5. Break up the Rhythm of Ravens in No Huddle – The Ravens put a no huddle offense into play this year and used it with quite a bit of effectiveness in their 44-13 romp over the Bengals on Monday Night Football last week. One of the keys to slowing down a no huddle offense is breaking up its tempo with timely stops that allow for substitutions.
“Well there’s a chance, you know, you don’t want eight or 10 plays, but even without no huddle you could have eight or 10 plays, that’s no different,” said defensive coordinator Juan Castillo. “I think incomplete passes, there’s opportunities.”
The Eagles could struggle if the Ravens start a drive with a couple of first downs and keep moving the ball without any incomplete passes.
4. Defensive Communication – This ties right into facing a no huddle offense. The Eagles will have a more limited amount of time than usual to get their defensive play calls in and relay that information. That means Castillo needs to make his decisions as quickly as possible, giving the leader of his defense, presumably middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans, time to get that information to the other 10 players on the field.
3. Health of Wide Receivers – It flies in the face of common sense, but if the Eagles are without their injured wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, they may need to throw the ball early to open up the run. The reason is that the Ravens, one would have to imagine, would move an extra defender into the box to shut down star Eagles running back LeSean McCoy if Jackson and Maclin aren’t present as threats to stretch the field.
The Ravens weakness on defense, if one exists, appears to be against the run. Thus, the Eagles need to be in a position to take advantage of that without such an easy counter move being available to the Ravens.
2. Protect Vick – As poorly as Michael Vick played last week, and he’s coming up next, the Eagles didn’t give him much protection. There are four ways to protect Vick and all of them need to be improved this week against a tough Ravens defense. First, and most simply, the Eagles need better play from their offensive line. Last week there were plays in which the Eagles kept seven blockers in and the Browns still pressured Vick with four pass rushers. That can’t happen.
Second, the Eagles need to use the run-pass ratio to limit the pass rush. Running the ball more often forces the defensive line to read and react before selling out to get to the quarterback. When 72.9 percent of your play calls are passes, which was the Birds percentage last week when removing their kneel downs, the defense can forget the run and come aggressively after the quarterback.
Third, when the Eagles do pass, they need to do so in ways that protect Vick. The Eagles screen game was woefully ineffective last week, and improvements can be made by all 11 offensive players in the execution of screens. In addition, much of the pressure Vick faced last week came on five- and seven-stop drops. The Eagles can mix in more three-step drops in order to give the defense less time to get after Vick. That will also push him to get rid of the ball more quickly.
That brings me to the fourth facet of protecting Vick – he needs to get the ball out more quickly and know when to tuck, run and duck out of bounds and when to throw it away. Vick rarely, if ever, gives up on a play and that’s to his own detriment. Sometimes a throw away is better than putting a ball into too tight of a space or opening yourself up to a big hit. Vick needs to learn that.
1. Limit Turnovers – This primarily falls on Vick. All four interceptions last week were the result of bad decisions. In some cases, Vick was under heavy pressure, but he still took unnecessary chances that led to interceptions. Don’t forget, he also fumbled twice, but the Eagles recovered both. Throw in dropped interceptions and it could have been even uglier. The Eagles won’t survive this season, or even this game, if Vick keeps turning the ball over at a high rate. The coaching staff can do more to protect him, but ultimately it’s on Vick to avoid bad decisions.
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