Week 1 Film Breakdown: Eagles Run Defense

The Eagles did what was expected of them (well…by us fans at least) and pummeled the Rams last Sunday. However, the game did raise a bit of concern over the run defense. The Rams finished the game with 154 rushing yards including a 47 yard Steven Jackson TD. They only rushed twice for 11 yards in the 4th quarter because of the large deficit so most of the damage was done in the first three. When watching the game live, I thought our run defense the entire game was terrible and I was blaming Casey Matthews for most of it. Matthews didn’t have a good game and is still not looking to be starting material but he was not the only reason for the struggles. After reviewing the game tape, things weren’t as bad as they first seemed. For this breakdown, I compiled the clips for every running play that the Rams ran against the Eagles. I will be focusing mostly on the linebackers because in this Wide-9 scheme, they are the primary run defenders. Just in case you missed it, here is the one I did on Todd Herremans a couple weeks ago(who did a fine job at RT for his first start). I’ll try to do one of these every week.

Snap-by-snap analysis after the jump…


I will define whether the play was positive, neutral, or negative for the defense.

Positive play = 3 yards or less given up

Neutral play= 4 yards given up

Negative play= 5 yards or more given up


Play #1: Steven Jackson inside handoff - 47 yard TD (Negative Play)

This was supposed to be a run to the right side but Jackson cutback to his left after seeing there was no room there. The man who is the most to blame for this play is Moise Fokou. He over-aggressively ran towards Steven Jackson, left a big hole in his gap and then gets pancaked. The gap which Jackson utilized to hit the second level. The next line of defense is the safety(Kurt Coleman) who should have stopped Jackson. Instead, he gets blocked by frickin’ Danny Amendola. After that, he’s gone and Nnamdi doesn’t stand a chance of tackling him. This play displays how important gap responsibility is in this defense. With the ends lined up so wide and the entire D-line rushing up field, the linebackers must control their gap, shed the block, take the correct angle and tackle the ball carrier.

Play #2: Steven Jackson inside handoff – 9 yards (Negative Play)

Rams had 7 blockers at the line including a TE and a WR. They did a good job blocking but the gain could have been limited if Casey read the play quickly and attacked towards the direction of Jackson’s run instead of just going straight into a double team and blocking Chaney’s path in the process. Notice how quickly both Chaney and Fokou got to Jackson and where Matthews is. He was in a lot of those positions all pre-season.

Play #3: Cadillac Williams draw – 5 yards (Negative Play)

Patterson destroys his man and nearly got the tackle which could’ve have been for 0 – 1 yard. Matthews again just runs in a straight line and gets blocked out of the play from just one push. Jarrad Page should have read it was a draw quicker, charge at Williams and deliver the blow instead he went in soft and made the tackle.

Play #4: Cadillac Williams left end – 10 yards (Negative Play)

Trent Cole was in a position to make a play but trips over Fokou who was rolling on the ground after getting chop blocked by guess who again...Danny Amendola. Little dude is scrappy! Coleman missed the tackle at the first down marker which would have been 5-6 yards at most. Instead, Matthews makes the tackle after a 10 yard gain.

Play #5: Cadillac Williams inside handoff – No gain (Positive Play)

D-line ate up all 5 linemen. Chaney attacks the LOS and makes the tackle for no gain. Good job. On the flip side, somebody tell me what the hell Matthews is doing on this play. Is he trying to play tag or does he not know it’s a running play and not a pass?

Play #6: Cadillac Williams inside handoff – 16 yards (Negative Play)

Dixon gets by the full back very quickly but a step too slow for Williams who hit the hole hard. If only Dixon went around the other way, it would have been a TFL.  Fokou again over pursues and it’s three O-linemen against three linebackers. Total mismatch. Easy 16 yards for Cadillac.

Play#7: Cadillac Willams left end – 3 yards (Positive Play)

Yay, a stop for Matthews! Nice job shifting the D-line by Chaney who was doing Matthews’s job there.

Play#8: Bradford play action fail– TD the other way. (Positive play)  

This play was a flop but hey we’ll take it. Bradford stumbles while trying to fake the PA and a great play made by Tapp(who came in untouched) to knock the ball out.

Play#9: Cadillac Williams draw – Loss of 1 yard. (Positive play)

Cullen Jenkins just owned his man there and made the tackle for the loss. Good to see Matthews come in quickly for the gang tackle.

Play#10: Cadillac Williams off right tackle – 11 yards (Negative play)

Absolute domination by the Rams line. Nice run by Williams.

Play#11: Cadillac Williams off right tackle – 4 yards (Neutral play)

Antonio Dixon had a free run at Cadillac as three linemen moved up to the second level and took care of the linebackers. He should have had the TFL here but misses him again. Trevor Laws grabs his leg which slowed him down for the gang tackle.

End of 1st Quarter Recap

11 rushes - 89 yards at 8.9 ypc. The Rams did most of their damage in the first quarter. They started the game with 4 straight negative plays and ended the quarter with 6 negative, 4 positive and 1 neutral play. If we take out the Sjax run and the fluke Bradford play, the Eagles still gave up 9 rushes for 57 yards at 6.3 ypc. Not good. Things get a bit better though from this point on.


Play#12: Brit Miller inside handoff – 12 yards (Negative Play)

Chaney attacks the LOS and gets picked up by a linemen which freed up Casey to potentially make a play. Instead, he was slow to read and react which allowed Miller to get a 12 yard gain out of it. As soon as Miller his the LOS, you can see his body turn to the right and Casey reacted late. It should have been a 3 – 4 yard gain at the most. Asante, who had a good tackling night, wanted no part of it and just let Miller run by. If he made the tackle, it would have been a 5 – 6 yarder.

Play#13: Cadillac Williams inside handoff – loss of 1 yard (Positive Play)

Here is where we see Fokou’s aggressiveness pay off. Blows by his man and makes a strong tackle for the loss. Nice job by Laws as well who came in unblocked and assisted with the tackle.

Play#14: Jerious Norwood outside handoff left tackle – No gain (Positive Play)

Good job by the D-line and linebackers here. The line shed their blocks quickly and the linebackers closed in and close out the running lanes leaving Norwood nowhere to go. Mike Patterson on the tackle but even if didn’t make it, three other guys were right in position to make it.

Play#15: Cadillac Williams outside hand off right tackle – 3 yards (Positive Play)

Cullen Jenkins should have gotten the TFL there but just missed. Page comes in on the tackle followed by Fokou who actually was passive on this play. If he was aggressive and just charged at Williams, it would have been a one yard gain. There was no room for Williams if he wanted to cut back to the left. After this, the Rams tried two short passes and came up short. 3 and out.

End of 2nd Quarter Recap

4 rushes - 14 yards at 3.5 ypc. 1 Negative play followed by three positives. Big improvement from the 1st quarter.


Play#16: Cadillac Williams left end – 2 yards (Positive Play)

Nice job by Casey to get through the block and making the play. If didn’t get there as quickly as he did, it would gone for a 1st down.

Play#17: Cadillac Williams inside handoff – 9 yards (Negative Play)

Counter play. Matthews left his gap and went to the right where Fokou already is, leaving a hole in the middle and misses the tackle. Chaney was too passive here even though a linemen fell right at his feet. Need to react and get to the carrier quicker than that. Jump over the guy if you need to.  

Play#18: Cadillac Williams off left tackle – 2 yards (Positive Play)

Nice job by Tapp getting off the block and making the tackle for the short gain. Fokou and Matthews right there as well. It was 2nd and 2 and they allowed the first down but still a successful play.

Play#19: Jerious Norwood off right tackle – 3 yards (Positive Play)

Pretty obvious run play by the Rams. The linebackers and safeties were all lined up in a straight line. Running lanes were clogged up by the linemen and linebackers. Norwood had nowhere to go. Jarrad Page first on the tackle. Good job by the defense.

Play#20: Jerious Norwood inside handoff – 7 yards (Positive Play)

3rd and 11. Eagles in the nickle. Chaney and Rolle are the two linebackers on the field. Just WATCH Brian Rolle here. That is 6’3 320 lb Jason Brown who is regarded as one of the best centers in the NFL. Rolle is 5’10 229 lbs. Just wow. I could watch that play 50 times in a row and still be wowed each time. I would like to see him get a start. 47 yard FG attempt, no good.

Play#21: Cadillac Williams off right tackle – 2 yards (Positive Play)

Babin showing he’s a complete end. Chaney also in there for the finish.

Play#22: Cadillac Williams inside handoff – 14 yards (Negative Play)

Even though, the Eagles are in the nickel and it’s 3rd and 15, it’s still a negative play since they were 1 yard from giving up the first down. Two linebackers with corners playing off and safeties 12 yards deep. Poor job by the DTs Patterson(who gets pancaked) and Jenkins who gets blocked by TE Billy Bajema. Linebackers could shed the block fast enough and tons of grass in front for Cadillac.

Play#23: Cadillac Williams inside handoff – 1 yard (Negative Play)

4th and 1. Rolle was in position but didn’t take the proper angle and his tackle wasn’t good enough for the stop. It should have been a turnover on downs. The play was right there for ya bud.

Play#24: Cadillac Williams off right tackle – No gain (Positive Play)

Goal line stop. Great job by the defense. Parker is the first on the tackle.

End of 3rd Quarter Recap.

Two incompletions later, Josh Brown hits a 23 yard field goal. If Rolle made that tackle, the Rams would have gotten no points on that drive.

9 rushes - 40 yards at 4.4 ypc. 6 positives and 3 negatives. Run defense was definitely fixed from the 2nd quarter on.

4th Quarter

Play#25: Cadillac Williams outside handoff – 5 yards (Neutral play)

This is just Asante being himself. Corners were playing off and no receiver on Asante’s side. Should have been a three yard gain at the most. Instead, he makes a business decision and dives at his legs after a 5 yard gain. I’m not going to give this a negative play because it’s an 11 point lead in the 4th quarter and the Eagles are playing it safe. If Asante was interest in run defense this would have been three yards.

Play#26: Cadillac Williams right guard – 6 yards (Positive play)

Editing fail. It’s missing this clip. 2nd and 10 draw play for 6 yards. 18 point lead with 2 minutes to go, yeah it’s a positive play. Chaney misses the tackle which would have allowed only 4 yards. Trent Cole finishes the plays with the tackle

End of 4th Quarter Recap

2 rushes - 11 yards at 5.5 ypc. With a two score lead, we’ll take that.

After the first quarter, the run defense settled down. Same thing with the O-line. Our coaches showed their worth in this game. After a rough start on both offense and defense, adjustments were made and mistakes were corrected.

1st quarter = 11 rushes - 89 yards (8 ypc)

Rest of the game = 15 rushes - 65 yards (4.3 ypc)

Total Positive Plays: 14 - Total Negative Plays: 10 - Total Neutral Plays - 2

If the Eagles run defense allows 4.3 ypc the rest of the year, that’s good for middle of the pack in the NFL. Last year, the Packers were 28th in the league with 4.7 ypc allowed in the regular season. They were better in the playoffs though allowing just 4.1 ypc. Sure, Cadillac Williams is a pretty big step down from a healthy S-Jax but he’s also no slouch either. He ended the game with 19 carries for 91 yards. From the second quarter on, you can see the Eagles played better. The linebackers were shedding blocks better, maintaining their gaps and getting to the carrier. D-line made a few plays as well. If they can maintain that level of play for the rest of the year, the run D will be just fine. The weakest link on the linebacking core is still Casey Matthews and if he doesn’t show some improvement, don’t be surprised to see him replaced. A good run defense makes it that much harder for elite QBs like Brees and Rodgers to succeed who themselves have good running backs. If they get 5 yards a carry from their RBs, it will be a looong day for the defense. 

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