i'm just throwing this up here for anyone interested, as i've followed both the falcons and the eagles for several years. (stopped calling myself a 'fan' of the eagles after several years of being frustrated/infuriated with andy's coaching and GM'ing - that's a whole other post, though).
because of how the NFL's broadcasts work, much of what we know about teams and players is from highlights, and the narratives that sportswriters push. i'm an x's and o's guy, and am no longer astonished at how lazy a lot of the football writing is. after a game that you've watched intently, you can get a feel for who actually watched, who understood what they were watching, who wrote up what they 'think' happened based upon the box score, and who played cut & paste with AP or other wire blurbs.
here's an example of that, where i deconstruct a blog post/article with predictions for this week's game:
What Does Vick Do To Opposing Defenses?
When he was with the falcons, NFC South opponents (coaches and players) would admit that their preparation for ATL was unlike it was for any other team. They specifically had to unlearn years of football fundamentals.
- Backside pursuit in the running game - Because of the threat of the bootleg/keeper, the backside DE, DT and OLB would not crash down on run plays to seal off cutback lanes. That step or two that they would take when the flow of the run game went away from them would be enough to let vick get the corner. Consequently, they gave up large chunks of yardage to the Falcons' running backs on cutbacks, rather than give up 20-30 yards to Vick. The Falcons led the league in rushing for several years and Warrick Dunn (an underrated and fantastic back, btw) had top tier rushing numbers as a direct result of these additional rushing lanes.
EAGLE IMPACT? Not as much, because the Eagles don't employ the stretch/boot combo that the Falcons did, but notice that LeSean McCoy's td last week, and the 18 yarder in pre-season came when Vick was in the game. Also, the Falcons' o-line for the years while Vick was there (the Mora years, certainly) was *worse* than the currently bad Eagles OL. They sucked in pass protection and could not move anyone off the ball in the run game. They used a zone / cut blocking scheme which emphasized smaller linemen and lateral movement to create lanes. Worked GREAT between the 20's but was useless in Goal Line and Short Yardage.
- Pass Rush / Protection - Defensive lines, again, counter to years of coaching and instinct, are instructed to 'mush rush' against Vick. This greatly diminishes dominant speed rushers, because if you are too aggressive, you create creases through which he can escape. That *should* help protection, however, one of the Falcons' perennial weaknesses was being soft in the middle. Their center and guards would get pushed back so far that there would be no pocket to step up into. McGlynn vs. Suh is going to be very interesting in that regard. Against GB, however, the Eagles OL, while under a lot of pressure, did all
EAGLE IMPACT? Screens worked very well in the comeback against GB, who, as many people pointed out, were not specifically game planning for Vick. The more controlled pass rush that you need versus an extremely mobile QB tends to slow the DL down enough to recognize screens. If this becomes a longer term deal, the screen game will have to be adapted to work against this kind of defense, by developing further away from the pocket.
- Coverage - Defenses play a LOT of zone versus Vick. They *have* to. In man coverage, the DBs turn and run with the WRs. If Vick breaks contain, that is an easy 20-30yds before they even realize he's gone. So they play a Cover 2 look, where they can keep an eye on the receiver AND the QB. Against ATL, in the NFC South, which was already a Cover 2-heavy division (with TB and CAR). The problem for Vick in ATL was the ineptitude of Greg Knapp, who is one of the worst NFL offensive coordinators ever as far as the passing game goes. The Falcons only had one receiving option whom opposing defenses respected - Alge Crumpler. Crumpler wasn't particularly fast or anything, but he ran good routes and was the only receiver on the roster who could actually catch. ATL had no WRs who could beat the jam off the L.O.S., and would double the TE, making this an effective coverage against them. It was also made more effective by the fact that Knapp's routes either had the playside WR run a 'Go' (9) or a 'stick' or 'curl' route at around 12-15yds. The WRs, coached by George Stewart, a former linemen, could block their asses off, but telegraphed their breaks by raising up 3-4 yds before they got there, and it was pathetically easy for CB's to squat on cuts. When they did run man coverage behind blitzes, or rolling two spies to the play side, they did so with absolute confidence that no Falcon WR could beat single coverage.
EAGLE IMPACT? The Eagles not only have a very good TE in Celek (look for his numbers to go up this week), but they also have several threats, capable of beating single coverage. If DET goes man, Vick will look first to the big play downfield. If nothing's there, he can take off. I forgot to mention up top that another thing that opposing teams will do is use 'spy' coverage, with one or two players (LBs, usually, but versus ATL some teams even used Safeties) assigned to patrol a short zone, mirror the QB, and keep outside in leverage. Keep in mind that each 'spy' comes at the expense of an additional defender (to double DeSean) or blitzer. Spying, therefore, automatically gives the Eagles at least a +1 advantage in protection or pass routes. That is a HUGE advantage if an OC is smart enough to exploit it.
Here's what I would do if I were Andy or ol' Marty-mar. We're hurting on the OL, and have never been a particularly good straight ahead running team, anyway. Come out with Single back, 3WR 1 TE sets, spread them out and try to establish the run to get Shady in rhythm. Use a couple of scripted plays to determine the coverages and, specifically, whether they are game planning for Vick being one dimensional (despite the fact that he passed very effectively against GB's secondary).
As someone else beautifully broke down, we know that C.C. Brown is a liability in coverage. Chris Houston (one of their starting CBs) is also terrible in coverage, and is especially bad at turning his head and finding the ball on deep patterns. Out of twins to his side, I'd send the slot on the post to occupy the safety and then go right over his head down the sideline.
If they play Cover 2 with 'off' coverage, throw quick slants until they come up and press. And then go over their heads again. Also, against zone, have Celek split 2 deep on an all Go (if they are spying with the MLB, he's going to be running free between two preoccupied safeties). He can also sit down in the holes between the zones.
Because of the spies and controlled rush, the backs should be on slightly deeper routes than they ordinarily would, to make the LB's commit to either coverage or contain.
Another possible big play would be to put the TE (or a slot receiver) to the left, roll vick left and have a comeback to the outside WR. Rolling left will cause the LBs and Safeties to come up. Then you can either throw a '7' (post-corner) to the slot WR or TE (similar to the one in the DeSean Jackson highlight) or even a backside '8' (post) and that will be an easy six points. That play is even iller if you start out of shotgun with the RB on the left and use him to chip the DE or OLB and then escape into the flat, because that makes it look like a planned QB sweep. Even a good safety is getting burned on that.
take all of the above for what its worth. google "poetx99 + football" if you doubt that i know what i'm talking about.