The Reel Football Preview Week 14 is Mark Schofield‘s look at the most compelling matchups in the NFL on tape. Scouring the film, highlighting interesting play design, optimum offense, innovative defense and how the inches really matter. This week it’s #SEAvsPHI, #NOvsCAR and #JAXvsHOU.
The Legion of Boom vs. Chip Kelly’s Tactics
One matchup to pay attention to is Pete Carroll’s Cover 3 defense against Chip Kelly’s stick/package concepts. Here is an example of what the Eagles do on offense to create multiple options for their quarterback. On this play Mark Sanchez is in the shotgun with 11 personnel on the field against the Dallas nickel defense. The offense has a trips formation to the right side of the field:
Just before the snap running back Darren Sproles motions to the right:
Philadelphia runs a “stick” concept here but with a built in “packaged play.” The inside receiver in the trips (tight end Zach Ertz) and the outside receiver (Jeremy Maclin) run snag routes. The middle receiver (Jordan Matthews) runs a short corner route. These three patterns comprise the stick concept. The packaged play aspect to this look from Chip Kelly is Sproles continuing wide to the sideline, in position for a quick screen pass:
This gives Sanchez four options to overload the defense and create multiple easy reads/mismatches. With the Cowboys running Cover 3, the slot corner jumps Sproles to prevent the potential screen pass, while the outside cornerback gains depth to take away Matthews’s corner route:
The defense closes down the screen and corner route, but Maclin is open on his snag route and Sanchez takes the easy pitch-and-catch:
If the defense reacts differently, Sanchez can get the ball to Sproles in space or, perhaps, find Matthews down the field. The Seahawks will need to be creative, disciplined, and patient to take away these potential permutations from the Eagles.
How Drew Brees Carves Up Carolina’s Cover 3
Like most things associated with the NFC South this season, the Week 9 matchup between Carolina and New Orleans was a rather drab affair. But, unbelievably, this Week 14 rematch of a 5-7 Saints team against the 3-8-1 Panthers is a meaningful game, with both teams still mathematically alive for the division crown.
Drew Brees did have success when the Panthers showed Cover 3 in the secondary, as we see on this play. The QB is under center with 12 personnel on the field against Carolina’s base 4-3 defense. The Saints have a wing TE look to the right with a stack slot to the left:
New Orleans runs a simple three-receiver pattern on this play. From the stack slot, Kenny Stills runs a deep out route route while Brandin Cooks runs a post pattern. From the backside, tight end Jimmy Graham will pretend to block for a second before executing a shallow crossing route:
The Panthers drop into Cover 3 on this play and Stills is able to get separation from cornerback Josh Norman (#24):
Brees connects with his receiver along the sideline and the Saints have an 18-yard gain and a fresh set of downs:
Brees seemed very comfortable throwing against the Carolina Cover 3 so look for the Panthers to throw a different coverage scheme against New Orleans on Sunday, or at least adjust how they utilize three-deep coverage against the Saints.
Blake Bortles & the Read Option vs. J.J. Watt and Associates
Earlier this week we outlined how Blake Bortles led Jacksonville to a last minute victory over the New York Giants using two read-option runs on the final drive. The rookie QB might not enjoy the same level of success against J.J. Watt and the Texans’ defensive front. Houston has faced a number of read option offenses this season and handled the option play quite well, as they did on these plays from their Week 9 meeting with Chip Kelly’s Eagles.
On this first play quarterback Nick Foles is in the shotgun with running back LeSean McCoy to his right. Philadelphia runs the read option here, with McCoy angling to the left side of the offensive line. Foles puts the ball in his running back’s belly and reads outside linebacker Josh Simon:
Simon remains disciplined in his alignment as the play develops:
Forcing the QB to hand the ball off, McCoy tries to gain yardage against the rest of the talented Houston front:
On this next play the Eagles test the other side of the Texans’ defense with the read option and fare no better. Foles again lines up in the shotgun, but this time McCoy is to his left. The running back attacks the right side of the offensive line while Foles reads the edge defender to the left:
Watch how well outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus handles the option:
The linebacker initially breaks on McCoy but then throttles down. He is able to split the difference between QB and RB. Foles decides to keep the football but because he does not over-commit to the running back, Mercilus is in great position to track down Foles:
Blake Bortles has shown an ability to make plays in the NFL using his feet and in the read option game. He might not find it as easy this Sunday when Houston comes to town.
Every NFL contest contains key matchups: Between players, coaches, and schemes. The chess match between the Eagles offensive concepts against Seahawks defensive principles or Brees and the Carolina secondary will be fascinating to see unfold. Meanwhile, visions of running around end to see an unblocked Watt must be keeping Bortles awake at night. These are just a few of the compelling schematic clashes that will take place this weekend throughout the league.
All video and images courtesy the NFL and NFL Game Rewind.
Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkSchofield.