All-22: Hey Look, An Eagles Run Game!

Was that really Andy Reid on the sideline last Sunday? The Eagles called 17 runs in the second half against the Giants, shocking pretty much everyone. And, as I pointed out on Monday, that new focus on the run game made Michael Vick into a much better quarterback. With the pressure off of his back, Vick completed 8 of 11 attempts for 109 yards in the second half.

Let's dive into the All-22 coaches film on this one. The first thing to note is that the Eagles didn't just run the ball more—they called different run plays. The staple of the Howard Mudd offensive line is the stretch to the outside (read more about that here). Those outside runs behind athletic linemen worked great last year, but the patchwork offensive line the Eagles trotted out last week  couldn't execute the same way.

In the second half (except down by the goal line), the Eagles abandoned those run schemes in favor of more straight-up blocking, often with the I-Formation. It worked:

Linemen set the edge, McCoy follows his FB.

Even Dallas Reynolds got great push here.

Block down to get McCoy the edge.

The Eagles also used Stanley Havili in an H-Back set up for a few plays, giving them some interesting flexibility. Here they fake the toss to Bryce Brown and hand off to Havili coming up the gut instead. He follows Todd Herremans into the hole:

Later, they came back to the same look and used it to get numbers on the right side instead:

Suddenly, with the run game working, Vick's job gets so much easier. The linebackers actually bought this run fake, leaving Brent Celek wide open over the middle:

And with the defense now trying to both stop the run and prevent the pass, remembering to contain and control Vick's scrambling becomes a greater problem. He ran 3 times for 30 yards in the second half:

Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better

Tommy Lawlor wonders if Dion Lewis might be the guy to break Marty Mornhinweg's constant dependence on a single running back:

Dion Lewis could be the RB to change all of this. The key is that he’s not just a runner. Dion, based on this summer, looks like he could be a weapon in the passing game as well. He must show that he can be counted on as a blocker. For those who might compare him to Ryan Moats because both guys are small, don’t. Lewis is already an infinitely better blocker than Moats was.

I agree with Tommy that the Eagles need to spread the load around where possible. Running backs just don't last long in the NFL, and the more you can rest them, the healthier they'll be. However, the problem with Lewis is that he's essentially a (very) poor man's version of McCoy. Even if he's as good as recent reports out of training camp suggest, Lewis will always be worse than McCoy at pretty much every phase of the game. Thus, having him replace McCoy is always a loss for the offense.

I think one of the reasons Correll Buckhalter was a good complement to Brian Westbrook is that he could do many of the same things, but had a different style and different strengths. It's (similar to) a comparative advantage problem.

Adventures at Summer Camp: Lehigh Day 1

Because someone has to read all the news coming out of the Eagles training camp.

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Confirmed: DeSean Jackson let frustration over his contract hurt his performance:

“Human nature-wise, yes it affected him,’’ Culley said. “It did. He tried not to let it affect him. Sometimes he didn’t do a very good job of that. It affected him in meetings. It affected him on the field. There were days when it didn’t. But it made him inconsistent. And that’s where the human nature part of it comes in.”

“I saw a couple of times last year where I saw him maybe trying to maybe save himself because (he was thinking), ‘I’m not under contract and I don’t want to get hurt,’’’ Culley said. “I don’t think there was a fear factor involved. I think it was more, ‘I don’t want to get hurt because I don’t have a contract.’ The first two-and-a-half years he was here, that wasn’t an issue. A couple of times last year, that came up. And I believe it came up simply because of that.”

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Punters, ahoy. The Eagles brought in not one, not two, not three, but four veteran punters for tryouts yesterday. It’s not that surprising once you understand how bad Chas Henry was last year. Reuben Frank says the most likely candidate to sign is former Pro Bowl Cowboy Mat McBriar. I honestly didn’t realize he had fallen off last year and was cut. Turns out, he couldn’t lift his foot.

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The Felony That Wasn’t. I love how the charges were dropped against Dion Lewis because the DA concluded there was “no evidence a fire alarm was ever pulled.”

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Backup Running Backs Will Push… Who? I absolutely don’t understand where this headline comes from. Sheil’s replacement isn’t looking so hot.

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Speaking of Mr. Kapadia, he brings us a great quote from Howard Mudd on where Danny Watkins is in his second year. Sounds like the mental side of the game is the real roadblock for our friendly neighborhood fireman:

“Comfort in the position, eliminating doubt about himself,” Mudd said. “That just happens to players. That just happens. That’s part of the growing process. I call that the valley of darkness. You get somewhere and then you start doubting yourself, doubting, doubting… and then the ball is snapped and you don’t have a clue where you are. You can be very amateurish, if you will. All of a sudden, it starts to click again and you quit doubting yourself. Do well, and then all of a sudden, for whatever reason, you get there. So Danny, that’s what I think the offseason’s done for him.”

Jimmy Kempski tells us that Mudd also alluded to the Vandervelde-Reynolds backup center competition as the position battle he’s most looking forward too. I’m not sure if that’s positive or depressing. Final Mudd note: I discount every positive thing he says about Demetress Bell by half. There’s only one Jason Peters, and unfortunately he couldn’t keep his balance on a Roll-A-Bout.

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In other meta-reportage, Jimmy needs to stop wasting his time talking to guys like Keenan Clayton after practice. Clayton’s competing with Moise Fokou for the coveted “last linebacker cut” trophy. Then again, at least our favorite NFC bEast blogger didn’t get stiffed like ol’ timer Paul Domowitch.

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Rampant Tight End Speculation! The Eagles have now been linked to Visanthe Shiancoe and (gag) Jeremy Shockey. Raise your hand if you’re shocked that the Brett Brackett hype was purely media-driven. No one? Good.

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Andy Reid Weight Loss Watch. He totally walked home from practice, guys.

Is LeSean McCoy Better Than Brian Westbrook?

Thank you everyone who has already bought the Eagles Almanac 2012! I’m really proud of the work we’ve done on this book, and I hope you all enjoy it.

This week, I’m going to share a series of smaller graphics and other posts based on the work in the Eagles Almanac. For those of you who bought it, hopefully this will provide an opportunity to discuss some of the findings (since that’s difficult on an ebook). And for those who haven’t, you’ll see what you’re missing.

Below is a simple chart from my article, which was a detailed examination of LeSean McCoy’s running style and the areas he can still improve. The question this chart poses, as the title suggests, is whether Shady is a better back than Westbrook, using Football Outsiders’ year-by-year rushing plus receiving DYAR (defense-adjusted yards above replacement). Your answer probably varies from “so far” to “not yet.”

Westbrook McCoy DYAR