Philadelphia Eagles Playmakers Who Must Shine Against San Diego Chargers
The Chip Kelly era began with a resounding 33-27 win over the Washington Redskins, one fueled by a dynamic ground performance and a never-before-seen hurry-up offense. The Philadelphia Eagles ran 50 plays in the first half, finishing the game with 443 total yards and an impressive 26 first downs.
The Eagles definitely stalled in the second half, but they still scored as many points as they had scored in any game under Andy Reid the previous season. The 263 rushing yards Philadelphia put up was a total only reached three times by the team during Reid’s tenure, and the 49 rushing attempts hadn’t been approached since 1997.
Kelly will get a San Diego Chargers team in Week 2 that many picked to finish near the bottom of the AFC West. The Chargers nearly won in the opening week against the defending AFC South champion Houston Texans, but blew a late 21-point lead.
To beat the Chargers, the best bet for the Eagles is to just pound the ball on the ground. The Eagles were nearly unstoppable for the first half against the Redskins, and any team that hasn’t seen a fast-break offense like this one will assuredly be gassed often. It takes a team effort to win but the following players are most important for the Eagles’ success.
Michael Vick was electrifying on Monday night, accounting for three total touchdowns en route to the win. It was just the second time in his career Vick passed for at least 200 yards and two touchdowns, ran for 50 and a score, and did so without throwing an interception.
Vick still made his usual mistakes, notably awful blitz recognition and a costly fumble (one that was taken all the way for a score). But he directed the unique high-powered offense like a pro, engineering a series of successful drives in the first quarter that were enough for the Eagles to win.
The San Diego Chargers have an All-Pro safety in Eric Weddle, but he’s the only real threat the Chargers have in their secondary. Weddle will assuredly try to bait Vick for an interception, but the corners Derek Cox and Shareece Wright are a subpar group. Taking advantage of those two is a must for Vick, who seems to be playing close to his 2010 MVP-caliber form.
Other than Adrian Peterson, there can’t possibly be a better running back in the NFL than LeSean McCoy. Last year was a lost campaign for Shady, who missed extensive time with a concussion and totaled just two touchdowns on the ground.
But against the Redskins he was absolutely electrifying. McCoy rushed a career-high 31 times for 184 yards, scoring a touchdown and averaging nearly six yards per rush. He also caught a pass, which tied his personal best of 32 touches.
McCoy got tremendous support from his offensive line in the running game, as both Jason Peters and Lane Johnson graded extremely well per Pro Football Focus’s standards. McCoy also showed a knack for making plays out of nothing, though, as has been his trademark.
One run early on against the Redskins exemplified McCoy’s sheer brilliance as a runner to literally create plays out of nothing.
The play starts with McCoy taking a handoff behind Vick and cutting to the right. Rookie tight end Zach Ertz can’t get down a good block, and thus begins McCoy’s improvisation.
McCoy takes his first cut, juking to the left which gives him a clear vision of the open field. McCoy is at his best when he’s not even following his blockers but just able to shed tackles at will.
McCoy meets his first defender, free safety E.J. Biggers. Biggers dives at McCoy’s legs and misses, but this sets McCoy up for another Washington defender. McCoy is then faced with cornerback Josh Wilson. Wilson also dives at McCoy but McCoy sidesteps him and continues moving to his left.
At this point, Jason Avant is in line to set up a block for McCoy. Avant is a veteran receiver and one of the smarter players in the league. He’s a good blocker, but notice even quarterback Michael Vick sprinting downfield to set up a block. How many times do you see a quarterback 10 yards downfield throwing a block?
McCoy is eventually shoved out of bounds right near the goal line, capping off a phenomenal 13-yard run in which he evaded two tackles after completely changing direction. There’s probably not another running back in the NFL that could have pulled that off.
Lane Johnson/Jason Peters
Chip Kelly had some fun with Lane Johnson and Jason Peters. They’re two of the more athletic offensive linemen to ever wear an NFL uniform. They’re quite perfectly made for Kelly’s offense.
Peters is coming back from a serious injury, but you’d never know it. He moved extremely well on Monday after missing the entire 2012 campaign, close to 20 months without playing in an official NFL game.
Johnson is a former quarterback, tight end, and defensive end with tremendous speed for an offensive tackle. He graded as a +4.2 in run blocking, per Pro Football Focus. The next-best offensive tackle in the NFL was a +2.6.
Kelly used Johnson and Peters as offensive linemen next to each other, with one lining up as the tight end and the other as the left tackle, and veteran tight end Brent Celek as the right tackle.
And this was by far the craziest formation of the day.
In this, Johnson is split out wide at the bottom. Peters is at the top of the screen, split out wide to the left. Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce and Todd Herremans are lined up as traditional, down linemen in the middle of the field.
It has to be difficult for defenses to prepare for a play like that. The Redskins were forced to spread their safeties out to the side. The play was a handoff to McCoy, and he gained 10 yards.
Cary Williams had a nightmare of an offseason, making the news seemingly every week, and never for his tremendous play on the field.
All that won’t matter once the season starts, and now that the season has started, it doesn’t matter. Williams played a tremendous game. He recorded a sack, a diving interception, a game-saving knockdown, a tackle and two stops.
Williams covered Pierre Garcon all game, and Garcon was shut down. Robert Griffin III threw five passes in Garcon’s direction. One was completed. Four were incomplete. One of those was a knockdown and another an interception. That’s a passer rating of 0.0 on throws in that direction.
Trent Cole/Brandon Graham
What will happen against San Diego?
Many worried how Trent Cole and Brandon Graham would adjust to the new 3-4. Cole particularly seemed to be a tough fit, given that he had spent the last eight seasons as a 4-3 end.
Neither seemed to struggle at all. Cole recorded a forced fumble of Alfred Morris on his first-ever play as a 3-4 outside linebacker. He finished the game with two quarterback hits, two pressures, three tackles, and three stops in addition to his forced fumble. Graham had a quarterback hit and two pressures.
The Chargers have one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL; in fact, they might have the worst. Left tackle King Dunlap was a five-year backup with the Eagles, and he will have a tough matchup against Cole, Graham and Connor Barwin. Right tackle D.J. Fluker has never been a good pass blocker, and he will have his hands full as well.
Getting to Philip Rivers will be the key to the game. The Eagles utilized enough 4-3 formations that Cole and Graham weren’t too out of place.
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