After looking at the play of the Eagles offense in their dismantling of the Denver Broncos, I want to now look at what can be described as another dominant outing from this Eagles defense. They gave up 23 points in this game, but this was another extremely impressive performance against a Denver team that was very up and down throughout the season and was ushering in a new starting quarterback in Brock Osweiler. Needless to say, the Eagles defense gave Osweiler a warm, Philadelphia welcome to start the game.
DOMINANCE IN THE TRENCHES
Shot 1 - It was tough sledding for Brock Osweiler from the jump. Tim Jernigan, Fletcher Cox and Malcolm Jenkins welcome him to the game here pic.twitter.com/wl3IMcQ9eb — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) November 7, 2017
This play started with Tim Jernigan completely changing the line of scrimmage, rocking the left guard backward at the snap. Fletcher Cox does the same on his side, getting great push against the right guard and helping to collapse the pocket. Malcolm Jenkins comes off the edge as a blitzer and demolishes the running back in pass protection. All three defenders converge on Osweiler as he releases the ball for a big hit and a rough start for the quarterback in this game to give him a taste of what his afternoon would be like.
Shot 2- A few plays later another QB hit. Mychal Kendricks blitzes after bluffing man coverage. New little wrinkle in the pressure scheme. pic.twitter.com/XRO9OjNvsx — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) November 7, 2017
A few plays later, the Eagles bust out a new wrinkle in their pressure scheme. We've seen a lot of examples of their 'five-over-five' look up front, an alignment that puts a linebacker up on the line of scrimmage, creating five one-on-one matchups across the formation. Typically you'll see Mychal Kendricks, who is lined up off the ball here, manned up on the running back in this situation. Before the snap, that's exactly what it looks like. After the snap, however, we see it's something completely different. Kendricks blitzes into the opposite A gap, which is wide open thanks to Cox slanting in the opposite direction. The Broncos are running a screen play here, and multiple defenders get through for a hit on Osweiler on the incomplete pass.
Shot 3 - Osweiler can't do much on 3rd & long here. #Eagles in '2-Man' coverage (my favorite coverage). E/T stunt with Graham/Cox gets home pic.twitter.com/zYA6X2gHiV — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) November 7, 2017
The Eagles came out with another five-over-five look on this third-and-long play, and Osweiler has very little chance of success. Cox and Graham combine to run a stunt to his right, and the pressure gets home, forcing an early throw into tight coverage. On the back end, the Eagles are in 'Cover 2 Man', one of my favorite schemes in football. In this coverage, you have two high safeties protecting the deep part of the field, and straight man coverage across the board underneath. With plenty of safety help over the top, the corners can be very aggressive and play in 'trail' technique, making quarterbacks a bit wary of throwing anything underneath. A first down would require an absolutely perfect throw, and of course that's not what happens, as three Eagles converge on this pass downfield in what ends up being an incompletion and a punt.
Shot 4 - The 'Green Dog' blitz has been a big part of #Eagles pressure this year. Your assignment in man coverage blocks? You blitz! pic.twitter.com/nKl3OyZxZG — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) November 7, 2017
One of the big tactics the Eagles use in their pressure scheme is the 'Green Dog' blitz, which isn't a designed blitz in terms of the playcall. When a defender is in man coverage, as Bradham is on this play against the tight end, and he notices that his assignment stays in to block another defender, the player can decide to 'green dog', becoming a part of the pressure and, therefore, getting the numbers back in the defense's favor.
Think of it this way. The offense has five blockers with the offensive line, and let's say the defense sends four rushers. If a tight end stays in to block one of those four rushers, the defender responsible for him can insert into the pressure, then making it five-against six instead of four-against-six. The beauty of the 'Green Dog' is that, more often than not, the blitzer is not accounted for by the protection scheme. That is the case here, as Bradham knifes into the backfield to sack Osweiler in the red zone.
Shot 5 - #Eagles present offense with a tough dilemma. Slide to 2 DE side, or slide towards Fletcher Cox? DEN leaves Cox 1v1 on Leary. Sack. pic.twitter.com/SXMXtUV3ra — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) November 7, 2017
One of the ways the Eagles have continued to create opportunities for Fletcher Cox to win one-on-one battles is with the use of their primary nickel 'sub rush' front, an alingment that includes three defensive ends on the field with Cox. Typically, this calls for Brandon Graham to slide inside as the other tackle opposite Cox. With two defensive ends on one side of the formation, the offense has two choices. They can either slide the protection towards Cox, who is very tough to block one-on-one, or they can slide towards the rush-heavy set of two defensive ends. On this play, Denver chooses the latter, and they chose poorly. Cox wins this matchup easily and collapses the pocket in a play that results in a sack.
TIGHTENING UP COVERAGE
Shot 6 - #Broncos again leave Ronald Leary 1-on-1 with Cox, and it doesn't go well. Fletcher wins inside, forces INT downfield by McLeod. pic.twitter.com/WNrJUZahEM — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) November 7, 2017
This isn't a three-defensive end look up front, but Denver decides to leave Cox matched up on Leary again on this play, and Cox wins easily. No. 91 wins with a quick 'Hump' move, leaning into Leary on his way to the quarterback, forcing a bad throw that's picked off by Rodney McLeod in the secondary. I love seeing the urgency from all 11 members of the Eagles defense as they try to usher McLeod in the end zone. It was a great play on the back end that started with pressure up front.
Shot 7 - Outstanding read by #Eagles CB Patrick Robinson. Reads QB thru WR, jumps this throw before WR enters break or QB cocks arm to throw pic.twitter.com/UCtRB7l2SL — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) November 7, 2017
That was Osweiler's second interception of the day, and this was the first. Patrick Robinson reads Osweiler like a book on this play. From off coverage, the veteran corner jumps this in-breaking route before the receiver enters his break and before Osweiler even cocks his arm back to throw. Robinson jumps in front of the pass, picks it off, and returns it back into the red zone to help set up an Eagles touchdown.
The Eagles defense and special teams have helped start five offensive drives in the opposing red zone. Quarterback Carson Wentz has made the opponent play on all five occasions, throwing a touchdown pass off of every single one.
The secondary didn't just turn in a couple of big interceptions in this game, because there were a couple of really good examples of communication in the red zone as well. Here are two plays where you see corners on the outside pass off receivers down on the goal line, taking throws away from Osweiler and forcing incompletions
DEFENDING THE RUN
1.8 yards per carry the Eagles held the Broncos to on Sunday afternoon. Denver won't be confused for a great running team, but they came into this game knowing that if they were going to win this game, they'd need to get things going on the ground. You can't blame them for trying, but it was tough sledding from the jump. I could've pulled about 30 plays for this section, but I tried to keep it pretty limited and narrowed it down to the best of the best. Let's start with Brandon Graham, who was outstanding on Sunday.
Shot 9 - Why teams continue to trust tight ends to block Brandon Graham 1-on-1 at the point of attack....I'm not really sure #FlyEaglesFly pic.twitter.com/f8xWJUaHH7 — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) November 7, 2017
Why teams continue to try to block Graham one-on-one with a tight end is beyond me, but it very, very rarely works out for the offense. Graham blows up Virgil Green, one of the better blocking tight ends in the NFL, jacking him up at the point of attack and tossing him aside to make the play.
Shot 10 - More of the same from Brandon Graham. Guy makes plays like these on the backside of the run game all the time. Outstanding vs DEN pic.twitter.com/ibmVetXa0E — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) November 7, 2017
Every game you can see Graham make plays from the back side in the run game. He wins with his first step, and then his relentless motor and closing burst allow him to make plays from behind on a weekly basis. This week against Denver, it seemed like it was every third or fourth play that No. 55 found his way around the football.
Shot 11 - Great first step from Vinny Curry on this TFL, and peep the freakish athleticism from Fletcher Cox. 310 lbs turning the corner!! pic.twitter.com/CVDuWEM8Ks — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) November 7, 2017
On this play, Vinny Curry flies upfield off the left end and hits the ball carrier in the backfield. It was a great play by Curry, but I was blown away by the athleticism from Cox here as well. Talk about athleticism and flexibility from a 300-pound man? Watch him turn the corner on this play after exploding into the backfield.
Shot 12 - Chris Long did it all on Sunday. Continues to rush the passer effectively. Strong against the run. Chases the screen down so well pic.twitter.com/apfCWJPpWK — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) November 7, 2017
Chris Long has been an absolute madman this year. He's been a solid pass rusher, a strong run defender, and his hustle in pursuit against screen passes has been very impressive. He's been exactly what the Eagles hoped he'd be, and potentially more, when he signed in free agency this spring. You can't discredit the impact the veteran has had on this team this fall.
Shot 13 - Derek Barnett has played well over the last month. Great play here feeling down block and chasing this down in the flat. #Eagles pic.twitter.com/8DM52SrHLC — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) November 7, 2017
Derek Barnett has really had a strong last few weeks, and his performance continued on an upward trend against Denver. The rookie strung together a few good rushes against the Broncos, but this first play against the run was the play that really got my juices flowing. Watch him feel this down block, fight through it, and chase this play down in the flats. Barnett made a couple of other plays from the backside as well in this game.
Shot 14 - Tim Jernigan continues to be dominant at the point of attack. Controls this block from snap to finish. Huge part of #Eagles DL pic.twitter.com/qsGeuzw6Xo — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) November 7, 2017
Tim Jernigan continued his presence as a near-immovable force on the inside of the Eagles defense on Sunday. Watch him control this block from snap to finish on this rep, something he's been able to consistently do all season long.
The Eagles have gotten really good-to-great line play on both sides of the ball this year, something that they'll need to continue down the stretch if they want to continue as one of the best teams in the NFL after the bye week.