This week for Eagles Spotlight, I'm going to take a look at Malcolm Jenkins' interception against the New York Giants in Week 16. You can read my piece last week here if you missed it. I absolutely love this play for a number of reasons and I'll explain why below but first let's look at the play!
Jim Schwartz isn't known for disguising coverages but that doesn't mean he doesn't ever do it. Here he disguises his coverage and the Eagles end up with an interception because of superb awareness by both Jenkins and Jordan Hicks and pressure from Brandon Graham.
This is the pre-snap look. The Eagles are in nickel, with Jenkins playing slot cornerback and Jaylen Watkins playing as the strong safety. The Giants are in 13 personnel (shock!), with Will Tye playing tight end and Sterling Shepard at slot wide receiver. The Eagles look like they are playing some form of cover 2 and the Giants are running the drive concept with Tye running a deep dig and Shepard running an underneath crossing route.
However, this is what the Eagles are actually playing and you will see this after the snap. The Eagles are actually in cover 1, with Jordan Hicks playing as the underneath hole defender and Jaylen Watkins matching up with the tight end. This disguise is hard for Manning to pick up because Rodney McLeod doesn't sprint back into the middle of the field like you normally would in cover 1 because he's basically double covering Odell Beckham.
So as the play unfolds, you can see that the Giants cleverly have Shepard slightly behind and near Will Tye, so Tye can get in the slot cornerbacks way. Jenkins has no chance of getting back to Shepard now, which means it's up to Jordan Hicks to recognize Shepard coming across the field quickly and then have the coverage skills to stay with him as he runs across the field. Hicks is a free defender on this play so he should have eyes on Manning as well as being aware of what's going on around him. Rather than just pointlessly chase Shepard, Jenkins decides to stay on Will Tye because he knows he can't get to Shepard. We can safely assume this is a heads up play by Jenkins as I highly doubt the Eagles would plan to double cover Will Tye!
Hicks play it perfectly. He spots Shepard coming across the middle before it's too late and he also has the speed and coverage skills to stay close to Shepard. At this point, Hicks is basically covering Shepard one on one and he does his job perfectly. I also circled Brandon Graham who has beaten the right tackle and has forced Manning to step up in the pocket. This pressure is absolutely crucial by Brandon Graham (which is why sacks aren't everything) as he causes Manning to be uncomfortable in the pocket and rush his throw. You can see how uncomfortable Manning is from this angle.
By forcing Manning to rush his throw, Manning just simply doesn't see Jenkins and he also throws the ball way behind Tye. This highlights the importance of pressure on a quarterback. Notice something else from this angle? Fletcher Cox is getting double teamed, which leaves Brandon Graham one on one. That's why Cox is always having an impact on the field, even if you don't notice him. Let's watch the full play one more time.
This is a terrible play by Manning, but it's also a great play by Jenkins and an even better play by Jordan Hicks. Hicks is the key to this play, if Hicks doesn't spot Shepard coming across the middle of the field quick enough or isn't able to cover him, then this is an easy throw and catch to Shepard. This play highlights why Hicks, Graham, Cox and Jenkins are so critical to this defense which is why I thought it was a great play to breakdown. Jenkins gets the interception, but Hicks, Cox and Graham all play a big role without contributing to the stat sheet. If you have any other plays you specifically want to see broken down just let me know in the comments, thanks guys!