Sheil Kapadia over at Birds 24 7 ripped off yet another brilliant post yesterday about the progess of the D-line. I've talked about in the past just how difficult of a transition it is to make from the Wide-9 4-3 to the 2-gap 3-4. To say it's a HUGE transition is an understatement. But as those two posts show, the defensive line is really taking to Jerry Azzinaro's coaching (who is quickly making us forget the latter days of the Washburn era).
Sheil's is absolutely correct to highlight the play of the DL. Guys like Cedric Thornton and Fletcher Cox have really come on, and last week we saw some life from Clifton Geathers. It should be interesting to see how Bennie Logan looks with undoubtedly more reps this week. But as we all know, it all starts up front and boy are those guys ballin'!
As we've discussed before, one of the problems with the Wide 9 was that it put a larger responsibility in the run game on the back 7. The philosophy for the DL was, "play the run on your way to the QB". The 2-gap 3-4 couldn't be more different. I think it's probably a more boring version to watch for the average fan, but when it works, and the guys buy into the technique and scheme, it can be darned effective. In a 2-gap 3-4 it is the job of the DL to occupy blockers. As a result, this is supposed to free up the LBs to make plays. And that is clearly happening. Demeco Ryans so far may be the biggest benefactor of this new scheme. He is making plays all over the field.
While we were too busy talking about the awful performance of Nick Foles following the Cowboys game, many of us perhaps may have missed, what might have been the best game of Demeco Ryans' career (Editor's note: I know he had some great ones for the Texans, but can't say I saw them).
Let's first take a look at how Demeco is benefitting from the scheme. He was credited with 6 solo tackles, a sack, and an INT. But his impact in this game was far greater than that. After having to suffer the last few years watching Casey Matthews and Jamar Chaney overpursue and get swallowed by blocks, watching Demeco Ryans is a breath of fresh air.
First play of the Cowboys game. Cowboys in a 3-TE, 2 RB run heavy formation:
Check out the action left. Our DL and LBs get swallowed up. But Demeco is clean and flows to the ball:
Fills the gap nicely, lines up the running back:
ON this play. The Cowboys are immediately going to send their C to the second-level to get a body on Demeco:
Demeco shows fast instincts on the run left, and avoids the block and flows to the ball:
and POW! in the hole:
I could literally show another 6-7 shots like the ones above from the Cowboys and Giants game. Suffice it to say, the Eagles DL is keeping Demeco clean, he is making the right decisions, and making plays.
Even when Demeco isn't completely clean, he is looking to disrupt the play and force the back into his teammates waiting arms. Here's he lined up well to get taken out of the play and there is a pretty significant gap for a big running gain:
Demeco thrusts his body into the block forcing the back to turn their shoulders perpendicular to the LOS and forcing him outside into the arms of Brandon Graham:
Demeco is also not just making plays between the tackles. Here the Giants are going to run a stretch play to the right:
Booth thinks he's got Demeco lined up for a big block here:
But Demeco shows good speed to the outside away from the block and forces the back out of bounds for a minimal gain. Nice sideline-to-sideline play:
Among some of the painful things to watch the last few years have been LBs not being able to shed blocks. This earned Casey Matthews the nickname Shopping Cart on the EMB. Check out Demeco taken out at the second level. Big hole for the running back:
Except Demeco is able to disengage and shed the block:
and make the tackle. Impressive play:
Demeco is also making play in coverage. Here the Cowboys are going to run a delayed TE drag across Demeco's face with Escobar:
Demeco does not have the speed to keep up with him across the field, so he chucks him within 5 yards and pushes Escobar to the ground:
Romo try to throw it, but Escobar can't recover and the pass falls incomplete:
Here's a screen to the outside with Demeco in coverage:
Good instincts and he explodes to the throw:
Demeco is all over the play, and the pass falls incomplete:
Here he had RB coverage responsibility out of the backfield:
He initially gets beat in coverage.
But thanks to good pressure from the DL, Romo throws an errant pass and Demeco makes an athletic play to get the INT and a big return the other way:
And as if all this wasn't enough, Here's Demeco on a nicely designed blitz from Billy Davis:
Kendricks gets picked up and Demeco is going to loop to the outside showing surprising speed and explosion. The result is a sack and big loss on Romo:
After one of the best games of his career, the Giants clearly were watching and ran a lot of plays deliberately away from Ryans. Fortunately, Demeco's partner in crime, Mychal Kendricks stepped up for one of his better games this season.
Here's Kendricks shot out of a cannon through the OL block for a big TFL:
Much like I showed above for Demeco, Kendricks is benefitting from great DL play up front and is being kept clean, so he can flow to the ball and make plays:
BAM! in the hole:
and one more:
and BAM! in the hole:
Moving forward, I hope to see Kendricks and Ryans forcing a few more fumbles in those open tackles in the hole.
As I mentioned yesterday, the Eagles will facing a pretty potent running attack on Sunday, so they are going to need similar DL and LB play as highlighted by Sheil and I over the last couple of days.