Look at This Huge Pocket Vick Had, and Other Eagles’ Observations on Offense

Look at This Huge Pocket Vick Had, and Other Eagles’ Observations on Offense

If you’re hoping to learn more about Chip Kelly’s offense, there are plenty of valuable resources out there that can explain it better than I can. If you’ve already been exposed to Chip when he was at Oregon, earlier we linked to Smart Football’s piece on what coach brought to the NFL in his preseason debut versus the Patriots on Friday.

If like a lot of Eagles fans you’re new to Chip, here’s a great place to start: FishDuck’s tutorial to the inside zone read, a staple of the offense. They do a lot of this, minus the quarterback taking off (only Matt Barkley performed a keeper against New England), so if you haven’t been learning on your own already, now is a good time start brushing up.

Here’s an excerpt from the Smart Football look at how the Eagles used the inside zone read against the Pats.

Although Kelly's version of the inside zone is typically associated with the read-option element he often added to it at Oregon, against the Patriots, Philadelphia almost never asked its quarterback to read a defender and decide whether to hand off or run it on an inside zone. (Of the Eagles' top three quarterbacks, only Matt Barkley ended up with a keeper on the inside zone read.) Instead Kelly relied on other complementary tactics to make the play go. The first was his other bread-and-butter inside run, power, which asks the linemen on the play side to block down and double-team the defensive linemen, while a backside guard pulls around and leads up on the linebacker.

Kelly has long added a misdirection element to his version of power by offsetting the running back to the side the play is headed. By doing this, Kelly's power, with its down blocks and the runner crossing in front of the quarterback, looks to the defense exactly like his inside zone, only going the other way. That is until the pulling guard appears, and then it's too late. Oregon dropped 47 points on a USC defense orchestrated by current Seattle head coach Pete Carroll with this simple adjustment.

There was one aspect of the offense I wanted to highlight myself though, and that is how nice it was to have most of the offensive line intact. Jason Peters didn’t suit up for the first game, but it didn’t seem to matter. Save for one breakdown when Nick Foles was in the game, the unit protected both quarterbacks well. Just look at the pocket Vick had to step into on his 47-yard touchdown pass to DeSean Jackson.

When’s the last time No. 7 looked that comfortable? He’s standing perfectly upright, not looking to escape. He has space to step into his throw without worry or care, and as a result is able to deliver a perfect strike for six points. With a healthy line, and an experimental scheme, it would appear the Birds’ offense is in store for a big season – I’m starting to believe regardless of who is under center.

RISING/FALLING

Michael Vick

Hey, Nick Foles played well (minus a fumble that wasn’t all his fault), but Vick hit the big play. Few quarterbacks throw the deep ball as well as the four-time Pro Bowler. Had ice water running through his veins on third-down conversion before that, and made the right read. Underthrew one pass, but 4/5 for 96 yards and a score in two series is tough to beat.

Jason Avant

Same old Jason Avant. Had three catches, all for first down, two of them on third down. Good for 42 yards total. Reliable as always, and seems to have no trouble finding open space in Chip’s scheme.

DeSean Jackson

Haven’t talked about him much, but DeSean is having a great camp. That carried over into the preseason with a 47-yard bomb against Aqib Talib. Jackson has been doing that sort of thing pretty much every day in practice, and he seems primed for a big year.

Todd Herremans

Not sure his stock is falling as much as he had one bad night. Missed a block pulling out in front of Chris Polk that resulted in the run to get stuffed. Worse, missed a block that allowed a rusher to get a free shot at Nick Foles, resulting in a fumble. Nothing but quality otherwise, but that turnover was huge.

Lane Johnson

Strong debut for the fourth-overall pick in the draft. Looked like he belongs. Wasn’t confused out there. Put a hat on somebody on every play, and didn’t get beat. Is still a little more natural run blocking, even getting out to the second level on a few occasions, but held his own in pass protection. Impressive start for the big man.

Clay Harbor

With all the emphasis we’ve placed on tight ends during the offseason, who would’ve thought Clay Harbor would be the one to wind up in here? Had more yards (47) on his three catches than all other tight ends on the team combined (41 on eight receptions). All three catches went for first downs, including a conversion on 3rd and 20. Apparently he’s Matt Barkley’s security blanket.

Felix Jones

Never mind that he’s been stuffed at the bottom of the depth chart. Dropped two passes on Friday that were right in his hands, just a lack of concentration. Ran hard, but not extremely well, carrying eight times for 31 yards. Played behind second- and third-string offensive line, so hard to judge, but hasn’t stood out this summer.

MIXED REVIEWS

Bryce Brown

Brown had a strong night running the football, rushing five times for 22 yards and a touchdown – much better than Chris Polk, who was ineffective on four carries for seven yards. But where Polk still had an edge was pass protection. Polk had a key block on Vick’s touchdown pass, whereas there were a couple times it appeared Brown should’ve thrown a block, but was out of position or left the backfield early. Amazing pure talent, still rough around the edges.

Brent Celek

First of all, Celek was the starting tight end. The Eagles didn’t use a ton of two tight end sets early on, and he got the nod with the starters. He also proved to be more valuable than many of us realized, as it turns out he’s the emergency long snapper – albeit not a very good one. Had only two catches for 10 yards though, and big minus, he fumbled once. Not a great outing, but shouldn’t diminish his role.

Matt Barkley

Great, Barkley eventually led a scoring drive on his sixth series. Got more comfortable as the game went on. Earlier he threw into coverage a bunch. Some of his balls seemed to lack zip, wobbled. Finished 11 for 22, 103, TD. Granted Barkley was playing with backups, but Foles looked better in the preseason last year. Not close to winning the starting quarterback job, that’s for sure.

Jeremy Hellickson enjoyed his time with Phillies, now he'll look for free-agent riches

Jeremy Hellickson enjoyed his time with Phillies, now he'll look for free-agent riches

BOX SCORE

ATLANTA — Jeremy Hellickson made his final start of the season for the Phillies on Thursday night.

Now he becomes the team’s first big offseason decision.

Hellickson had long left the game with a sore right knee by the time struggling reliever Jeanmar Gomez was tagged for four runs in the bottom of the eighth inning in what ended up as a 5-2 loss to the Atlanta Braves (see Instant Replay). The Phillies were swept in their final trip to Turner Field — the Braves will move into a new ballpark in April — and have lost six of their last seven games heading into the final weekend of the season and a three-game series against the New York Mets at Citizens Bank Park.

“It’s a bad time to be in a rut and we’re in a rut,” manager Pete Mackanin said. “We’ve got to go home and snap out of it.”

Besides supporting his rotation mates, Hellickson won’t make any contributions this weekend. The 29-year-old right-hander, acquired in a November trade with Arizona, finished his season 12-10 in a career-high 32 starts. He tied a career high with 189 innings. His final ERA of 3.71 was his best since he recorded a 3.10 ERA in 31 starts for Tampa Bay in 2012.

Though he left the game in the fourth inning after tweaking his knee while running the bases (see story), Hellickson achieved his season goal.

“This isn’t anything that’s going to linger,” he said, looking down at his knee. “So I came out healthy. That was my main thing, try to throw 200 innings — I fell just short of that — and stay healthy. So as far as those two goals go, it was good.”

By staying healthy and pitching well, Hellickson built himself a nice free-agent platform. But before Hellickson heads out on the open market, the Phillies must make a decision: Do they offer him $17 million to retain him in 2017 or simply let him go. As a rebuilding team, the Phils would love to get a draft pick as compensation for Hellickson’s leaving. But to get that pick, they must make Hellickson that one-year qualifying offer and he must reject it and sign elsewhere. 

It seems likely that the Phils will make the offer to Hellickson. If he takes it, he will return in 2017 and fill the same veteran stabilizer role he did this season. If he rejects, the team will get a pick between the first and second rounds of next year’s draft. The value of that draft pick is significant and was seen as a reason the Phillies did not trade Hellickson in July.

Qualifying offers go out in early November, but general manager Matt Klentak isn’t ready to tip his hand on what he’ll do.

“Both are valuable,” he said, weighing Hellickson's returning on a one-year deal versus picking up a draft selection between the first and second rounds. “For the same reason Jeremy Hellickson was valuable to us this year, Jeremy Hellickson or a player like that could be valuable to us again next year. The draft pick at the end of the first round has a real, measurable, tangible value.”

After Thursday night’s game, Hellickson was asked if he believed he’d made his final start with the Phillies.

“I hope not,” he said. “But I don’t really know how to answer that. I would love to be back here next year. I think everyone knows how much I’ve enjoyed my time here and I think we’re moving in the right direction.”

The pitcher was pressed as to whether he could envision himself accepting the qualifying offer if the Phillies made one.

“Yeah, I mean I definitely could see it,” he said. “But …"

Hellickson paused. Then a reporter broke the silence by suggesting the pitcher would rather get a multi-year deal on the open market.

“Yeah, I would love that actually a little bit more,” he said.

The Phillies could look to strike a multi-year deal with Hellickson before he hits the open market five days after the World Series, but that does not appear to be in the club’s plans. The Phils seem to be interested mostly in short-term deals for veterans as they let their kids develop.

In time, this thing will play out.

But for now, the Phillies head home looking to stop a losing streak and scuttle the Mets’ postseason hopes.

Find great deals on Philadelphia Phillies tickets with TicketIQ. Buy cheap Phillies tickets with no hidden fees for all games on their 2016 schedule. 

Best of MLB: Cardinals top Reds on Molina's disputed double in 9th

Best of MLB: Cardinals top Reds on Molina's disputed double in 9th

ST. LOUIS -- Yadier Molina hit a disputed double that drove in the winning run with two outs in the ninth inning Thursday night, sending the St. Louis Cardinals over the Cincinnati Reds 4-3.

The Cardinals began the day one game behind San Francisco for the second NL wild-card spot.

Matt Carpenter drew a one-out walk from Blake Wood (6-5). With two outs, Molina's one-hop hit appeared to bounce off a sign above the left-field wall and carom back into play.

Carpenter kept running and scored from first. Reds manager Bryan Price ran after the umpires, who left the field as soon as Carpenter touched the plate.

Price later said umpire crew chief Bill Miller told him that teams have 10 seconds to appeal on a game-ending play, and that the complaint wasn't made in time.

"I'm not blaming the umpires. I'm blaming the system," Price said.

Molina and Jedd Gyorko hit solo homers for the Cardinals.

Seung Hwan Oh (6-3) wound up with the win (see full recap).

Jimenez delivers strong start, Orioles blank Blue Jays 4-0
TORONTO -- Ubaldo Jimenez and two relievers combined on a three-hitter and the Baltimore Orioles beat the Blue Jays 4-0 on Thursday night, moving into a tie with Toronto in the AL wild card race with three games remaining.

When he started at Toronto on June 12, Jimenez allowed five runs and six hits in 1/3 of an inning, the shortest start of his career.

The right-hander returned Thursday and carved up the Blue Jays. The only hit he allowed was Ezequiel Carrera's single to begin the first. Josh Donaldson followed with a walk but Jimenez retired the next six batters in order.

Devon Travis walked to open the third and advanced on Carrera's sacrifice, but that was the first of 11 consecutive outs for Jimenez, a streak that ended with Edwin Encarnacion's two-out walk in the sixth. Jose Bautista flied out to end the inning.

Jimenez (8-12) allowed one hit in 6 2/3 innings, improving to 3-1 with a 2.31 ERA in five September starts. He walked three and struck out five (see full recap).

Cubs, Pirates play to rare MLB tie
PITTSBURGH -- The Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates played a rare major league tie on Thursday night when their game was called off due to rain with scores level at 1-all in the sixth inning.

With the Cubs and Pirates not scheduled to play again this season, officials decided the game would not be made up, since its outcome will not affect postseason positioning. Chicago long ago clinched the National League Central, while Pittsburgh is out of playoff reckoning, sitting third in that division.

So instead of becoming a suspended game, the match was declared a tie -- the first since Houston and Cincinnati went seven innings on June 30, 2005, before rain halted them.

Willson Contreras had two hits and scored for the NL Central champion Cubs, who have already clinched the best record in the majors. Josh Bell hit a sacrifice fly for the Pirates.

The game was called in the top of the sixth after a delay of 1 hour, 23 minutes.

Tim Federowicz hit a sacrifice fly in the Cubs second. Pittsburgh tied it in the third.

Cubs rookie Rob Zastryzny gave up one unearned run in 3 2/3 innings in his first major league start after beginning his career with seven relief appearances (see full recap).

Buxton doubles, triples in Twins' 7-6 victory over Royals
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Byron Buxton tripled, doubled, drove in two runs and scored twice as the Minnesota Twins defeated the Kansas City Royals 7-6 on Thursday night.

After Salvador Perez's pinch-hit RBI single with two outs in the ninth pulled the Royals within a run, Terrance Gore ran for him. With Paulo Orlando, who had four hits to match his career high, hitting, Brandon Kintzler picked Gore off first base.

Gore was initially called safe, but after a 1 minute, 15 second review, the call was reversed to end the game.

Buxton's one-out double triggered a three-run ninth off Kelvin Herrera (2-6). Robbie Grossman, Miguel Sano and Max Kepler contributed run-scoring singles in the ninth.

The Twins won for the first time in 10 games this season at Kauffman Stadium (see full recap).