Big Red Talks About the Eagles Defense

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | Tags: , , , , | 12 Comments »

PE.com has a 3-part video series between Dave Spadaro and Andy Reid.  I encourage you to watch it, if you haven’t already.  A lot of the discussion is simple, obvious stuff (coaches rarely open up), but Dave did get some good nuggets from Andy. The most helpful info involved our “new” defense.

Andy reiterated that the defense will be the same basic ideas that have been here during his tenure. One thing I don’t think enough people appreciate is that things changed over the years, under both JJ and Sean McDermott. You take a basic approach and tweak it based on new personnel, changes in rules, or schematic shifts in the game. Think about some examples:

* Do you think JJ’s playbook had a section for a FS like Brian Dawkins prior to his hiring by the Eagles? Jim saw Dawk’s potential and figured out a variety of ways to use him.
* Remember 2006? JJ decided to mix things up and use Dawk like a LB in the Nickel/Dime looks. That lasted half the year (or less).
* We played our DTs in a 1-gap style for most of JJ’s tenure. He switched after the arrival of DL coach Pete Jenkins.
* We used to have pass rushing DTs. The arrival of Darren Howard led us to start mixing in DEs on the inside. Eventually both DTs on passing downs became DEs.
* With Carlos Emmons at SAM we used him to shut down TEs. Other years JJ mixed up his coverages. In 2008 he used the WLB and SS to split the job.
* With Bobby Taylor, Troy Vincent, and Al Harris we played a ton of physical, press coverage. That changed as the rules changed in 2004 and as our personnel changed.

So what will happen in 2011? We’re going back to the 1-gap, attacking scheme we used to run, with some adjustments. The front is referred to as the “Wide Nine” because the DEs will line up out wide (the nine technique). Quick aside, let’s talk about alignment/terminology.

0 technique – NT in the 3-4
1 technique – NT in the 4-3, shaded to the outside of the C
3 technique – DT in the 4-3, lines up on the outside eye of the G (position that Warren Sapp made famous)
5 technique – DE in the 3-4, lines up on the outside eye of the T

4-3 DEs line up in a variety of places. In Jim Washburn’s scheme the DEs are out wide, outside of the TE even. This is the 9 technique. Keep in mind that this is a base look. There are times when the DEs move around. Washburn will use under fronts where the line slides away from the TE. This has a DE line up right over the OT. Sometimes the DE will line up over the OT to help set up a stunt. The DE goes inside and the DT loops around him.

Our DTs will basically line up in the same place as last year (and the past), but they will fire off the ball and attack. As Reid said in the interview, the goal is for the DL to play on the other side of the LOS.

LB play is going to change. Everyone sick of hearing about “downhill LBs” can rejoice. We now will have guys doing more read and react. Some people will be put off by that phrase since it sounds passive. Don’t be. Previously our LBs attacked up the field. Think of all the times we saw a guy attacking a FB on run plays. The LBs will now read the play at the snap. They have a second or so to diagnose and find the ball, then go get it.

Jamar Chaney should thrive in this system. He runs very well and has good instincts. Stewart Bradley runs well for a big MLB. He should be okay. The key for him will be finding the ball without taking false steps and getting out of position. Moise Fokou is a guy I’ll need to watch tape on. He can run, but tends to be more of a bull in a china shop. Can he sit back, read the play, and then go to the ball? That’s different than being up on the line and making contact right at the snap.

Reid didn’t go into the secondary. I think we’ll be looking at a mixture of zone and man based on how our personnel shakes out and who we’re playing that day.

Juan Castillo mentioned the Bears defense a few times after getting the DC job. Some people take that as him wanting the Tampa 2. That’s not what I took from him. He was focusing on effort and how hard they play. I’ve gotten into football discussions with friends and I always tell people that the most fascinating thing for me in terms of defense is how hard the Bears play. This defense has played with max effort for 5 plus years. How do you do that? At some point players tend to tune out a coach.

The man getting the credit now is Rod Marinelli, but Lovie Smith had the Bears playing this way when Rod was going 0-16 up in Detroit. Lovie isn’t a rah-rah guy. He’s a quiet, professional leader. Yet, he somehow gets his guys to play harder on defense than any other team in the league. Some of you may think all of this is hyperbole, but I’ve always felt there is a noticeable difference in the energy the Bears bring to the field. I was happy to hear Castillo talk about the Bears because that means I’m not the only one who notices it.

Effort, attitude, and hustle are great, but you must have talent. The Bears have signature players like Julius Peppers, Lance Briggs, and Brian Urlacher. The Eagles have some good pieces in place, but there are some holes to fill. I promise you the Eagles will add a CB, either in FA or the draft. Beyond that, I guarantee nothing. We have to see who is available and how the whole CBA mess works out.

Back to Castillo for a minute. He spent a lot of time discussing blitzes with JJ over the years. I think Juan will keep the blitz very much a part of our scheme. His time running the OL should have made it clear to him how disruptive and effective the blitz can be when done right. Juan still probably still has nightmares about Antoine Winfield. I know Michael Vick and I do.

Castillo and Washburn are working on the playbook as we speak. They are combining their ideas with JJ’s basics, maybe even a thing or two from Sean. The one section where they better get completely rid of McDermott’s ideas is the Red Zone. We were awful there in 2010. Way too passive. Washburn and the Titans were very good in the Red Zone last year so hopefully some of his ideas will help us. There’s only one way to go…up. I mean, how much more awful could our Red Zone defense be? The answer is none…none more awful (right Nigel?).

I’m actually excited to see how the defense looks. We were all shocked to find out Juan Castillo got the DC job. Now that the shock of that has subsided I’m starting to like some of his ideas. We still don’t know if he can run a defense, but I do like what I’m hearing. And I’m thrilled with Washburn coaching the D-line and bringing his ideas over from Tennessee. The whole 2-gap DT thing just wasn’t my cup of tea. I want my linemen firing off the ball and being disruptive.

As I said, I like what I’m hearing. The real proof will be in the pudding, though. We’ve got to see how all of this works in games and through the course of a season. All Juan has to do is live up to the level set forth by Marion Campbell, Buddy Ryan, Wade Phillips, Jeff Fisher, Bud Carson, and Jim Johnson. What could go wrong?


  • http://Website Jeppe

    Hi Tommy

    If our D-line is firing up the field off the snap, doesn’t that require the LB’s to be stout against the run? And how would that effect a player like Clayton?
    And which LB’s in the draft would have a profile that fits what our new scheme requires? Does Herzlich have the instincts to play the SAM?

    Again, thanks for making these months go by faster! It’s tough to be a footballfan in the spring – especially in Europe!

  • http://Website Davesbeard

    The 2-gap issue seems to have been floating around for ages. It transformed our Run D from paper-bag to top 5 but Bunk and Pat just stopped playing like the disruptive forces they were drafted to be.
    This new scheme should really help those guys more than anything, if they both play up to their potential (and how they started to play in the 1-gap) in this new scheme along with Laws and Dixon, our DT’s could be fantastic. I really don’t get why some people are suggesting we draft a DT, its got to be one of the strongest positions on the team.

    The whole ‘let players play’ thing is really encouraging too, as you’ve mentioned in the past even our second string D played a great game against the Cowboys because they kept things simple.

    A stud CB and depth/competition elsewhere is potentially all we need for a very solid D.

  • http://Website netherman

    Who do you like in the draft at LB that could be targets in the middle rounds? It is certainly not our top priority, although if Bradley does not come back, I would argue that it is our 2nd or 3rd highest priority.

    If we went after a CB in free agency, who is a realistic target? While the thoughts of Nnamdi are fun, it seems highly unlikely they would allot that much $ at the CB position.

    One last question that has been burning in my brain. If they cannot trade Kolb before the draft, do you think they have a scenario in place to trade for a player. Any thoughts on teams that need a QB and may have depth somewhere that would help us. I would think for both the Eagles and a trade partner it would be useful to know they have x player in their back pocket and can afford to not make a reach pick in the draft to fill it. I will be sorely disappointed if we don’t get something we can use this year for him.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00283968416092444778 T_S_O_P

    Wouldn’t a R’n'R linebacking core help Clayton?

  • http://Twitter.com/cliphord Cliff

    So what do we know about Stew Bradley headed in to this season? Was last season’s performance “poor” and if so, was that a result of coming back from injury?

    I was less than impressed by his 2010 campaign.

  • http://Website Stephen

    Hey Tommy, great to have you back! I missed your insight greatly during this offseason.

    While I am certainly not a fountain of football wisdom, do I have a few thoughts:

    I think its a great idea to go back to 1 gap play for the DT’s, I think that they’re better suited for that, and I think the lack of a pass rush from the DT position has really hurt our ability to get pressure on the QB.

    The Juan Castillo move was shocking, but after reading what you said about the back and forth between him and JJ over the years, I’m actually pretty excited to see what he ends up doing.

    Also, it might just be me, but are we getting more aggressive with our assistant coaching changes? Used to be it seemed we did everything internally and were maybe overly committed to guys we already had (cough Rory Segrest cough). Now we seem to have stocked up on real high quality assistant coaches like Bobby April and Jim Washburn, guys who are really respected around the league. I wonder if Bid Red is feeling the pressure a little bit and if this has lead him to be more aggressive in this regard…

    Mcdermott leaving was the right thing, I think he just wasn’t ready for the transition to DC.

    I’m really worried about this QB situation we have going on. Vick is on the other side of 30, and his athleticism is going to decline with age, plus with his running style he’s going to be more injury prone. If we deal Kolb how many more years do we realistically have with Vick? I feel like we might be putting ourselves in a position where in a few years we’re once again hunting for a franchise QB. Thats not to say I am 100% convinced Kolb is that guy, I just wish we could get him a full 16 game season to take a look at him. Other teams seem to have great interest, which is encouraging. If we can get a 1st rounder for him wouldn’t that be a great return on investment?

  • http://igglesblitz.com Tommy Lawlor

    RE: Keenan Clayton

    He should be a better fit in a read ‘n react style. He obviously runs very well. Good tackler. He still needs to add bulk and strength for those plays when he does have to battle blockers.

    RE: LBs / OL

    I haven’t had a chance to study tape of TEN’s defense thoroughly yet. I watched some tape to check out their DL, but didn’t focus on the LBs.

    One thing to keep in mind is that they didn’t have a monster set of LBs. Their OLBs for several years were David Thornton (6’2, 233) and Keith Bulluck (6’3, 235). Those aren’t huge guys. They used a variety of guys at MLB, but Stephen Tulloch right now is 5’11, 240.

    By staying back off the LOS, the LBs should be able to see the ball and go in pursuit. Sometimes they’ll have to battle blockers, but they’ll have other plays where they have a somewhat clean path to the ball.

  • http://igglesblitz.com Tommy Lawlor

    RE: DTs

    I’m working on a post that will describe this situation. It got a bit delayed due to this post and the general comments on defense.

    RE: LBs of interest in the draft

    I’ll put out a column on this. Might be my subject for PE.com this week.

    RE: CB targets

    I think the Eagles will strongly consider Nnamdi Asomugha. The problem could be teams like the Texans that are desperate and will break the bank. The Eagles won’t just give him a blank check.

    Jonathan Joseph is the next big name out there, if 4-year guys become FAs. He’s the kind of young star the Eagles might really covet.

    RE: Kolb

    Eagles want to deal him. The market will be good. They won’t want to settle for future picks, but finding a team that wants Kolb and has players the Eagles covet might be a tough match. The Eagles are choosy.

  • http://igglesblitz.com Tommy Lawlor

    RE: Stewart Bradley

    He disappointed everyone in 2010. We knew he was coming off an ACL, but he seemed to run and move pretty well. The troubling part was that he didn’t seem to trust the knee in close quarters. He looked hesitant to fully engage blockers. I thought he was better 10 yards off the ball than right at the line. Weird.

    I think Stew will be a different player in 2011, but I sure don’t know that for a fact. Can’t help but be a little nervous about him.

  • http://igglesblitz.com Tommy Lawlor

    RE: QB situation

    Vick can play several more years. There should be a decent amount of tread left on the tire due to his 18-month federal vacation and the easy 2009 season.

    Eagles like Mike Kafka a lot. I doubt he’s ready for 2011, but he has a chance to be the future of the team.

    Assuming we deal Kolb, we will have to add a veteran QB. Alex Smith is the most intriguing name because of his potential, but SF seems to want him to stay as their starter.

    Just an FYI…Eagles did love Matt Leinart back in 2006. He was the #1 player on our board. A lot has changed since then, but Andy might be fascinated by him as another reclamation project.

  • http://Website Stephen

    I hope you’re right Tommy, I feel like with Vick we’re really rolling the dice with a guy who may only have a few top tier years left in him. If Kolb develops into a starter he could have almost a decade left in him. That is of course contingent on him actually becoming a good player, which we still don’t know about.

    If we were to get a top end pick this year, I wonder who we’d take? Patrick Robinson is a dream scenario! I’d feel a whole lot better about the QB situation at that point.

  • http://Website Stephen

    errr, CB situation even.

    Also, I must be missing something with Kafka, he looked like an Andy Hall type guy all over again. I’d be really worried if he got pressed into action this year.