Look at This Huge Pocket Vick Had, and Other Eagles’ Observations on Offense

Look at This Huge Pocket Vick Had, and Other Eagles’ Observations on Offense

If you’re hoping to learn more about Chip Kelly’s offense, there are plenty of valuable resources out there that can explain it better than I can. If you’ve already been exposed to Chip when he was at Oregon, earlier we linked to Smart Football’s piece on what coach brought to the NFL in his preseason debut versus the Patriots on Friday.

If like a lot of Eagles fans you’re new to Chip, here’s a great place to start: FishDuck’s tutorial to the inside zone read, a staple of the offense. They do a lot of this, minus the quarterback taking off (only Matt Barkley performed a keeper against New England), so if you haven’t been learning on your own already, now is a good time start brushing up.

Here’s an excerpt from the Smart Football look at how the Eagles used the inside zone read against the Pats.

Although Kelly's version of the inside zone is typically associated with the read-option element he often added to it at Oregon, against the Patriots, Philadelphia almost never asked its quarterback to read a defender and decide whether to hand off or run it on an inside zone. (Of the Eagles' top three quarterbacks, only Matt Barkley ended up with a keeper on the inside zone read.) Instead Kelly relied on other complementary tactics to make the play go. The first was his other bread-and-butter inside run, power, which asks the linemen on the play side to block down and double-team the defensive linemen, while a backside guard pulls around and leads up on the linebacker.

Kelly has long added a misdirection element to his version of power by offsetting the running back to the side the play is headed. By doing this, Kelly's power, with its down blocks and the runner crossing in front of the quarterback, looks to the defense exactly like his inside zone, only going the other way. That is until the pulling guard appears, and then it's too late. Oregon dropped 47 points on a USC defense orchestrated by current Seattle head coach Pete Carroll with this simple adjustment.

There was one aspect of the offense I wanted to highlight myself though, and that is how nice it was to have most of the offensive line intact. Jason Peters didn’t suit up for the first game, but it didn’t seem to matter. Save for one breakdown when Nick Foles was in the game, the unit protected both quarterbacks well. Just look at the pocket Vick had to step into on his 47-yard touchdown pass to DeSean Jackson.

When’s the last time No. 7 looked that comfortable? He’s standing perfectly upright, not looking to escape. He has space to step into his throw without worry or care, and as a result is able to deliver a perfect strike for six points. With a healthy line, and an experimental scheme, it would appear the Birds’ offense is in store for a big season – I’m starting to believe regardless of who is under center.

RISING/FALLING

Michael Vick

Hey, Nick Foles played well (minus a fumble that wasn’t all his fault), but Vick hit the big play. Few quarterbacks throw the deep ball as well as the four-time Pro Bowler. Had ice water running through his veins on third-down conversion before that, and made the right read. Underthrew one pass, but 4/5 for 96 yards and a score in two series is tough to beat.

Jason Avant

Same old Jason Avant. Had three catches, all for first down, two of them on third down. Good for 42 yards total. Reliable as always, and seems to have no trouble finding open space in Chip’s scheme.

DeSean Jackson

Haven’t talked about him much, but DeSean is having a great camp. That carried over into the preseason with a 47-yard bomb against Aqib Talib. Jackson has been doing that sort of thing pretty much every day in practice, and he seems primed for a big year.

Todd Herremans

Not sure his stock is falling as much as he had one bad night. Missed a block pulling out in front of Chris Polk that resulted in the run to get stuffed. Worse, missed a block that allowed a rusher to get a free shot at Nick Foles, resulting in a fumble. Nothing but quality otherwise, but that turnover was huge.

Lane Johnson

Strong debut for the fourth-overall pick in the draft. Looked like he belongs. Wasn’t confused out there. Put a hat on somebody on every play, and didn’t get beat. Is still a little more natural run blocking, even getting out to the second level on a few occasions, but held his own in pass protection. Impressive start for the big man.

Clay Harbor

With all the emphasis we’ve placed on tight ends during the offseason, who would’ve thought Clay Harbor would be the one to wind up in here? Had more yards (47) on his three catches than all other tight ends on the team combined (41 on eight receptions). All three catches went for first downs, including a conversion on 3rd and 20. Apparently he’s Matt Barkley’s security blanket.

Felix Jones

Never mind that he’s been stuffed at the bottom of the depth chart. Dropped two passes on Friday that were right in his hands, just a lack of concentration. Ran hard, but not extremely well, carrying eight times for 31 yards. Played behind second- and third-string offensive line, so hard to judge, but hasn’t stood out this summer.

MIXED REVIEWS

Bryce Brown

Brown had a strong night running the football, rushing five times for 22 yards and a touchdown – much better than Chris Polk, who was ineffective on four carries for seven yards. But where Polk still had an edge was pass protection. Polk had a key block on Vick’s touchdown pass, whereas there were a couple times it appeared Brown should’ve thrown a block, but was out of position or left the backfield early. Amazing pure talent, still rough around the edges.

Brent Celek

First of all, Celek was the starting tight end. The Eagles didn’t use a ton of two tight end sets early on, and he got the nod with the starters. He also proved to be more valuable than many of us realized, as it turns out he’s the emergency long snapper – albeit not a very good one. Had only two catches for 10 yards though, and big minus, he fumbled once. Not a great outing, but shouldn’t diminish his role.

Matt Barkley

Great, Barkley eventually led a scoring drive on his sixth series. Got more comfortable as the game went on. Earlier he threw into coverage a bunch. Some of his balls seemed to lack zip, wobbled. Finished 11 for 22, 103, TD. Granted Barkley was playing with backups, but Foles looked better in the preseason last year. Not close to winning the starting quarterback job, that’s for sure.

NBC Sports Philadelphia Internship - Advertising/Sales

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NBC Sports Philadelphia Internship - Advertising/Sales

Position Title: Intern
Department: Advertising/Sales
Company: NBC Sports Philadelphia
# of hours / week: 10 – 20 hours

Deadline: November 20

Basic Function

This position will work closely with the Vice President of Sales in generating revenue through commercial advertisements and sponsorship sales. The intern will gain first-hand sales experience through working with Sales Assistants and AEs on pitches, sales-calls and recapping material.

Duties and Responsibilities

• Assist Account Executive on preparation of Sales Presentations
• Cultivate new account leads for local sales
• Track sponsorships in specified programs
• Assist as point of contact with sponsors on game night set up and pre-game hospitality elements.
• Assist with collection of all proof of performance materials.
• Perform Competitive Network Analysis
• Update Customer database
• Other various projects as assigned

Requirements

1. Good oral and written communication skills.
2. Knowledge of sports.
3. Ability to work non-traditional hours, weekends & holidays
4. Ability to work in a fast-paced, high-pressure environment
5. Must be 19 years of age or older
6. Must be a student in pursuit of an Associate, Bachelor, Master or Juris Doctor degree
7. Must have unrestricted authorization to work in the US
8. Must have sophomore standing or above
9. Must have a 3.0 GPA

Interested students should apply here and specify they're interested in the ad/sales internship.

About NBC internships

Buried by Flyers' depth, Jori Lehtera may soon finally crack lineup

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Buried by Flyers' depth, Jori Lehtera may soon finally crack lineup

On the first day he was officially a member of the Flyers, Jori Lehtera was literally pumped. So much so, the weight room warrior hit the gym that morning and slapped on a few extra plates on each side of the barbell.

“My wife woke me up and said, ‘Do you know we’re going to Philadelphia?’” Lehtera said Sept. 11, after the first day he skated with his new teammates in Voorhees, New Jersey.

"I said, 'That's good.' I went to the gym and had a little bit bigger weights than normal. It was good. I needed some change because my game wasn't that good there."

Lehtera was acquired by the Flyers from the Blues at the 2017 NHL draft in the Brayden Schenn trade. In the span of one year, Lehtera’s status has plunged from a top-line center on a playoff team to the 13th forward on a non-playoff team.

That’s not to say the Flyers have failed to recognize Lehtera’s skill set and utilize him effectively, he just didn’t show enough in the preseason to warrant playing time.

The fourth-highest paid forward on the Flyers’ roster has started the first six games of the season as a healthy scratch. Dave Hakstol has opted for the speedier Dale Weise, who’s earning roughly half of Lehtera, who has a $4.7 million cap hit for the next two seasons.

Lehtera's opportunity could come as early as Thursday against the Predators. Wayne Simmonds left Tuesday's game for precautionary reasons with a lower-body injury.

If Simmonds can't go — general manager Ron Hextall said Wednesday he'll have an update on Simmonds Thursday — Lehtera is the next guy up as Hakstol would have to shuffle his lines.

“I’m still excited,” Lehtera said recently. “Camp wasn’t good. I wouldn’t say terrible, it was OK. I’m kind of still looking to find my spot. When I get my opportunity, I’m going to take my spot. Where it is, I don’t know.”

Lehtera bolted St. Louis, the city he spent his first NHL seasons, in a cloud of dust. His "Spirit of St. Louis" was completely sucked dry during his time in St. Louis, as he finished the 2016-17 season with just seven goals and 22 points in 64 games.

“The whole season was a struggle,” Lehtera said. “I just couldn’t get everything out of myself. It wasn’t just a couple of things. It was a lot of big things, and a lot of small things together.”

Playing for Ken Hitchcock, who just passed Al Arbour for third on the NHL’s all-time wins list, has a way of wearing down a player’s psyche.

According to Hitchcock, who rejoined the Dallas Stars this summer after he was fired by the Blues back in February, Lehtera’s struggles were partly a result of centering the team’s top line with superstar winger Vladimir Tarasenko.

“First couple of years there was no attention being paid (to Lehtera)," Hitchcock said in the summer, "and last year, there was a lot of attention of being paid. He lost his confidence because he was in and out of the lineup, so the line wasn’t that effective. The line got special attention for the first time. Because of the way our lineup was built, we were really able to take advantage of matchups.”

Lehtera and Tarasenko developed a lethal chemistry as teammates for Novosibirsk in the KHL, but it didn’t translate to the smaller NHL rink, where time and space to operate with the puck is at a premium. Tarasenko’s reputation quickly earned the attention of the NHL opposition and their top defensive players.

“You saw that chemistry right away,” said Brian Elliott, a teammate of Lehtera’s for two seasons in St.Louis. “They were a dynamic duo and then they were split up, and I think he was looking for that guy to pass to and things like that.”

Compounding Lehtera’s struggles was a concussion he suffered that knocked him out of the lineup for several weeks in February. Once Lehtera returned, he was never quite the same, as he struggled with the speed of the game.

“We played him at wing after he came back from being injured, but his natural position is at center, and that’s where he played his best hockey,” Hitchcock said. “He’s a guy strong on the puck, good down low player, he protects the puck well.” 

Interestingly for a guy listed at 6-foot-2, 210 pounds and lacking quickness, Lehtera would appear to be more suited at the wing position.

And the potential opportunity Thursday alone may have Lehtera pounding out a few more extra reps in the gym.