Filmroom Friday: Scoring Vick vs. Lewis, Plus a Look at Calais Campbell and Arizona's Special Teams

Filmroom Friday: Scoring Vick vs. Lewis, Plus a Look at Calais Campbell and Arizona's Special Teams

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.

Nerlens Noel excited for impending return to game action

Nerlens Noel excited for impending return to game action

NEW ORLEANS -- The weeks and months have quickly piled up. Nerlens Noel has not played an NBA regular-season game since last season ended for the Sixers on April 13. Nearly eight months later, Noel is nearing the return he has been eyeing for quite some time now. 

“It’s always an excitement to be able to play basketball after this amount of time, including the summer, not being able to play organized basketball at a competitive level,” Noel said Thursday. “I’ve been really looking forward to this. I think I’ve gained some momentum coming back from this minor surgery, and I think I’m in a really good place and I’m feeling good with my body. Everything is on point.”

Noel has been sidelined since undergoing elective left knee surgery in October to address an inflamed plica. He traveled to New Orleans on Wednesday to join the Sixers ahead of their 99-88 win over the Pelicans (see game recap). Noel continued his rehab Thursday while the team prepped for the game. 

“I’ve been able do five-on-five, full contact,” Noel said. “I’ve tried to maximize my opportunities of that with the team being gone on the road. I came down here and went through most of shootaround and it went well. Now these next couple of days, [I will be] going through practice, still working on my wind. I do like where I’m at now.”

The Sixers’ next game is Sunday against the Pistons in Detroit. Brett Brown had given Noel’s availability for that game a “maybe” (see story)

“I’m not sure,” Noel said of playing Sunday. “I’m ready to go with these next couple of days and see how my wind feels and how my body feels, which I have been feeling good. So it’s a possibility.”

When Noel does return, there is a scenario in which he could be paired with center Joel Embiid. Last year, the Sixers struggled finding the best way to utilize Noel and Jahlil Okafor, also a center, at the same time playing the four and five positions. As Okafor has said of playing with Embiid, Noel also believes his off-the-court friendship with the towering rookie would translate onto the court. 

“I think it would be something that’s experimented,” Noel said. “It’d definitely be interesting.”

Noel candidly expressed his opinion of the Sixers’ logjammed frontcourt at the start of the season. Since speaking to the media after his surgery, Noel has mentioned he is in a good mental place (see story). For him, that means being out on the court again. 

“I love myself and I love the game of basketball,” Noel said. “When I step out here to come and play, it just brings a lot of enjoyment and excitement to me. Regardless of what the details of it are, I just love the game and I’m happy to just be playing.”

Best of NHL: Flames edge Coyotes in OT for fifth straight win

Best of NHL: Flames edge Coyotes in OT for fifth straight win

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Dougie Hamilton scored 1:09 into overtime, Chad Johnson stopped 27 shots and the Calgary Flames beat the Arizona Coyotes 2-1 on Thursday night.

Mark Giordano scored for the Flames in a chippy game filled with big hits and multiple fights.

Hamilton capped a fast-paced overtime by deking Arizona's Mike Smith with a forehand before flipping in a backhander. Calgary has won five straight and eight of 11 (8-2-1).

Max Domi scored before leaving with an upper-body injury and Smith stopped 33 shots for the Coyotes, who have lost six straight and 11 of 14 (3-7-4).

Arizona captain Shane Doan became Arizona's all-time assist leader and is the fifth player in NHL history to own his team's records for games played, goals, assists, points, game-winning goals and power-play goals (see full recap).

Crosby, Penguins roll over Panthers
SUNRISE, Fla. -- Sidney Crosby got his 18th goal and added an assist to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins over the Florida Panthers 5-1 on Thursday night.

Conor Sheary, Tom Kuhnhackl, Matt Cullen and Carl Hagelin also scored for Pittsburgh. Matt Murray made 28 saves.

The Penguins have won four straight and five of their past six.

Jaromir Jagr scored his 755th career goal, and Roberto Luongo stopped 25 shots for the Panthers. Luongo allowed three goals on Pittsburgh's first five shots.

Panthers coach Tom Rowe, who replaced Gerard Gallant on Nov. 28, made his home debut. The Panthers have lost five of six under Rowe, but managed a point in three of those losses (see full recap).

Price loses cool as Habs beat Devils
MONTREAL -- Carey Price lost his temper after being bumped twice in his crease and made 19 saves to help the Montreal Canadiens beat the New Jersey Devils 5-2 on Thursday night.

Torrey Mitchell scored twice and Phillip Danault, Artturi Lehkonen and Max Pacioretty also had goals for the Canadiens in their return from a five-game trip.

Adam Henrique scored a goal and set up one by Taylor Hall for New Jersey, which ended a two-game winning streak.

Montreal had a season-high 49 shots on Cory Schneider.

A wild first period included three goals, four goal reviews and Price's meltdown (see full recap).