There was one play that really stood out to me in the Eagles-Rams game where Marty Mornhinweg and Andy Reid creatively exposed a flaw in Steve Spagnuolo’s defensive scheme. It came on a 26 yard cross from Michael Vick to DeSean Jackson that couldn’t have possibly looked any easier.
For years, the late Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson adhered to the philosophy that one corner played LCB, while the other corner played RCB. They covered whatever receiver came to their side. Johnson never had his “best corner” always follow the opposition’s “#1 receiver,” a la Darrelle Revis. If your best corner follows the best receiver around, it becomes much more difficult for the defense to disguise man or zone coverage. Spagnuolo, a Jim Johnson disciple, employed Johnson’s approach on Sunday, and it played right into the Eagles’ hands.
Here’s a formation with a bit of an exotic look:
- Brent Celek is lined up wide by himself to the near side of the screen. Covering Celek is the Rams’ best corner, Ron Bartell. The Eagles, knowing Spagnuolo’s scheme, effectively wasted the Rams’ best corner on their TE. Big win for the Eagles there.
- Lined up in a bunch formation to the top of the screen is DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, and Steve Smith.
- Standing next to Vick in the backfield is not one of the running backs. It’s Jason Avant. Avant will go in motion past the 3 WRs in the bunch formation to the top of the screen, where he’ll be picked up by the Rams’ other starting corner, Bradley Fletcher. The Eagles have now wasted the Rams best two cover players on Brent Celek and Jason Avant. Win.
At the snap, Celek and Avant will run go routes, clearing Bartell and Fletcher out of the play. With the Rams’ two best corners out of the play, they’re now left with SS Quintin Mikell, nickle back Justin King, and a third Rams DB I can’t identify covering Jackson, Maclin, and Smith. Good luck with that.
Confused by the bunch formation, Mikell and King both cover Smith (with Smith drawing an illegal contact call on Mikell), leaving Jackson completely uncovered and wide open for the easy catch and run for 26 yards. Let’s watch them dance:
That’s just not fair.