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.

New Jersey product Tim Adleman limits Phillies to 1 hit over 8 innings

New Jersey product Tim Adleman limits Phillies to 1 hit over 8 innings

Cincinnati Reds starter Tim Adleman came into Friday night's start against the Phillies with an ERA above six, having allowed 10 runs in his last 5 2/3 innings. 

So, naturally, he gave up just one hit over eight scoreless innings. 

The 29-year-old righty dominated the Phillies in just his 20th career MLB start en route to his third win this season, pitching easily the best game of his young career in a 5-2 Reds' win (see game recap).

It was understandably the best that Reds manager Bryan Price had seen from Adleman.
 
"It wasn't just because of the line score," Price said. "It was really command-based. Really good both sides of the plate. Had a nice sinking fastball, could straighten it out when he needed to. A very, very good changeup. I don't think he even used a breaking ball there until the eighth inning.

"So it was really that good."

At just 100 pitches through eight, naturally the question for Price was whether to allow him the chance at a complete game. However, Price needed to get reliever Asher Wojciechowski work to get him ready for a start next week.

"I wanted to stay in there pretty badly, but you understand the move," Adleman said. "Wojo needed to get some work. It had been a while since he threw and it's a game in May. It's not a game that's deeper in the season. … I totally understand."

For his eight innings, Adleman attacked the Phillies' batters early in counts and didn't allow a batter to reach third all night. He retired the leadoff batter in all but one inning and allowed just four batters to reach base.

The Phillies' only threat came in the first inning. An Andres Blanco single was followed by an Aaron Altherr hit by pitch. That brought up Thursday's hero — Tommy Joseph — with two men on and just one out. Adleman utilized his changeup on a 1-2 pitch, inducing a weak grounder back to the mound for a 1-4-3 double play. 

In three at-bats against Joseph, Adleman recorded three groundball outs, all on the changeup, which is his primary off-speed offering.

"The scouting report is that he's a really good fastball hitter. Does a lot of damage on fastballs," Adleman said, "so if you can get him in situations where you're confident he's looking for a fastball and then cut a changeup on him, it can be really effective. Obviously, you have to keep it down, but that's the same with all your pitches."

Joseph's at-bats set the trend for the rest of the Phillies' lineup. The Reds' starter kept the ball down and didn't allow another baserunner until he walked Blanco to lead off the seventh. Sixteen of his 24 outs came on groundballs and only five pitches were hit past the infield. 

Adleman stated his goal was to use the Phillies' aggressiveness against them with strikes early in the count, and it worked. It was his first time pitching into the eighth inning in his career and he did so with almost exclusively his fastball and changeup.

"I think it had a lot to do with that little pause [in his delivery] and he did a good job changing speeds on us," Joseph said. "He basically did it with two pitches, which says a lot about how hard this game can be. Hats off to him. 

"Next time, we'll see if we can't get him back."

In a way, Adleman was getting the Phillies back. He made the third start of his career at Citizens Bank Park last year on May 14. He took the loss against Friday's starter, Aaron Nola, while allowing three runs in five innings.

Born in Staten Island, Adleman was raised in New Jersey, but grew up a Yankees fan. He hadn't been to CBP until college, when he faced Villanova while playing for Georgetown. 

At 29, he's a little old for a second-year starter because he took a winding road to the major leagues. Drafted by the Orioles in 2010, he was nearly out of baseball by 24. He spent two years in independent leagues before catching on with the Reds and debuting in the show last season.

The journeyman starter had struggled in his last few starts, which helped his ERA balloon to 6.19. However, his Friday night opponent seemed more than happy to take some air out of the balloon. Adleman became the fifth pitcher in the last six days to come into a start against the Phillies with an ERA of 5.00 or above and allow one run or less over at least five innings. 

"It feels good," Adleman said of his night. "Philly's a good young team and Nola is making quite a name for himself. He out-pitched me last year and coming into tonight I knew I had an opportunity to right the ship so to speak."

Pete Mackanin calls team meeting after Phillies hit low point with 21st loss in 26 games

Pete Mackanin calls team meeting after Phillies hit low point with 21st loss in 26 games

BOX SCORE

When the opposing pitcher comes in with an ERA that matches the area code for San Diego — 6.19 — and holds you scoreless on one single over eight innings, well …

You've reached the low point of your season.

And it's time for a team meeting.

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin called for a little powwow after his club suffered a 5-2 loss to the Cincinnati Reds on Friday night (see Instant Replay). Don't let the final score fool you. It wasn't that close. The loss was the Phillies' 21st in the last 26 games. They were held to three hits for the fourth time in the last six games — five losses — and have scored just nine runs over that span.

Mackanin acknowledged that this was the low point for his team, which owns the worst record in the majors at 16-30. Cincinnati starting pitcher Tim Adleman entered the game with a 6.19 ERA, but he pitched like an ace in holding the Phillies to just a first-inning single over his eight shutout innings (see story). Adleman walked two, struck out four and at one point set down 16 straight Phillies. The 29-year-old right-hander has made 20 starts in his big-league career and this was by far the best.

"Yeah," Mackanin said when asked if the loss was the season's low point. "We need to step it up. We're better than this. I know we're better than this. We've just got to start playing as aggressive as we can and take it to the other team. Be aggressive at the plate and pound the strike zone."

That apparently was Mackanin's message to the club in his postgame meeting, though he would not talk about it.

"He just wants to see us play with a little more fire and a little more energy," Aaron Altherr said. "You know, it's something we've got to do. Today wasn't too great. But, like I said, hopefully we can right the ship and start winning some games again."

Tommy Joseph was tight-lipped on the content of the team meeting.

"That's basically stuff that was between us," he said. "There's a pretty good understanding that we need to get going in here and that was really it. I think the rest is pretty self-explanatory and what he had to say is between us.

"It's definitely not a lack of effort. Everybody is out there trying to get the job done. I think there are certain nights when the job is getting done. When things start to spark a little bit, everybody feeds off that. Obviously there are some nights where that doesn't happen. It's definitely not from a lack of effort. Everybody is going out there busting their ass, so it's just a matter of sometimes it goes our way and sometimes it doesn't."

Mackanin used slumping Odubel Herrera in the leadoff spot for the first time this season and he produced a ninth-inning double after Adleman exited. The Phillies actually loaded the bases with one out in the ninth, but a fielder's choice groundball and then a strikeout by Maikel Franco, the potential tying run, ended the game. Franco struck out swinging wildly at a full-count breaking ball from Raisel Iglesias.

Joseph mentioned that Adleman changed speeds well and used a slight hesitation in his delivery to throw off hitters.

But was it more the pitcher or more just a bad offense?

"It's hard to tell," Mackanin said. "That's a daily question. Are we not hitting the ball like we should or is the pitcher that good? It seems like I look up and every other pitcher we face has a 6.00 ERA, but I think it's all because we're missing good pitches to hit. We're getting pitches to hit and we're not hitting them."

Aaron Nola did not have a good start. He gave up a pair of homers in falling behind, 3-0, after two innings, and, obviously, there was no coming back, not with this offense.

The Philies are 5-18 in the month of May.

Or should we say Mayday?

"We're trying to stay positive, as positive as we can throughout this stretch," Altherr said. "You know, it's tough sometimes when things are going the way they are. We're just going to keep being positive, keep trying to bring as much energy as we can to win some games."