Friday, March 6, 2015

The Eagles' red-zone struggles

Donovan McNabb and the first-team offense had five possessions in the red zone tonight against the Jaguars.

The Eagles' red-zone struggles

Donovan McNabb and the first-team offense had five possessions in the red zone tonight against the Jaguars.

They came away with two touchdowns, two field goals and a turnover. But in the first half, the Eagles came away empty on all three trips inside the Jaguars' 20 yard line. McNabb explained after the game that this was not their red-zone offense.

But then again, last year we saw their red-zone offense, and the results were not very good.

So I went back and took a look at every play they ran inside the red zone on those five drives. Here's the breakdown:

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Drive 1: David Akers 31-yard field goal

Play 1 - The Eagles entered the red zone after Michael Vick targeted Hank Baskett for a 13-yard gain to the Jaguars' 14-yard line. They then ran a screen pass to LeSean McCoy. McNabb was set up in shotgun with three receivers. For a second, it looked like McCoy would pick up 7 or 8 yards, but cornerback Tyron Brackenridge flew to the ball and brought him down for a short gain. Poor job of blocking by Kevin Curtis on the outside.

Play 2 - McNabb set up in shotgun once again with four receivers split out wide, including tight end Brent Celek. The Jaguars brought a blitz up the middle with linebacker Russell Allen. It looked like he was Jamaal Jackson's responsibility, but Jackson was slow to react, and Allen got in McNabb's face quickly, forcing him to throw it away to the far sideline.

Play 3 - For the third straight play, McNabb was in the shotgun, this time with two running backs and three wide receivers. It's Brackenridge again, this time coming untouched on a delayed blitz from McNabb's blind side. When the ball was snapped, he was on Curtis, and McNabb never saw him coming. Brackenridge nailed McNabb just as he released the ball, causing a near-interception in the end zone.

Drive 2: Fumble returned for a 92-yard touchdown

Play 1: Well, this one's easy since there was only one play. After a couple nice catches by Jeremy Maclin, the offense found itself at the Jaguars' 1-yard line with a first-and-goal. McNabb set up under center with Kyle Eckel and LeSean McCoy in the backfield, DeSean Jackson and Hank Baskett to the far side and Brent Celek in at tight end. McNabb looked for McCoy on the near side out of the backfield, he dropped the ball, which was a lateral, and Brian Iwuh returned it for a 92-yard touchdown. As I said during our live chat, I hated every aspect of this play. The call was no good. McNabb should know better than to make that pass behind the line of scrimmage. Way too risky. And McCoy ran a puzzling route where even if he would have made the catch, it would have resulted in a loss. To make matters worse, either none of the Eagles players knew the rule, or none of them felt like hustling, because the Jaguars' 239-pound linebacker was all by himself on the way to the end zone. McCoy was the only guy who gave any kind of chase. The rest of the offensive players just stopped.

Drive 3: Akers 21-yard field goal

Play 1: McNabb in shotgun with four wide receivers and Celek in at tight end. Keep in mind that there was less than 40 seconds left and the Eagles had no timeouts, so they had to throw the ball. McNabb looked for Celek in the end zone, but guess who made a great play on the ball? Sean Considine. I know. One of your favorites.

Play 2: McNabb under center with three receivers, Celek and McCoy in the backfield. The Jaguars once again brought a blitz up the middle. This time, it was up to Winston Justice to pick up the linebacker, but he didn't realize until it was too late. McNabb had to force a throw in Jackson's direction for an incompletion.

Play 3: Same formation as the previous play. McNabb delivered a pretty good throw on the fade to Baskett on the far side. Brackenridge was there on coverage and got a hand up, but Baskett still had a pretty good chance to make the catch. He couldn't hold on though. By the way, if you're keeping track at home, that's seven plays in the red zone, all passing plays, in the first half.

Drive 4: McCoy 4-yard TD run

Play 1: McNabb set up in shotrun at the Jaguars' 18-yard line. Hank Baskett and Jason Avant stayed in momentarily to help with protection before going out into their routes. McCoy stayed in to block as well. McNabb had a wide open throwing lane over the middle and delivered a strike to Maclin at the 4-yard line. Maclin was shaken up on the play, but nice execution all around here.

Play 2: With 1st-and-goal from the 4, McNabb set up under center with three receivers and McCoy in the backfield. The handoff went to McCoy, and McNabb faked the end around to Jackson. This brought the Jaguars cornerback away from the far side of the field, which was right where McCoy went. He uses his speed to turn the corner at the perfect time and avoided two Jaguars defenders.

Drive 5: 3-yard TD pass to Marcus Mailei

Play 1: McNabb set up under center with three wide receivers and McCoy in the backfield. The Jaguars rushed only four, and McNabb hit Jackson over the middle for a gain of 9 yards.

Play 2: On 2nd-and-1, the Eagles set up in the I-formation with two receivers out wide. The line and Mailei created a hole for McCoy, who took it down to the 3-yard line for a first down.

Play 3: The Eagles went to McCoy up the middle once again, but this time with no fullback to lead the way. Jaguars linebacker and Penn State product Tim Shaw made a nice play to stop him for no gain.

Play 4: The Eagles ran play-action to McCoy after two straight runs, and McNabb found Mailei on the far side. The fullback did a nice job of finding the pylon and got in the end zone.

Sheil Kapadia Philly.com
About this blog
Sheil Kapadia is in his fifth season writing about the Eagles and the NFL for philly.com. 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 skapadia@philly.com or by clicking here

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