Sunday, November 29, 2015

Is the Eagles' blitz working?

Throughout this season, when the Eagles' defense has had its problems, I've often looked at their lack of success getting to opposing quarterbacks with the blitz.

Is the Eagles' blitz working?


Throughout this season, when the Eagles' defense has had its problems, I've often looked at their lack of success getting to opposing quarterbacks with the blitz.

Back in training camp, when Sean McDermott was asked what piece of advice he'd take from Jim Johnson, he did not hesitate to say blitz, and blitz again.

And it might not seem that simple, but really it is.

Getting pressure with the front four is always preferred, but that's not the way this D has been built.

So when the Eagles are blitzing effectively and getting to the quarterback, their defense has success.

When they are blitzing and failing to get to the quarterback, their defense has problems.

And when they don't blitz at all, well, there are mixed results.

I took a look one more time at the performance against the Giants (at this point, I can repeat from memory every word Cris Collinsworth says in the third quarter). Eli Manning completed 27 of 38 passes for 391 yards and three touchdowns overall.

I counted 45 times when Manning dropped back to pass (sacks, penalties and him scrambling account for the number being different than passing attempts). On those plays, the Eagles blitzed 15 times, or a third of the time. When McDermott sent linebackers and DBs after Manning, they had little success disrupting the Giants' offense. Manning was quick in his decision-making and release, smart with his reads, and the Eagles almost never got to him.

The success of the Eagles' blitz is something to keep an eye on down the stretch, and of course in the postseason.

Here's a look at how it broke down when the Eagles blitzed and didn't blitz Sunday.

When they blitzed:

** Manning completed 10 of 13 passes for 164 yards and two touchdowns.

** They used 12 different combinations on the 15 blitzes, and only used two combinations more than once:

Joselio Hanson and Quintin Demps (3)
Will Witherspoon and Quintin Mikell (2)
Witherspoon and Chris Gocong
Witherspoon, Tracy White, Demps, Joselio Hanson
Hanson, White and Demps
Sean Jones, Gocong and Akeem Jordan
Mikell and Gocong
Witherspoon and Hanson
Witherspoon, Jordan and Hanson
Mikell, Gocong and Trotter
Mikell and White
Witherspoon and White

** Witherspoon was the most frequent blitzer. He went after Manning seven times. As much as I like Witherspoon as a player, he has not had success as a blitzer all season. How often the other players blitzed: Hanson (6), Mikell (5), Demps (5), Gocong (4), White (4), Jordan (2), Jones (1), Trotter (1).

** Trent Cole dropped back in coverage twice during the 15 blitzes. Jason Babin once. And Juqua Parker once.

** As crazy as it may sound, the Giants left a lot of plays on the field. They had chances for two big plays on downs where the Eagles blitzed, but couldn't connect.

** That being said, the Eagles probably should have had a sack with White on the play where Manning flipped it to Ahmad Bradshaw for 31 yards.

** On the 61-yard TD to Domenik Hixon, Hanson was initially lined up on him, before blitzing from the slot. Poor tackling was of course the big problem on that play.

When they didn't blitz:

** Manning completed 17 of 25 passes for 227 yards and a TD.

** The Eagles were only rushing four on the 68-yard touchdown to Hakeem Nicks.

** The Eagles were not blitzing on the play where Trotter let an INT slip out of his hands, and into Kevin Boss'.
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Sheil Kapadia is in his fifth season writing about the Eagles and the NFL for His earliest memories as a sports fan include several trips to Veterans Stadium with his Dad. He's not a beat writer or an Insider, but is here to discuss the NFL 365 days a year. E-mail him at or by clicking here

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