eagles film review

How Sidney Jones' debut really looked on film

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NFL

How Sidney Jones' debut really looked on film

No matter how he played on Sunday, seeing Sidney Jones back on the field had to be great for the Eagles

The second-round pick got his first game action against the Cowboys on Sunday after a lengthy recovery process from a torn Achilles. There was bound to be some rust after not playing a game in a full calendar year and that was evident. But Jones did plenty of good things too. 

"Little bit of rust today," Jones said on Sunday night. "First game so there's going to be a little bit of rust as expected. But I feel like I did pretty good." 

After the game Malcolm Jenkins made a pretty good point: After not playing for an entire year, expectations for Jones in the game were pretty low. 

It was an up-and-down NFL debut for Jones. He played 29 defensive snaps and would have played more had his back and quad not started cramping. We're not going to look at all 29 plays, but here are a few from his debut: 

This was Jones' fifth defensive snap of the game and he's still looking for his first real contact. Jones (circled in red) has off coverage at the top of the screen. The Cowboys are backed up on 2nd-and-9, so they're going to try to pick up some quick yards with a wide receiver screen to Ryan Switzer (circled in green)

At the point of the catch, things are setting up nicely for the Cowboys. They have a hat for a hat on the right side of the field and some room to work with. 


Switzer tries to cut it back inside, but Jones doesn't give up on the play. He gets off his block and cuts back inside too, eventually making his first NFL tackle. 

 

••• 

This next play comes just a few snaps later. It's 1st-and-15 after a penalty. Jones is on the top of your screen. This play is a handoff to Ezekiel Elliott, who will burn Jones and the Eagles' defense for a 16-yard gain. 

Jones' recognition was good. He sees that Elliott has the handoff, so he's going to come up and try to make a play. Jim Schwartz obviously wants his corners to cover, but their tackling ability is important to him too. Earlier in the game, Jones showed he can.

This is where the play went wrong. Jones came inside too hard and Elliott is about to show his speed to the outside. Jones was simply trying to make a play but lost contain and left a lot of green grass outside the numbers. 

•••

Here's the sluggo route where Terrence Williams just beat the rookie. Bottom of your screen. 


Jones bites hard on the slant and Williams is able to get over top of him. These routes have given Eagles corners fits all year, so Jones is just fitting in. After the game, he just said he got beat but was grateful the safety over the top was able to get there. 

The pass falls incomplete. 

•••

Here's a chance to see Jones in the slot. This was one of his most impressive snaps of the day. Rasul Douglas and Patrick Robinson are both outside, which leaves Jones on Ryan Switzer inside. 

It's hard to see in the still image, but this is at the exact moment after Switzer pulled a little stutter move. Jones didn't bite even a little bit. He just calmly stayed with the slot guy and took him out of the play. Eventually, Dak Prescott forced an incompletion toward Dez Bryant. 

•••

OK, so this last play is a little tough to illustrate in still images. It was a play where Prescott eventually scrambled for a 10-yard gain and it didn't even count because two offensive linemen were holding. He couldn't throw it because no one was open.

Geoff Swaim is the Cowboys' third-string tight end (at the bottom of the screen), so it's not exactly like Jones was covering Odell Beckham for 10 seconds, but he doesn't give the tight end an inch and he never gives up on the play. It was impressive. 

Sure, there's some rust. And maybe Jones won't have a role in these playoffs. But it's pretty clear how talented he is and how good he can be. All of a sudden, the Eagles have a ton of depth at corner, but they'll need to find a place for Jones to play. 

The 2 Ronald Darby plays more impressive than his INT

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The 2 Ronald Darby plays more impressive than his INT

Ronald Darby made what was perhaps the biggest play of Sunday's game when he picked off a pass with 57 seconds left in regulation against the Raiders. 

The Eagles drove down the field to win the game, so the interception was huge. 

It just wasn't what impressed defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz most about Darby's game on Christmas night. He was more impressed with Darby's plays on two wide receiver screens. 

"If he doesn't play those plays as well as he played, we might give up touchdowns on both of those," Schwartz said. "That probably went below the radar a little bit because he intercepted that ball at the end and gave us a chance to win, but those plays were every bit as important in keeping that score down and keeping us in the game."

Upon his arrival to Philly, Darby said he was physical in the run game and as a tackler when needed. He's been proving that since returning from his dislocated ankle several weeks ago. 

"I just went out there and played fast, really," Darby said Wednesday. "We saw it on film that they do that a few times. I just played it perfect." 

Let's take a look at both of the plays: 

This is the Raiders' first offensive play of the second quarter. The score is still 7-0 Eagles. Darby (circled) is on the bottom of the screen with off coverage against Cordarrelle Patterson, who hasn't had a great NFL career but can still absolutely fly. The Eagles are in nickel with a single high safety. That's important to remember because if the screen game works and gets past the first level, there's just one guy to beat. 

Just after the snap, the screen is on. Rookie left tackle David Sharpe lets Derek Barnett come free at Derek Carr as he starts to take off to get a block downfield. Patterson uses that cushion from Darby and gets ready to catch the quick pass. 

This play could have been really dangerous. The Raiders are about to have the ball in a speedy receiver's hands with an offensive lineman barreling down on the closest tackler and then just one guy to beat. 


But Darby baits Sharpe outside and is then able to use his quickness to cut back inside. His move leaves Sharpe off balance and falling to the ground. Darby then finishes the play and gets Patterson on the ground after a seven-yard gain, saving what might have gone for a long touchdown. That advantage in quickness made up for the 150-pound (!) size difference between the two players. 

"You just gotta know what you're going to do right away," Darby said about going against an offensive lineman. "You can't be indecisive, then you mess up." 

•••

This next play comes with 12:18 left in the fourth quarter. Darby (circled) is on the bottom of the screen in man coverage against Amari Cooper, the Raiders' most dangerous receiver. 

The Raiders show what looks like a pitch play to the right, but they're just setting up the wide receiver screen to the other side. Again, Sharpe leaves his man free to get out in front and block Darby. Cooper is about to cut back and make the catch. 

Just before the catch, you can see how the screen is set up. The Raiders will have Sharpe take Darby out of the play and then, just like the last time, Cooper has one man to beat to the end zone. But that's only if things work out perfectly. Things need to be perfect on screens. 

Sharpe simply overruns on his block. He gets too far toward the side of the field and Darby is just going to use his quickness to get inside and make the tackle before Cooper breaks downfield with a ton of room ahead of him. 

•••

So sure, Darby's interception was huge, but don't forget about these plays either. For a team that prides itself on its corners being able to tackle, Darby has seemingly fit the mold. There are plenty of cover guys in the league who avoid contact all the time. It appears the Eagles might have a guy who can do both. 

Film shows how Eagles blocked 3 kicks

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Film shows how Eagles blocked 3 kicks

The Eagles have had one of the best special teams units in the NFL for the last several years, but the last few weeks have been a little disappointing. They just hadn't lived up to their incredibly high standard. 

That changed Sunday in East Rutherford (see story).

In the 34-29 win over the Giants on Sunday at MetLife Stadium, the Eagles' special teams group made some huge plays that helped the team squeak out the win. In fact, they became the first NFL team to block an extra point, field goal and punt in the same game since the 1991 Bills. 

"All week we knew we could do things here, pick apart them here," Kamu Grugier-Hill said, "so we went in with a really good plan and we executed."

Let's take a look at all three of those huge plays: 

The Giants just cruised down the field on the opening drive of the game. They went 75 yards on 13 plays and made it look pretty easy. The extra point, even after moving it back, is still pretty much a formality in the NFL. But rookie Derek Barnett (circled) was about to go hard on this play. 


Barnett simply uses a quick swim move to go right past left tackle Ereck Flowers, who didn't give much effort. It looked like he was worried about the rush coming inside, but Barnett got around him really easily and had a clear path to the kick. Sure, the Eagles overloaded that side, but Flowers didn't block anyone. 

Barnett got his right hand up and rejected the kick like a basketball player swatting a jump shot. 

Take a look at the video. Nice swim move from Barnett, but the Giants just need to get some better effort out of a veteran player who looked like he took a special teams play off. 

At the time, maybe this play didn't seem huge, but the Eagles drove down the field on the ensuing drive to take a 7-6 lead. And eventually, when the Giants scored to make it a two-point game in late in the third, they went for two and failed. 

This next play came with 3:23 left in the first half. The Giants had a three-and-out and are punting the ball away. They're up 20-14 at this point. Grugier-Hill (circled) is going to end up getting the block on this play, but it's going to be set up by Bryan Braman, who just got back into town earlier in the week. 

At the snap, Braman pushes inside, which creates a lane for Grugier-Hill. Darian Thompson (circled in green) should pick up Grugier-Hill coming through the line, but instead tries to help block Braman, who garners plenty of attention himself. 

The result is Grugier-Hill's coming with a free lane to the punter to force the block. 

This blocked punt gave Nick Foles and the Eagles' offense the ball at the Giants' 18-yard line. Three plays later, Foles hit a wide-open Trey Burton for a 13-yard touchdown to give the Eagles a 21-20 lead with just over two minutes left in the half. 

This is the most fun one. 

The last play we'll look at was a 48-yard field goal attempt from the Giants early in the fourth quarter. Malcolm Jenkins (circled), who has amazingly played 139 special teams snaps this year on top of his huge workload on defense, is going to make the play. 

At the snap, Brandon Graham (circled) takes a step back, which leaves offensive lineman Jon Halapio off-balance. Halapio's momentum took him forward to block, but then there was nothing there, so he literally fell down. 

Had Graham pushed forward, the lineman would have blocked him, but it would have created more congestion at the line. In this case, Halapio was completely out of the way. 

Once Halapio falls down, it creates enough of a hole for Jenkins (circled) to jump through and have a straight path to the field goal attempt. Meanwhile, Ronald Darby was coming off the edge and got close too. 

"We saw some things on tape that we knew we could attack," Jenkins said. "I've been close a few times over the years, but wasn't able to get one. I was able to come through clean and get a hand on the ball."

 

At this point, the Giants were down just two points. If they make this field goal, they take a fourth-quarter lead. 

These three blocks were huge on Sunday afternoon. Sure, the third-quarter neutral zone infraction from Najee Goode was a big play. It allowed the Giants to stay on the field and then score a touchdown. But as PhillyVoice's Jimmy Kempski pointed out, it sure looks like Goode was drawn off. Goode still can't jump there in a 4th-and-4 situation. 

But aside from that penalty, the Eagles got the kind of game from their special teams unit that they desperately needed. And it got them a win on Sunday.