Snap Count Insights…or Questions

I said after the game that the biggest disappointment for me was Bill Davis, the defensive coordinator.  Put simply, the defense was SO BAD at times, that a response of “let’s try anything because it can’t possible be worse than this” was warranted.  I still have to go through the All-22, but at the moment, it seems like Davis wasn’t nearly as creative as he could have/should have been.

At 1:42 pm on Sunday (early in the game), I tweeted this:

Screen Shot 2013-09-17 at 5.41.02 PM


As Eagles players have since confirmed, Rivers was consistently identifying the Eagles defensive alignment and pass-rushers pre-snap, then making the corresponding adjustments.  I’ve repeatedly stressed that I’m not a scout, nor do I have any professional experience.  The fact that I (and many spectators) quickly saw an issue should tell you how obvious it MUST have been to Davis.

Frankly, Rivers’ comfort level was so obvious that it should have warranted an immediate adjustment.  Unfortunately, that didn’t happen (at least not to the extent it should have.)

In that vein, I paid particular attention to the defensive snap counts from Sunday’s game.  Seeing as it was competitive the entire time (as compared to game 1), I thought it would give us a really good idea of what Chip Kelly’s current roster hierarchy and player usage philosophy is.  It’s likely, of course, that Davis has full control of the defense, though I haven’t confirmed that.  Regardless, what I saw was, in light of the performance, unsettling.

– Jeff Maehl played 5 total snaps (3 offense, 2 STs).  Maehl is not a defender.  However, given the Vinny Curry controversy, it’s very fair to question if 5 snaps of Jeff Maehl is worth an active roster spot.  That suggests to me that either Chip is being really stubborn, or the Curry inactivity is the result of an “attitude” or “example-setting” rationale.  Everyone knew going into the game that the pass-rush was going to be vital to success.  Passing over Curry for Maehl (who was barely used), looked bad then and much worse now.  It’s possible that Curry wouldn’t have helped at all (I think he’s being overrated by the general fan base); but he DEFINITELY would have helped more than Jeff Maehl (and several others).

– Jordan Poyer played just 7 snaps, all on STs.  Given what we know about the Eagles CBs and what happened during the game, it’s clear that Poyer has ZERO trust from the coaching staff.  If he couldn’t get on the field in game where the Eagles lost a starting CB and were getting absolutely shredded with the pass, then when can he play?  If at this point, he is solely a STs player, we again have to question the value of his roster spot.  Granted, STs have been very good so far, so obviously they’re doing something right there.  If this continues though, we might have to revisit the “overweighting STs” storyline.

– Geathers played 14 snaps on defense, Square played 12.  I haven’t yet looked at their individual performances, and I assume they were just as ineffectual as the starters.  However, could they really have been any worse than the starters, who weren’t getting anything remotely resembling pressure?

As the game progressed and it was clear the defense was not going to stop SD absent some good luck, wouldn’t it have made sense to rotate backups/young players into the game more frequently?  They gain experience and/or make an impact on the game.  The veterans get a breather and/or a message that their performance simply isn’t good enough.  As I said before, what’s the downside?  The veterans/starters couldn’t possibly have believed they “deserved” to keep playing.

– One Caveat, though it doesn’t excuse Davis.  Rivers used a lot of quick throws and three-step drops.  In that case, it’s nearly impossible to pressure the QB, there simply isn’t enough time.  The counter-move is to drop more players into coverage.  Ideally, you’d hide players at the line, disguising them as pass-rushers, then have them drop underneath the short passing lanes in hopes of either cutting off passing lanes or forcing an interception.  Pending All-22 review, I didn’t see Davis try this often enough, and when he did, there was no adequate disguise.  Of course, dropping players into coverage assumes they’ll actually know to COVER…which apparantly is not an entirely reasonable assumption (see Eddie Royal’s hilariously open TD grab against an Eagles D rushing just 3 players).



8 thoughts on “Snap Count Insights…or Questions

  1. ” The fact that I (and many spectators) quickly saw an issue should tell you how obvious it MUST have been to Davis.”

    You forgot the part where Barwin said that the LBs showed their hand to early making it easier on Rivers. Simply put, the disguise might have been there at times, but if they show it to early, it does not matter.

  2. I’ve been thinking the same thing about Curry. He must be in the doghouse for some reason.

    My concern is that Davis used his best strategies in one half and the subsequent three halves have been all offensive gravy.

  3. I usually find your analysis reasonable, but this one I am not sure, although it was extremely frustrating to see the D utterly unable to put any pressure.

    First, it’s unfair to compare ex-post return with expected return. Sure, the outcome was disastrous, but saying the expected value of Curry is better is not a fair comparison. As you mentioned, with the way Rivers was playing, Curry, who is also a rusher, might not have any impact in the game. It’s like saying you should have purchased stock A because it beat the SP500 after seeing the return.

    A related point is that you never know the counterfactual; At least the ST played well in the last two games. They have not yet destroyed a game. This might have been different if you used somebody lesser in ST.

    And the game was close till the end; it’s not the time to panic and do whatever came up to your mind. You chose the starters, expecting that they, on average, at the end, perform. They did not perform in the game, but start changing things drastically in the second half, using players who you decided to be backups instead of the players you decided to trust, does not seem to me a sensible strategy, of course ex-ante.

    I tend to think Curry is way overrated. If Curry is even not dressed, there must be a reason that we casual fans do not see.

    • Definitely fair to say Chip/Davis expected better. My point was really forward-looking, though I don’t think I did a good job explaining that. I think, for example, Jeff Maehl was always planned to be barely used. If that’s the case, why keep him active? You could argue as injury insurance, but given the fact the Damaris is also active and barely playing, I don’t think it’s a good counter.

      I don’t think Curry would have made a big difference, but that doesn’t mean the decision wasn’t strange. If he’s in the “doghouse” it’s obviously a different story.

      I’m actually planning a post for tomorrow about the right way to adjust expectations, but I completely agree with u. The team looks very similar to how we thought it would. It’s always frustrating, though, to lose a game u should win, especially when it’s questionable coaching strategy that contributes (talking about the clock management of course).

      All told, I’m really just disappointed the defense wasn’t more creative. They essentially had nothing to lose. Results probably would have been the same, but there was little risk and potential reward.

  4. Have you read Tommy Lawlor’s game review of the defense? It sounds like they tried all kinds of formations/adjustments and nothing worked. Failed disguise was obviously a big part of that, but it made me feel (marginally) better that he at least tried different things…

    • I have (this morning). Note they didn’t try the 4-3…which I think still fits this personnel the best. Point taken though, there were a lot of “things tried”, though how “creative” they were is up for debate.

      On Wed, Sep 18, 2013 at 9:42 AM, Eagles Rewind

      • Are you intentionally differentiating a 4-3 from a 4-2-5? Because Tommy was pretty clear that Davis tried having four lineman, but to no avail: “Watching the game, I was mad at Bill Davis for not using enough 4-2-5 looks. Upon re-watching it, Davis did give that look plenty of times. The Chargers blocked well and Rivers got the ball out quickly. Not enough Eagles players were winning the 1-on-1 battles.”

      • Yep, definitely. Im a little unsure as to why you’d want 5 DBs in the game when that’s the team’s weakest position. Ryans, Kendricks, and Barwin clearly need to be on the field.

        My overall point is that, at the moment, the 4-3 might be a better use of the team’s talent. For example, you’d get Graham on the field instead of Sopoaga. I realize that the team’s transitioning (and likely knows this season is lost for the defense), but I’d at least have it as an option when nothing else is working (like on Sunday).

        On Wed, Sep 18, 2013 at 9:47 PM, Eagles Rewind

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