5 Keys for the Eagles vs the Chargers
September 13, 2013 in Philadelphia Eagles
By Phil Thompson:
The Eagles may be favored to win this game, but that doesn't mean they still don't have to execute their game plan to go to 2-0. Here are the 5 keys for Sunday's game:
In addition to the tempo of this offense, what makes Chip Kelly's style work is his creativity. While on the surface his offense at Oregon was predicated on the famed inside zone read, Kelly added the outside zone, sweep plays, counters and much more. All of which had an option element and also a passing element. In addition to running different blocking styles Kelly would also run his plays with a wide variety of offensive personnel groups.
The Eagles should look to add some different plays, and personnel groups this week both in an effort to surprise the Chargers, but also to add further confusion to defenses going forward. Another thing the Eagles can do is perhaps run a few more "traditional" plays from under center. We saw this work Monday night, when Kelly pulled a play from Sean Payton's playbook and it resulted in a touchdown. The Redskins clearly weren't ready for that play and it caught them off guard.
Continuing to mix things up can be huge. From a personnel package standpoint, seeing more 3 TE (or even 4 if they are all active) sets, or formations where two running backs are on the field together. Now obviously to maintain your tempo you are going to want those groupings to be able to handle a multitude of roles, but I think they are versatile enough to do so.
2. Involve More Players on Offense:
This is a bit of a corollary to the first point, but another thing to increase the defensive confusion is to involve a wider number of their weapons in the offense. The Eagles pretty much ran with their 11 Personnel group of McCoy, Brent Celek, DeSean Jackson, Riley Cooper and Jason Avant for almost the entire game. Bryce Brown and Zach Ertz both got a some snaps, but James Casey, Jeff Maehl, and Damarius Johnson played a combined 5 snaps. Now it was really good to see the Eagles feature McCoy and Jackson as much as they did (especially for my fantasy purposes), but it is good to mix it up some as well.
Starters like Avant, Celek and Cooper deserve more targets, and getting some more playing time for guys like Brown (and Chris Polk), Ertz, Casey and Johnson can be beneficial as well. All of these guys can make plays and the more you mix it up the harder it is for a defense to key in on one or two guys to slow down the offense. Johnson in particular is a guy I'd like to see get the ball a bit more. His skill set is similar to DeSean Jackson's, but you can still have them both on the field at the same time. He's also a guy who could play that hybrid role that De'Anthony Thomas has played at Oregon.
The other factor with this is of course protecting LeSean McCoy. Thirty-one carries were great, but that obviously isn't sustainable (though turning some of his carries in to catches could keep him involved). The Eagles need to do a better job of involving the 2nd and 3rd tier players in their offense, and this could be a good week to do so, at home against what looks to be a weaker opponent.
3. Protect Vick Better:
One area where the Redskins had a little success was pressuring Michael Vick. Not only did it lead to three sacks, but it led to more than a couple off target passes one or two of which were nearly intercepted. Now Vick is partially to blame for holding on to the ball too long, or trying to make some of those riskier throws, but the line needs to step-up as well. If the Eagles can limit (or preferably eliminate their turnovers), they should win this game pretty easily.
The one concern is the pressure, which is where Vick typically makes his mistakes. The Chargers aren't thought to have a particularly strong pass rush, but Dwight Freeney looked rejuvenated in their Monday Night game. If the Eagles can shut him down, they should have no problem protecting Vick.
4. Make the Chargers One Dimensional:
This shouldn't be too difficult for the Eagles as they were able to take away a much stronger Redskins rushing attack Monday night, but it's important to have a repeat performance on Sunday against San Diego. Ryan Mathews isn't a top back, but you don't want him and Ronnie Brown getting started running the football. When San Diego has a balanced attack, they are a far bigger threat. Another benefit here for the Eagles is if they are stopping the run and forcing 3rd and long situations, they should more easily pressure Philip Rivers, which is typically his downfall. This will also lead to more 3 and outs, and help get the Eagles offense back out on the field.
5. Don't Get Beat Deep:
The Eagles weren't really challenged much vertically against the Redskins, but that is likely to change against the Chargers. San Diego won't throw deep as much as they used to under Norv Turner, but they will try to get behind the defense from time to time, and Rivers won't shy away from the throw. The Eagles secondary is coming off a great first game, but this 2nd contest will be a better test to see where they are as a unit.
This was a major concern as they broke camp so it should be an interesting battle to watch, but it is also crucial for them to get the victory. The Eagles offense should once again be able to control this game, but the key to make sure it's a win is to ensure the defense isn't giving it right back. If the Chargers are able to pick up yards 40-50 at a time or get that quick score it could put them back in the game and allow another comeback possibility.
If the Eagles aren't getting beat over the top, it will be really tough for the Chargers to keep up with the Eagles offense. The good news here is the key to not getting beat deep, may not be Williams, Chung, Boykin and company, but rather the pass rush of Cole, Barwin and Cox. If the Eagles can maintain pressure on Rivers, it will be tough for him to have the time to make an accurate deep ball throw.