After the New England Patriots used the no-huddle offense to keep the Eagles defense off-kilter in a 38-20 win last season, the Eagles knew it was something that they had to do a better job of preparing for in the offseason.
The Eagles dedicated time up at Training Camp and more practice time this week to work against the no-huddle. Defensive coordinator Juan Castillo will get to see whether that preparation pays off Sunday when the Eagles host the Baltimore Ravens in the home opener.
"We've been practicing hard at it and we're kind of excited to see how our no-huddle looks like," Castillo said.
The Ravens, led by quarterback Joe Flacco, brilliantly debuted their version of the up-tempo, no-huddle offense against the Bengals on Monday night. Baltimore raced out to a 17-3 lead in the first half using the attack. When the Bengals rallied to cut the lead to three, the Ravens put the pedal to the metal again until safety Ed Reed's game-sealing interception return for a touchdown made it 34-13. Flacco finished the game 21-of-29 for 299 yards with two touchdowns against no interceptions for a 128.4 quarterback rating.
"I think the offense suits him. What they're doing with the hurry-up game, I think he handled that very well," head coach Andy Reid said. "(Ravens quarterbacks coach) Jim (Caldwell) is down there and he's done a nice job. You can see his influence in there mixed in with what (Ravens offensive coordinator) Cam (Cameron) does. I like what they're doing. It was effective the other night. They're playing good football."
The no-huddle offense is designed to create mismatches by not allowing the defense to make substitutions. This could impact the Eagles' defensive line, which likes to relentlessly attack on each snap and rotate often. Castillo did not call a lot of blitzes last Sunday against Cleveland. In fact, according to Stats Inc., the Eagles blitzed on a total of five out of 37 pass plays (13.5 percent). Defensive end Jason Babin, who played in 66 percent of the defensive snaps in the season opener, said the key for the Eagles will be having a veteran Pro Bowl middle linebacker in DeMeco Ryans, something that the Eagles did not have last season.
"I think the biggest thing for us is having a veteran guy like DeMeco back there," Babin said. "He's talking to the front four and the secondary. He stays calm; keeps us calm. He knows how much time we have. If we don't get a call, he's going to make a call. We've got all the faith in the world in him."
Ryans explained that offenses that run the no-huddle want the defense to panic. Ryans actually thinks that defenses can flip the script on offenses that run the no-huddle.
"You just have to be poised. You have to be poised with the no huddle – you can't panic. That's the biggest thing they want you to do is panic and change personnel and match up with what they're doing. You can't panic. You just have to be calm, play solid, and stop them on first and second downs to get them at third-and-long. That's the thing to do is get it to third-and-long and get them off the field quick," Ryans said. "When they're trying to move as quick as they are and you're trying to get them off the field, it kind of stops them from trying to come out in the no huddle. It can play to both teams' advantage. Our thing is to get stops as quick and early as possible."
Last Monday night, the Ravens were able to execute their offense crisply at home. On Sunday, they'll have to do it in Lincoln Financial Field. Needless to say, Eagles fans will have something to say about this.
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