One week later, and the high of the Kansas City Chiefs victory is beginning to wear off. The laurels of a season do not last on one shocking victory. Sustenance in the NFL involves a scheme and personnel grouping that can truly work together. One week in, and more must be done to establish an indelible legacy in the NFL history books. Unless head coach Andy Reid and his staff of analysts find a way to incorporate the explosive offense and hyper-aggressive defense to competitively combat each team on the schedule, the Chiefs season will be a lackluster mix of frustration. As the Philadelphia Eagles march into Arrowhead Stadium, the Chiefs scheme will be facing a quandary clone scheme of themselves in former offensive coordinator Doug Pederson.
Offensive Consistency and Wearing Down the Defense
Alex Smith morphed old efficiency into an incredible personification of a deep ball quarterback. While it would be historic to watch Smith spend the entire season as a deep ball quarterback, precedent states that will not occur. The question against the Eagles will be who the offense operates through. Smith is the clear field general, but in a system almost counter to Reid’s west coast style, the operation point is not the quarterback, or any player, but a pattern of different sets.
By incorporating sets that offer mixes for the Eagles to honor, the play precedent is not on one player, but on the scheme. Thanks to the athleticism of multiple players, Kareem Hunt and Tyreek Hill in particular, the Chiefs can operate a full net of plays successfully. In some regards, this is an evolution of the west coast offense.
Against the Eagles, those multiple sets will go far to counter a defense intrinsically built upon creating chaos through different sets. Rodney McLeod, Malcolm Jenkins, and Ronald Darby make up a rotating secondary that can align in either man or zone. However, Darby will be out for several weeks, and rookie corner Sidney Jones is still recovering from an off-season injury.
Hence, Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz will have limited personnel to work with. The odds are very good for Hill or Albert Wilson to get mismatched on a less athletic linebacker or corner to create an open deep route down field. Linebacker coverage may be physical, but not athletic. Thus, in the crossing route schemes, Travis Kelce and Hunt can excel as the game lags on and the defense wears down.
However, the above hope is reliant on two factors. First, the offensive line must be in prime shape and nothing less. Schwartz’s defense is successful on the tenant of an aggressive and poignant pass rush, the look the Eagles are aiming to possess in 2017. The attack on the forefront of the offensive line will be the central focus of the game.
Mitch Morse will need to bear down in the middle and prevent Timmy Jernigan and Fletcher Cox from invading. The tackles will be busy with Vinny Curry and rookie Derek Barnett using their athleticism to rush off the edge. The Eagles additionally will mix in twists and stunts to make use of the full athleticism their edge rushers possess. Thus, to defeat the Eagles, the offensive lineman (Eric Fisher receives a special call out) must be mistake free mentally, limiting miscues and penalties.
Take the battle at the line of scrimmage one step further to the run game. Hunt’s record-setting rookie debut not only established precedent moving forward, but a lot of expectations. Hunt will be targeted in the middle gaps by the Eagles linebackers. His methodical running style combines with vision and burst to create explosive runs.
Running the ball down the Eagles throats will be an effective way to offset their linebackers to set up passing lanes. A good day running will cause the Eagles to format in more run aggressive packages, consequently pulling pressure off the edges, pushing pressure inward, and then allowing athletic receivers to reign free on linebackers.
Defense – Sacks, Sacks, and more Sacks
Schematically, the Chiefs defensive pressure can exploit everything that Carson Wentz does well. The Eagles love to go deep and use a creative offensive set to create multiple lanes of passing, not much different from the Chiefs own ambitions. Once Wentz gets into a passing rhythm, he is very hard to stop.
The onus will be on Dee Ford and Justin Houston for putting pressure on Wentz from the outside. With Jason Peters defending Wentz’s blindside and Lane Johnson to his right, the battle at the line of scrimmage will be momentous throughout the game. In a young season, this is a game where both sides of the ball can assert themselves as a top unit in the NFL.
Pressure from the outside can go far to help allow pressure from the interior lanes. Allen Bailey and Bennie Logan must get going early to collapse the pocket from the inside and into the lane of Houston or Ford. If Bailey and Logan collapse the pocket internally, then Wentz will not be able to escape from the pocket.
However, Wentz and coach Pederson make fantastic use of multiple passing lanes mentioned in the beginning. Adding Torrey Smith and Alshon Jeffery created complementary passing lanes. Marcus Peters will most likely be guarding the deep threat in Jeffery, leaving Phillip Gaines to blanket Smith. Smith exposes Gaines’ softer coverage, indicating that Smith may be the most targeted receiver of the day.
Zach Ertz and LeGarrette Blount are additional threats over the middle and in the red zone. Blount can catch swing passes, forcing linebackers into coverage mismatches. Fortunately, the Chiefs offset Blount by using safeties to assist in coverage. Blount is a lumbering swing pass receiver, indicating if the Chiefs linebackers align correctly, Blount and the other running backs will be negated in the red zone.
However, Ertz may be the biggest problem of the day without Eric Berry at safety. With two viable targets, and Gaines inevitably demanding Daniel Sorenson to blanket over the slot, Ertz will be running over the middle of the field as a free check target.
Therefore, the secret to the Chiefs defense will be Terrance Mitchell on the outside receiver and Ron Parker over middle passing lanes. Mitchell had a decent game against the Patriots, having to face Brandin Cooks. Mitchell’s outside matchup will let Parker cheat inward toward the field.
Wentz has a propensity to push the ball to the hidden middle passing lanes (a la Ertz), exposing linebackers and inattentive safeties. Parker’s attention and physicality will be tested and answered this game. As the leading tackler in week one, he has shown every sign to become a physical leader on the Chiefs defense.
The Eagles passing scheme is complex, and the nuances of the Chiefs defense will create a compelling matchup for both teams. Yet, the running game may be the breaking point for the Eagles. Passing in Arrowhead stadium can be hard with an ambitious crowd delaying rhythm. In week one, Blount ran a slim 3.3 yards per carry 14 times, totaling 46 yards.
The Eagles running game was shut down by a mediocre Washington Redskins middle run defense. No matter, the Chiefs middle cannot take the game lightly. Coach Pederson has instituted a physical running attack (or has desired to do so) to counter his deep passing. Blount may not have gotten going last week, but the Chiefs past rush defense problems still give hope to opposing offensive coordinators.
Summarizing the Plan of Attack
Again, this game will come down to the matchup at the line of scrimmage. If the Chiefs can assert offensive power between the tackles and on the edge, then extra blockers can leak out for passes and use their athleticism to go over the top of Eagles defenders. However, the onus of the plan will start by attacking with the run game and creative offensive sets.
On the defense, the line of scrimmage will be the point of attack. Blitzes to disrupt the Eagles offensive line and push pressure toward the middle of the line will discomfort Wentz and prevent him from finding a rhythm. No matter the scheme the Chiefs are facing against former coordinator Pederson, pressure will disallow creativity from coming to fruition.
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