Last week, we used our first look at All-22 coaches film to break down the Michael Vick vs. Ray Lewis match-up. Needless to say, we were pleased with the outcome, not only during the game, but with our research. Lewis may be a future first-ballot Hall of Famer, but against the Eagles he showed little of the range and instinct in the middle that led to two of Vick's four interceptions in Cleveland.
Look no further than the impact Brent Celek had in the passing game. Celek torched the Ravens defense to the tune of eight catches for 157 yards, and while not all of that production came at the expense of any one defender, it appeared Lewis was on the hook multiple times.
Before Lewis shows up at my house and checks me into a wall, he had his victories, too. Tight coverage on one attempt may have disrupted Celek's concentration, causing the ball to bounce off of the receiver's hands and into Ed Reed's. Lewis would get his own mit on a Celek target earlier, but was slightly out of position, and the pass fell to the turf for a harmless incomplete instead of going for another pick.
That was the difference between Lewis and D'Qwell Jackson one week
earlier. Simply put, Jackson was better at reading Vick's body language
than Lewis. On the near miss, Lewis easily could have slid into the
passing lane as Jackson did twice in Week 1, but here he overshoots for
whatever reason, nearly running himself out of the play entirely. It's
not as if Vick looks him off, or there are any other receivers over
there. He just missed some subtlety in the quarterback's motion.
Nor was he as adept at diagnosing the action as Jackson, as the first snap from scrimmage illustrated perfectly. Lewis appears to be in a zone designed to take away the middle, but he's so worried about the threat of Vick taking off, behind him Celek is allowed to run free 20 yards down the field. To his credit, Lewis may have spy responsibilities, or thought he had help from Bernard Pollard, who is doubling a wide receiver. Jackson was much more active and instinctual in these situations though.
It didn't seem to be a question of whether or not Lewis has lost a step, though a younger 52 probably could've made up more ground some of the time. Mostly he was content to let the action develop around him, which is why he wound up chasing on multiple occasions. Whether that is scheme or on Ray-Ray, we can't say, but the coaches film told us beforehand this was something we could expect.
Unfortunately, the lesson for this week is watching the film doesn't automatically provide that level of insight into your next opponent.
At first I considered examining how the Eagles tightened up against the Ravens ground attack in the second half, but the Cardinals are only averaging 2.8 yards per carry to begin with, so chances are it won't be a huge factor. Then I went and looked at DE Calais Campbell, who won Defensive Player of the Week honors for his 10 tackle, two sack performance against the Patriots, and how he would prove problematic for an offensive line with two new starters. It turns out Campbell typically lines up over the left guard, in Philly's case Evan Mathis rather than Demetress Bell or Dallas Reynolds.
For as disruptive a performance as it sounded like he had in New England, Campbell was surprisingly boring to watch anyway. He usually draws some sort of double team, and it's not as if he was routinely blowing through blockers. A healthy number of the plays he was in on were a result of Campbell standing his ground or filling a hole with his one free arm, and both sacks were effort plays where the quarterback was already on the run. None of which is to say this isn't an impressive player we're talking about. Arizona uses a 3-4, which means they will blitz to generate pressure, so having a guy up front that can occupy two blockers certainly sets up the pass rush.
But one of the biggest things that stands out about Campbell is, well, he's big... enormous actually. We saw him go sky high to pick off a Vick pass in last season's encounter -- it hit him in the belly as I recall -- and it's a wonder more passers haven't had similar trouble. His arms are up on every attempt, and he's always trying jump into the throwing lane. Take a look at how 93 works his way back to the middle.
Campbell spun right into Brady's face, and it's not like there was only one example to pick from where he nearly got his hands on a ball. Even when he's not getting to the quarterback, he can still ruin a perfectly good play.
The same principle applies on field goals, too. You may think the Eagles are about to add three points, but the Cardinals have led the league in blocked tries three years running, and Campbell has them out on the fast track for a fourth. He's so tall, there isn't even all that much penetration required -- although here against Seattle in Week 1, he's about four yards deep.
Turning the tides with dynamic talent on special teams isn't limited to blocking field goals though. They already had a devastating punt returner in Patrick Peterson, and last week they added punt blocking into the mix as well. The Cardinals didn't really do anything special, either. Looks like New England simply had a one-on-one breakdown protecting the left edge.
The Eagles can't allow something similar to happen on Sunday. That play changed the course of the game, giving the Cardinals the ball on the 2-yard line for an easy six -- and even their offense can score from there.