Month: September 2011

Giants at Eagles Recap

Yesterday I said the Eagles defense has huge holes from talent and coaching. Today I’ll illustrate how.

Here’s a 37 yard run by Brandon Jacobs. The Eagles never had a chance:

Chaney and Rolle shoot to the left. Nate Allen, out of position to stop a run at the snap anyway, drops to a deep zone.

You can guess where this play went…
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The Eagles Defense is Offensive

I wish that meant it was winning games by scoring TDs on interceptions and fumbles. But no, it’s just down right offensive. We’re only three games into the season and it’s perfectly clear that Juan Castillo is in over his head as the defensive coordinator and the perennial personnel failures are rearing their ugly head early. They’ve faced three teams with struggling offenses and made them look good and there’s little hope in sight that it will improve. Last week the Giants offense was so inept it got booed, yesterday Eli Manning threw 4 touchdowns. The Falcons have struggled mightily against the Bears and Buccaneers defenses, in between Matt Ryan threw 4 touchdowns against the Eagles. The Rams… well the Rams have no offense and they still put up 335 yards on the Birds. We thought that was kinks getting worked out, players still adjusting to new roles, the coaching staff still adjusting both to new players and to being new to coaching defense, but it has become clear: for all the talent on the team, they’re just not good enough and not coached well enough.

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Week 3, Giants at Eagles: Walk the Walk Without a Fake Limp

Deon Grant was asked by reporters why he faked an injury against the Rams. His response was to show them the swelling on his knee as proof he was really hurt.

He showed them the wrong leg, illustrating that it’s always easier to tell the truth because you don’t have to remember what you said or did.

Osi Umenyiora spent the off-season and training camp complaining about his contract. This prompted Shady McCoy to call him overrated and soft, which you can do when you’re on a 6 game winning streak against his team, with the last one being an all-time great game. Osi responded by saying “she can say whatever she wants” and calling McCoy a “Chihuahua” and “Lady Gaga” which is apparently what the entire Giants defense calls Shady. I suspect McCoy has been called worse. Lady Gaga by the way has larger balls than Osi Umenyiora.

By the way, Osi is out for Sunday’s game, listed with a knee injury but the reality is he has a broken vagina. What a pity.

Antrel Rolle said he will have no problem covering DeSean Jackson.

You might play on punt coverage then Antrelle.

Steve Smith signed with the Eagles after he felt disrespected by the Giants, which Tom Coughlin couldn’t understand in large part because Tom Coughlin is a cold, soulless authoritarian who is a holocaust denier, a 9/11 truther and is a member of the Tea Party. I’ll let you decide which is worse.

Ah, there’s blood in the air. It must be time for another Giants vs Eagles game.

Beating the Giants is so much fun they made a movie about it.

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Shuffling Deck Chairs: The Eagles Finally Change the Linebackers

Finally, Andy Reid and Juan Castillo came to their senses and put Jamar Chaney back at middle linebacker and moved Casey Matthews to the outside. It should have never happened in the first place.

Last year, Chaney took over in the middle of the Cowboys game for the injured Stewart Bradley. The Cowboys, like any team should when a starter goes down, went right at him. Chaney made 8 tackles in an admirable job in relief. The next week the Giants, an even bigger running team, went at him again, and again Chaney held his own and the Giants were held to 100 yards rushing. His next two starts, against Minnesota and then Green Bay in the playoffs, were what you would expect from a rookie 7th rounder thrown into the fire: at times he looked good, at times he struggled. Compared to Ernie Sims and Fokou, he was a breath of fresh air.

This year has been a mess with the linebackers. Matthews’ size and skill set suited him to the WILL. Moise Fokou shouldn’t be starting, but someone has to play the SAM when there’s 3 LBs on the field and LBs are an afterthought to Reid and GM Howie Roseman. Instead of keeping Chaney and Fokou where they ended the season and plugging Matthews in where the lousy Ernie Sims was (or going out and getting an established LB or two), green-as-can-be first year defensive coordinator Juan Castillo, and his first year linebackers coach Mike Caldwell, installed Matthews as the MIKE, Fokou as the WILL and Chaney as the SAM. Results were predictable: they stunk. Matthews was completely overmatched against the run, Chaney’s abilities were misused away from the middle of the field, and Fokou struggled. The run defense, with the Wide 9 defensive line leaving gaping holes for the LBs to plug in the run game, was terrible. Topping it off, as the MIKE, rookie Casey Matthews was given play calling duties.

Now, heading into the Giants game, they’ve put everyone where they belong, with Chaney patrolling the middle, Fokou at SAM and Matthews on the weakside where his inability to get off of blockers will be less of an issue. The run defense is still a major issue, after all it’s still the same 3 players out there and it’s still the same enormous running lanes for the opposition, but with Chaney in the middle there’s hope it will improve. Of course, there’s almost no place to go but up for the run defense. So now the Giants and their 3.3 yards per carry come to town to test out the new LB look, so maybe the run D will appear better than it really is.

Looking Back at the Falcons Game

The game really wasn’t that bad. The Eagles should have won, but Vick did too much, the run defense broke down (I’m amazed it lasted that long) and NBC screwed the Eagles out of a replay.

I’ve got a couple of questions, and thankfully the video has answers.

So how did the Eagles defense keep Michael Turner in check for 3 quarters?

The defensive line won the battles. Cullen Jenkins blew by backup center Joe Hawley, Jenkins, Dixon and Patterson got good penetration, and Trent Cole abused Sam Baker all night long. For most of the game, Turner couldn’t get past the line of scrimmage because there were simply too many Eagles in the backfield. This goal line run by Turner is a great example:
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Week 2 Thoughts: It’s A 60 Minute Game

Tough loss to take. For most of the game, Michael Turner was controlled. For most of the game, Jeremy Maclin was in control. For most of the game, Matt Ryan did not play well. For most of the game, Vick did.

But that’s most of the game, and it’s a 60 minute game, and it all fell apart for the Eagles.

Never a good sign.

Mike Kafka played very well in relief of a concussed Vick, so it’s not fair to say that had Vick been in they would have won. Maybe they would have, or maybe Vick would have fumbled again. There’s a lot to take from this game.

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Looking Deeper: What to Expect on 3rd Down Against the Falcons

Third down is where you make your money in the NFL. This isn’t any kind of revelation. 1st and 2nd down, you can do all the trickery, all the game theory, all the experimentation that you want. On 3rd down (and, should you chose to go for it, 4th down), you have to convert. Do you achieve this by putting the ball in the hands of your best players and have them make a play, or do you try to have the defense overreact to your playmakers and get it to a role player? In their Week 1 game against the Bears, the Falcons tried to get the ball to their best players and have them make a play. On every play. Not once did they try to fool the Bears. In fairness, the Bears defense is pretty hard to fool, so maybe it’s just best to go headstrong.

The Falcons had 14 3rd or 4th down plays, plus two that got called back due to penalties. On 14 of those 16 plays (12 of the 14 that counted), they were in shotgun. To no surprise, every 3rd and 4th down shotgun play included Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez. Eric Weems and Harry Douglas alternated as the fourth receiver. Only once did the Falcons run the ball, on 3rd and 1, Turner broke past a stacked box for a 53 yard gain. The other 13 times they passed, and every time Ryan looked at one of his three big targets first, second and third. Not once was Harry Douglas or Eric Weems the primary target on a play where White, Jones and Gonzalez were dummies to open up space for the role players. Douglas, Jason Snelling and Jacquizz Rodgers were each a pass target, Snelling twice, all were on check downs, all of them were dropped.

So the Falcons game plan was get the playmakers the ball on 3rd down, and to do it in shotgun. Certainly a good philosophy to have. But when you do it on every play, it becomes really predictable and bland. This is highlighted by a sequence in the 3rd quarter, where the Falcons are facing 3rd and 17. The ball is on the left hash, the Falcons come out in shotgun, as always, in a 3 x 1 formation with Tony Gonzalez in the middle of the trips to Ryan’s right. Gonzalez is flanked by Harry Douglas to the inside and Roddy White outside the numbers. Julio Jones is alone on the left. Pre-snap, the Bears show Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings directly over White and Jones, with DJ Moore over both Douglas and Gonzalez. Gonzalez comes in motion to the left, stopping in front of Matt Ryan, then goes back to where he came. Moore floats with Gonzalez during his motion, staying with him but apparently ready to pass him off if he crosses over to the other side of the field. When Gonzalez sets he his locked in, back on his original spot, Moore is on him. Douglas is left to be picked up by Brian Urlacher in zone defense. On the snap, Jason Snelling, lined up to Ryan’s left, checks to block any oncoming pass rushers then finds open space. Douglas runs down the seam, Jones and White run fly routes. But Falcons backup center Joe Hawley is flagged for a false start due to a head bob. Gonzalez is about to give Moore some kind of move but the whistle blows before he can do it. So now it’s 3rd and 22.

The Falcons run the exact same play again. Every single thing I just described in pre-snap happened exactly the same way, except that Moore didn’t follow Gonzalez around as much during Gonzalez’s motion. He knows that Gonzalez isn’t going anywhere, and if he does that Lance Briggs will pick him up. Urlacher is set up a few yards deeper than before, but still with the same pre-snap responsibilities: Briggs and Urlacher are dropping back, splitting the area between the numbers into zones. All the receivers in the frame did the exact same thing. Douglas ran down the seam, the linebackers dropped into zone. Jones ran a fly, Gonzalez makes his move on Moore at the same place, it’s a curl route but seeing that Moore is playing zone he options to an out route. Snelling checked for a pass rusher, there was none so he headed to the middle of the field. Ryan, pressured by a straight four man pass rush, had no place to go and dumped it off to Snelling 4 yards past the line of scrimmage. On 3rd and 22. Snelling dropped the ball and would have immediately been tackled by Moore and Briggs.

The Falcons went 4 for 14 on 3rd/4th down. Maybe it’s because they were so vanilla.

Now compare this to the Eagles, who by design threw at Jason Avant, LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin, DeSean Jackson (from that bunch formation Dave hates), Brent Celek and Dion Lewis. The Eagles went 8 for 12 on third down, which isn’t a sustainable rate (the Falcons’ 31% on 3rd down however is, it would have been 29th in the NFL last year). One team tried to force the ball to three players, the other team spread it around to twice as many. The former had terrible results, the latter was ruthlessly efficient. Good processes lead to good results. 3rd down will be something to keep your eye on Sunday night. Will the Falcons try to spread the ball around instead? What if that doesn’t work early on? Do they stick with it or try to go back to force feeding it? Or do they chalk up the poor performance as a not likely to repeat result and force feed it from the get go?