In a continuing ongoing feature here at the Chip Wagon, we'll take a look at the prominence of the read option in Chip Kelly's offense. Much like last week, this was an interesting look at how Nick Foles is running the read option in Chip Kelly's offense, which has a little different emphasis than it does when Mike Vick runs it.
Let's take a look at some of the ways Chip installed the read option last week against the Cowboys with Foles as the QB.
Here's a read sweep that is designed to leave the DT unblocked. This is the defender that Foles will read. If the DT crashes down on McCoy, Foles has a running lane up the middle. You will see that Mathis leaves the DT unblocked and immediately goes to the second level after Bruce Carter. The difference between this play and the outside zone read is that instead of the OL doing a kick step, Kelce and Herremans are going to pull to the outside of Peters, more like a natural sweep play:
While the DT bites on the fake, you can see that Bruce Carter does not (Would he if Vick was the QB?). Mathis can't get his mitts on Carter which is the key block here that could make this an explosive play:
And Carter ends up making the play despite good play design:
Here is a read-option with a built-in bubble screen. Here the slot corner is the read as indicated by the yellow arrow. If he reacts to the run fake, this is a bubble option to the slot WR. Instead the CB stays on the outside leaving a big running lane for Bryce Brown. The other key block is Kelce on Sean Lee at the 2nd level:
As you can see Brown gets a huge hole, but inexplicably slips in that hole. Hard to tell if Brown would have made this a huge play because Kelce whiffs on his second-level block on Sean Lee:
Here is another example highlighting how Dallas' man defense as well as lack of respect of Foles as a running threat hurt us in the run game. Cowboys have 6 in the box. This time we leave the LDE unblocked and he is the read. You can see, as usual, there is a bubble screen option on the top, but because the Cowboys have a 3 on 3 matchup in man coverage that is not an option. So this is a hand-off keeper option for Foles. However you begin to see that the Cowboys don't really have any respect for Foles, the DE is already crashing down, and the LB sometimes used on a scrape exchange to protect against the QB keeper is keeping his nose up the middle.
So the Boys have 6 against 5 on us and McCoy gets a minimal gain. Had Foles kept, he would have had some room to run. This is an explosive play if Vick is the QB. On the other hand, the defense probably plays it differently if Vick is the QB, but that's the rub. If they set up the scrape exchange, or the DE plays contain, they have a lighter defense against McCoy. That's the value Vick provides as a running threat:
But of course Chip Kelly sees how the Boys are defending this so we run it again. DE crashes down on the run fake:
This time Foles keeps and has a nice running lane. But we know Nick doesn't have great foot speed so this is only a 6 yard gain. It isn't helped by Mathis' inability to hold his block against Lee at the 2nd level:
Here is one of McCoy's best runs of the game. However, while it looks like a read OPTION, I think this was a straight run. You see Foles reading the unblocked DT, but Celek is the man blocking the weak side DE. Surely, Foles running behind a Celek block on the DE is not the designed play:
Instead, this is a straight run, but the read works to slow down the only unblocked defender. We run an unbalanced line with Johnson and Peters lined up on the strong side. This is another read sweep where the DT is left unblocked and Mathis and Kelce immediately collapse to the second level on LBs. Herremans is going to pull around Johnson and serve the lead blocker as Peters wipes out the strong side DE. Hat on all the defenders, except for the read and you see below, he is out of position to make the play on McCoy:
In this case, you really begin to see how not having a running threat at QB impacts our ability to run the ball. It's hard to really assess this impact on film. As you can see above, Mathis, Kelce, and Herremans all had issues on blocking at the second level. Perhaps that's simply on them, but remember, when the read option is on, all you want is a split second hesitation from the LBs at the mesh point. Perhaps the fact that the Cowboys weren't worried at all about Foles running lead to a split second advantage that prevented the OL from getting cleaner blocks at the second level.
The other aspect that hurt us was the man coverage Dallas played. Tampa Bay played a lot of zone which really opened up the bubble screen option on the outside. This enabled Chip to spread the defense horizontally. As you can see from a number of looks below, the Cowboys played more man coverage, and as a result the bubble screen option was rendered essentially useless. It was very obvious, very early in this game that the bubble screen was not going to be a factor for us. Without that stretching the Cowboys were able to limit our running game with McCoy: