Notes from Yesterday

Yesterday’s game went down just about exactly as expected.  I’ve got a few notes, and I’m going to try to steer clear of the obvious ones.

The Eagles average starting field position was the 36 yard line.  Arizona’s was the 19 yard line.   In a game between two evenly matched teams, that’s a HUGE difference.  Some of that was the turnovers, some of that was Donnie Jones.  I get the sense that he’s flown under most fans’ radars, but Jones has been a very important piece this year (relatively speaking).  Yesterday, he had 7 punts inside the Arizona 20 yard line.   Against a poor offense (which the Cardinals are), that’s a very big deal.  Remember pre-season, one of the things I highlighted was how bad the Eagles average field position differential was last year (nearly -7 yards) and that it was very unlikely to be that bad again, or even close to that bad.  I haven’t seen the season numbers for this year, but its safe to say there’s been some mean reversion there, regardless of why it’s occurring (Jones? TOs? Luck?  Likely all 3).

– The Eagles passing game was incredibly balanced yesterday, and illustrates a big point in Nick Foles’ favor.  He really doesn’t seem to have “favorite” receivers.  Yesterday, Jackson, Cooper, Ertz, Celek, and McCoy all had 6 targets.  Avant had 4.  That’s the definition of balance, and it shows Foles was “taking what was there”.

– Foles did NOT play that well.   This definitely qualifies as a “lucky” game.  He had the INT called back, but more worrisome were the handful of open passes that he missed badly on.  That’s what we saw in the Dallas debacle, and it’s still without explanation.  Fortunately, it was less pronounced yesterday.  Perhaps I’m digging too deep for criticism, but I don’t think it’s nit-picking to say QBs should hit almost every pass when he has time to deliver and sees a wide-open receiver well within his range.  Can’t expect him to be perfect, but missing more than 1-2 of those per game is too many.

– Billy Davis hurts my brain.  Some questionable scheming by Davis yesterday.  Most notably, and I’ve made this point before, he continues to send CB or S blitzes and “disguising” them at the snap by having the players stay in base position.  Note that this means the CB is often around 20 yards from the QB at the snap.  See the problem?

The fastest players in the league run 4.3 40 yard dashes (roughly).  That’s with perfect conditions and no pads.  So even in that situation the player will take at least 2.15 seconds to get to the QB.  Moreover, when you account for the pads, sub-optimal alignment (not in a sprinter’s start), and the obvious potential for blockers to be in the way, you have to figure it’s going to take more than 3 seconds for the CB to get there.  Meanwhile, while he’s en route, you’ve essentially taken a defender off the field.  He’s in no man’s land.  It’s quickly becoming one of my least favorite plays in football, but Davis continues to call it.

– Eagles were just 5 of 16 on 3rd down.  Nothing to add here.  It was a good defense, but you’d still like to see that conversion rate much higher.  It’s a big reason the game was close.

– Brandon Graham had 2 sacks.  That’s not really news.  However, he did it with just 13 snaps.  That’s a pretty good impact rate.

– The Eagles are lucky they played the Cardinals, the defensive backfield looked very vulnerable for much of the game.   Have to wait for All-22 to confirm, but it looked like the Safeties especially had a tough game.  Didn’t matter because Carson Palmer is not a good QB anymore (at least he wasn’t yesterday), but that will hurt a lot against a good passing offense (say Detroit?).  Can’t believe I’m saying this, but they really need Earl Wolff to come back…

Big win regardless of caveats. .500 record from here on (with one game against Minnesota) gets them to the 9 wins we thought they’d get to.  Whether that equals a playoff game depends almost entirely on the last game of the season.

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15 thoughts on “Notes from Yesterday

  1. Regarding the safeties. Imo Chung had a terrible game, Allen was good and I wouldnt expect him to win a jump ball against a WR like Floyd.

    I agree we really needs Wolff back over Chung.

  2. Brent –

    Great observations. Here are some less great ones.

    RE: Field position
    – I was forced to “watch” the game via a game-tracker update while on an airplane and one of the things that stood out to me was field position with punts and kickoffs. Not sure why it was so much more in my face watching a computerized depiction of the game, but it stood out. Great job, Donnie Jones. I will say it was hard to follow the punt that bounced around and Cason returned and then fumbled. That seem to cause a massive computer hemorrhage.

    RE: Bad Nick Foles
    – Fast-forwarding through the game last night it seemed like – at first blush – there were two types of “bad” passes from Nick Foles.
    1) “Feet not set” – the result of a collapsing pocket, these tended to be shallow crosses that wound up behind the receivers (Avant, Cooper, and the ill-advised almost INT to Jackson). Basketball or baseball background notwithstanding, it’s hard to make those throws without stepping into them. Interestingly, at times we praise Foles for “making something out of nothing”, but those “not set” throws tend to come more outside of the pocket than in it.
    2) “Drifting deep balls” – Perhaps a name more appropriate for the “wonders” of male aging, but his anticipation on deep throws was not as sharp as previous games. Obviously the throw to Jackson in the end zone (which maybe shouldn’t have been thrown at all given the double coverage) was an under-throw. The throw into the end zone where Cooper actively drew PI by slowing down and reaching back to establish contact might have been an easy TD had he thrown it out in front toward the center of the end zone (compare to Foles’s third touchdown against Oakland – the deep post to Cooper). And the throw down the left sideline where Cooper wanted PI and didn’t get it seemed to be way under-thrown given that Cooper seemed to be “even and leavin'” (compare to Foles’s second touchdown against Oakland – the left sideline pass to Cooper that almost seemed over-thrown). Obviously it wasn’t disastrous play, but to your point perhaps begs further analysis. (STILL GREAT TO GET THE WINS, THOUGH!!!)

    RE: Safety and Corner Blitzing
    – I agree with the simple geometry of outside blitzes versus the QB’s internal clock, but one aspect to consider with these “disguised” blitzes is the distraction it creates for pass-protecting TE’s, RB’s and even OT’s. If an inbound Chung forces them to lose focus on Cole, Graham or Cox for even half-a-second that could result in a successful blitz. Also, it’s an extra moving piece for the QB to account for while making his reads, which can also generate confusion. So – just to play devil’s advocate – the goal of the disguised corner blitz may not simply be for that guy to hit home, but to open holes closer to the QB. Almost like how motioning Jackson out of the backfield on offense can confuse a LB just enough to create a hole for McCoy.

    RE: The secondary’s good fortune against Arizona
    – Yep. Concerned about Detroit. And not just the football team… that city’s had a tough couple decades.

    NEW THOUGHT
    – In general, what are your thoughts statistically on taking chances deep later in games with a lead? If one of the concerns is our ability to play with a lead in the second half and one of the theories is that defenses are crowding the box daring us to throw it long, how do you think airing it out deep jibes with the idea of chewing the clock? The risks seem to be interceptions, incompletions and injury, but the rewards are additional points and freeing the box. Obviously, it’d be better to do this with Good Nick Foles…

    • You are 100% right regarding Foles and his feet. It was a problem at Arizona (college) and last year, simply but, Foles do not have the arm “talent” to not have good footwork.

      I think using PA and then a short pass or a toss play with both Brown and McCoy in the back field would be really nice.

  3. Patrick Chung killed us yesterday. And I think Cary Williams is not Chung’s biggest fan either – remember that one play where Chung recklessly flew helmet-first towards a receiver that Williams already had wrapped up and going down. Result? Chung went helmet-first right into Williams’ shoulder. Williams looked at him and started yelling something, with an obvious “What the hell is wrong with you? Keep it up and you’re gonna be the end of my career!” tone to it.

    • I definitely noticed that play. Williams is a head case though, so it’s tough to draw anything from his responses to any other player. Just too volatile in general.

    • this came a play or two after he hit someone else on D too, if i remember correctly. and was it also on the drive after he knocked Boykin (?) off of Fitz on his TD catch?

      • Exactly. I had forgotten about that play – Fitzgerald should be sending a Thank You card to Chung as we speak thanking him for taking the two defenders away.

  4. Brent, do your math. It does not “depend entirely on the last game of the season [Eagles vs. Cowboys].” I am not going through all the scenarios here, but it could be over one game earlier. Do the simple math for the possibilities. Dallas is in the driver’s seat to win the division, and the Eagles could finish 9-7 and still not make the playoffs. When you make those statements, you need to qualify them.

  5. I saw a much different game than you did, Brent. I thought Palmer played really well and that he was under almost constant pressure. He got hit a lot and most of the time the pressure was coming right up the middle. As for Foles, three of his misses plus the Cooper one-hander, were basically the same throw – to a receiver near the sideline on about the same yard line. He guns those throws; they’re not touch passes. The requires a lot of body rotation and the fact is that not many NFL QBs make that throw well. Kaepernick does it but he lacks a quick release. Brees and Brady don’t even try it. Palmer made a few but he didn’t have a lot on those throws.

    • It’s fair to give Palmer a break for the pressure, but I saw a lot of downfield opportunities that he didn’t take advantage of, even when he had time. As we saw, anytime he had a either Fitz or Floyd one-on-one, he should have thrown it up for them. That’s something almost NOBODY does often enough, in my opinion, but that’s not an excuse. Foles has actually done a good job of that, though I can’t tell if it’s part of Chip’s philosophy or just Foles being aggressive.

      I think we’re talking about different throws. The bullet to the sideline, which you referred to, is fine. He’s done a mostly good job of it, and we can’t expect every one of them to be perfect, precisely because he has to deliver it so quickly. More worrisome to me were the swing passes and the mid-range crossing routes where he just sailed the ball. There were plays where he had time and the receiver was wide open, but he missed him. I was hoping some of the All-22 guys would take a look at it, but I haven’t seen a breakdown so far. Maybe the receivers weren’t as open as they seemed. I’m tied up with exams, so I haven’t been able to review myself.

      BTW, I’ve in no way relinquished my position as captain of Team Foles. Doesn’t mean we can point out weaknesses though

      On Fri, Dec 6, 2013 at 8:15 AM, Eagles Rewind

    • Russell Wilson probably makes that throw better than anybody.

      Agree about the pressure, and that definitely factored into the two interceptions, and Palmer said yesterday that his elbow was affected all game after the Trent Cole strip-sack.

  6. On what I think was the next possession he threw a short completion to the left and got whacked. On that bogus roughing on Fletcher he got whacked and on the deep throw that Allen intercepted Arizona had eight men in to block and Ryans came on a green dog right in his face. Palmer couldn’t step into the throw and it floated enough for Allen to get the pick. I’ll put something up on the Chip Wagon to illustrate.

    • That’s a good point. I ignored the fact that Palmer might have been hurt. Let’s hope Cole hits Stafford the same way…

      On Fri, Dec 6, 2013 at 9:12 AM, Eagles Rewind

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