Game Rewind: 15 Screenshots From the First 15 Minutes of the Chip Kelly Era

On Monday, before the Eagles' opener, I downplayed the notion that the Eagles would be able to put many wins together this season, noting that what we're really looking for is a season like Andy Reid's foundation-building 1999. I WAS WRONG.

Well, at least I was wrong about the team's potential to win games this season. Looks like the offense Kelly brings may be good enough to be more competitive more quickly than I expected. Not to mention exciting. I'm riding high off that win, especially the first quarter that became one glorious offensive wet dream.

Still, I'd caution against reading too much into Monday's game. Not only was the offense new, the defense was also unexpectedly shifty. That's a positive development from their listless preseason performance, but as the game wore on Washington adapted to Billy Davis' schemes (and he backed off some). Some flaws were exposed and others soon will be by opposing coordinators now getting a fresh look at Eagles tape. Without the Redskins' early turnovers, the Eagles might not have gone home as happy.

Because the game turned out to be so long, and the coaches' tape isn't up yet, I only managed to re-watch the first 15 minutes of the game. Here are 15 screenshots from that giddy first quarter... (Click to embiggen)

Most of what I want to highlight are variations on the zone read play Kelly loves to call. Below is one where Vick appears to be reading the slot corner. When he stays home to guard against the bubble screen, McCoy gets the handoff up the middle. Also note, the blue block is Lane Johnson, firing up to the second level after lining up on the right next to Jason Peters. Freezing one defender and then running Shady behind two tackles like Johnson and Peters is frightening:

Similar play below. Again, Vick is reading the slot corner (#26). Washington had that corner come on the blitz a few times, including this one. Reading him is a perfect counter. Vick fakes the hand off and throws a quick bubble screen to DeSean:

Then the Eagles take the above concept and add another option for Vick -- a pop pass to the tight end over the middle. Now he's reading the middle linebacker London Fletcher (#59) in addition to freezing the rest of the right side of the defense via the bubble screen threat (which he may change to given pre-snap read). When Fletcher turns to pick up Brent Celek, Vick hands it off to McCoy:

Like any other running play, success is contingent on the men up front maintaining their blocks. But because of the passing options, by the time McCoy gets to the second level, there's no one there to meet him. London Fletcher, with four Pro Bowls, 15 years of experience, and over 1300 career tackles, has taken himself out of the play:

Later we see essentially the same play run to the right. This time, Fletcher takes a step forward, looking at McCoy. Vick throws to a wide-open Ertz instead, picking up an easy first down:

Below is another zone read where Vick is either reading the LB or the DT. I highlighted the former, but it depends who you think Celek is trying to block. Either way the threat of the QB keeper makes it devastating when he actually hands off to McCoy -- who follows a pulling Jason Kelce into a hole manned by the unbalanced line of Peters and Johnson on the right:

The Eagles didn't play much defense in the first quarter, but here's one play we can take a quick break for. The Redskins execute a great screen. They manage to get Alfred Morris the ball with three linemen poised to crush Mychal Kendricks and anyone else. But Kendricks, showing this may be a breakout season, dodges two of them and makes a textbook open field tackle:

One problem I kept noticing was Vick being indecisive on what should be quick reads. Here the pre-snap read is clearly going to indicate throwing the bubble screen right away. Only one of the three DBs to the bottom is within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage:

Vick should throw this ball immediately in the screenshot below. DeSean is open and Avant is just beginning to engage the first DB:

Instead, Vick holds on to the ball and sprints out. This brings pressure on himself and allows the safety to come down. But worst of all, he's letting Avant block downfield for a couple of seconds before the pass is thrown. The referees called an easy offensive pass interference on this one:

Vick also needs to make quicker decisions under pressure. Below he has a free rusher in his face and instead of dumping the ball off to an outlet receiver (or just throwing it at their feet), he freezes and takes a dumb sack:

Alright, now check out the play below. It's another zone read sweep where Vick is reading the defensive tackle. He sees the DT crash down, so he pulls the ball and runs upfield. Todd Herremans springs to the next level to block the linebacker, while Brent Celek (obscured) tries to cut block his man:

Some people speculated during the live game that Vick ran head first into the scrape-exchange. But really this is just a simple execution problem. Celek's cut block is awful but slows down his man. It's Herremans who totally whiffs on the linebacker, leaving Vick exposed. Note, Vick probably would have had better luck running to the sideline instead of cutting back inside:

One of Vick's sacks came when Herremans and Johnson had some kind of blocking miscommunication. Herremans blocked down on the defensive tackle while Johnson eyed the blitzing linebacker. Neither of them picked up Ryan Kerrigan:

Before even helping Vick up, the rookie turned to Herremans to hash things out:

Eagles Draft More Linemen Than Anyone Else

Great numbers by Jimmy Kempski over at Blogging the bEast. Turns out, the Eagles have drafted more total offensive and defensive lineman in the last five years than any other team. Alright, so they’re not actually first by percent of total picks, but still, Andy Reid values numbers in the trenches.

Note that the Eagles have taken 18 linemen in the last five drafts. That’s the same as the Redskins and Cowboys combined.

Kudos to Dan Snyder

Robert Griffin III

There was a lot more hand-wringing and bad-mouthing than I expected regarding Washington’s big trade to jump up to the second pick in the draft. And yes, absolutely the cost for Robert Griffin III was high. The risk may be even higher. But even so, the Redskins front office deserves high marks for executing this dramatic move.

One of the paramount truths of today’s NFL is that your franchise is irrelevant unless it has an elite quarterback. I don’t mean that you absolutely can’t win. Teams can go far in the playoffs or even win a Super Bowl with some luck, timing, and roster dominance in other areas (See: 2011 Broncos, 2000 Ravens). I mean that you are unable to sustain or count on success.

Teams that don’t have a franchise QB grasp at straws year after year. They do what the Redskins have done. They throw second-tier, underprepared youngsters into the role and hope they succeed. They cycle through overpriced veterans past their prime and flawed journeyman. It’s the most pathetic of struggles, as the front office just tries to keep their team above water.

Since Dan Snyder bought that team in 1999, they have had seven different single-season passing leaders. It’s been a murderer’s row of Brad Johnson, Tony Banks, Patrick Ramsey, Mark Brunell, Jason Campbell, old Donovan McNabb, and Rex Grossman. Yuck.

Andy Reid is not a perfect coach, but he understands this better than anyone. He didn’t hesitate to draft Donovan McNabb, and reared him into a top quarterback. When Reid saw the end of McNabb’s career, he snared Kevin Kolb to carry the torch. And now he’s settled on Michael Vick for at least the next couple of years. All three of those quarterbacks, even Kolb, would have been upgrades over the slop the Redskins have tolerated over the last decade. Reid never would have let himself go that long without a real franchise quarterback.

Regardless of how it turns out, the Redskins should be applauded for finally grasping that half measures aren’t enough. Another couples of years stumbling along with more free agent castoffs or another mediocre prospect would have gotten that front office fired anyway. At some point, you might as well try something that could actually work.

Photo from Getty.

Video: From the Eagles Locker Room

Pieced together some of the best quotes and strangest responses from the Eagles locker room after yesterday’s 34-10 victory over the Redskins. Enjoy responsibly.

Worst NFC East Ever?

It’s tough to watch this year’s NFC East. Eagles fans have long prided themselves on the fact that their team plays in one of the toughest divisions in the league. This year, that just isn’t true.

I charted the Football Outsiders overall team efficiency DVOA for each NFC East team since 2000. The results are below:


So it turns out, on a purely average DVOA basis, that this is not the worst NFC East in the last decade. In fact, this year’s group is barely below the 2010 average.

Perhaps the real reason this year’s group seems so awful has more to do with the lack of even one good team. To this point, among all “best teams in the NFC East,” this year’s Giants are by far the worst. In every year other than 2000, at least one team has posted a DVOA score of at least 20 percent, and the 2011 Giants would be no better than third in the division in any other year since 2005.

The way they’ve played this year, the Eagles should not have even the 3 percent chance they have of winning the division. Widespread mediocrity will do that for you.