I figured I’d start a little film review segment for y’all: I’m going to break down three plays on which Philadelphia coulda, shoulda, woulda seen a positive outcome, but didn’t. We know that many little factors can impact the execution of a concept, block, release, or likewise–we’ll also look into those, and how they may continue to show up moving forward. If you missed Week 7: https://www.lockedoneagles.com/missed-opportunities-week-7/
Our first clip for Week 8, just as it was for Week 7, is a missed Alshon Jeffery touchdown. If you’re a regular listener (you’re my favorite), you know that we’ve been critical of Alshon’s performance and we’re suspicious regarding his role in this offense. That being said, Wentz has missed him on his fair share of throws, and that must frustrate the wideout.
On this route concept, Wentz actually makes 9/10ths of a fantastic play.
The Niners show a 2-high look before the ball is snapped, and Carson opens to the left side of the field, towards TE Zach Ertz and RB Corey Clement’s routes. There’s a chance Jeffery has an option route here: should he read one-high safety, he runs a certain route; should he read two-high, he manipulates the route accordingly.
Carson immediately recognizes post-snap that the safety are actually playing a Cover 1 Robber technique. In Robber, one safety plays the middle of the field deep, and another–the robber–lurks in the middle of the field in the intermediate area. Regardless of whether or not Alshon has an option on his route, Carson makes the correct read in resetting and turning to Jeffery, whose Dino route will open up against this Cover 1 look.
Alshon runs the Dino nicely. “Dino” refers to a post, or 8-route, but with an outside break at the top to generate inside leverage. This is perfect work between the wide receiver and quarterback. Both know where the space is on the field, and both get there on time.
So, what went wrong? Carson got absolutely leveled by a stunting DL on this play. The game SF runs up front is very impressive–as were all of the defensive line games they brought to Philadelphia, a new and surprising wrinkle in their defensive scheme. Should Carson step up cleanly into this throw, it should be an easy six.
Next week, Alshon. Promise.
Up next, we have another poor Carson play–this time, the young QB is more at fault. An interception that was placed squarely on Mack Hollins’ shoulders on the broadcast–and he still bears some blame–actually should have been avoided by the gunslinger.
Lots to unpack here.
Obviously, Mack shouldn’t break of his route–and there’s no reason to believe it was designed for him to stop. But you can’t blame the rookie entirely: based off of the coverage of SF CB Ahkello Witherspoon, the ball never should have came Hollins’ way.
Pre-snap, it’s clear San Fran is playing man coverage across the board and potentially bringing pressure. It’s 3rd and 14, and they’re deploying a high-risk, high-reward strategy here. Reasonable to believe they’ll get to Carson, as they’ve done all game–but Carson needs to know where this ball should go if he gets even a second to release it.
It should go to–you guessed it, sports fans–Alshon Jeffery.
The #2 WR on the strong side of the formation, Alshon runs a seam route against 1-on-1 coverage. TE Zach Ertz runs the clear out post, and Hollins come underneath on the deep dig.
Now, SF ends up dropping defenders into short zones, bringing only a regular pass rush. That eliminates the quick crosser from Nelson Agholor, the lone wideout on the weakside. Maybe Carson wants to read across the field, to Ertz first, but as those linebackers gain depth underneath the post, he’s eliminated from the play.
Because Hollins is lined up on the boundary against pure man coverage, the corner against him–Witherspoon–will play with strong inside leverage, using the sideline to his advantage. Maybe a comeback works against this technique, or the deep fade, but certainly not an in-breaking route. But Carson, likely entrenched in a pre-snap determination of his own, tries to force the ball in to Hollins, who has cut off his route, certain the pass wasn’t coming his way.
Just watch Jeffery on that seam, man. A well-placed ball to the inside, away from the corner, is a 50+ yard gain.
Finally, let’s turn to the defense. The league-leading Philadelphia Eagles came in to the contest allowing less than 70 yards/game on the ground. Without Jordan Hicks for the first time this season, Philadelphia surrendered 94 yards on the ground. Now, plenty of those came courtesy of C.J. Beathard, the saucer-eyed rookie QB escaping the pass rush. But the Niners found regular success with first-down runs, and better squads will see and exploit that.
It’s tough to put all of the blame on the replacement backers/Malcolm Jenkins, who played some linebacker last week. But the reality is: Joe Walker isn’t sniffing Jordan Hicks, and the loss of Hicks also is a detriment to Mychal Kendricks’ and Nigel Bradham’s respective games.
Both of these backers play this poorly. Let’s start with Joe.
Walker does a good job reading the action of the offensive line and flowing. He reacts even quicker than Kendricks, which can be a positive if you look at it from the right angle. But Walker makes a confounding decision in the hole. He has a clear alley to attack Hyde downhill, as RT #62 hesitates, caught between DE Brandon Graham and Walker. (Please, casually, feel free to note Brandon Graham doing holy things as a backside defender once again.)
And how often have we seen Hicks and Graham make this play in unison? But Walker, in a moment of self-doubt, or perhaps too focused on stacking the oncoming block, fails to attack Hyde and lets him worm his way through a tiny crease.
A tiny crease that leads him directly to Mychal Kendricks.
Kendricks had to take on a block on this play, and that is never good news for Eagles fans. An athlete and downhill force, Kendricks does well to remain patient, and not get sucked in by that initial daylight he sees. That’s not his gap; it’s Fletcher Cox’s.
But, instead of flowing hard into that gap and meeting the RG #53 with velocity and power, to traffic jam the bajesus out of this run play, he waits. Kendricks goes straight Bambi-in-BMW-LEDs when he sees a climbing lineman coming his way. As such, Hyde has space with which to work, as Kendricks finally meets him, four yards down the field. Kendricks can’t make the open-field tackle, and Hyde picks up eight.
Bradham and Kendricks have played lights-out this season, and we know the coaching staff is high on Walker–but none of these players have the technically-sound game of Jordan Hicks. His presence in diagnosing plays and doing the dirty work that lets others shine will be sorely missed.