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.

Give and Go: How much credit does Brett Brown deserve for Sixers' improvement?

Give and Go: How much credit does Brett Brown deserve for Sixers' improvement?

With the team at the All-Star break, our resident basketball analysts will discuss some of the hottest topics involving the Sixers.

Running the Give and Go are CSNPhilly.com producer/reporters Matt Haughton and Paul Hudrick.

In this edition, we analyze the job head coach Brett Brown has done this season.

Haughton
Brown's performance has already resulted in more wins than any other season under his leadership, but it continues to be a complex judgment.

He's still tied to an extremely young roster, which lends itself to the high number of turnovers, mistakes coming out of timeouts and defensive breakdowns. 

However, he has managed to get several players to show growth in their games and make sure the Sixers remain balanced even with Joel Embiid's emergence. That can also be attributed to Brown's emphasis on state of play and not state of pay.

He turned to T.J. McConnell ($874,636 salary) at starting point guard over Sergio Rodriguez ($8 million) because the second-year pro has proven to be a better fit and has routinely moved Gerald Henderson ($9 million) from starter to reserve.

Then of course, there has been Brown's handling of the Sixers' mashup at center. The coach has found each guy minutes when he can and, according to the players, been up front about all potential minutes and trade scenarios.

Perhaps Brown's finest job this season has come in a role he thought was over: team delegate. Once Sam Hinkie exited and Bryan Colangelo proclaimed he would be more open with information, Brown certainly had to think his days of standing in front of the media to explain every single thing going on with the franchise were over. Think again. 

Still, Brown's been there each day, answering just about every question thrown his way from injuries to trade rumors. If nothing else, he deserves to be commended for dealing with that ... again.

Hudrick
It's amazing what a few NBA-caliber players can do.

After accumulating a 47-199 record over his first three seasons, Brown has led the Sixers to a 21-35 mark so far this season. Sure, much of the credit for the team's success has to do with adding legitimate NBA talent (and a legitimate NBA star in Embiid). With that said, you're finally starting to see Brown's fingerprints on the Sixers.

A protégé of Gregg Popovich's with the Spurs, Brown preaches defense and ball movement. The Sixers' defense has been a catalyst for their success this season. As Brown says in his Bostralian accent, the defensive end is where the Sixers' "bread is buttered." 

With unselfish players with decent court vision like Dario Saric and Gerald Henderson added to the mix, the Sixers don't look like a total disaster in the half court. They're ninth in the NBA at 23.5 assists per game. They haven't finished higher than 15th in the league in any of Brown's three seasons. 

When you consider what Brown has gone through and how he's managed to keep everything positive, it's incredible. Hinkie pegged Brown as his guy, knowing that Brown was an excellent teacher and had the right attitude to deal with losing. You have to be encouraged by what you've seen out of Brown and the Sixers this season.

Flyers Skate Update: Power play shakeup seems to be working

Flyers Skate Update: Power play shakeup seems to be working

VOORHEES, N.J. — They had taken another “0-for” on the power play on the road and lost a game in which they deserved to at least get a point.

Dave Hakstol had seen enough. Numbers don’t always tell a story. Yet, in the Flyers' case, they did: 4 for 42 on the power play over 12 games, including that 3-1 loss at Calgary.

The next morning in Edmonton, Hakstol met privately with Jakub Voracek to discuss, among other things, the power play. That night, Hakstol moved Voracek off the first unit power play and replaced him with Ivan Provorov.

He then told Shayne Gostisbehere to change his location on the power play on the half wall and let Provorov, the Russian rookie, worry about the blue line.

In the two games since, the power play is 3 for 6 and has the Flyers back up to ninth in the NHL after falling to 13th during that 12-game span of utter futility.

How the power play goes tonight against the Washington Capitals is critical if the Flyers have any shot of taking points away from the top club in the league.

“It’s a little bit different look,” Hakstol said. “We’re comfortable with either of the setups we have there. Whether it’s with Jake on the flank of the [Claude] Giroux unit or having Ghost there.

“Both are effective. Within the game, we can go back and forth with the other. We’ve had some pretty good play out of the other unit, regardless of the setup.”

Provorov has a very accurate point shot. Gostisbehere has the hardest shot of any on the top unit. The rest of the first unit – Giroux, Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds – hasn’t changed.

“We can’t score,” Provorov said bluntly. “We needed to change something up to spark the scoring. It definitely helped us. Now the two units have a different setup in the zone.

“Just a little different. It took us first game to get used to. We did pretty good in the second game [Vancouver].”

Ghost has never played the half-wall. He thinks this will help him snap a 32-game goal drought. He had three assists – two on the power play – against the Canucks on Sunday.

“It’s completely different,” Gostisbehere said. “I’ve always been at the top [blue line]. It’s definitely a different perspective from that view. I think I’ll get a lot more shots and plays that can be made.”

Voracek watches him when that unit is on the ice and offers advice after the shift.

“I have been talking to Jake a ton for pointers,” Gostisbehere said. “When I am out there, if you see something I could have done, please tell me. He is such an easy guy to talk to. He will give you the pointers right away.”

Hakstol said moving Ghost closer to the net has a payoff.

“He is in a pure one-timer side there if he gets himself in the right position,” Hakstol said. “But there is still some work we have to do there in terms of his overall positioning in that spot.

“He brings a different element than Jake does in that spot. Both of them were very, very effective in that spot. They just have different weapons.”

Even though there have been changes, Voracek still rotates back to the first unit if Provorov is on the ice the previous shift before the power play begins.

Because of Travis Konecny’s knee and ankle injuries, Sean Couturier’s second unit has changed the most. Mark Streit anchors from the point with Coots, Nick Cousins and Matt Read below the blue line and Voracek on the right-wall.

That unit has more player rotation on the ice than the top unit.

Hakstol doesn’t buy the argument the Flyers' power play crashed because it became too predictable. 

“In the game now, there’s not much hidden,” Hakstol said. “Everyone knows what the other team is trying to do, regardless of 5-on-5 or special teams.

“For us, it was a good time to make a small change that changes the look for our guys on the ice.”

Loose pucks
• A dozen players showed up for the optional morning skate at Skate Zone, more than half of what was expected. 

• Michal Neuvirth will start in goal tonight against Washington. 

• On Tuesday, Voracek got hit with a puck below the belt, during a tip drill in which Voracek tipped a shot into himself. “Feeling better,” he said today. 

• This morning was goalie Steve Mason’s turn to get hit. He took a point shot from Andrew MacDonald in the mask. Mason was temporarily shaken but no damage to either him or his mask.  

Lineup
F:
Schenn-Giroux-Simmonds
Weise-Couturier-Voracek
Raffl-Cousins-Read
VandeVelde-Bellemare-Lyubimov

D: Provorov-Manning
Gostisbehere-Streit
Del Zotto-Gudas

G: Neuvirth