This week: All-22 thoughts and 2 plays diagrammed. Unlike previous weeks, there were not many positives to take out of this game. Starting to see clear evidence of the lack of talent at several positions for the Eagles. I talked about some of this in the post-game, so I’ll try not to repeat myself.
– RG3 was clearly not 100%….That should scare you. I’m really not excited that this guy is in our division. He appears to have just about every tool you can imagine for a quarterback. Eagles fans should hope the Redskins continue to neglect the defensive side of the ball, because that offense is going to be tough to stop for a long time if RG3 stays healthy.
– A mixed day for Nick Foles. 3 bad moments surrounded by a lot of positives, which is becoming a theme. The fumble was a huge mistake, likely costing the Eagles 3 points on what should have been a throw-away. The missed throw to Maclin was Foles’ worst attempt of the day. It’s impossible to know whether his hand fracture is to blame, but in any case that is a pass he has to make. The final play of the game was painful to watch. It doesn’t look like there’s much more he could have done, but he has to know that his two choices are throw it out the back of the end zone or put up a 50/50 ball, can’t take a sack there (essentially what he did by grounding it.)
However, the rest of the day was strong, and he again showed that he has the ability to move the offense down the field consistently. There were a few plays where he was hesitant to pull the trigger, even though he appeared to have a receiver to throw to. Probably him being risk-averse, but he’ll need to become more confident in his reads.
– Tough day for the defense against the run. Allowed 4.6 ypc and 128 total rushing yards. Alfred Morris is a tough match-up for anyone, but the Eagles really need to do a better job of stopping the runner at first contact. You can’t expect to win every one-on-one battle, but there were several plays where Morris dragged multiple Eagles defenders for additional yards. When you’ve got 2+ defenders in contact with a runner, he should not gain any additional yards. The LBs were a bit exposed, though they didn’t get much help from the safeties….
-Speaking of safeties, Colt Anderson had a bad game. I know he’s become a fan favorite, mostly due to his clear effort and big-play ability on special teams, but the guy really shouldn’t be anywhere near the starting safety position. He missed several tackles and was beat in coverage for a TD by Santana Moss. Great effort on every play, but clearly doesn’t have the athleticism to do that job full-time.
– OL had another poor game. Not something to really focus on, as it’s about what you’d expect from a bunch of depth players, but it’s worth noting that Foles was pressured often.
– Bryce Brown? Absolutely unacceptable to ignore Bryce Brown, regardless of his “fumbling problem”. The sole purpose of this team for the last few weeks of the season should be getting young players game experience and trying to evaluate the talent they have. 4 carries isn’t getting it done. The only reason for it is Andy Reid putting his own performance above the long-term best interests of the team (can’t blame him but it still sucks.)
I liked the idea of him at KR, but he was far too hesitant on Sunday. The returner needs to pick a seam and attack it. Hopefully he’ll step his game up against the Giants, but it’s a tough mindset to get into if it’s not natural.
– Questionable play-calling from Marty. The Eagles continue to use a lot of draws, the reason for which is beyond my comprehension. The general idea of the draw is twofold: it shows pass, which holds the LBs, and it also gives the DEs time to rush themselves out of position, hopefully opening up running lanes for the back. However, it also gives the DL extra time to attack the backfield. Considering the poor quality of the OL for the Eagles, is making them protect longer really the best strategy? I’ve seen far too many of these plays get blown up in the backfield, yet the Eagles continue calling them. They’ve had some success running PA while faking the draw, but those gains have been nowhere near great enough to offset the negative plays.
Play 1: Foles to Maclin
1st and 10 at the Redskins 27. 10:24 remaining in the First quarter.
This was a very nice play all-around for the Eagles, as all 5 linemen handled their assignments, picking up an extra rusher, while Foles delivered a perfect ball to Maclin, who was running a corner route. Below, we can see every player’s assignment. The defenders noted with red circles all rush the QB at the snap.
The key to the play is the Redskins alignment. They’ve chosen to blitz (sending 5 rushers, all on the LOS at the snap.) In order to gain that extra rusher while still marking all Eagles receivers, they’ve left themselves with just a single deep safety, positioned in the middle of the field.
Riley Cooper’s route gives Maclin the space he needs to complete the TD. Cooper runs a seam or a dig (he cuts it off inside after the play develops, can’t tell if it was part of the design), which holds the safety in the middle of the field. Unable to commit until the ball is thrown, the safety isn’t quick enough to get to the sideline and break up the play.
Above, there are three things to note as the play is in progress: the OL has given Foles plenty of space/time, the safety’s only movement has been two steps backwards, and Maclin’s CB has failed to recover after trying to jam the WR at the line. The CBs play has allowed Maclin to get behind him, which gives Foles the window he needs to make the throw.
Below we see the final shot of the play, just after Foles releases the football. Notice that the safety has just reacted and is just a step from his starting position. Riley Cooper is about to break inside, but his job is done, as he forced the safety to honor his route and kept him from getting to Maclin. Maclin has just made his cut and now has separation from the defender. Foles is able to step into the throw, which he delivers perfectly, allowing for an easy TD catch.
The takeaway from this play should be familiar: when the OL diffuses the blitz, the odds shift dramatically in the offenses favor. That, combined with a smart route combination (Riley seam + Maclin corner) led to a relatively easy TD throw/catch for the Eagles and a quick start to the game.
Play 2: Blitz Backfire
3rd and 10, 1:37 to go in the 3rd Quarter. Ball on the Eagles’ 22 yard line.
This is the Santana Moss TD. Similar to the play above, the key is that the Eagles rush 6 at the QB and don’t get home, leaving Colt Anderson in single coverage against Santana Moss…a poor matchup for the Eagles to say the least.
Here is the alignment at the moment of the snap. The Eagles are in the nickel, with 3 CBs, 2 LBs, and 2 Ss. The DL is in the Wide-9, and the LBs (Ryans and Kendricks) are on the LOS in the A gaps (to the left and right of the Center.) Kendricks backs out at the snap, but the Eagles bring the slot corner blitz (leaving Colt to cover Moss), for a total of 6 rushers, highlighted by the red circles below.
There’s nothing fancy to the Redskin’s play design. The key is that the RB stays in to block, leaving 6 blockers (5 OL + 1 RB) for 6 rushers, and everyone hits their assignment. Meanwhile, Santana Moss runs a route similar to Maclin’s TD, just on the opposite side of the field. Anderson underestimates Moss’ speed and his ability to maintain it through his break, allowing the WR to run past him and gain separation shockingly fast.
Below, we can see the play in action. Notice RG3’s pocket, he’s got plenty of time to let Moss get downfield despite the blitz. Anderson is still flat-footed, with 6-7 yards of space between him and Moss.
Finally, we see Moss just after his break and Griffin’s throw. At this point, Anderson is in good position, however, now it’s just a footrace, which obviously Anderson loses badly (Moss is one of the faster players in the league, Colt is….not.)
Two final things to note on this play: First, RG3’s throw was phenomenal (roughly 45 yards through the air with pinpoint accuracy.) Exhibit A of why this guy scares me as a an Eagles fan (Exhibit B would be his running, but he decided to leave that at home on Sunday.)
Second, very questionable defensive play-calling here by Bowles. It’s 3rd and 10, meaning if you play a standard defense you should have a very good chance of holding them to a field goal attempt. Additionally, the ball is on the 22, so a sack doesn’t take the Redskins out of field goal range. Therefore, rushing 6 men at the QB is really a High-Risk/Low-Reward decision. This is something coaches do fairly often, and I find it infuriating, as it’s clearly not an optimal decision. Some may argue that Bowles was trying to keep Griffin from having the time to complete a long pass, but the fact is that a 10 yard route does not take very long to develop and rushing TWO extra men leaves a lot of holes in the secondary, which NFL QBs typically do not need a long time to find. The blitz needs to be used intelligently and sparingly…3rd and 10 in the red zone (practically) is not the time.
Would you take play 1 as evidence that Foles has the arm strength and accuracy to throw the deep ball if he improves his mechanics in the offseason?
I haven’t given up on his arm strength. In theory, that’s one area of his game he should definitely be able to improve upon, whether it be strength training or better mechanics. I’m hesitant whenever any QB tries to change their throwing motion, but I don’t think Foles needs to do anything that drastic. His problems have more to do with footwork. Sucks we wont see him again until next year, but from what I’ve seen, he definitely has the potential to be a good QB (as long as the next coach buys into him.)