Eagles

Bill Belichick explains how Patrick Chung reinvented himself

ap-patrickchung-billbelichick-patriots.jpg

Bill Belichick explains how Patrick Chung reinvented himself

He was awful.

He was a laughingstock as an Eagle. One of those guys Eagles fans unanimously hated.

Just the mention of his name drew disgusted looks, expletives, you name it.

Just watch:

Patrick Chung.

See?

The Eagles thought they stole Chung from the Patriots when they signed him to a three-year, $10 million contract with $4 million guaranteed after the 2012 season.

He was so bad in the 12 games he played, they quickly released him when the season ended.

The cost? $715,000 in base salary, a $2,285,000 roster bonus and $1 million in guaranteed salary in 2014.

That’s $4 million for a guy who didn’t make a play.

As soon as the Eagles released Chung, he signed — where else? — with the Patriots, where he’s established himself as a solid starting safety. He started on a Super Bowl winner last year and has played well this year as well.

The Eagles will get an up-close-and-personal look at the new, improved Patrick Chung Sunday when they face the Patriots in Foxboro, Massachusetts (see game notes).

How did a guy who looked so lost with the Eagles two years ago get reinvented as a capable safety with the Patriots?

It’s a great question, and Pats coach Bill Belichick spent a lot of time answering it this week.

“Patrick has always been really good — smart, works hard, does whatever you ask him to do, understands the team concept and is a versatile player, so he can do a lot of different things,” Belichick said.

“Whatever you ask him to do he embraces it and works at it and does the best he can. Obviously as we all gain experience it helps us going forward when we can build off those, and I think like any player that’s played a number of years like he has, you learn a little bit every year.

“I’m sure he has done that the last couple of years, but that was never an issue for him like having trouble learning or assignments or things like that. That’s never been an issue with him.”

Chung, unwanted by the Eagles, signed a contract extension earlier this year with the Patriots, a three-year deal worth $8.2 million, including $3.4 million guaranteed.

Belichick said he was disappointed to see Chung go in the first place, but the Patriots weren’t going to pay the kind of money then-Eagles GM Howie Roseman paid Chung in 2013.

“I understood (him leaving),” Belichick said. “I like Pat. Pat’s always been a great person to coach, as a coach. He wants to do what you want him to do and he’ll work hard to do it the way you want it done. However you tell him to do it — you want inside, you want outside, you want high, you want low — whatever flavor you want he’s going to try and mix it up and give it to you. So you really appreciate that about a player. And he’s got a good skill set. He can do a lot of different things. He’s a talented player.

“It just didn’t work out those first four years. I wouldn’t say those four years were bad by any means. It just probably didn’t work out quite to the degree that it has the last two.

“I didn’t want to see him go, but I understood the situation in Philadelphia was probably better for him at the time than our situation was. Then a year later after he was released — he signed a three-year contract in Philadelphia, and then after he was released then we followed back up on the conversation that we had when he left and kind of (said), 'Look, things are a little bit different here.' 

“I think there was certainly a good level of trust between the two of us and what he told me I believed, I think what I told him he believed, and we were able to kind of find a better place going forward than what we had before when he was here.

“But to his credit he never complained. He never (said), ‘I should be doing this,’ or, ‘Why am I doing that?’ or, ‘Why don’t we do this?’ or, ‘Why don’t we do something else?’ That never happened one time, so that was never an issue.

“But just overall schematically, I think we’ve been able to utilize his skills better in the last two years than we did in the (first) four. It’s not his fault, it’s not our fault. We weren’t trying to do anything to him. We were just trying to win games. But it’s definitely worked out very productively for him the last two seasons.”

Chip Kelly, who coached Chung at Oregon, had little to say about why Chung didn’t work out in Philly.

Simply, the Eagles like their safeties to play deep in coverage without a ton of line-of-scrimmage responsibilities. Chung’s strength is clearly in the box and not in coverage.

“Just where we were in the secondary and what we were trying to get accomplished there,” Kelly said. “I think Pat understood.”

But the Patriots are happy to have him.

They’re 10-1 going into Sunday’s game against the Eagles at Gillette Stadium.

Although much is made of Tom Brady and the Patriots’ offense, their defense is fifth in the NFL in points allowed at just 19.3 per game. They’re fifth in the NFL in yards allowed per pass play under fourth-year defensive coordinator Matt Patricia.

“I would say as a player in general the longer you’re in the league and the more experience you have with one system — or in his case back with our system — you learn a lot more of the details, the intricacies of what we’re trying to do and the concepts of what we’re trying to get done,” Patricia said.

“I think just the experience that he’s gaining through his years in the league has helped him to develop as a player. He’s always had a really good skill set. He’s always been very smart. His work ethic has been great. He’s just trying to improve himself every day that he comes in here.”

Chung isn’t the only example of a defensive player that the Eagles released who is thriving elsewhere now.

Another safety released after the 2013 season, Kurt Coleman, is tied for second in the NFL with five interceptions for the undefeated Panthers.

“I think the biggest difference is probably our scheme and what we’ve asked him to do relative to what he did in the four years that he was here,” Belichick said of Chung.

“But again, he’s not I think appreciably different than what he was. His skills, his attitude, his work ethic, dependability, toughness, he’s always been a good tackler, always been a good coverage player, he runs well, he’s a smart guy.

“I just think that his ability to play close to the line of scrimmage, which is what he did very well in college, he’s had more opportunities to do it and has been in the deep part of the field less than he was when he was here in the past. I think it’s more a function of probably us than it is him.”

Record-setting Saints offense laying in wait for Eagles

usa_drew_brees_alvin_kamara_saints.jpg
USA Today Images

Record-setting Saints offense laying in wait for Eagles

What will the Eagles be dealing with this weekend in New Orleans?

One of the hottest quarterbacks in NFL history.

One of the highest-scoring offenses in NFL history.

One of the most productive wide receivers in NFL history.

That's all.

The Eagles, who fell to 4-5 Sunday with a home loss to the Cowboys, take on the hottest team in the NFL Sunday, the 8-1 Saints, winners of eight straight games. Kickoff at the Superdome is scheduled for 4:25 p.m. EST.

Here's a look at what the Eagles are up against:

• The Saints have scored 331 points, sixth-most in NFL history after nine games. That’s 15 more points per game than the Eagles have scored this year.

• The Saints have already scored 40 points five times, joining the 2013 Broncos, 2000 Rams and 1949 49ers as the fourth team to score 40 points five times this early in a season. The NFL record for 40-point games in a season is six by seven teams, most recently the 2013 Broncos.

• The Saints are averaging 37.3 points at home, which puts them on pace for the fifth-most points in NFL history at home. The Saints set the record of 41.1 in 2011.

• The Saints have 235 first downs, fourth-most in NFL history after nine games. The record is 259 by the 2012 Saints.

• Drew Brees is completing 77.3 percent of his passes, by far the highest in NFL history after nine games. The previous high was Tom Brady’s 73.2 percent in 2007. Brees has thrown 304 passes this year, and only 69 have been incomplete. In his last five games, Brees has thrown 13 touchdowns and 30 incomplete passes. 

• Brees’ 123.8 passer rating is third-highest in NFL history after nine games, behind only Brady’s 131.8 in 2007 and Aaron Rodgers’ 130.7 in 2011.

• In his career, Brees ranks second in NFL history with 509 touchdown passes (30 behind Peyton Manning), first in passing yards (73,046), fourth in wins (150), first in accuracy (67.3 percent) and ninth in interception percentage (one every 41.9 attempts).

• Brees has completed at least 66 percent of his passes in an NFL-record 11 straight home games and 20 of his last 21. 

• Brees and Brady share the NFL record with 123 career game with a passer rating of 100 or higher. 

• Michael Thomas has 78 receptions, second-most in NFL history after nine games. Only Julio Jones (80 in 2015) has ever had more at this point in a season. Adam Thielen also has 78 this year, and Zach Ertz has 75, fourth-most ever after nine games.

• Thomas has four 10-catch games this year. That’s the most in NFL history at this point in a season, tied with three players, including Ertz this year.

Film shows why screen didn't work, how Cowboys knew it was coming

screen1a.png
NFL

Film shows why screen didn't work, how Cowboys knew it was coming

After all that went wrong on Sunday night, the Eagles still had the ball with a chance to move down the field and at least tie the game late in the fourth quarter against the Cowboys. 

But first they needed to make this play and they couldn’t. 

With 2:00 left in the game, their screen pass on 3rd-and-2 from the Cowboys’ 30-yard line didn’t work. In fact, it lost five yards and set up a 4th-and-7 that they missed converting by less than a yard, pretty much ending their comeback attempt. 

We’re going to take a look at the screen play, why it didn’t work and why Cowboys rookie linebacker Leighton Vander Esch knew it was coming. 

Here’s what the play looked like at the snap. It’s Alshon Jeffery’s job at the top of the play to simply take away his corner. He’s running vertical. The other three — Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor and Zach Ertz — at the bottom are selling their routes, but are just decoys. Carson Wentz is going to look them off. 

The real key to this play is Halapoulivaati Vaitai’s letting the pressure through and then Jason Kelce and Brandon Brooks getting out in front to provide the blocks for Corey Clement. 

 

Just after the snap, it looks like Vander Esch is already seeing what’s going on. His man is Clement, so he’s not going anywhere. One thing that actually plays into the Cowboys’ favor on this play is they were running a stunt up front. So the right defensive tackle, Maliek Collins, is crossing and coming inside. That’s actually going to give him a head start in pursuit, which is going to be key. 

 

Here we are just as Clement catches the ball. Ideally, Brooks gets out there and blocks Vander Esch to the outside, so Clement can hit the hole and get a big gain. The problem was that stunt from Collins (circled) has given him an easier route in pursuit. And LB Jaylon Smith seemed to diagnose the screen pretty early too. Because of that, Clement makes the decision that he’s not going to be quick enough to hit the hole and now has to try to bounce it outside. 

 

At this point, Brooks is blocking Vander Esch, but that’s where Clement is going, trying to bounce it outside. Brooks could have gotten a better block, but ideally, Clement would break this inside and then Vander Esch is coming back toward Brooks, which makes it an easier block. Now, this play is going outside and the rookie linebacker read it perfectly and makes a nice diving tackle to take Clement down for a loss. 

If this play works, the Eagles pick up the first down and probably a lot more and maybe they score to tie the game. The problem with screen passes is that a lot of things need to go well and if one thing gets screwed up, the whole play can crap out. 

That’s what happened here. 

 

After the game, Vander Esch said he kind of knew the screen was coming there based on his own film study. 

He didn’t need to look back very far to see this on tape. Remember that touchdown on a screen pass to Wendell Smallwood two weeks ago in London? Same play. Or at least a really similar one that was just inverted. 

This is how the play is supposed to work when the spacing is right: 

 

That obviously didn’t happen on Sunday night against the Cowboys. Maybe it was too predictable. Maybe it’s just a bad idea to go backwards at all when all you need to do is go forward two yards in two plays. Both of those are valid gripes. And now the Eagles are 4-5 with dwindling playoff hopes.