Yesterday I covered one of the strengths of the Seattle Seahawks offense, the read-option. They have been running it better than anyone in the NFL this year thanks to the excellent mobility of Russell Wilson and the power running of Marshawn Lynch. Of course the Eagles are not strangers to the read-option. They train against it every day in practice however Kelly suggested in his press conference yesterday that they have no one to simulate what they will face against Wilson and Lynch. That being said, Billy Davis' defense has had a fair amount of experience against the read option in the last 2 seasons against the likes of RGIII, Terrelle Pryor, Cam Newton. By and large they have faired really well thanks to good discipline and game planning along with excellent play from the defensive line. Let's have a look.
If you are going to defend the zone read this way and basically surrender a defender in the run game, it is imperative that the defensive line gets off their blocks. This is something that the Eagles DL has done very well all season long. Here Logan gets good penetration off the line and you can see he and Cedric Thronton do a good job clogging up the middle and forcing Reece to the outside:
Next Barwin does a good job of getting off his block and setting the edge forcing Reece back to the inside:
and Thornton gets to Reece in the backfield:
On this play against Cam Newton and the Panthers they run a triple option zone read. Again, Graham is set up wide pre-snap with the sole responsibility for outside contain. It is up to the Eagles big 3 up front to occupy blockers and win their blocks, or free up the LBs to make plays. Here Thornton and Logan are occupying a double team each:
As a result of Logan's work up front, the Panthers guard cannot peel to the second level to get Kendricks:
The result is a solid run fill from Kendricks who is in a good position to make a play thanks to the work up front. Unfortunately, Kendricks misses this tackle and the carrier gets an extra 5 yards on the play but it's a nice example of a good sound run scheme:
There is no shortage of clips from this season of the Eagles DL beating their blocks and the LBs filling their run fits against the zone read. Here's a few:
This last one is a great example of 2-gapping from Fletcher Cox. He takes was the playside A gap:
As the back cuts to the outside Cox switches to the B gap and Kendricks fills in as well. Good chemistry and team defense:
Billy Davis does not just rely on the strength, quickness and athleticism of his front 3. Often times he will employ some different runs stunts along the DL to mess up blocking assignments and free up his DL to make a play. Here Brandon Bair and Bennie Logan will run a stunt:
The back thinks he has a cutback lane on the weak side B gap, but Logan fills that gap and demolishes the ball carrier:
This is how it looked:
And here's another stunt with Vinny Curry attacking the playside A gap and Brandon Bair attacking the playside B gap:
Curry quickly gets into the backfield forcing the runner wide:
Into the waiting arms of the Bair:
We've spent a lot of time discussing how the DL and LBs are defending the RB option well. But what about the QB keeper? As mentioned above Davis likes to naturally line his OLB out wide to help defend against the backside keeper. But not always and sometimes you want that edge defender to contribute to the run. So when a read option is run in this scenario, the edge defender has to show good discipline and recognition. This is a 3rd and short play against the Redskins. Barwin is the unblocked edge defender at the mesh point. He does not drastically commit either way which is important:
RG3 decides to keep and Barwin is in perfect position to make the play on the ball and stopping Griffin short of the 1st down:
Finally, we'll likely see some of the scrape exchange. This is where the edge defender crashes down on the running back, but the defense assigns a second level defender to essentially "spy" the QB on the keeper. Here Barwin crashes hard down on McFadden prompting Pryor to keep:
But Mychal Kendricks is going to loop around and pick up Pryor in the open field. For this you need an athletic LB who can run with the QB. Kendricks is that guy:
Kendricks forces Pryor wide enough and help comes stopping Pryor well short of the goalline:
The Eagles have to be careful when employing this against the Seahawks on Sunday especially against their 3 x 1 bunch sets. Against that formation Kendricks is not going to have the help he does on the play above with 2 additional Eagles defenders to swarm. As athletic as Kendricks is, it would be tough for him to tackle Wilson in the open field without any help in this scenario.
By and large it appears Chip has built his defense to handle the read-option. We'll get a chance to see how well they fare against the best in the NFL.