There goes the last of the sacred cows in the NFL— the World Champion Patriots were 8-0 in these kind of opening season games at home prior to last night, and Andy Reid and his Chieves put that streak to rest.
It tells me that anything is possible in this new season. That feeling bodes well for the Eagles. At the very least I think we have a potentially better pass rush than the Patriots defense showed last night. It was awful for New England. Just awful. They made Alex Smith look like..umm…Joe Flacco?
We should be more concerned about the big matchups coming up against us on Sunday versus the Redskins…
Here are the ones that matter to me most— and I thank Dave Spadaro of PE.com for highlighting them today:
Who Covers Jamison Crowder In The Slot?
“This is sort of a double-edged challenge for the Eagles and the new-look secondary. Jamison Crowder has played in four games against the Eagles and has 14 catches and a touchdown. He moves the chains. He’s very quick and reliable. And he plays off the presence of tight ends Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis very nicely.
“Now, the Eagles have used Patrick Robinson in the slot after acquiring Ronald Darby, and Robinson seemed to do a good job in the preseason. This is going to be a different kind of challenge. Can Robinson stay with Crowder’s quickness? Can he press Crowder at the line of scrimmage and pin him down? Would the Eagles consider using new corner Dexter McDougle at times to match the quickness of Crowder?
“The matchups on the outside seem very even to watch: Darby against the speed of Josh Doctson and Jalen Mills against the size of Terrelle Pryor. Or maybe Darby and Mills stay on their sides and cover whichever receiver lines up across from them.
“The perspective here says the coverage goes from inside – Crowder and the tight ends – out against Washington.
“He’s a playmaker who plays with real confidence. He makes them go. He does a lot of different things depending on where he is in the formation,” McDougle said. “Very quick, likes to get north and south. He’s a good player. Tough guy. Very solid.”
Defensive Coordinator Jim Schwartz Vs. QB Kirk Cousins
“In five starts against the Eagles, Kirk Cousins is 4-1 with 12 touchdown passes and only three interceptions. The Eagles just haven’t been able to get Cousins off his game, no matter what they’ve tried. So, this is going to be an interesting chess match. Schwartz isn’t known as someone who blitzes a lot, but maybe he’ll dial one up here and there.
“Cousins will throw interceptions when pressured, as he did at FedEx Field last season when Malcolm Jenkins returned an interception for a touchdown, but he works the pocket well and he’s just mobile enough to keep defenses honest and respectful of his ability to make plays with his legs.
“How can Schwartz stay one beat ahead of Cousins in this game? It’s going to be a fascinating game within the game to watch.”
Line Against Line: Battle In The Trenches
“This is the game of football, right? Who wins at the line of scrimmage wins the game, usually. And both teams have good lines, so this is going to be tremendous. Fletcher Cox needs to get the better of right guard Brandon Scherff and Vinny Curry/Derek Barnett need to beat left tackle Trent Williams. The Pro Bowl left tackle absolutely dominated Connor Barwin last season as Washington found gaping holes in the running game to the right side of the Eagles’ defense.
“Lane Johnson isn’t solely responsible for the success of the Eagles’ offensive line, because Washington has some weapons and a scheme that emphasizes aggressiveness.
“They’re going to come after us and try to take away the running game,” center Jason Kelce said. “We have to play good football to win at the line of scrimmage. They’re a tough group.”
I anticipate a very chippy game with a slightly over-confident group of Redskins fueling the fire in this one. I expect a lot of penalties on both sides, mostly due to excessive excitement from both teams and a fairly sensitive ref crew keeping an EYE on this game.
Fran Duffy had this to say about what the Eagles defense will be up against:
“Head coach Jay Gruden runs the Redskins show on offense. Yes, he lost offensive coordinator Sean McVay to the Los Angeles Rams. Washington became the first team in NFL history to lose two 1,000-yard receivers in DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon after the same season. With that three-headed monster leaving the nation’s capital, everyone wants to know how different this offense will look in 2017? My guess is that it will look pretty similar schematically with Gruden’s fingerprints all over it.
“Gruden’s offense is a very efficient one. They finished in the top five on third down a year ago and finished No. 2 in the entire league in receptions of 20-plus yards. It was a big-play offense that attacked defenses at every level of the field from a wide variety of looks and formations. Washington used a high variance in receiver distribution and location last year. In simpler terms, the Redskins took their best pieces on offense and moved them all around the field to find ways to create favorable matchups against the defense.”
In other words, we are the Chieves on Sunday, and the Redskins are the home team Patriots with the legacy of the big-play offense.
We can do this!
By the way, how do you really watch these games—I mean REALLY WATCH?
My dad always told me to watch the center and the guards—don’t be a slave to watching the ball.
I guess he was on to something… because this guide to watching the game just came out from retired offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz…
Geoffrey Isaiah “Geoff” Schwartz (born July 11, 1986) is a former NFL offensive guard. He was drafted by the Carolina Panthers in the seventh round of the 2008 NFL Draft. He was also a member of the Minnesota Vikings, Kansas City Chiefs, New York Giants and Detroit Lions. Schwartz played college football at the University of Oregon. He started for three years at right tackle, and in his senior year was a second-team All-Pac-10 selection.
If you’re ready to take your NFL viewing experience to the next level, retired NFL offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz has you covered with this quick start guide that goes through the five basics of watching a football game like a pro.
To sum up, if you are too busy tacking up plywood on your windows to defend against Irma, which I am going to have to do later today down on Smith Island, here are the Schwartz-Be-With-You rules of engagement for smarter watching of the game this Sunday:
“I often get asked what I watch for on Sundays when I’m sitting in front of the TV. That answer is complex and based on the matchups. However, I’ve compiled a list of little nuggets you can watch for to enhance your NFL watching experience. Unfortunately, some of these depend on the camera angles, but when you watch the All-22 film, which I know most do, these will help you understand what’s going on.
“So without further ado, here are five things to watch during NFL games:
1. IS IT MAN-TO-MAN OR ZONE COVERAGE?
“This is important for the offense because a) it defines the mismatches, and b) it eliminates a wide range of pressure options. If you’re in man-to-man coverage, it’s hard to bring pressure unless you play zero coverage, with no safety in the middle of the field. So there are actually simple giveaways to the coverages if you look closely enough. These giveaways are all in the formations and motions.
“Ever notice when a TE or RB lines up OUTSIDE of the WR or is split out wide by himself? If someone from the box, a linebacker or safety, walks out to cover that TE or RB, it’s man-to-man coverage. Often teams will align with the hope that it is man-to-man coverage to exploit that matchup.
“How do motions play a part in determining man-to-man or zone? First, a motion is when a skill player (so not a lineman), starts in one spot, and moves laterally and/or back to a different location. Unlike the CFL, you’re not allowed to go forward in your motion before the snap. Some teams motion a whole bunch; others not often. A WR can motion all the way across the line of scrimmage. A back and/or tight end can motion from outside to the backfield and vice versa.
“The motions are a great indicator for man or zone coverage. When a motion occurs, if the defender on that player follows him for the entire motion, it’s man coverage. If the defense just shifts players a bit, it’s zone coverage. And nothing works better for this than an RB or TE motion from inside out.
“Motions can also be used for a variety of different reasons. When you motion a TE across, the defense might shift its strength and you’re able to get the right front of run a play against. Short motions, where a WR just motions to a stack position, are used to get better releases, and in man-to-man coverage for picking defenders.”
2. PAY ATTENTION TO WHERE THE BALL IS PLACED.
“The ball placed on either hash mark eliminates lots of options for both sides of the ball. More often than not, the ball will be run toward the field (away from the sidelines), because there is more space out there. If the ball is run into the boundary (toward the sidelines), it’s typically an inside zone, or in the rare instance there’s a TE down there, maybe a power play. Being on a hash narrows down the amount of pressures that can be run.
“Usually, if a team will run a zone blitz where the DE drops into coverage, it wants that DE to be into the boundary because he has to cover less ground. When the ball is in the middle of the field, a zone pressure can come from anywhere. Also, when a team is in a 3×1 formation on the hash — three players are out wide in the formation, with one into the boundary — this really defines the pressure situation for the offense. The defense has to cheat big time to cover all that ground to the field if it wants to bring pressure. It’s easier to see for the offense.
3. WHAT DOES ALL THE POINTING ON OFFENSE MEAN?
“When the center points to someone, that’s whom the offensive line is working to. Often, the QB will also point to the same player, or someone else if needed, so everyone is on the same page. This lets the defense know which way the center is sliding in pass protection. The defensive line will call stunts/twists AWAY from where the center is sliding because those two offensive linemen are man-to-man. It’s hard to run a stunt with the center sliding your direction.
“What about the quarterback pointing to defenders outside the box while looking at the WR? Well that’s to let the WR know who his “hot” player is. I’m sure y’all have heard the term “hot route.” A hot route, or sight if it’s weak, is designed to get the ball out quickly during a pressure. The protectors on a certain play can only account for X amount of people. If one extra than X blitzes, that’s when a WR runs his hot route. This is what the quarterback is reminding the WR, who might not see who the center is pointing out.
“Lastly, pointing is a sign that the quarterback knows what he’s doing. Lots of young quarterbacks are busy reading the defense or focusing on other things to be on the same page as the line. That’s how you get unfortunate quarterback hits, like the one Christian Hackenberg of the Jets recently took.
4. KEEP AN EYE ON THE SAFETIES.
“I know it’s hard to see them on TV, but they control everything for a defense. They can point out where a possible pressure is coming from. If a defense is blitzing, the safeties often have to cheat toward that pressure to fill in the empty spot left by the rushing defender.
“If you ever notice a safety lined up directly over a nickel player, that nickel player is bringing the heat. These are often tells an offense can use to tell where a pressure is coming from.
5. WHO WILL COVER THAT GAP?
“Ever look at the alignment of a defense and think, “no one is there to cover that gap”? Well, something is happening to get that area covered. The defense will stunt, twist, blitz, and rotate over to cover an open area on the field. No gap goes unaccounted for and if one does, the offense will likely find a way to exploit it.”
* * *
“I hope these little tidbits of inside information help enhance your gameday watching experience. I know at times the TV angles make some of these tough to spot, but when you go back to watch a replay, or the All-22, these five things to watch will make your understanding of the game greatly improve. Enjoy the 2017 NFL season and as usual, follow me on Twitter@GeoffSchwartz as I tweet my way through this season.”