Eagles-Jaguars Preseason Thoughts: How To Combat The Scrape-Exchange

Is it too late to talk about the Eagles' third preseason game? Hope not, because that's what I'm about to do. 

  •  When we last talked, I was remarking about how bad Trent Cole looks in his new role. Shocker: he's still bad. In the few nickel snaps that he put his hand in the ground and rushed the passer, Cole got some good pressure (as he always has). But putting him in space does no one any good in coverage and it has so far hindered his naturally good run defense. Especially bad: any play that has him line up over the slot receiver and blitz. First, it's not fooling anyone. Second, he's too far away from the quarterback to do any damage.
  • Luckily, the rest of the linebacking core is shaping up well so far. DeMeco Ryans has been solid, if unspectacular. Mychal Kendricks was a force all over the field against the Jagurs, and was often brought on blitzes up the middle (with Cole dropping back though). On the other side, Connor Barwin continues to impress. His interception was the most athletic feat we've seen an awhile at linebacker. Interesting note: on that play, the Eagles kept their base defense in on Jacksonville's 2nd and 19, against 4 WRs and 1 TE. Odd choice.
  • I am a paying member of the Patrick Chung fan club. He's not a star, but watching him come up and make solid tackles is a revelation. 
  • I didn't think Michael Vick was as horrible as the post-game narrative suggested. He held on to the ball too long a few times and threw one bad pick. But Vick also made some laser completions and showed ample mobility. He was never going to be as perfect as he had shown through the first two contests. Plus, the offensive line wasn't exactly in peak form early.
  • In truth, the offense Chip Kelly had Vick run seldom resembled that of the previous games. There was more under-center snaps and down-the-field passing routes than we were shown before. As some remarked, it looked at times more like an Andy Reid offense than one run by Kelly.
  •  Sheil Kapadia has a good breakdown of what looks like the Jaguars using the scrape-exchange to combat the zone read. Here's what it looks like below. As in their typical zone read play, the Eagles let the defensive end go unblocked, with Lane Johnson crashing down on the guard, and Todd Herremans releasing to the second level. However, in the scrape-exchange, the defensive end is trained to immediately come down the line at the running back, forcing the QB keeper. The linebacker Herremans must reach arcs around the outside instead (away from the would-be block) and gets in Vick's face right away:
Scrape Exchange.png
  • It worked great in the above play, but not only is the scrape hard to pull off, it's not all that difficult to combat either.  The first way is simply for Vick to get better at running the QB keeper and executing the second option. On this play he ran vertically too quickly instead of laterally, negating any chance to throw the quick bubble screen to DeSean Jackson.
  • The second way is even easier: just don't run the zone read. Think about what happens in the above play if the Jaguars defenders get too comfortable executing the scrape, only to have the Eagles block normally. If Johnson and Herremans take on their defenders straight up and the linebacker comes around the edge instead of up the middle, there's going to be a huge hole for the running back. The offense can use further deception with an H-back in the backfield. That player come across the formation to lead blocker with multiple choices about who to attack. The below image comes from Chris Brown's (always excellent) breakdown of this technique:

  • Want another option? How about stop reading the defensive end? By mixing up the read, you can keep defenders unsure of their responsibility. Last time we talked about a play where the Eagles read a defensive tackle. Here's a similar play in which Vick reads the linebacker(s):
  • And here's even more variation. This time the Eagles read the end, but if Vick keeps it he's running behind a pulling guard in Evan Mathis. Bryce Brown picks up 11 yards to the left on this run after the zone read freezes the unblocked defender, but I wonder how many yards Vick would have gotten had he pulled it down himself to the right:
  • By the way, Jamar Chaney did seemingly everything possible to try to get cut over the last couple of years. What finally did him in? Not being able to block a punter on special teams. Ouch.
  • And what is the Toddfather doing below cavorting with the enemy, aka Jason Baboon?
Babin Herremans.png

Billy Davis in as New Defensive Coordinator

Geoff Mosher broke the news that Billy Davis will be the Eagles new defensive coordinator. The former Browns linebackers coach has been with eight different NFL teams, and has coached under 3-4 luminaries like Dom Capers, Dick LeBeau, Vic Fangio, Wade Phillips, and Mike Nolan. Davis's two previous stints as coordinator -- in San Francisco and Arizona -- didn't go so well, but don't necessarily count him out in Philly. At the very least, he has the experience to chop up the Eagles' long-running 4-3 scheme and put it back together with new pieces.

More on this to come.