Eagle Eye: Putting The Reins On The Colts

There were a lot of great things to take away from the film of the Eagles' offense in the win over the Indianapolis Colts, and the same could be said about Jim Schwartz’s defense as well.

The Colts' offense did not make things easy. Despite injuries across the board, the Colts did a few things schematically to try and negate the Eagles' aggressive defensive line. While the sack number wasn’t as high as many fans would like to see, the pressure was consistent as the active defensive front got after quarterback Andrew Luck and made things difficult for him in the backfield. For most of the afternoon, the ball came out of Luck’s hand quickly, but the Eagles were able to lock in and get stops when it mattered most late in the game.

Let’s start things off with the most crucial play in the game, a fourth-down down in the low red zone late in the fourth quarter. Derek Barnett gets a lot of love for this play, and rightfully so, but we have to give a lot of credit to Kamu Grugier-Hill as well. The Colts come out in a heavy personnel set. It's a formation that almost looks like Luck will be sprinting to his right, a common scheme on the goal line. Indianapolis wants the aggressive, fast-flow Eagles defense to sprint to the far sideline. Grugier-Hill doesn’t take the cheese, however, as he stays home and is disciplined in his coverage on the back side. The young linebacker is in position to defend this throwback play intended for veteran tight end Eric Ebron. Luck can’t deliver the ball, and Barnett does his job to win at the top of the rush for a critical sack and a turnover on downs.

Barnett caught a lot of heat back in Week 1 after a couple of penalties, but he has had a really solid start to the season. The former first-round pick plays with maximum effort on every play. He’s still coming along with his hand-use as a pass rusher, although I like what he did on the play above to win outside with his hands, he has played with a ton of urgency in the run game and constantly makes plays in pursuit.

Whether he’s blocked or not, Barnett is flying to the football 100 miles an hour on every play. He’s impressed me in the run game each of the past two weeks. His play personality will fill it very well here in Philadelphia long term.

By this point, Eagles fans know what the identity is of this unit under Schwartz. This defense won’t blitz a lot, but is very aggressive upfield and tries to live on the other side of the line of scrimmage. When you play that way as a defense, the same kind of plays will be thrown at you on a weekly basis. Every offense, as they prep for the Eagles and game plan throughout the week, will pull out its favorite screen plays, draw plays, misdirection concepts, and trap runs. All of these plays accomplish the same thing, drawing the defense upfield only to get blockers out in front for a ball carrier in space. The Colts tried three trap plays on Sunday.

They didn’t go well.

On all of these trap plays, the defensive end on the back side is left unblocked, which is fairly common to see. The motto on the Eagles' defensive line is that if you’re left unblocked, you BETTER make the play. That’s what happens on all of these shots. Barnett and Brandon Graham both do a great job of flattening out, staying parallel to the line of scrimmage, and finding the football to make the play on short gains.

The reason why teams want to trap the Eagles so often is because Fletcher Cox can be so dominant at the point of attack. No. 91 has looked like a potential Defensive Player of the Year through the first three games of the season, and he put his entire array of skills on display against the Colts.

Cox is athletic, strong, powerful, technically sound, and never stops coming after the football. The play he made on the screen pass above is something I’ve seen time and time again from the All-Pro. He’s truly one of the best defensive players in football.

It wasn’t just four-man rushes from the Eagles on Sunday, as Schwartz tried to throw a couple of curveballs against his former co-worker in Frank Reich. I loved that first snap above, where the defense disguised its coverage masterfully and unleashed an excellent pressure scheme at Luck. When you line up two defenders in the A gaps (directly over the center), as the Eagles did here with Malcolm Jenkins and Jordan Hicks, you create one-on-one matchups across the board for the rest of your defensive linemen. Michael Bennett crushes the left tackle and he collapses the pocket as Chris Long sneaks in from the back side, knocking the ball out of Luck’s hands. That was a great scheme from Schwartz and the Eagles' defensive staff.

I wanted to take one last look at the Eagles secondary, namely cornerback Sidney Jones, who has been fairly quiet (in a good way) through three games, not allowing any big plays down the field. Jones has been aggressive downhill and looked good in Philadelphia’s various zone coverage concepts. It’s been a good start for the second-year corner as he adjusts to playing a new position in the slot.

Fran Duffy is the producer of the Emmy-nominated Eagles Game Plan show which can be seen every gameday during the season on NBC10 in Philadelphia. He is also the host of two Eagles-related podcasts, Eagle Eye in the Sky, which examines the team from an X's and O's angle each and every week as well as the Journey to the Draft podcast, which covers college football and the NFL Draft all year round. Fran also authors the Eagle Eye in the Sky column, which runs four times a week during the football season to serve as a recap for the previous game and to preview the upcoming matchup. Prior to joining the Eagles in 2011, Duffy was the head video coordinator for the Temple University football team under former head coach Al Golden. In that role, he spent thousands of hours shooting, logging, and assisting with the breakdown of the All-22 film from the team’s games, practices, and opponents.

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