Covering and Catching

Posted: July 25th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 45 Comments »

There were a pair of terrific articles on Thursday about the Eagles and their thinking behind specific positions. Sheil Kapadia wrote a great article on the secondary, while Paul Domowitch wrote about the changes taking place at WR.

Let’s start with Sheil and the DBs. First, this is a partial piece of writing. It is an excerpt from something Sheil wrote for the Eagles Almanac.


Eagles Almanac 2014

Most of you are probably familiar with the almanac, but for those who aren’t…imagine taking the movie The Expendables and replacing the action stars with Eagles hacks. Boom. That’s the Eagles Almanac.

We assemble the greatest Eagles writers on Earth and have them contribute an article or two on a variety of subjects. I chose to write 2 pieces. I wrote an article comparing the 1995 and 2013 seasons. Both years featured new coaches taking the teams to 10-6 records and the playoffs. But both seasons were also very different. 1995 is one of my all-time favorite seasons so I enjoyed covering that and I think we all loved last year.

I also wrote a draft review for the Eagles. I went back and re-watched the prospects, now knowing they are Eagles, and tried to come up with some original material on the players. This wasn’t just a copy ‘n paste from May articles on the draft.

Go here for full details on the Eagles Almanac. For $10 you get an online copy. For $25 you can have a hard copy. For $237,000 you can have the full set of writers come to your home and read their pieces to your kids as bedtime stories.

Okay, let’s get back to Sheil and his great excerpt from the Eagles Almanac. He wrote about how the Eagles use a lot of Cover 3. Sheil got players and coaches to give him quotes on how this is executed and how it works. Truly great stuff. Must read material.

“We played basically a traditional three-deep and quarters type coverage, and then quarter-quarter-half zone coverage,” said defensive backs coach John Lovett. “[Those] were our main calls. And then on third down, we tightened things up. We played some different forms of man coverage. If you look back in a nutshell as far as what we did, it would fall into those general categories.”

The one coverage the Eagles went to over and over again (specifically on early downs) was the three-deep zone, or Cover 3. That featured three deep defenders (two cornerbacks and a safety) splitting the field into thirds and four “rally” defenders (usually two inside linebackers, an outside linebacker and a safety) underneath.

The Eagles plans made a lot of sense. Don’t get beat deep. Keep things in front of you and then rally to the ball. Bend, but don’t break. The problem is that the Eagles missed some key tackles and also lacked the speed in the middle of the field to make these ideas work really well.

The team’s tackling got better as the season went along and that helped the defense quite a bit. Remember the nightmare of the KC game? The Eagles would get the Chiefs into 3rd and long, only to have Donnie Avery catch a 5-yard pass (or less) and then run around the middle of the field for 15 to 20 yards and a 1st down. I don’t know if that was part of Dante’s levels of Hell, but it sure felt like it that night. Ugh.

Malcolm Jenkins is going to bring some aggression  to the middle of the field and that’s a good thing.

“I’m in the middle of the field so I’m protecting the corners on post routes,” said Malcolm Jenkins, who admitted he did not play a lot of Cover 3 in New Orleans. “I’m protecting inside players on verticals by your tight ends and wide receivers. But at the same time, somebody like me, I get a little nosy and I like to try to rob some things when I know my corners can lock down their sides, and then I don’t have to babysit them. You can make a lot of plays, especially off tipped balls and overthrows. You’ve just gotta find a way to get around the ball.”

If you watch the Saints game, you’ll see Nate Allen playing on his heels. That’s fine in some situations, but not all game long. You need Safeties that can and will attack, whether this means a pass over the middle or a RB coming their way. Attack.

While the Cover 3 is a zone defense, you don’t guard blades of grass. You line up in a zone (or area), but the job is to then cover whatever comes inside of that zone. You need to be tight to the receiver or in a position to break on the ball if it is thrown to your area. Simply being in the right spot isn’t enough.

I’m hoping Allen will be more confident this year and will play more aggressively. I also hope Earl Wolff stays healthy and really pushes him for the starting job. I don’t care who wins it, I just want better Safety play than 2013.

Go read the whole piece by Sheil. There are lots of insightful quotes by players on what their specific duties are within the framework of the defense. I can’t wait to read the Eagles Almanac so I can see the entire article.

* * * * *

Domo wrote about the Eagles getting bigger at WR and what the thinking is.

“People want to put you in man-to-man coverage,” Kelly said. “We saw that more than other people. Having guys who can get open against man coverage is a key deal. I think that’s the one thing we know as a group going in. One-on-one coverage is a big deal for us. It’s a big deal in this league. We’re always looking for guys who can exploit that matchup.”

That’s a major reason the 5-9, 175-pound Jackson was released in March, and it’s a major reason the Eagles acquired pass-catching running back Darren Sproles and drafted 6-3, 222-pound wide receiver Jordan Matthews and sturdy (5-11, 206) Josh Huff.

“The addition of Sproles, are you [still] going to play us in man?” Kelly said. “If you do, then now you’re going to have a linebacker covering him if he’s the back. That’s kind of a huge addition when we thought about bringing him in.”

Another interesting twist: Kelly plans to use Matthews in the slot, where his size potentially will create problems for smaller slot corners. Most teams use smaller, quicker receivers in the slot.

“I think people match up to us [in man coverage] because of what we do and the speed and tempo that we play,” Kelly said after the draft. “It’s the easiest thing to get lined up quick [in man coverage]. [They say] ‘Hey, you’ve got him and I’ve got him.’

“If we’re going to see [man coverage] a lot, how do you get guys that exploit that coverage? In a league where sometimes people put smaller guys in the slot, we want to put a bigger guy in there. I think that matchup, if you’re a smaller DB in the slot and have to match up with a 220-pound guy like Jordan who also can run 4.46, that’s going to favor us.”

The Eagles have 13 wide receivers on their training-camp roster. Just one – Damaris Johnson – is shorter than 5-11. Seven are 6-2 or taller. There’s a good possibility that four of the six wideouts who make the season-opening roster will be 6-2 or taller.

“I know I talk about big people beating up little people, but that’s more of a defensive philosophy for us,” Kelly said. “But at the receiver position, it’s your ability to beat one-on-one coverage. And honestly, I don’t think people really beat it that often. You’re going to have to catch a lot of contested footballs.

“I think that’s one of the things that makes Riley [Cooper] such a good target. He’s 6-3 and over 230 now. He can muscle [defenders] and go get the ball. I think people play defense so close in this league, that your ability to go get the football is really what kind of separates people.”

I remember watching the Eagles in 1995. Jon Gruden’s WCO wanted receivers who could really work the middle of the field. Fred Barnett and Calvin Williams preferred working down the field or to the outside. The passing attack was a mess, to put it mildly. The Eagles let go of both guys and replaced them with Chris T. Jones and Irving Fryar, a pair of big, physical receivers. The passing offense looked night and day different in 1996. You must have the right receivers for the right situation. Fred Barnett was a terrific receiver, but not for the WCO. Fryar was made for that role.

We don’t know how the Eagles new set of receivers will do, but I love the fact there is distinct planning going on and not just random change. Kelly’s plan might not work, but there is a well-thought out plan behind the moves. I do think having the bigger receivers will work, and as a bonus they will block better in the run game.

It was also interesting to read that Cooper is now more than 230 pounds. He is one big WR.

Good stuff from Domo.

* * * * *

Players report today and Training Camp officially starts tomorrow. Is everyone excited?


45 Comments on “Covering and Catching”

  1. 1 Tumtum said at 9:45 AM on July 25th, 2014:

    “but I love the fact there is distinct planning going on and not just random change”

    As much as Big Red was known for having a plan it never did seem like he had a great plan at WR. He wanted one guy to be a speedster to stretch the defense and the other to be a more complete player. Pinkston/Thrash, Jackson/Maclin, (random name who never materialized/Reggie Brown, are all examples. I guess it worked to a certain extent because the offense was very successful. The WRs themselves just did not have great individual success.

  2. 2 Sean Stott said at 1:29 PM on July 25th, 2014:

    Can’t remember the last time I saw Pinkston/Thrash spelled incorrectly. The correct spelling is Stinkston/Trash.

  3. 3 Ben Hert said at 9:48 AM on July 25th, 2014:

    Two questions:

    1. I’ve always been curious how defensive schemes come together throughout the game. The more I learn about it, the more I realize its so much different from the offensive play-calling. In the typical Madden player’s mind, defensive play-calls are done all at once, but from Lovett’s quote, it seems to me that each positional coach is involved with calling the coverage on specific downs. I’d assume then that Azz is calling what kinds of rushes and stunts, etc. that the DL is doing, which leaves Davis to…coordinate it between the two (well three plus LBs)? I know its different from team to team, but I’m kinda curious how that comes together in real time. How involved do the positional coaches get in calling coverages during the game? How do they work together with Davis to come up with each play-call? I’d love to hear and see that dynamic in play.

    2. Would you say that the Eagles were the better team that Thursday night against the Chiefs? I’d like to think they were, sans a few moronic plays.

    3. No to detract from your Eagles history piece, Tommy, but I think one or two Eagles history lessons by ACViking himself would be a great addition to next years almanac.

  4. 4 RogerPodacter said at 12:49 PM on July 25th, 2014:

    i’d love to see more stuff from ACViking here as well. maybe a weekly/monthly “Remembering the Good ‘Ol Days, with ACViking”. a history lesson for us all would be great!

  5. 5 Baloophi said at 1:20 PM on July 25th, 2014:

    Perhaps a fireside chat?

  6. 6 GEAGLE said at 9:27 PM on July 25th, 2014:

    Man… I always appreciate story time featuring Uncle viking

  7. 7 Mike Roman said at 11:33 AM on July 25th, 2014:

    I don’t have kids, but if I did, I wouldn’t let Eagles writers anywhere near them.

  8. 8 Ben Hert said at 1:31 PM on July 25th, 2014:

    You must have never read Uncle Jimmy’s Story time then…

  9. 9 RogerPodacter said at 4:48 PM on July 25th, 2014:

    HAH oh man do i miss those! my face was hurting from laughing so much reading those. too bad they are gone now : (
    i think he removed them for some reason or another. probably for the best!

  10. 10 Ben Hert said at 5:50 PM on July 25th, 2014:

    You can still find them, pretty sure they’re cached…

  11. 11 Anders said at 8:31 PM on July 25th, 2014:

    Of course, this is the internet

  12. 12 Anders said at 8:31 PM on July 25th, 2014:

    His wife wouldnt let him keep writing them.

  13. 13 D3FB said at 1:08 AM on July 26th, 2014:

    I thought it was his mom and dad.

  14. 14 eagleyankfan said at 11:55 AM on July 25th, 2014:

    “Nate Allen playing on his heels. That’s fine in some situations, but not all game long.” — I can’t name a situation where it’s ok for any player, in any sport, to play on their heels for even 1 play. Ever. Except Duck, Duck – Goose. Which Allen might be better suited for….

  15. 15 Dominik said at 12:33 PM on July 25th, 2014:

    I chose to write 2 pieces.

    You had me there. Seriously. I thought about buying it, but that turned the page for me.

    Sheil, Jimmy K + 2 pieces from you must be enough. Altough I have to say, you seem to have a sadistic mind, since you can only pre-order it now. When you made up your mind, that’s torture.

  16. 16 Dominik said at 1:01 PM on July 25th, 2014:

    wtf? Found this on Twitter (NSFW, I guess):

    I don’t know what that last user is all about (found him/her/whatever on Jimmys Twitter page), probably a troll. But I do know that, without knowing the guy personally, I’m pretty sure you could enjoy one or two drinks with our Starting Center. Don’t know if I ever saw that kind of dialogue between a pretty famous athlete and a fan on a public website.

  17. 17 CrackSammich said at 3:52 PM on July 25th, 2014:

    I bought him a shot when I saw him in Philly in the spring. Really cool dude.

    For comparison, Claude Giroux pretended to be on his phone to avoid talking to my group of friends on another night. I didn’t approach him with a drink, however.

  18. 18 Dominik said at 4:00 PM on July 25th, 2014:

    Cool story. You should never read too much into things like that (Twitter), but Kelce and Mathis sure seem like dudes you can hang out with. Maybe not the best role models for children in terms of wording, but hey – the kids can idolize Foles or St. Matthews. 🙂 Kelce and Mathis give you more of a adult material in terms of humor.

    If there is a personal relationship, even better. I hope he returned the favor, though. Just signed a big contract extension, he should be buying you a shot after you bought him one.

  19. 19 CrackSammich said at 4:08 PM on July 25th, 2014:

    He didn’t buy me one, but having the story to tell was worth the price of the shot. I certainly didn’t need another drink anyway.

  20. 20 Dominik said at 4:23 PM on July 25th, 2014:

    So you’d say Kelce was more responsible than cheap? 😉

  21. 21 Anders said at 8:31 PM on July 25th, 2014:

    Was you in Ottawa near his home town Hearst?

  22. 22 CrackSammich said at 9:36 PM on July 27th, 2014:

    No. It was last summer in Philly. I’ve seen the Flyers hanging out in Old City multiple times.

  23. 23 Anders said at 6:54 PM on July 28th, 2014:

    You didnt get the joke 🙁

  24. 24 A_T_G said at 2:34 PM on July 25th, 2014:


    You apparently still have my credit card on file from the in-home LASIK, based on the fact that I still get charged weekly for “Emergency follow up surgery availability” and “Corrective improvement brainstorming sessions” to compensate you for your valuable time spent contemplating my surgical outcome.

    You can charge the $247,000 to that card. After all, since you visited with you LASIK machine (which kinda looked like a bunch of laser pointers taped to a rifle scope) the kids have had all of their bedtime stories read by my wife. They are probably ready for a little variety.

    But no Jimmy. I don’t need to find someone asleep in a pool of his own vomit in the back seat of our car in the morning.

  25. 25 Jake and Elmo said at 2:57 PM on July 25th, 2014:

    Is it just me, or is there more of a tendency of sports writers these days to cross reference material written by other writers while heaping effusive praise on the other writer. I think it’s too much if you ask me. If you want to be a writer, come up with your own material.

  26. 26 Dominik said at 2:59 PM on July 25th, 2014:

    There are writers who Tommy respects. There are writers Tommy ignores. And there are writers he argues with. That’s his thing, he is no news guys, he analyzes. And he has his own material, you can be sure about that.

    You sure are allowed of your opinion, but to me, this point is not valid.

  27. 27 GEAGLE said at 9:24 PM on July 25th, 2014:

    Other than Tommy’s work, there really aren’t 3 writers in the almanac who’s opinion I respect enough to let in my brain space.
    I respect Tom, Sheil, and I respect Didingers acumen, but he got on my nerves when we hired Chip, but he is starting to come around….can’t really think of any other eagles media worth paying attention to.. Matt Lombardo is actually one of the more accurate philly media members, but he doesn’t get enough respect

    Trying to make a conscious effort to see every interview for myself so I don’t have to read reporters taking quotes out of context and fabricating stories….if I see all the interviews, I have no use for articles based on quotes from the interview..

    I Genuinly believe that payng attention to Eagles beat reporters make you dumber as a fan..
    That’s y I always tip my pimp hat to TY law!

  28. 28 Dominik said at 5:31 AM on July 26th, 2014:

    Mate, you should really stop listening to sports radio. It’s not good for you. 😉

    If you drive a lot in your car, buy an ebook or listen so music or something like that. To seem it seems like you are torturing yourself listening to those people who you found to be idiots.

  29. 29 Ben Hert said at 3:36 PM on July 25th, 2014:

    There’s so much coverage from so many sources these days that you don’t want to be writing about the same thing everyone else is all the time. The best option then, is to take that article and expound about it for your readers, giving your perspective.

    You don’t come to Iggles Blitz for the news coverage, you come to hear Tommy’s point of view and analysis on Eagles football. That’s exactly what he’s giving you when he takes one of SK’s or TM’s articles and quoting it. And its a hell of a lot better than 90% of the outlets that just plagiarize it. I’d much rather see the credit being giving with a link than I would a copy and paste from something I’ve already read.

  30. 30 A Roy said at 4:04 PM on July 25th, 2014:

    I don’t view Tommy as a sportswriter. He’s an analyst. The vast majority of his work is either fresh review/opinion or taking a simple comment or question from a reader (or sportswriter) and expounding/expanding or disagreeing with it, Sometimes he does point us to other work of interest.

    Of course, in this case, he is shamelessly shilling the Almanac.

  31. 31 Jernst said at 4:23 PM on July 25th, 2014:

    Plus the dudes pumped out, on average, MORE than 1 lengthy, in depth, cogent post PER DAY, during the entire off season when nothing is going on to keep us Eagles fans entertained FOR FREE…. Or, yea, sure I agree with Elmo and Patsy, what a tool for quoting other peoples work and offering his take. Come up with 3 great and original Eagles related ideas and articles a day and stop recycling the same old tune, Tommy, or I’m cancelling my subscription to your blog!

  32. 32 Baloophi said at 5:07 PM on July 25th, 2014:

    I agree that cross-referencing has become increasingly common but I would submit that whether it’s “too much” or, perhaps, plagiaristic depends on whether you make a distinction between “bloggers” and “writers.” For example – I think it’s perfectly fine for Tommy to reference and comment about other writers’ material as his goal is to generate discussion and present different points of view, in addition to his own. However, when the beat writer for the Inquirer links to someone else’s stuff it suddenly feels different to me – these are people with unique access to players and coaches, writing under the increasingly vague banner of journalism.

    The “half step” I’ve seen from many of those outlets is, for example, publishing a piece about the inside zone or Darren Sproles the day after Sheil or Tommy have posted something about those same topics. In a way, I feel for their situation: they want to acknowledge and engage the increasingly interactive blog-reading community yet struggle with their own journalistic integrity which tells them they should be generating their own, interesting perspectives.

    Lastly, I’d add that there are probably only so many purely “unique” angles to take as a sports writer. Just as Chip Kelly has said about plays (“if you weren’t in the room when the game was invented…”). The same can be said for writing in other avenues… the old, “there are only 7 original plots” or whatever. As a writer myself, I’ve found that attempting to generate something that’s never been seen or tried before is a fruitless venture… made clear to me when I discovered the “that’s funny… NOT!” joke so common in the 90’s actually existed in Victorian literature. All of that isn’t to say that one should actively attempt to pirate material or think that it’s okay to do so, but more to point out that writing is more an exercise in discovering your own voice… the “way” in which you express ideas.

  33. 33 A Roy said at 10:26 PM on July 25th, 2014:

    Boy meets football and falls in love. Boy loses football (due to banned substances?). Boy falls in love with football again.

    Are there 6 more plots?

  34. 34 Anders said at 8:29 PM on July 25th, 2014:

    Because Tommy never ever comes up with his own material right? Part of been a blogger is exposing your viewers to different opinions, not just your own.

  35. 35 Dominik said at 3:25 PM on July 25th, 2014:

    @ T-Law

    What are your notes about him?

    Cleared Waivers

    Right tackle Brennan Williams was selected in the third round of the 2013 NFL draft by the Houston Texans. Just one season in, he is out of a job. Williams seemed to face countless injuries his rookie year, landed on IR and was released with a failed physical designation. Williams had received a $542,900 signing bonus. His cap charge in Houston this year will now be $135,725 and next season will be $271,450. Houston avoids paying him $506,000 in salary.

    Despite going unclaimed on waivers, Williams could get another job and possibly quickly, depending on his health. Players like Williams would be
    signed to contracts for the minimum salaries, which for Williams would be $420,000, $495,000, and $585,000 over the next three seasons. Had he been claimed his salaries would have been $506,000, $596,000, and $686,000.

    Do you think we might be interested? Cheap, former Texans player, position of need, has a tendency for injuries – sounds like a player Howie would love. 🙂

  36. 36 Ben Hert said at 3:32 PM on July 25th, 2014:

    Injuries? Give him a smoothie, he’ll be the next Jason Peters. Just double check any prescription drugs that go into that smoothie…

  37. 37 GEAGLE said at 9:09 PM on July 25th, 2014:

    I really really like that kid. I wanted us to draft him and redshirt Him.. We should ABSOLUTELY take a flier on him

  38. 38 D3FB said at 1:04 AM on July 26th, 2014:

    If he was cut, it was because he’s really medically unfit to play football right now. He had microfracture surgery, his playing days are probably over. He was a third round pick a year ago, they would at least have kept him through camp if they had any faith. It’s a shame he was a decent prospect.

  39. 39 Dominik said at 5:34 AM on July 26th, 2014:

    Maybe worth a shot nonetheless? The Texans wanted to safe money, we could sign him for cheap – and put him on IR/PUP. It would be another way, but not completely different from the way we aquired Polk, f.e. We’re not losing much and have upside if he can get healthy.

  40. 40 Mitchell said at 6:34 PM on July 25th, 2014:

    If Lane has true medical condition he was taking the banned substance for, shouldn’t he appeal the suspension?

  41. 41 Dominik said at 7:13 PM on July 25th, 2014:

    The appeal was probably the reason it look so long before it was made offical. The NFL only announces a suspension when a possible appeal was denied. Since it took forever until they announced it, we should be pretty sure Johnson appealed it.

  42. 42 OldDocRoss said at 7:33 PM on July 25th, 2014:

    Yeah, he confirmed he appealed it:

    FWIW, “I took something for a medical condition that wound up containing a banned substance” is one of the main go to excuses* for guys who get caught so you’d have to be feeling pretty charitable to believe it.

    *The others being “tainted supplement” and the less frequently used, though arguably more awesome “I’m just so darn manly my testosterone’s always off the charts”.

  43. 43 Anders said at 8:28 PM on July 25th, 2014:

    Even if he really had a condition (doubtfully), he should still have gotten an exemption from the NFL, its super easy to get.

  44. 44 Mitchell said at 10:14 PM on July 25th, 2014:

    Yeh, that’s what I was thinking too. There just wasn’t much info on anything you know?

  45. 45 GEAGLE said at 9:16 PM on July 25th, 2014:

    Today was a great day and I really what’s so special about what Chip is trying to build…

    Enjoyed my days looking around and seeing key players from the elite teams hold out, while Evan Mathis shows just how special this thing is that we are building. Holding out was the only leverage Mathis had and he gained a lot of leverage with lanes suspension! but Mathis didn’t have it in him to hold out… Something so small, but far from common and insignificant in today’s sports landscape…
    It’s going to be a special years boys!

    Now, for the bad…. Did Yous hear Mciidiot this morning? Shockingly he doesn’t think FOles can play well for 16 games, and he said FOles should get ready for the “boooos”…’I swear seeing Mcnabb talk on my TV makes me want to brush his teeth with a brick!.. Go pat your back for the division banners you put up you childish loser.
    Dear Mcdickhead, FUCK OFF…. Sincerely, EAGLES NATION!!!
    If Mcnabb gets inducted into the hall of fame before Carmicheal I will lose it