Greg Cosell’s Look Ahead; how are teams slowing down the Eagles offense?

Frank Schwab
October 5, 2013

The Philadelphia Eagles' last two opponents have defended them in similar ways, and both teams had success slowing down Chip Kelly's offense.

The Chiefs two weeks ago and the Broncos last week cut down Philadelphia's options and reduced the Eagles' offense to having to hand the ball off to LeSean McCoy between the tackles. It gave the Giants something to study before their matchup against the Eagles this Sunday.

The Chiefs and Broncos each played a high percentage of man coverage, often pressing the Eagles' receivers, with a single safety deep. Man coverage helps take away the bubble screens Philadelphia likes to use. Both teams weren't going to let the Eagles beat them on the perimeter in the passing game. And the Eagles have too many isolation one-on-one routes with receivers vs. man coverage; their receivers need help with scheme and concepts to get open.

Man coverage also takes away Philadelphia's quick passes to the tight end. Having a single-high safety allows the other safety to play close to the box and take away Vick's running off the read option. Usually that safety, theoretically at least, is the athletic equivalent to Vick and can deal with that. The Broncos sometimes used a linebacker as a spy on Vick.

That approach has reduced the Eagles' options to one thing, and that's handing the ball inside to McCoy. The Broncos were clearly comfortable defending Eagles run game with six defenders in the box. Does McCoy get a big run every once in a while, or run for 158 yards like he did in the Chiefs game? Yes. But teams think that the Eagles won't beat them with McCoy running between the tackles. That's the theory, anyway.

Blitzing Griffin

Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III has been blitzed the same amount through four games this season as he was through his 15 games in 2012. This season he has been blitzed on 40 percent of his drop backs.

Last week the Raiders challenged the Redskins offense with significant snaps of press-man coverage and blitzes. The Raiders blitzed Griffin on 19 of his 33 drop backs, and Griffin was 8-of-18 for 107 yards, one touchdown and one sack. Griffin has struggled against the blitz in his second season, completing 38-of-72 passes (52.8 percent), three touchdowns and two interceptions. Last season Griffin led the NFL against the blitz, completing 69 percent of throws with nine touchdowns and no interceptions.

Griffin is still predominantly a one-read quarterback, because he did not have an off-season to expand passing concepts and develop progression reading, due to rehabbing his knee injury.

Glennon review

Tampa Bay rookie quarterback Mike Glennon did some good things in his first career start last week. He has the instincts of a pocket quarterback. He trusts his protection and delivers the ball with rhythm and timing. The ball comes out of his hand well, with excellent velocity, especially on short to intermediate throws. He had natural poise in the pocket, and did not overreact to pressure.

At this point Glennon is a primary read quarterback, which is just what you’d expect from a rookie making his first start with limited first-team practice reps. I think he's got a good chance to make it. But I think there will be games when he looks awful. And by the way, that’ll be perfectly normal for a rookie quarterback.

Rookie Vaccaro is huge factor for Saints' D

What's probably most surprising about the Saints' defensive improvement through four games is they're not doing it the way defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was expected to do it, with a lot of blitzes. The Saints defense has been pretty conservative. A major reason for the Saints' improvement is safety Kenny Vaccaro, a rookie first-round pick, and all the different ways they can use him.

I've been a big believer in the last few years that the safety position's importance is increasing in the NFL. That you can find a safety in the third, fourth or fifth round of the NFL draft has been the mantra, but I don't think that's the best approach anymore. I think the position is more important than that. I'd argue the Saints' best defensive player through four games is Vaccaro. They’ve used him in a variety of spots, which is very rare for a rookie. He'll be a big part of the Saints' defensive plan against Chicago this Sunday.

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NFL analyst and NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell watches as much NFL game film as anyone. Throughout the season, Cosell will join Shutdown Corner to share his observations on the teams, schemes and personnel from around the league.

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