOW.

If he can keep his momentum in agreement with his eyes, Brown could be in for a 15+ tackle game.  If the Niners want to change up formations and run away from him, then the onus falls on Foster and Spaight, both of whom have shown to be beasts against the run.

FB Kyle Juszczyk #44

Shanahan doesn’t outfit a roster without finding guys who can do one thing really well: block outside zone.  He’s found a couple of them in rookie TE George Kittle (best said in a Norm MacDonald voice) and FB Kyle Juszczyk.  They might not do much well but they can do that one thing really well.  In the above clip you can see how quickly the FB is able to process what’s in front of him and adjust.  The guy he was going to block before the snap was lined up to the outside.  After the snap he jumps inside a full gap and the FB doesn’t even stutter for a second.  He adjusts his path to the line and gets inside leverage for a kick out block to open up the hole.  That might not sound or look like much–about 3 yards–but it makes it a viable run on 1st and 2nd down, and the play action off of that run (shown later in this preview) is deadly since linebackers have to come crashing down into the line to take on the lead blocker, voiding a ton of space behind them.

Key Matchup:  INSIDE BACKERS vs Kyle Shanahan accredited outside zone blockers.

Rookie TE Kittle is joined by a familiar face in Logan Paulsen who made a name on the skins roster a few years back by being able to kick guys out at the end of the line of scrimmage.  With the big guys in the middle occupied by zone combo blocks and defensive ends chasing runs from behind, Spaight, Foster and Brown will all have to find ways to get off of blocks and stop RB Carlos Hyde before he can add acceleration to the mass part of his equation.  FWIW, LG Brandon Fusco (#63) struggles to track  down guys at the second level, so that could be a favorable matchup for us.

Pass Defense Vs the 49ers

If there was a game for Josh Norman to sit out and get healthy, this is it.

Swag, baby.

On field play from their signal caller has been erratic at best, as Brian Hoyer is prone to lock onto a guy whose covered and leave other guys open without a catch:

Continue reading FFODC Previews the 49ers

Skins DEFENSE vs Kansas City


They spread out our 3-4 defense a few times to where our OLB would line up over a slot WR with a safety behind him.  This left 3 big guys to rush the quarterback, affording Alex Smith plenty of time.  The only reason I can think of for this is we were trying to avoid crack blocks and also jam guys at the line so they couldn’t run their staple of “mesh” routes. Otherwise it was our regular 3-4 and Nickel the whole way except for one 3-3-5 we broke out on a 3rd down.

The Story:  The first 3 drives ended in punts before the mismatches came into play.  Fuller got stuck defending the run against tight ends and our 3-4 got spread out, shown above, which negated the pass rush.

Inside backer play was up and down.  Brown and Spaight played like Pro Bowlers in the box, but they struggled in space with Brown having two left feet in coverage and Spaight missing open field tackles.

With a bye week approaching guys were hitting hard and selling out their bodies; big hits were followed by injuries to the back seven.  Then the penalties came which cost us 7 points to open the second half.  The snap count hit 76 (20 snaps more than previous weeks) and mental errors crept in as fatigue set over the last two drives.  Uncharacteristic gaffes like Brown’s over-pursuit on outside zone and McClain tipping a stunt cost us two field goals.

Finally on the last drive Kerrigan blew contain which lead to a 37 yard play and Spaight voided underneath coverage for another 10 yard gimmie and that was enough to set up the field goal that put KC ahead 23-20.


The Show

Defensive Line
Player + Total
Kerrigan 3 6.5 -3.5
Smith 8 7.5 0.5
Allen 5.5 2 3.5
Hood 5 7.5 -2.5
McClain 2.5 7 -4.5
Ioannidis 6 1.5 4.5
McGee 7.5 5.5 2
Total     0

Kerrigan’s first negative finish is due in large part to a failed pass rush that did not keep contain.  He chose the right rush: Bull rush, but couldn’t disengage the RT before Alex Smith broke the pocket.  That’s giving valuable extra time with a back seven reeling from injuries and fatigue.

Preston Smith would have graded out in the positive if not for penalties.  The one at the goal line turned 3 points into 7 and earned him a -4.  So both star ends would have had decent to good days if not for the bonehead plays.

Ziggy Hood’s negative total was a product of him get worked by their center.  It’s one thing for a double team to get you, but when your nose can’t handle the center one on one that’s trouble since doubles can be doled out to guys on either side of him.

Matt Ioannidis diagnosed plays early and often.  Against Philly he was the lone lineman to diagnose the trap blocking and last week he was the quickest to read the Shovel pass option play that KC loves to run:

Continue reading Skins DEFENSE vs Kansas City