2011-12 Eagles Defense: Moving on from JJ's Zone Blitz Scheme.

Alright, time to get away a bit from the CBA and free agency discussions and get back to some actual game related matters. We've been speculating what Juan Castillo's defense will look like this upcoming system. Will he continue JJ's system, Mcdermott's crap-fest of a system, 4-3 one gap, 4-3 two gap, man-to-man? Tommy Lawlor's recent article on Iggles Blitz got me convinced that we will be running a Cover 2, Tampa 2 or a mixture of both. Either one will be a huge change from JJ's 2 gap system. Explanations and breakdowns of schemes after the jump...

When asked back in February which team Castillo would like to emulate, he responded:

The Bears. I like the way the defensive line gets up the field; the way they play football. Fundamentals. They are not trying to out-scheme anybody. All they’re doing is, their defensive linemen are up the field, they’re attacking. What they do are the things we want to do: they play fast, physical and fundamentally sound.

The Bears' Tampa 2 defense

Lovie Smith and the Bears run the Tampa 2 which he learned from Tony Dungy and Monte Kiffin with the Bucs. Tampa 2 is almost the same as a Cover 2 except the MLB drops deeper into coverage. First, I will demonstrate the Cover 2 and then show the changes made with the Tampa 2.




Divides the field into five underneath zones and two deep zones. Each defensive player is responsible for covering a zone rather than a particular player.

The linebackers and cornerbacks cover the five underneath zones and cover seven yards deep.

The safeties split the two deep zones, and each covers half the field.


Defensive Line: Attacks up-field and applies pressure to the quarterback.

Linebackers must cover their zones, taking away short passes and help cover the run. Middle linebacker must be able to read the play, drop back and cover deep routes in the middle of field.

Cornerbacks need to be quick and cover side route and come into help with the run.

Safeties split the deep halves of the field. They must rely on speed and athleticism to cover much ground, help the cornerbacks and make open-field tackles.

The Cover 2 has it's holes. In the picture, they are indicated by the yellow soft spots that opposing offenses try to hit. The common way to beat a Cover 2 is hitting a receiver after he gets behind the corner and before the safety gets there. The other hole is in the the deep middle which can be utilized by hitting receivers running a post route. The Tampa 2 fixes these holes by having the MLB(a stud like Urlacher makes this defense excel) retreat to the deep middle taking away the post while the safeties can widen and close out the sidelines. Illustrated here:



Both these defenses require quick and speedy players that play with discipline. They are known as "bend don't break" defenses and forces opposing offenses to dink and dunk their way through time consuming drives. These type of defenses don't blitz much and rely on the pressure generated by the front four. The linebackers don't have to be great man-to-man cover guys but guys that are above average tacklers with good closing speed. Cornerbacks have a larger role in run support and blitzing. That's why players like Winfield, Barber, and Tillman have high tackle numbers in their careers. Physical corners that can jam receivers at the line are ideal.

Here is a great breakdown of the Bears vs our Eagles last year. It's done by a Bears fan so it's mostly showing how they beat us. First half of the vid is about the defense.

At 1:52, it was a great demonstration of what they do and what I said above. They showed blitz, rushed only 4, two cornerbacks(Jennings and Moore) lined up near the LOS, pressed their receivers and stayed in their zone. Urlacher drops back but didn't have to go too deep because Vick gets sacked pretty quickly. At 5:58, great breakdown of the Celek TD.

This is another great illustration by Bucky Brooks on how the Bears Tampa 2 works. I can't embed this video since only youtube are allowed. Anatomy of Bears Tampa 2 defense

So, that's the Bears. The second reason why I believe the Eagles will run the Cover 2/Tampa 2 defense is because in Tommy's article he brings up this point about Norm Parker and the Iowa defense....

Their defensive coordinator is a man named Norm Parker and he’s one of my favorite football coaches. Norm runs a simple defense. He plays mostly Cover 2 behind a 4-3 front that attacks upfield with a 1-gap scheme. He likes light defensive linemen that can penetrate and be disruptive. Norm believes in keeping things simple and letting his players play fast. Sound familiar?

Juan Castillo’s son Greg is a DB for Iowa. I know Juan goes to games when he can and he obviously watches every Iowa game. I wonder how much of an influence Iowa has had on his defensive ideas.

The Hawkeyes are very good defensively.

2010 — 25th in yards, 7th in points

2009 — 10th in yards, 8th in points

2008 — 13th in yards, 5th in points

2007 — 36th in yards, 12th in points

The Hawkeyes and the Bears run very similar defenses. Cover 2/Tampa 2, fast, aggressive players, great tacklers, players swarming to the ball. I love the way the Iowa defense plays. Players I followed the past couple years were Pat Angerer, A.J. Edds, Christian Ballard, Amari Spievey, and Tyler Sash. I wanted all of them on the Eagles during draft time the last two years. Here is a look at their defense.

So how much different is it from JJ's two gap 4-3?

A lot. JJ started doing the 2 gap system back in 2006-2007. The D-tackles were responsible for two gaps instead of one. The D-line were told to look for run first then rush the passer. It was a more read and react system. Now, All four linemen will rush up field and penetrate. If it's a run play they have to adjust and go after the ball carrier. The main element that was instrumental to his defense was the blitzing. He designed some of the best blitzes known to man and perfected the zone blitz. Dick LeBeau refined and popularized it in on his 3-4 and Johnson mastered it on the 4-3.

The league average for blitzing in 2010 was 33%. McDermott blitzed 41% percent of the snaps and I'm going to assume JJ blitzed 30-45% since I can't find the stat anywhere. That number will go down a good amount. Presumably more like 20%. In Cover 2/Tampa 2 systems, we are likely to see DBs blitzing more often than linebackers.

Which of our players would create the ideal starting line up in a Cover 2 /Tampa 2?

Defensive Line: DE Trent Cole, DT Trevor Laws, DT Bunkley/Dixon(because he has power), DE Graham. All of them can rush the passer.

Linebackers: SLB Moises Fokou, MLB Jamar Chaney(Actually Bradley would be the ideal MIKE but he is a FA. He's big, strong against run, and when healthy is decent in pass coverage. Chaney has a lot to improve in pass coverage but when he does he will be better due to speed), WLB Keenan Clayton(He could flourish as the WILL. In a Cover 2/Tampa 2, the WILL is a signature position. They tend to be unblocked and use their speed and range to make plays. Think Derrick Brooks and Lance Briggs. Clayton has the tools to excel at this position but not sure if he's ready to start yet.

Cornerbacks: LCB Asante Samuel, RCB Trevard Lindley, NB Joselio Hanson.

Safeties: FS Nate Allen and SS Jaiquawn Jarrett(He's a perfect fit at SS in a Cover 2/Tampa 2. You want your SS to be big hitting and intimidating which is exactly what Jarrett is).

Which players should we target in FA to fit this scheme?

Cornerback: You don't need a press man-to-man cover guy like Nnamdi to be good in this scheme. You need a good zone CB that can press at the LOS, be disciplined, good tackler, and good at run support. Nnamdi is great at man-to-man but not that great in zone. At times, he looked lost. On top of that we could get two good players at his price.

My top three choices(putting price and value into equation) would be 1. Johnathan Joseph. 2. Nnamdi Asomugha. 3. Richard Marshall.

Linebacker: Chad Greenway(would be a gigantic improvement over Fokou who's not bad himself), Rocky McIntosh(weakside), and Manny Lawson(weakside).

D-line: 1. Albert Haynesworth(Washburn wants him. He loves Washburn. If he plays hard here for a cheap price then hell yeah). 2. Ray Edwards(The guy is a very good LDE on his own. Not because of Allen. 3. Jason Babin(Reportedly he's only looking for 3-4 year deal. If we can get him on a 3 year deal and he plays like he did last year with Washburn coaching then again hell yeah, why not?)


1. One gap penetration from D-Line. Four man rushes. The key to making this defense successful.

2. More coverage, less blitzing.

3. Safeties will play deep halves of the field 15 yards back.

3. In a Tampa 2, MIKE will drop deeper and will have to cover more ground. Also, the WILL will be the primary play making linebacker.

4. Cornerbacks have to be good in coverage(mainly zone), be good in run support and be good tacklers.

5. Safeties have to cover more ground and break up more passes. Be more disciplined and have good communication.

6. "Bend don't break defense". Give up a lot less big plays and force offenses to sustain long drives to score.

With the right personnel, Cover 2/Tampa 2 defenses are extremely hard to beat.