5, 6 or 7? That is the question.
As in…how many defenders are in the box? If the number is 5, run the ball you must (as Yoda would say). Chip Kelly’s offense is really based on simple principles. Create a situation where the offense has a favorable situation and get the ball there.
Sheil Kapadia wrote a great piece on the offense and how this principle worked on Friday, when the Eagles scored 2 TDs using the same play. One TD was a run, the other a pass. This is must read material.
We talked about this formation during the spring. If you have 2 guys out far to the left and right, the defense has no choice but to go light in the box or go 1-on-1 on the outside (actually 2-on-2, but you get the point…a single defender for each receiver). On Friday, we saw the Eagles exploit the box for the Bryce Brown TD and then exploit the outside on the Greg Salas TD.
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Here is a great article from Chris Brown (of SmartFootball.com) that was posted at Grantland.
Chris wrote about the overall offense that he saw on Friday. He talked about tempo, formations and plays. Chris discussed the passing game and how it looked compared to what he saw at Oregon. While the stats are Oregon were good, the passing game wasn’t impressive. QBs did not run a crisp, smooth passing attack. Ron Jaworski said this summer that he had concerns about Kelly and his passing game translating to the NFL. Chris was more confident in Chip, but knew the passing game would need to look better than it did at Oregon.
In this context, however, Kelly’s seemingly odd hires of Shurmur, quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor, and wide receivers coach Bob Bicknell, who each have years of NFL experience coaching the passing game, make a lot more sense — Kelly was hiring to his weaknesses. His staff’s influence and an improvement in Kelly’s passing game were evident against New England.
Somewhat surprisingly, I didn’t see the Eagles run any passing plays that Kelly didn’t also use at Oregon — each Philly quarterback threw snag with backside double slants, for example — but it’s clear the Eagles staff has been drilling the quarterbacks and receivers on footwork, timing, and the other little details necessary to complete just about any pass in the NFL. Philadelphia’s passing game actually looked better than its running game against New England.
That said, it’s still far too early to level any judgment on how good the Eagles passing offense will be. The number and variety of coverages and blitzes will jump from preseason to the real games, and the Eagles’ emphasis on giving receivers the flexibility to adjust their routes on the fly means that it will take weeks of study for any outsider — including Philly’s opponents — to get an accurate handle on what they are being asked to do and how well they are doing it. I’m not ready to declare the Eagles passing game a success (let them at least pick a quarterback first), but it’s clear Kelly is trying to address my biggest concern, namely the basic fundamentals of throwing and catching the football.
I was encouraged by what we saw offensively on Friday. Both Vick and Foles threw the ball well. Barkley had issues, but they were affected by his OL play and the fact he didn’t have great skill players with him. It will be interesting to see how much better the QBs look this week…or do they take a step back?
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I didn’t link to practice stuff the last couple of days. Let’s see what we missed.
• Temporary starting LT Allen Barbre did a good job on Trent Cole today during 11-on-11’s. Cole didn’t sniff the QB. I’d have to think Barbre is looking like a lock to make the team at this point. Jason Peters got some work in today in a few drills, although he did not participate in 11-on-11’s.
• There seemed to be a really good energy from the defense today. They were chippy. Bradley Fletcher threw Riley Cooper to the ground on one play. Patrick Chung got into it a little bit with Brent Celek. Brandon Boykin looked angry at times today. It was good to see a little fire.
You must go to the piece to see Jimmy’s artwork. His picture of Chip Kelly is simply great.
5) Vinny Curry played a great game last Friday. He is definitely a player to watch this Thursday against the Panthers.
6) The NFC is loaded with talented, mobile QBs like RG3, Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson, etc. If the Eagles are going to contend in the NFC in the near future they’re going to have to deal with those kinds of QBs on defense. Thursday will be their first test against that kind of QB in Cam Newton.
7) Connor Barwin may be one of the most important players on the team. If the lose him at any point, they don’t have a proven OLB who can drop into coverage. Barwin has had a great camp, but there are concerns about his drop in production from 2011 to 2012, although that was mostly in regard to sack totals. If Barwin stays healthy and has a good season, the Eagles defense may not be as bad as some people think they’ll be. If he either gets hurt or doesn’t play well, they’re in deep trouble.
There is more artwork to check out. Also, the worms of Philly speak up and Jimmy is there to listen.
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And now to Sheil Kapadia. Here are Monday’s notes.
1:28 – One-on-one blocking drills. For the first time all summer, the tight ends are getting the best of the outside linebackers. James Casey handles Chris McCoy. Zach Ertz, who did not look good as a blocker on Friday, does a good job on Connor Barwin. And Emil Igwenagu owns Brandon Graham on the last rep of the drill.
Next up is special teams. As usual, Kelly spends time with the returners. DeSean Jackson holds two tennis balls in his hands and catches the punt. Then LeSean McCoy strolls over. McCoy is one of the few players who has nothing to do during special-teams periods. His fellow running backs are participating on return and coverage teams. So McCoy needs to find some way to occupy himself. He jumps in and starts fielding punts – or at least trying. All the fundamental aspects of fielding punts that Kelly has been drilling into the heads of Jackson and Damaris Johnson? McCoy basically does the opposite.
Kelly seems to be getting a kick out of McCoy’s exploits. Asked yesterday about his relationship with the running back, Kelly said: “He’s a little bit more Chuckles the Clown than I am.”
1:42 – During 7-on-7 drills, Brent Celek, who has not had a very good camp, makes a nice grab on a low throw from Michael Vick. Vick then throws a dart to Jackson on an out pattern.
Nick Foles holds the ball too long on his first rep. But he then throws a beauty to Johnson in between three defenders. The Eagles continue to experiment with a three-safety look. This time, it’s Kurt Coleman, Wolff and Chung.
Vick’s back up. He just barely overthrows Celek down the middle. Celek got past Mychal Kendricks on the play. Vick then rifles one to Jackson, just ahead of Wolff and Brandon Boykin. A good example of why arm strength matters. If that pass had just a little less velocity, it’s a pick-six for Wolff.
The blocking stuff is heaven/hell. You love hearing that the TEs were finally able to block the LBs…except that your LBs were blocked by TEs. Are the TEs getting better? Are the LBs getting worse? This is the curse of Training Camp. Every good Eagles play is also a bad Eagles play.
Both Sheil and Jimmy have noted over and over how active Kelly is with STs. That paid off on Friday night. Let’s hope that is a sign of things to come and STs once again becomes a point of strength.
2. Kelly talked about the defensive line and confirmed that the Eagles plan on using a rotation up front.
“A lot of times with the D-Line, because of how this game is played, we’re gonna be playing all six if we keep six on the active roster,” Kelly said. “So it’s not like he’s the starter and he’s gonna play and the only time the backup gets in the game is when somebody gets hurt. I think in that position particularly you’ll see that a lot more in the NFL. People are starting to rotate some defensive linemen to keep them fresh just because it’s such a tough position to play.”
Against the Patriots, Bennie Logan and Damion Square impressed the coaches. Vinny Curryalso played really well.
“I think everybody knows that when Vinny got drafted here, is that he’s a very, very good pass-rusher,” Kelly said. “So it’s a matter of now seeing him do the other things. We know Vinny can pass-rush. I think he showed that the other night. And that’s part of the evaluation. But you also have to be able to, for all those guys, what are they like in the run game? What are they like in all situations?”
Kelly was asked about Fletcher Cox as well. The 2012 first-round pick was outstanding in the Eagles’ 4-3 front as a rookie. In his first preseason action playing in a 3-4, Cox did not play well. Of course, he was only on the field for 16 snaps.
“We don’t cater our defense to one guy because there’s 10 other guys you have to worry about,” Kelly said, when asked if Cox is better suited for a one-gap scheme. “There’s a lot of different things when you go through everything, we’re gonna try to play to the overall team strength, what are we best at?”
Oregon rotated DL a lot. And the DL could be a strength so I’m all for rotating guys there.
The comments about Cox are good and bad. You don’t want to design your defense for one player, but if he’s your best player and is young, it sure as heck would make sense to make him a key part of your plans. If the Eagles had perfect 3-4 personnel outside of Cox, then building the defense around him would be dumb. That’s just not the case.
Kelly is a smart man. He does things for specific reasons. I trust him and the fact he’s got a plan that will make sense in the long run.
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One of the hot topics is Safety Earl Wolff. He got reps with the 1’s on Monday. Bill Davis explained this wasn’t a demotion for Nate Allen, but part of a regular rotation they’ve had. We’ve seen a regular rotation with DBs so I believe Davis when he says that.
Still, Dave Spadaro mentioned on Twitter that Wolff could start on Thursday. I don’t think that would be due to the rotation. That would be more of a “let’s see what the kid can do” type of situation. I don’t know if this was Dave simply speculating or if he was offering us a hint based on what he’s heard.
As someone pointed out, we have to be cautious in regard to Wolff. If he does start, this is partially due to him having a solid summer, but it really is more about the guys around him failing to step up and play good football. Both QBs are pushing each other. The Safeties seem to be enjoying each other’s mediocrity. Aside from Chung, that is. He’s playing well. Wolff looks like a promising rookie, but he’s hardly been the talk of camp.
We’ll see if he does start and if so, how he fares against starters. Keep your fingers crossed.
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There was some talk about 1-gap vs 2-gap and what all that means. I’ll try to cover that tonight.