A Time for Change #1: The D-Line

Welcome to the irregular 'mock offseason' series A Time for Change, in which *I* will be going through any and all potential changes that can be made for the Eagles until, y'know, they can start winning again. This can involve coaching changes, to scheme changes, to roster changes, or any of the above with a focus on cleaning out the chaff from all aspects on focussing on a team that wants to win that is in the best position to flash its natural talent.

Okay, now that thats out of the way, on with the show...

I thought I'd start out with Defensive Schemes, because honestly, it probably needs the most work of the entire team right now in the wake of the Castillastrophe.

I'll break this down and look at it on a line by line (D-Line, Linebackers, Secondary) scale. You'll find there's a lot of linkage between the three, and this can be a good thing; linkage builds chemistry as the defense learns to play together, and as the units gel. This will also happen to the Ofeense further down the track, so don't fret: Vick will still get roasted.

For this first one, I thought we'd take a look at the D-Line, as it is the engine room for the whole team and getting the opposition off of the field, and potentially needs the most work.


Starters(L to R): Graham - Thornton - Cox - Curry

No Cole. No Patterson.

If those two don't immediately jump out at you, then I'm not sure what to say. Congrats? Or rather this: Our D-Line needs to get younger, and has the talent to do so. Thats not to say that I'm against those two staying, far from it, I'm just against those two starting. Both bodies have hit that dreaded '30 wall' and they're starting to break down. The idea is a rotational policy for the two of them *IF* we keep them, because there are younger, fresher, talented bodies to throw into the firing line...

Brandon Graham has been a revelation this year when he gets his time, getting pressure on the majority of his snaps on the QB. He's made play after play where the rest of the team has stopped.

Ced Thornton has been a better player snap by snap after being a undrafted free agent, and while he's not a 'get to the QB' guy, has plenty of hustle in the running game. He's also the biggest guy we've got on the line - 310lbs. He reminds me of Broderick Bunkley in a couple of ways, and I'll look more into his role later.

Fletcher Cox has been our best DT all year, has been a disruptive force, and is a young, dynamic member who I think will get better with a full preseason under his belt. He'll play his natural under tackle position.

Finally, Curry ousts Cole from the RDE position. Shock move for shock move sake? Maybe. But I think Curry has the talent, and more importantly, the heart, to do some good things. He's passionate, he's emotional, he's not bad off the snap. Cole on the other hand just seems to have lost a step or two, and while I expect to have him as a key rotational player, he's not up for starting any more in my humble opinion.


Here is a list of 'techniques' and D-Line positioning which will be relied on heavily for this bit. This was borrowed heavily from an archived thread by foos005 here.



So now you can see the techniques, from 0 hovering directly over the centre (Nose Tackle) to the (slightly imagined) Wide-9, which would be on the far shoulder (from the QB) of the 2nd Tight End.


The problem with the wide-9 is two-fold: One, thats its an awful long way to travel for a DE (you're running an extra yard per snap, at least) and two, its awfully easy to block by anyone that knows its coming - whether it be in the running game or the passing game.

I link you to thisto look at how it is broken down, and this was done by amatuers. Imagine what the competent offensive minds of the NFL can and will do with this. No wonder there is pandemonium in the secondary and beyond...

This is why I'll be relegating the wide-9 to a gimmick/trick set. Much like the Joker package of the JJ days, if all things are going to remain equal - its a great idea to use some interesting packages to 'catch the defense off guard', and I'll look into that further, but for now its being thrown out of the regular playbook until further notice.


Like I mentioned earlier, I think there is something to be said for creating a system where the Defense has some form of outside leverage on the OT - it helps pressure mediocre tackles, and can let the DE's set their tackles up a lot better for inside moves, bull rushes, or outside moves. I just don't think you need to run an extra yard to get it, nor abandon guarding the running game.

Lets look over that glorious, glorious gap chart again to see where we can line up our players:



Instantly, I think two numbers stand out on where to put our DE's: 5 or 6.

Its a tough choice.

The 5-tech is a typical 4-3 end position: equally poised to play pass or tackle on either tackle, while having a small amount of wriggle worm of leverage at the snap, having started on the outside shoulder.

The 6-tech is a bit different. He's put where the Tight End would typically be, and his job is to either a)beat the Tight End and get to the QB, b) move inside the gap between TE and OT and try and rush the passer or c)attempt to jam the TE at the line of scrimmage if he breaks out on a pass pattern. It has a little more leverage than the 5-tech, but suffers from marginally the same problems as the wide-9, except on a smaller scale.

The 5-tech seems good, at least for appearances sake, as it would normalize the defense just a little bit, but after going back and watching the Cowboys gametape, I'm going with the 6-tech. Its where Graham got both of his sacks, and the amount of push generated in such a position was actually quite decent. It also helps alleviate one concern - coverage of tight ends.

Lets go back to the chart:



Unfortunately, because I don't have 9000 hours to spend in MS Paint, you'll just have to visualize Curry at the 6 on the left side, and Graham at the 6 on the right side

The tackles are a lot simpler: I simply use Cox at his natural 3-tech position on the right side, which is designed crash and penetrate the B gap. Thornton goes to the 1 tech on the left side, where he can use his 310 lb frame to anchor, and potentially draw double teams off of Graham.

Therefore, a typical alignment for our new look D-Line would look something like this:

Curry Cox Thornton Graham

9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9



So what do you call for a front like this (Don't worry that we haven't included anyone else yet, we'll get to that in their segments)? What stunts, blitzes or other shenanigans can we call to get into the head of the offense?

Well we've got a few options....

Option 1. 43 Crash (Pass Rush)

Base Play for a base defense. Every guy sticks to their man and natural skill set. Curry will come round the tackle (C Gap), Cox will try and split the tackle and guard (Right side B Gap, presenting an interesting choice for the tackle), Thornton will attempt to go for the A gap closest to him to make the QB nervous, even just for a little, while Graham attempts to bull-rush the right side tackle (his typical move).

This is purely pass rush, as it opens 2 holes for the O to run through: right side A gap, and left side B Gap. A good back will be able to hit the hole with the other as a cutback lane, and thats where we could have some problems; I don't want backs getting to the second level if I can help it. A method of dealing with this rushing is to simply have Thornton mind his B gap, attempting to occupy the C and OG while the LB's read and react the RB coming through either Right A or Left A gaps.

Option 2. 54 Switch

Same as above on the right side, with Thornton and Graham stunting each other. Thornton will immediately go for the OT and attempt to push him back and right, while Graham has the option of either a) trying to split the A gap with a quick inside rush/move (Swim?) or b) Isolating the Guard on the B Gap and using superior speed and agility to get by the largely flat footed guard.

Option 3. Overload Stunt

A VERY risky play, and one I'm not confident in, but could be a good 'throw off the rhythm' play. Same as Option 1, except Cox sneakily attempts to loop around behind Thornton and Graham to 'overload' that area instead of sticking to his normal gap. Like I said, Risky.

Option 5 19 Patriot

So named for the team that its been unashamedly stolen from. Take a look at this picture:



This is how you run the wide-9 properly. Only send one (less risk/reward) and have him stand up as a way of confusing the defense (something the defense did quite well with playcalling last year). For the Pats, I believe its Ninkovich who plays the 9 role, while for the Eagles it would a Graham/Cole tag team.

The play can be as simple or complex as possible: 9-tech starts as essentially a rush backer (note: no three point stance) and charges down the line to cut off the QB as he gets to the foot of his drop (3rd, 5th or 7th step). I see this working with typically a man defense, but could work with short/intermediate zones or attempts at running out of the shotgun.

This is a major gimmick play, and not to be used heavy handedly. However, it would at least be worth the experiment.

Next time, I'll sum up the Linebackers, the personnel that will be starting and the simplified playcalling before moving onto the secondary (It all fits together honest)

If you made it through to the end, good on you. If you didn't, I'm sorry. Regardless, comment, rec, do whateevr you want. Agree? Disagree? Got an extra play we could pull? Chuck it below!

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