Eagles' Offense At Its Best With Short Passing Game

Eagles' Offense At Its Best With Short Passing Game

When Andy Reid came to Philadelphia in 1999, he brought along a version of the West Coast Offense from Green Bay. However, at various times throughout Reid's tenure -- including much of 2011 -- his offense often appeared as though it were running an entirely different scheme altogether, one predicated on challenging opposing defenses vertically.

In recent weeks, the coaches seem to have gotten away from trying to hit a home run on every drive. They shortened Mike Vick's drop, relying instead on a quick release and timing routes, while mixing in a healthy dose of the run. The Eagles are finally executing the West Coast Offense the way it was designed, and it's the single biggest reason for their improved consistency over the last two games.

Let's briefly refresh our memories of what the West Coast Offense actually is, as you may have been trained to think of it simply as chucking the ball a whole lot. Basically, it's a system where the majority of the receivers' routes are closer to the line of scrimmage. The quarterback is supposed to drop back, read the defense, and quickly fire a low risk, high-percentage pass.

If I'm oversimplifying this myself, it's because that's the important part, or at least what's different about the Eagles' attack all of a sudden. Ever since they lessened the focus on the down-field assault and started utilizing more quick hitches, hooks, slants, and screen passes, passing plays are developing faster, and the offense is operating much more efficiently, subtracting all the negative plays and turnovers in the process. Here's why:

Improved protection
The offensive line has looked pretty solid the past two weeks, and while it's partly due to their rookie linemen beginning to settle into a comfort zone, and partly due to guys stepping up no matter when or where they are asked to play, there's another clear-cut difference from now compared to the first five games.

They aren't be asked to protect nearly as long.

Whether it's a base four-man rush or an overload blitz, neither has been as effective because by the time the rush reaches the quarterback, the ball is usually out. Dallas tried like hell to bring the heat on Sunday night, but Vick continuously had the answer, checking down or throwing the ball away or scrambling. When the Eagles were losing all those games a month ago, there were too many times where pressure equated to a backbreaking sack or turnover.

Dominant receivers making plays with the ball
DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin are two of the better wide receivers in the NFL, and Jason Avant is very productive in the slot. They also have a pair of athletic tight ends, and LeSean McCoy who can do damage out of the backfield as well.

You're telling me when the other team dials blitz, there isn't somebody almost automatically open immediately after the snap?

The Eagles' receiving corps is built to beat one-on-ones. Yes, they can also burn the defense 90 yards down the field, but that's provided the quarterback has all day in the pocket. Nobody would argue they should eliminate those shots entirely either, but these guys can do damage underneath. Sometimes a short completion will only result in a seven-yard gain, and sometimes they will break loose and turn it into a big play. First thing's first though -- get the ball into the hands of the Pro Bowlers, and let them work.

Celek emerges
Instead of being forced to help in pass protection on many downs, Celek has more freedom to get into the passing game. You can see already how big of a factor he can be in this offense, catching seven passes for 96 yards and a score on Sunday night, and four balls for 42 and another TD two weeks ago.

I can't think of a negative about getting the number one tight end more involved, and it seems when the ball is coming his way, the offense operates so much more smoothly. Celek is only a year and a half removed from a season where he caught 76 passes for 971 yards and eight touchdowns, so it's no secret he can play.

Trust the O-line to give Vick three seconds, and get Celek out into space where he's at his best.

Sustaining drives, killing clock
An efficient passing attack predicated on completing short passes does two things. Number one, it creates manageable down and distance. Number two, the raised completion percentage keeps the clock moving.

A seven-yard pass to Maclin may not be as exciting as an 80-yarder to Jackson, but more often than not the deep ball is going to fall incomplete, giving the offense 2nd and 10, while Maclin's route is a high-percentage play that puts the offense in a friendly 2nd and 3. That sort of down and distance opens up the entire playbook, which keeps the defense guessing, while leaving a minimal gain to convert in order to move the chains.

Which brings us to part two, dominating the time of possession. This comes with a number of its own benefits, such as keeping your own defense fresh, and forcing the opponent's offense to stand helplessly on the sidelines. As we saw with Dallas, it was almost impossible for the Cowboys to implement their game plan, as they only had the ball for about 18 minutes. Couple that with falling behind early, and the Eagles were able to control the flow of the game by controlling the clock.

Vick's improved decision making
All of this has resulted in smarter decisions by Vick. His 75% completion percentage on Sunday night was his best of the season, as he found open receivers quickly and got rid of the ball. The clock in his head also seemed to be working faster -- if he hadn't dumped the ball after his first couple of reads, he started looking to escape the pocket, usually before the pass rush was already on top of him.

The most critical result has been fewer turnovers, which of course equates to fewer drives ending without points, and fewer giveaways that put the defense in the difficult position of defending a short field.

The offense was supposed to be the strength of this team, and while the defense will continue to be the bigger question mark for the time being and quite possibly the remainder of the season, the onus is on Mike Vick and his mates to put the other unit in a better position to succeed, and it's on Reid and Marty Mornhinweg to design a game plan that plays to their strengths.

They've finally done that the last two weeks. It wasn't just the emergence of LeSean McCoy, or the absence of turnovers -- it was a change in philosophy, and one they should stick with because it works.

Roob's 25 Random Points: Kenjon Barner, Freddy Galvis, Father John Misty and more

Roob's 25 Random Points: Kenjon Barner, Freddy Galvis, Father John Misty and more

Chase Daniel vs. Carson Wentz. Lehigh vs. the NovaCare. LeSean McCoy vs. Ryan Mathews. Freddy Galvis vs. Cookie Rojas. Joan Jett vs. Todd Rundgren. Andy Reid vs. Doug Pederson. Tim Showalter vs. Father John Misty.

Whaaaaaaaat???

It can only be a another edition of … Roob’s 25 Random Points.

1. I understand why more and more NFL teams are holding training camp at their year-round facilities and leaving their long-time summer homes on college campuses in small towns across the country. The logistics of moving operations to a remote location combined with the elimination of two-a-day workouts has really rendered remote training camps anachronistic. I get all that. But that said, I really miss it. Training camp was my favorite part of the season, for a few reasons. I loved how kids could interact with their favorite players before and after practice. Chatting, autographs, photos, whatever. I loved seeing a player as accomplished as Dawk spend 30 minutes after practice on a blazing hot day, standing by the fence signing autographs for whoever wandered over. I loved stuff as corny as a little 6-year-old kid walking with a hulking offensive lineman, carrying shoulder pads that were bigger than they were. But I also loved the connection between big-time NFL teams and small-town America. The way the Eagles would settle into Bethlehem for a month every summer and become part of the fabric of the community. And watching every morning as the parade of cars filled with Eagles fans wound through the mountain roads toward a day watching free football. And just the action on the football field. Seeing unknown rookies blossom into NFL players in front of our eyes. Watching superstars like Randall and Donovan and Michael Vick make unbelievable plays while a few thousand fans watched in amazement from just a few feet away. And just watching and listening to personalities like Asante Samuel, who was just as intent on making the fans laugh as he was on beating his man. It was a unique atmosphere, and I loved every minute of it, and it’s a shame it’s gone.

2. If Sam Bradford gets benched or hurt and Chase Daniel replaces him, I will be extremely disappointed.

3. He’s a grizzled veteran and an older guy and has been in the league a while and backed up Drew Brees and Alex Smith and spent time in K.C. with Doug Pederson. But let’s be honest. What has Chase Daniel accomplished that Carson Wentz hasn’t? He’s 29 years old and has one career touchdown pass. So in six years, he’s built a one-TD lead over Wentz in career touchdown passes. Come on. Wentz has to be No. 2. Has to be.

4. I’m not exactly sure why I have faith in Kenjon Barner but I do. He’s got only 34 career carries and he’s fumbled twice, so that’s a concern. But I think the kid runs hard and runs tough and we know he’s fast. He averaged 4.4 yards per carry in limited action last year, but I’m very curious to see him in action this preseason. We all know Ryan Mathews’ injury history, and we all know that Darren Sproles is 33 and coming off a season where he averaged just 3.8 yards per carry, his lowest since 2009. So Barner could have a seriously expanded role this year. If he does, I think he’ll be just fine.

5. One encouraging thing about Mathews: Just looking at his career, when he’s healthy, he rarely has a bad game. Like a total dud of a game. He’s had 20 or more carries 17 times and rushed for at least 90 yards in 14 of those 17 games. In the other three, he had 65, 74 and 78 yards. When he gets 20 carries, he’s averaged 105 yards. Just for the sake of comparison, when LeSean McCoy gets 20 carries, he’s rushed for 90 or more yards just 18 of 31 times. But he’s averaged 118 yards in those games. So McCoy is more likely to get you 130 yards. When getting 20 carries in their careers, McCoy has rushed for 90 yards only 58 percent of the time but 130 yards 29 percent of the time. Mathews has gotten 90 yards 82 percent of the time but 130 yards only 12 percent of the time.  

6. Among 18 active running backs who’ve had at least 15 games with 20 or more carries, only Jamaal Charles (86 percent) and Arian Foster (84 percent) have rushed for 90 yards on a higher percentage of their 20-carry games than Mathews. Only two have a lower percentage than Shady – Frank Gore (57 percent) and Matt Forte (54 percent). Interesting.

7. Since 1983, 31 quarterbacks have been taken with a top-five pick. Only two of them haven’t started at least one game – Philip Rivers (behind Drew Brees) and Carson Palmer (behind Jon Kitna). In fact, the last top-five pick who didn’t start at least 10 games was JaMarcus Russell in 2007. The last 11 all started double-digits.

8. Hey, has anybody had any luck redeeming those free Ticketmaster vouchers? Every time I log on, everything is unavailable. Somebody is getting free tickets to something but it’s not me!

9. I don’t think it’s a good thing when 100 games into the season, Freddy Galvis is second on your team in RBIs.

10. But he is. Galvis has 37 ribbies, second-most on the Phils. That puts him on pace for 60 this year. Maikel Franco is on pace for 89 RBIs, but the Phillies are on pace to have just one guy with more than 60 RBIs for the first time in a non-strike-shortened season in nearly half a century — since 1968, when Dick Allen led the Phils with 90 RBIs and Cookie Rojas was second with 48.

11. Tommy Keene. Write down that name. Look him up. Check out his music. He’s brilliant. There is no reason he’s not as big as Tom Petty. Don’t believe me? I don’t blame you. But listen.

12. I honestly would not be surprised if Caleb Sturgis beats out Cody Parkey. Why? Because kickers are weird. They can look like Hall of Famers one year and inept the next year. Remember Paul McFadden? Alex Henery? The stats say Parkey wins the job and it’s not close. But when we’re talking about kickers, nothing ever surprises me.

13. Before we send rookie seventh-round corner Jalen Mills to Canton based on an impressive series of minicamps, remember … minicamp equals no pads. And no pads equals not really football. The kid certainly has skill and speed and confidence. But nothing counts until the pads go on this week. And we’ve all seen minicamp superstars who quickly come back to earth when the real stuff starts. That said, it will sure be fun watching Mills and all these other young cornerbacks sort themselves out over the next few weeks. With Mills, Eric Rowe, JaCorey Sheperd, Randall Evans and Denzel Rice, the Eagles have a promising group of young corners behind veterans like Leodis McKelvin, Nolan Carroll and Ron Brooks. I still think Carroll and Rowe are your opening-day starters. But fair to say every spot at corner is up for grabs.

14. Weird that Billy Davis doesn’t have a job. Anywhere. You’d think he’d at least be a college linebacker coach somewhere. But maybe after the experience of the last three years, he just needed a break. I don’t think he coached very well here, especially last year, but I also don’t think last year’s defensive collapse was all his fault. He didn’t have a ton of talent to begin with. And the Eagles did have a top-10 defense halfway through the season. But nobody can coach a defense that’s forced to play 36 minutes a game.

15. Crazy that Brandon Graham, a draft pick in 2010, has now played under five defensive coordinators — Sean McDermott, Juan Castillo, Todd Bowles, Davis and Jim Schwartz. Five defensive coordinators in seven years.

16. You guys hear about Father John Misty Friday night at the Xponential Festival at Wiggins Park? Father John Misty (real name Joshua Tillman) is a hot-shot singer-songwriter who sells out mid-sized theaters everywhere he goes and shows up all the time on every rock critic’s Best Of list. Father John was booked to perform for 55 minutes at Xponential but instead of performing he lectured the crowd incoherently about the Republican National Convention and the “meaningless of entertainment,” then played two songs — one unreleased, one a Leonard Cohen cover — before walking off the stage to a chorus of boos. A few people, mainly rock critics, defended the guy and called his performance “brilliant,” praising Tillman for not performing when his heart wasn’t in it and saying that’s the nature of art. Oh please. I’m sorry. There’s a time and a place for that sort of thing. A time and a place to make a statement. This wasn’t it. A lot of people paid a lot of money to hear the guy play music for nearly an hour, and he left all of them sorely confused and disappointed. He owes a lot of people a sincere apology.

17. Tim Showalter of the fantastic Philly band Strand of Oaks went after “Father John” brilliantly in a series of tweets: “Furthering your entertainment career by calling entertainment stupid. … Shows have saved my life. The stage is a privilege more importantly FANS are a privilege. Go on a lecture tour if you have so much to say…. Start a charity, work for habitat for humanity, volunteer, whatever. Be productive…. That's it. I love your music so much. But don't come to my town and insult my peoples intelligence.”

18. Was sitting around recently with some friends and started to wonder who has seen the most Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famers in concert. I finished last with 26: Aerosmith, Alice Cooper, BB King, Beach Boys [Brian Wilson], Black Sabbath, Bobby Blue Bland, The Clash, Donovan, Fleetwood Mac, Peter Gabriel, Genesis, the Kinks, Paul McCartney, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Bonnie Raitt, Rascals, Lou Reed, REM, Rolling Stones, Linda Ronstadt, Santana, Pete Seeger, Bruce Springsteen, Muddy Waters, U2 and The Who. Go through the Hall of Fame list and figure out how many you’ve seen. I’ll bet it’s more than you think!

19. One thought on the credibility of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame: Joan Jett is in, Todd Rundgren is out. Get a clue, R&R Hall of Fame.

20. If it was up to me, smoking within a few feet of a child would be a crime.

21. Why is everything “curated” lately? What a pretentious word for “compiled” or “arranged” or “slapped together.” I mean … “Hey, I’m curating this week’s 25 Random Points today!” Who talks like that?

22. I like Sam Bradford more than most people. I think he’s a serviceable quarterback. My biggest issue with Bradford is his TD-INT ratio. He does a lot of things well but he doesn’t throw enough touchdowns and he throws too many interceptions. And those are really the two most-important stats for a quarterback. For his career, Bradford has thrown a touchdown every 29 pass attempts and an interception every 44 attempts. Among 156 quarterbacks who’ve thrown 1,000 passes since 1980, Bradford ranks 134th in TD percentage. So only 22 quarterbacks since 1980 have thrown touchdowns more infrequently. Among that group are Kent Graham, Steve Walsh, Rick Mirer, Dave Brown, Mike Pagel and Joey Harrington. Bradford has had three seasons (2010, 2012, 2015) where he’s thrown at least 500 passes and thrown 21 or fewer touchdowns. Only five other QBs in NFL history have had three such seasons.

23. This is kind of important. Because without getting the ball into the end zone, all the stats kind of don’t matter. There’s always been an excuse – new coach, new scheme, poor receivers – but the lack of TD passes has followed Bradford around his entire career, and I doubt it’s a coincidence.

24. One more Phillies point: After 51 of 81 home games, the Phillies are hitting .218 at Citizens Bank Park with an on-base percentage of .273 and an OPS of .627. Their home batting average is the worst by any MLB team since the Rangers hit .218 in 1972, their on-base percentage is the worst by any team at home since at least 1913 (as far back as baseball-reference.com goes), and their .627 home OPS is also worst by any MLB team since 1913. Barring a significant reversal in the last 30 home games, the Phillies could wind up as the worst-hitting team at home in the last 100 years.

25. I’ve always thought an Andy Reid press conference was just about the most boring thing imaginable. Then I started to see Doug Pederson press conferences and I’ve already changed my mind.

Tonight's lineup: Maikel Franco, Cameron Rupp back for Phillies

Tonight's lineup: Maikel Franco, Cameron Rupp back for Phillies

Maikel Franco and Cameron Rupp are both back in the Phillies' starting lineup Monday in Miami after being hit by pitches over the weekend in Pittsburgh.

Franco was hit on the wrist and Rupp on the head. Franco hasn't started since Friday, but came in for Andres Blanco Sunday after Blanco fractured his left index finger.

Rupp was hit on the head Saturday but passes MLB's concussion protocol and is back behind the plate to catch Jeremy Hellickson in the Phillies' series opener against the Marlins.

It's a good thing for the Phils because both players have been power sources. Franco is hitting .259 with 18 homers and 53 RBIs, and Rupp is hitting .276 with 17 doubles and 10 homers. Rupp had a homer and three RBIs last Friday night in the Phillies' only win at PNC Park.

Slumping Peter Bourjos, just 4 for his last 36, moves down the eight-hole. Cesar Hernandez leads off.

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Odubel Herrera, CF
3. Maikel Franco, 3B
4. Tommy Joseph, 1B
5. Cameron Rupp, C
6. Freddy Galvis, SS
7. Cody Asche, LF
8. Peter Bourjos, RF
9. Jeremy Hellickson, P

And for the Marlins:

1. J.T. Realmuto, C
2. Martin Prado, 3B
3. Christian Yelich, LF
4. Giancarlo Stanton, RF
5. Marcell Ozuna, CF
6. Derek Dietrich, 2B
7. Adeiny Hechavarria, SS
8. Don Kelly, 1B
9. Jarred Cosart, P

49ers promote former Eagles VP of player personnel Tom Gamble to assistant GM

49ers promote former Eagles VP of player personnel Tom Gamble to assistant GM

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The San Francisco 49ers have promoted Tom Gamble to assistant general manager.

General manager Trent Baalke announced the move on Monday, calling Gamble an "accomplished talent evaluator."

Gamble returned to the 49ers in January 2015 as a senior personnel executive after spending two seasons in Philadelphia as vice president of player personnel. Gamble worked with current 49ers coach Chip Kelly during his time with the Eagles.

Gamble had spent eight seasons previously in San Francisco and was director of player personnel in his final two seasons. Gamble is entering his 29th season in the NFL.