Tuesday, May 22, 2018

NFL analytics

Can Delaying the Snap Like Peyton Manning Win You the Game?

I was nerdily inspired by Marcus Mosher's Tweet about the amount of time left on the play clock when teams snapped the ball in 2017. You can see that the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles took the longest to snap the ball. But the Super Bowl runner-up New England Patriots were 29th.

So is there anything to it? Does 'Time on Play Clock at Snap' mean anything about a team's performance? Peyton Manning presumably thinks so:
An NFL Films clip, narrated by the late Steve Sabol, about how long Manning took at the line. 
It's posted to YouTube under "Just Snap the Damn Ball Colts"

To answer this question, I ran a correlation on Time at Snap vs. Winning Percentage in the 2017 season.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

A Legend in the Making

I've written before (after his very first regular-season start, in fact) that Carson Wentz is a blossoming star. So I was interested in how Wentz's injury-shortened 2017 season—in which he was on track for NFL MVP before his injury in the 13th game of the season against the Rams—compared to the best QB seasons in Eagles history. Eagles fans know that he set a franchise record for TDs with his 33rd, after tearing his ACL against the Rams!

But I wanted to compare other stats, such as Wentz's yardage, completion percentage, and so on, to the best seasons for Eagles QBs, like McNabb 2004. So Google took me to this Pro Football Reference page. Though it wasn't what I was looking for, I did discover something very interesting...

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Phinally Champions!!!

The Philadelphia Eagles are Super Bowl LII Champions!


A few years ago, a fan-designed Eagles Super Bowl ring made the rounds on the Internet. This is the oldest source I could find: http://sports-rings.com/wordpress1/2015/09/03/as-the-nfl-season-approaches-fans-dream-of-new-championship-rings/

The Eagles will be getting a real one after their victory over the Patriots in Super Bowl LII! \o/

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

How to stymie the Patriots' offense in Super Bowl 52

What will the Patriots do to try to beat the Eagles in the Super Bowl?
Remember when many fans were mailing it in on the 2017 season after losing to the Seahawks, looking terrible in a victory over the Raiders, and watching the terrible Giants put up 434 yards and 29 points on us? 
In the playoff-victory jubilation, we've forgotten about that.
But the Patriots haven't.

https://usateagleswire.files.wordpress.com/2017/06/usatsi_9711707.jpg?w=1000&h=600&crop=1

Brady and Belichick will be studying the games in which the Eagles didn't do so well--as well as the games in which they did--scouring the film for tendencies, strengths, weaknesses, and other clues about how to beat this team. 
Nobody's invincible. It's just a matter of finding those weaknesses, and being able to exploit them. And our team's weaknesses are there for anyone to see, including my favorite football analyst: Brett Kollmann.
In his most recent video, Kollmann breaks down how teams beat the Eagles' defense this season, and how Atlanta did a terrible job of taking advantage of our secondary's aggressiveness and tendency to rely on zone coverage in the red zone. Take a look for yourself: 

In the Super Bowl, I fully expect to see the Patriots employ a variety of short slants and quick outs from shotgun at the beginning of the game. Brady has demonstrated for over 15 years that he can hit those quick passes all day long, and he will do so on Feb. 4.
The Pats will be happy to dink-and-dunk down the field early on, in order to bludgeon the Eagles' defense with its own aggressiveness later on.
That is, when the corners and safeties get frustrated at surrendering all those short completions and methodical chain-moving drives, they'll start trying to jump the routes and intercept the ball. And that's when the Patriots will strike.
Their response will be to:
  • Line up in the same formations that they've been using to throw the quick passes. This will probably be a shotgun formation with a single back and 3 receivers split out wide. 
  • Then, send Brandin Cooks and Philip Dorsett deep on double-moves like the sluggo or in-n-up routes, while sending the third receiver (think Amendola) on a shallow crosser or in route. Possibly the tight end as well.
  • If the Eagles show single coverage on Cooks or Dorsett, throw it up to one of them, and the result will probably be either a big completion, or a pass-interference flag that's just as good.
  • Since our corners, especially Jalen Mills, aren't that fast, the only hope they have of stopping speedsters like Cooks and Dorsett is to hold them. And that'll draw flags every time, especially against New England.
That's game-planning at its finest, and you just know that Belichick and the Patriots will do everything they can to set up this kind of scenario!
I also expect to see some 'rub' concepts (in case you didn't know, this involves receivers almost running into one another on their routes, in the hope/expectation that defenders will collide and at least one receiver will get completely free of coverage). This will help the Patriots' offense determine whether the Eagles' defense has adjusted to address their weaknesses against rub routes and double-moves. And if the Eagles are still vulnerable to these concepts, expect to see them all. game. long.
Just watch the game. Look for it. It'll happen.
Guaranteed.
What's not guaranteed is whether the Eagles will be ready for it. Belichick, along with his trusted advisor and confidant Ernie Adams, may well be the best coach in history at spotting opponents' tendencies and taking advantage of them. Philly has put up plenty of tape over the past 2 years showcasing this vulnerability. It's too juicy NOT to exploit. 
Jim Schwartz and the defensive coaching staff absolutely must self-scout, identify these same weaknesses, and figure out how to combat them.
Easier said than done, but there are a couple solutions:
  • One is to change these tendencies. Run a number of drills in practice that are designed to teach players to remain disciplined; defensive backs and linebackers must not be too quick to react to a receiver's moves, until the ball actually leaves Brady's hand! 
  • Another is to show blitz, but then bail out into coverage. If Brady's focused on determining who's blitzing, that may throw him off just enough to delay his ability to read the coverage, or to make him throw a little quicker than he wants to. And if everyone drops into coverage, that might close a zone that Brady was expecting to be vacant.

    It's Brady, and he's seen everything at this point, so that's probably not going to affect him too much. But it's worth a shot, and a nice bonus is that doing this several times could set Brady up to think that we're not actually going to blitz (which would tie in nicely with Schwartz's philosophical opposition to blitzing, which--again--the Pats are definitely aware of!), so that we can actually get him with a blitz later.
  • Other options include: play more press coverage to throw off the timing of the routes, and use coverages that mix zone and man, to make it harder for Brady and for the receivers to get a bead on what type of coverage the Eagles are using. Miscommunications like this may result in incompletions, or even interceptions!
The Eagles' defense will absolutely have to change something about their tendencies. If they continue to do exactly what they've done all year, Brady will carve up this defense like a Thanksgiving turkey!
If you let Brady play head games on his own terms, he will win...
__________________________


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Saturday, January 13, 2018

New Eagles GIF

I made an Eagles GIF after the playoff win over the Atlanta Falcons on Saturday, January 13, 2018. Here it is:

I couldn't re-size the Falcons logo or get it to move, but I think it gets the point across! 

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

How NOT to treat your franchise QB

Protect Your QB
I have a good friend who's a Colts fan, and we were talking about Andrew Luck, the Colts' new coaching search, etc. In the process of gathering evidence and news reports, I found an interesting article on CBS Sports about how the Colts mismanaged Luck's athletic prime. Here's the link:
In sum, they basically downplayed Luck's injury, rushed him back, failed to give him adequate O-line protection, and basically flubbed the situation at every opportunity. The team was overly dependent upon Peyton Manning when he was in Indy, and the team is now overly dependent upon Andrew Luck (as evidenced by this season's 4-12 record with Jacoby Brissett at the helm).
Take away the Colts' franchise QB, and they completely melt.
That's not how you build a team, that's not how you keep fans in the stands, and that's definitely not how to treat your franchise QB!
What does this have to do with the Eagles?
Now for the Eagles-centric take: the Eagles' ownership and front office certainly isn't beyond criticism, but it's apparent that they tried to surround Carson Wentz with good O-line protection and improved weapons in the passing and running game. When Wentz went down, that certainly wasn't good for the team! But unlike Indianapolis, the Eagles didn't utterly collapse when their starting QB got injured!
The story linked above clearly illustrates how important it is to: a) allow Wentz to fully heal instead of rushing him back, b) build a strong team with talent and depth everywhere, and c) continue to invest in an offensive line that will protect your QB and hopefully keep him healthy.
Luck's sad saga just goes to show that even franchises with some success--not just perennial bottom-dwellers--aren't always run well. I, for one, am thankful that Jeff Lurie owns the Eagles, and Howie Roseman leads the front office. They've made mistakes in the past, but they've learned from those mistakes. They want to compete, but they're patient and don't have a continuously revolving door at coach and in the front office. And they haven't done anything egregious (like the Colts' handling of the Andrew Luck situation)!
I think the Eagles are built well, and built for the long haul. I don't expect them to compete only this postseason; I expect them to be in the playoff dance for many years to come!
If they want to fulfill those expectations, it's clearly not enough to rely on a top-notch QB. It's obvious that, first and foremost, your QB needs to be protected. Look no further than the Colts, who have an all-time great RB in Frank Gore, dangerous receivers like T.Y. Hilton, Phillip Dorsett (before he was traded to New England), Donte Moncrief, and even young deep threat Chester Rogers. 
These players weren't enough to help an OL-needy team overcome injuries, especially when it came to losing their star QB. Therefore, looking ahead to the offseason, it is crucial that the Eagles (not to mention the Colts!) continue to find and develop talented players on the offensive line.
The focus for 2018
Joe Douglas' influence on the Eagles' 2017 draft was evident; the team did not trade all over the place as in past drafts, but they were able to find tough, talented players all over the board. Crucially, undrafted rookie free agents like Corey Clement and Tyler Orlosky signed with the Eagles. The team also found talent in the draft, including Derek Barnett in the 1st round, Sidney Jones in the 2nd, promising young CB Rasul Douglas in the 3rd, deep threat Mack Hollins in the 4th, LB/S Nate Gerry in the 5th, and athletic DT Elijah Qualls in the 6th! 
Not every player the Eagles draft will pan out; Derek Barnett, Corey Clement, and Rasul Douglas had the biggest impact in their rookie years. Nate Gerry barely saw the field on defense in 2017, and RB Donnell Pumphrey was put on IR (likely as a way to keep him on the roster without having him active on game day). Both of these players weren't ready to make a positive impact for the team in a meaningful NFL game--at least not as rookies. They may improve, or they may end up washing out of the NFL. It's too soon to tell for sure.
But the quality of players that the Eagles found in the 2017 draft was clearly higher than in other recent drafts. The 2013 class was top-heavy, with good players in the first 3 rounds and busts afterward. The Eagles 2014 and 2015 draft classes were mediocre, with hits and misses all over the board (and, to be honest, more misses than hits). 
So, bearing Andrew Luck's saga in mind, Joe Douglas and the Eagles' front office should pay particular attention to offensive linemen in the 2018 draft class. After all, as the above link illustrates: when you have a QB who's among the best in the NFL, you need to keep him upright!
Happy New Year, everyone! And, as always, Fly Eagles Fly!


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Be sure to get your Carson Wentz jersey!
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Friday, December 22, 2017

Back in Black

The Philadelphia Eagles' announced via their official Twitter account that their Christmas Day 2017 game against the Raiders would feature the all-black uniforms: https://twitter.com/Eagles/status/943873727413960705

Considering the #BackInBlack hashtag, I was disappointed when I didn't hear AC/DC on the video.

Well, I decided to rectify that problem! Without further ado, I give you #BackInBlack, improved:


Fly Eagles Fly!