The Thursday Three - Week 7

by Shawn Syed|October 26, 2023

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For the first half of the season, I will be bringing you The Thursday Three. This article will cover three schematic points as related to the NFL; the three points may connect to a game plan, specific concepts, or something else interesting across the league.

To this point, I have written about Miami’s motion adjustment, the Crunch run concept, the differences between Cover 6 and Cover 8, the coverage concepts Zeus and Ring, the run concepts Counter Solid and Duo Kick, Cover 2 Invert, Lookie Jaguar, the Wipe tag to Outside Zone, the shot play Hiccup, the play action shot play Heat, Counter Bash, Truck toss, Choice Stucko, Counter Bluff Reverse, and a constraint play off Outside Zone, Blazer, Slug, and a wrinkle off Flood.

This week I am writing about three things the Eagles defense did on the way to a win over the Miami Dolphins.

In Week 7, defensive coordinator Sean Desai and the Eagles had the unenviable task of planning for the best offense in the NFL. The Dolphins create explosive plays on the ground, through the air, and score in an instant.

Desai’s defense did three things very well against the Dolphins: stop the run in base personnel, play aggressive Cover 2 while later getting to different coverages, and limit Tyreek Hill’s yards after catch.

Stopping the Run

As defenses have moved to more odd fronts with interior defensive linemen plugging the B gaps (the area between the guard and the tackle), the Shanahan tree has responded with more runs that attack the C gap (the area between the tackle and the tight end). Offenses do this by finding different ways to push out the on ball outside linebacker.

One common way to do this is with a fast motion at the snap. In the below clip, look at how much displacement the motion player creates against the edge defender:

Another way to deal with an edge defender is to crack down on the edge player and get outside of them. The Dolphins have the speed to turn these plays into huge gains:

The cutup below shows some of the Eagles run stops against the Dolphins. The first clip is an example of the Eagles dealing with fast motion from the tight end. The second clip is an example of a defensive end being too quick for a crack block. The other clips show examples of the Eagles successfully stopping interior runs and creating general havoc for the league’s top rushing attack:

Cover 2 and More

The Buffalo Bills had success against the Miami Dolphins in Week 4 with an attacking Cover 2 defense.

Cover 2 allows cornerbacks to play more aggressive on the outside knowing they have safety help over the top. The other underneath defenders can also get into intermediate throw windows.

The Eagles ran very few snaps of Cover 2 heading into Week 7 but broke it out a lot on Sunday night, including out of a nontraditional presentation:

The Eagles also seemed to play their zone structures tight to Miami’s known areas of attack. The Eagles tried to muddy up areas where Tyreek Hill’s quick in breakers would usually be wide open.

In the below example at the bottom of the screen, Darius Slay squeezes the route, a linebacker is dropping into the window, and a safety is over the top to allow Slay to play aggressively:

Desai also changed it up later in the game, going to 1 Double, and using an interesting version of a Cover 3 fire zone structure that locked Eli Ricks on Tyreek Hill. The defense also rotated a safety down to Hill’s side, which ended up helping the secondary leverage the route:

Limiting YAC

Every single defense has a weakness. Eventually, the offense will be able to complete a pass no matter how well a gameplan has been cultivated. The Dolphins take advantage of the space that Tyreek Hill’s speed creates by amassing yards after the catch that are maddening for defensive coordinators.

There are countless examples of Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle being able to fully erase the angles of the defense on the way to big plays:

Aside from schemes, diagrams, and double teams, the Eagles limited Tyreek Hill’s yards after the catch with a swarm of Kelly Green:

 

 

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