Going to mix things up a bit on this breakdown. I thought I'd try something I haven't done before, and look at some idea's on how to attack the Eagles, and some things we need to be careful of. This will involve more theory than we've seen in the other breakdowns. So while there will be screen-shots, I will also introduce a new feature, the whiteboard. This could potentially be a recurring feature if it gets good feedback, but at the same time, might well turn out to be an absolute disaster. Only one way to find out. Lets start with a few ways the Redskins can potentially attack the Eagles.
Having watched some Eagles film, the first thing I noticed was the Eagles like to use a "Nickel" package (where the defense - see what I did there?- has 5 defensive backs on the field, usually 3 Cornerbacks, and 2 safeties) wuite frequently, to allow all 3 of their star CBs on the field at the same time. The Eagles view this as a big strength of their defense, and quite rightly so. Having 3 of the NFL's best CBs in Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Asante Samuel is an impressive secondary. However, while they are premium coverage guys, it leaves them very open to the run. They can all be good run defenders against WR's, but when a TE or an Olineman gets his hands on a CB, you expect them to win that battle. So one idea I had was to split either Fred Davis or Chris Cooley out as a WR. Lets have a look:
At first. when they see Davis and Cooley in the huddle, they'll send on their base 4-3 defense and no extra DBs. But if we line up with Davis in the slot. The first option for the defence to do is bring an OLB into coverage. If this happens, I think you would back Davis to beat the current group of Eagles OLBs and throw the ball to him. The other option for the Eagles is to rotate a safety down if they think its still a run play.
From this, We could back Davis to beat his man again, or we could run the other way from the SS, taking him out of the play. However, the big problem now is that the Eagles are playing with one deep safety.
So one option could be to let both our natural WR's run deep patterns, knowing that at least one of them will get 1-on-1 coverage as the safety over the top can only cover so much ground. The main problem with this is that we don't really have a WR that can take advantage of that match-up, and the Eagles CB's are more than good enough to hold up solid coverage on 1-on-1 deep routes. So I think Davis would still be the primary target, and I would still back him to beat a safety in single coverage more often than not.
These are just a few theories. But the main idea of this is to get that Nickel package of the eagles on the field, forcing an LB off the field.
With the Nickel package on the field, the Eagles are vulnerable to the run. Whoever the CB is on Davis, you'd expect him to hold a block on a CB. One idea I drew up here was motioning Cooley to the right side, and having heavy blocking to that side. You could even motion Davis back in to a TE position, and you could have a corner effectively playing LB, making it easier to run on. Now there are ways the Eagles can deal with this, they can still bring a safety into the box, they could send a heavy blitz protected with deep zones from a selection of the DBs. But if we can force the Nickel package on the field, while keeping 2 TE's on the field, we'll have a better chance at running the ball effectively.
Running on the nickel package is one thing. But to pass on it will undoubtedly be tough, they are 3 of the best CB's in the league after all. There are a couple ways of dealing with this, lets have a look at a little bit more theory.
The idea of this play is to get the 3 WR's to run deep "clearing" routes. Basically, we'd have no intention of throwing deep at them, but we'd get them to clear space behind them by forcing their CB to run with them. With 3 WR's running deep, the safeties are likely to hang back to help cover over the top.
Everything above the blue dotted line would be irrelevant. You can see the space left behind the DBs. Rex would have 2 reads. He could throw to the TE or the RB and then it would be up to them to make a play.
That is just a theory however. It could be stopped by zone coverage, of by CBs passing on the deep routes to the safeties and coming up to help cover the TE/RB. So lets have a look at a play that has killed the Eagles so far. The screen.
The weakest part of the Eagles defense is their LB core. Their Dline is very aggressive and can provide a good rush, while we know what they have in the secondary. Screen plays are a perfect way to attack LBs. What we'll see here is a screen up the middle. The 49er RT and C get out from the line, and the FB goes out like he's running a route, drawing an LB to him. The main risk of this play is allowing that Eagles Dline a free run at Smith. The RB actually has to chip the DE from the far side, before running into position to receive the pass.
I've circled the 3 guys that have gotten up-field to help block on the screen. Smith manages to get the ball to Hunter, the RB, before the pass-rush gets there. The RG is going to turn back and make a block on the extra Dlineman, allowing Hunter to hit the open field.
The RT loses his block, he tries to make up for it, but ends up getting in Hunters way. The Center does a nice job on his block and gives Hunter space.
In the end though, Hunter gets the first down and some. It takes a combination to get him down, including Asomugha who eventually realised it was a screen and came up to make the play.
I showed you a Redskins screen to Roy Helu in my last breakdown and said I was surprised we haven't seen more of them. I think that could be huge for us this week, as the Eagles have failed to consistently stop them so far this season.
Now on to a few things we need to be careful about. The Eagles are undoubtedly a very talented roster, after all, there is a reason many predicted them to win the NFC East, and potentially go all the way. Don't let their poor start fool you, they still have plenty of weapons that can hurt you.
I briefly mentioned their Dline. It's stacked with very good pass-rushers that could give our Oline and Grossman a very tough day. They are all aggressive when rushing the passer, and can get to the QB quickly. We saw in the screen play that the DE nearly got to Smith before he released the ball on the screen.
Babin is one of the big off-season acquisitions for the Eagles. He's lined up over the RT here.
Babin and the other DE get good jumps off the line and generate quick pressure, forcing Smith to step up in the pocket.
This is the point where Smith has to make a decision, throw the ball or tuck it and run. This is a big point for Rex aswell. Rex has to get rid of the ball early, he wont have too much time against this Dline. He'll need to keep calm, be willing to step up, and not be afraid to throw it away if everyone is covered. If he hesistates, like Smith does here...
He'll get sacked.
Michael Vick is obviously a huge threat. We know his legs are a threat, and we know after last year his arm has become just as big of one. Their Oline hasn't done the best job of protecting him, and one thing I've noticed they like to do is to "roll" the pocket, and let Vick get to the edges of the pocket to make throws without having pressure on him. We'll need Kerrigan and Orakpo to get good jumps off the line to stop Vick from rolling to one side, and we'll need the front 3 to hold the pocket in place, to give him as little room as possible to tuck and run. But there's only so much you can do to combat the threat of his legs. The main point I'll make on Vick, is if you get a chance to sack or tackle him, wrap him up and stop his legs moving. Don't get carried away with the opportunity to take his head off like some people might. Here's the Eagles first TD against the 49ers as a perfect example:
The 49ers Dlineman has a great opportunity to get the sack here, Vick is just coming out of a turn to avoid pressure up the middle, and the Dlineman should make the play.
But he takes too high and angle and allows Vick to get underneath him.
Vick gets under him and keeps his feet moving and the play alive, and then does what nobody else in the league can replicate.
He escapes out of the pocket, keeps his eyes down-field and spots an open receiver in the end zone.
Clay Harbor makes the easy catch and puts up points on the board. I put the last picture up to make another point. Notice how Harbor has no 49er anywhere near him. DB's absolutely cannot stop covering until they hear the whistle. With Vick's ability to do what he showed there, he can extend plays for so much longer than DB's expect them to. It's vital they don't switch off and keep covering until the whistle blows.
The final point I'll make, is without any pictures as this is probably dragging on a bit, but I feel its an important point. We cannot afford to over-stack on the run too often. If we bring Landry up on the run, and leave just Atogwe deep, with Jackson and Maclin 1-on-1 outside against Hall and Wilson, it's going to be a long day. Jackson and Maclin are so fast and such big deep threats, we'll need over the top help whenever possible, otherwise we'll see Jackson or Maclin running past Hall or Wilson and making huge plays.
So, what do you guys think? What do you think are Eagles weak points and how would you best attack them? What should we be most careful of? And what did you think of the whiteboard X's and O's drawings? Let me know if you like them or if you think I have no idea what I'm talking about in the comments below or on Twitter @UkRedskin1