Neil’s NFL Daily: August 5, 2013
Neil Hornsby reports back from Eagles camp, where the new regime seems to be suiting the offense a lot more than the defense.
Neil’s NFL Daily: August 5, 2013
With the MMQB RV temporarily on the injury list, I had to earn my keep with the SI.com team and drive from New York to Philly. The 40ft monster vehicle should be back with us on Wednesday, but until then it’s a Liberty jeep with me at the wheel — how are the mighty fallen? …and I don’t mean me.
Anyway, on to the Eagles and it’s all change at Philadelphia’s camp. There’s lots of mental practice for the defense with barrels for offensive linemen, a call being made and then the players (hopefully) executing the correct play. I’ve seen more of that type of coaching here than anywhere else, and, without wishing to prejudge things, this is one of only two places I’ve seen the offense ahead of the “D” (the other was San Francisco). Whether that’s down to the tempo (which was indeed high), the new option scheme, or simply the defense taking time to come to terms with their new scheme, or something else I’m not sure.
I’ll get into the detail in a moment, but the bottom line here, if the current mood in the camp is any indication (and despite all the negative press due to Riley Cooper’s stupidity), this offense should generate more than headlines when the rubber hits the road.
Chip Kelly’s Offense
I know the media feel the need to do the Riley Cooper thing to death, but ultimately the only people they are doing a disservice are their readers and listeners. Every moment spent talking about Cooper is time they could be studying the far more interesting topic of the Eagles new offense.
A lot of people may see it as a fast-paced stratagem that will never work in the NFL, but the look on the face of seasoned offensive linemen discussing their new roles suggests that if they have bought in so quickly maybe we shouldn’t be so skeptical.
While the tempo of the offense is important, it’s not the most thing to consider — it’s a diversion from the fundamentally sound read-option (zone read) scheme which is “old-school” in its philosophy of simplicity and repetition over gimmickry. It calls for an aggressive downfield blocking style on the inside zone read (an inside running play) that will suit the skill set of the Eagles potentially dominating offensive line. Look, I’m not going to go into the whole thing here as that’s beyond the scope of these articles and it’s been done to death elsewhere. However, as a word of advice, most of the dissections you’ll see (certainly as far as the running plays are concerned) are often just re-writes of Kelly’s own words. I’d recommend you go straight to the horse’s mouth and read a transcript of his explanation of the Ducks Spread Offense. It can be found on this great Oregon site at the following location: http://fishduck.com/2012/04/coach-chip-kelly-explains-the-oregon-spread-offense/
In practice we didn’t see a lot of the runs as they passed a lot, and completed a lot too. I don’t take this as an indication that will be the case come Week 1 — actually, quite the opposite. I think they want to keep the running plays back, and while the run/pass ratio won’t mimic Oregon’s (roughly 63:27 over the past two years) you will see over 50% runs and a ton of bubble screens.
Debating the Defense
While I’m more optimistic than most about the offense, I’ve got real concerns about the opposite side of the ball, particularly in the secondary. With Kenny Phillips still playing on the second team it leaves a starting safety combination of Nate Allen and Patrick Chung. Combine that with Cary Williams and Brandon Boykin at corner (and no clear nickel back unless Bradley Fletcher comes back to play the outside) and you have possibly the thinnest secondary in the NFL this year.
While Boykin was the best player in the Eagles’ defensive backfield last year, and has apparently played very well so far in camp, after that things start to get flaky. Cary Williams is an average corner (-3.2 overall grade over 1431 snaps last year) who is accumulating too much baggage for his ability, Fletcher is never healthy, Chung couldn’t make it in a lackluster Patriots secondary, and Nate Allen was horrible in just about every capacity last year.
Other than Boykin (and with help from outside linebackers who looked completely overmatched in coverage) they struggled to stop anything, with Vick going seven-from-seven in one drill. This is the Achilles heel of the team, and must be an area of concern for the coaches and fans alike.
— There’s not many rookies who look certain to start Week 1, but, barring injury, Lane Johnson will be Philadelphia’s starting right tackle.
— It’s unusual for a college free agent to stand out, but it’s hard to miss WR Ifeanyi Momah. He stands 6’7”, weighs 240 lbs but is far from simply “a specimen”. He ran some crisp routes, caught a nice deep out and, with Cooper otherwise engaged, is making the most of his opportunities.
NB: I’ve amended the Eagles depth chart accordingly, added in the position battles in purple and the update is below:
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Neil Hornsby | PFF Founder
Neil founded PFF in 2006 and is currently responsible for the service to the company's 22 NFL team customers. He is constantly developing new insights into the game and player performance.