Video breakdown: The Eagles exploited DeMarcus Ware in the run game

If you were to look at the box score from the Eagles’ decimation of the Cowboys last Sunday, you might notice that DeMarcus Ware had 4 sacks and think, “Well at least DeMarcus Ware came to play.”

Think again.

DeMarcus Ware is a great player, and perhaps THE premier pass rusher in the NFL.  However, he’s often useless in the run game, and the Eagles have repeatedly burned Ware on the same exact play.

Last season, with the Eagles trying to bleed the clock in the 4th quarter, Marty Mornhinweg and Andy Reid continuously went back to the well and ran the same running play over and over and over.  They continued to pick up first downs and successfully killed more than 4 minutes.  The play was simple – Have Jason Peters seal the the DE and push him down the line, leaving the OLB (Ware) momentarily unblocked.  Clay Harbor, coming from the opposite side of the formation, would trap Ware, leaving a cutback lane for LeSean McCoy.  Here are portions of that drive from last year:

Play 1 (0:00) – Ware lined up top of the screen.  Ware sees it coming, waits for the block to come to him, and Clay Harbor successfully cuts him.

Play 2 (0:09) – Ware bottom of the screen.  Harbor comes across again and easily blocks Ware, who falls to the ground, opening up an enormous hole and a big gain for LeSean McCoy.

Play 3 (0:45) – Ware bottom of the screen.  Harbor comes across again and cuts Ware again.  3rd time Ware wound up on the ground so far in one drive.

Play 4 (0:58) – Ware bottom of the screen.  OK, so now Ware is ready for the little TE trap block and decides he’s going to attack up the line and try to get inside Harbor, except this time, Vick keeps the ball and easily runs around the end, in the area vacated by Ware.

Play 5 (1:13) – Ware bottom of the screen.  If the Eagles get a yard, they can just kneel on the ball and run out the clock.  Same play again.  Ware sees it coming, waits for Harbor to come block him, Harbor easily gets him on the ground for the 4th time on the drive, huge hole, ballgame.

Fast forward to last Sunday night.  Since the Eagles had so much success exploiting Ware last year, why not go right back to it?  Well, they did:

Play 1 (0:00) – Ware bottom of the screen.  Marty Mornihinweg and Andy Reid must have assumed Rob Ryan watched the game tape from last year and noticed that the Eagles exploited the Cowboys D on the same play over and over again, so they added a little wrinkle.  They send Harbor in motion at Ware, and then away from him, and at the snap, Harbor runs back across for the trap block.  Ware hopes that the Eagles are running play action and runs himself out of the play on his own by going after Vick.  Harbor gets a piece of Ware (although he didn’t even need to), and there’s a monster hole for McCoy.  Undisciplined football.

Play 2 (0:42) – Ware bottom of the screen.  The Eagles run a fake sprint draw here.  In the audio you’ll hear Cris Collinsworth say that it’s a designed run by Vick. Ignore that.  It’s not.  The idea for the fake to McCoy is to slow Ware’s pass rush, but Ware completely ignores the fake, and continues his wide rush.  Seeing nothing but open space in front of him, Vick basically says “Wanna run yourself completely out of the play?  No problem.  I’ll gladly take 15 easy yards.”

Play 3 (1:19) – Ware bottom of the screen.  This time the Eagles use Celek to come across to block Ware instead of Ware, and Celek barely even has to breath on Ware to open up the hole.  Ware concedes that he’s blocked and basically just lets McCoy scoot right past him.

DeMarcus Ware is on pace for 27 sacks this year. Again, there’s no disputing he’s an absolutely elite pass rusher. But it’s odd to hear analysts praise his ability against the run. On tape, I’m just not seeing it.


  1. BigBad Joe says:

    So based on his play in that game (in which the entire D looked pretty useless, you are going to say he is useless in the run game always ?

    “DeMarcus Ware is on pace for 27 sacks this year. But it’s coming at the cost of good team football.”

    So if I were to go pick one of the bad performances this year for (insert start player here) (Vick,Eli, Orakpo) lets say, and make generalized comments because of the one game on how bad he sucks overall, you would be fine with it ?

    That is kind of the problem with the article, he was exposed that game, no doubt, THAT GAME…..calling him out for the whole year is a bit much IMO

  2. Jeremy Maclin's weiner says:

    Whaaah. You exposed their star player. Whaaah.

  3. Eaglesfanatlarge says:

    Very nice video breakdown. I love to see the nuts and bolts of plays like this.

    It looks like Peters (and other OL) should also get a lot of credit for these runs too. Ware generally doesn’t get blown backwards, just screened enough to keep him out of the play, so Shady can hit the hole created by the push of Peters and the rest of the OL.

    Ware is committing a very basic mistake in these plays that no pro DL should make. For a trap block, you never turn your shoulders toward the blocker. That gives the blocker a huge target to hit, as well as letting him get low on you for leverage or a cut block. He needs to keep his shoulders parallell to the LOS, and either hold his ground or shuffle toward the ball carrier. This is definitely on the coaches, who should be teaching him this.

  4. shane says:

    Thanks for this Jimmy. Id been waiting all week for this post.

    If you look at the first video, you can see that Ware gave up on a few plays when he knew the TE was coming in to make the block. He didn’t try at all because he knew he was about to get hit hard. It opened up a huge hole. I’m not sure that Ware is the exact one to blame on all of these run plays (I tend to think the linebackers should of stepped into these holes), but he sure as hell did not help at all. You can tell that he got sick of getting chop blocked low.

    These were very well designed plays. By having the TE take 4 steps and gain momentum, it made it much easier to push Ware out of the way.

    Several of these plays showed Ware overpursue and step out of position which created a huge hole for mccoy to take advantage of.

    I don’t think ware has an excuse for his lack of effort on some plays. He could of shed that block quick with how bad the eagles TE’s are at blocking.

    Anywho, Marty sure did come up with a good combination on these plays. I’m curious to see if we use them against the cowboys again next time.

  5. Gary says:

    I have to wonder how much of this is on Ware and how much is on the coaching. Yes, you’d expect Ware to beat the TE more often than he did, but when an offense burns a defense with the same play or variations of the same play over and over, it seems like there are some schematic adjustments that should be made.

    1. Yep, definitely on Rob Ryan too.

  6. Goetz says:

    Forget about if Jimmy is biased or not: How easy it is for Celek – who by definition is not a very good blocker – to seal Ware on one of the plays – and Ware is seeing what is coming to him – is just pathetic.

  7. Joe D says:

    Ware is a HOF player, but I would absolutely agree that he was exploited last Sunday.

    I knew Ware was a gem his rookie year when he was just DOMINATING from the get go. His sheer size and athleticism is scary too.

  8. Andrew says:

    Dang what Collinsworth was saying about Peters is crazy. I didnt notice it while watching the game

  9. packimop says:

    Dude needs to attack the TE and push him back into the hole instead of allowing the TE to get into his body. He literally takes no initiative.

    1. Tracer Bullet says:

      That’s what surprises me. With his size, strength and speed, Ware should be able to dominate an TE in the league but he’s not attacking the block at all. It’s not like Celek or Harbor is any kind of punishing blocker.

      1. packimop says:

        It’s really just a sad effort. He could have blown up at least 2 or 3 plays with just some more effort. I figured that since the Cowboys were playing such stout run defense that we wouldn’t see anything like that this year. I guess I was wrong. Awww shucks

    2. Smitty2K3 says:

      Yeah it’s surprising to see how soft he look son those plays. He doesn’t even attempt to cut back and around the TE. Or bull rush right through them. There’s none of that. It’s almost like he just accepts that he’s going to get blocked.

  10. says:

    I remember Ware also making some tackles late in the game on McCoy to be fair to him.

    This shit’s fun to watch though.

  11. KD says:

    Wow Jimmy… just wow. I know it must be a difficult thing to separate your Eagles fandom from being objective when you write here, but… wow.

    1. Ha, equal opportunity, brother. I heavily criticized Philly earlier this year when the Giants abused them on the same exact play two years in a row. Dallas got whipped last Sunday, and the film is ugly. What exactly is unfair here?

      1. packimop says:

        What’s unfair is that you said mean things about his squad.

        1. KD says:

          don’t clown yourself. I could care less that this was about D Ware.. it could have been anybody else, but to claim that you are a fair and consistent voice on the NFC East and then claim that Ware is “useless” in the run game because you cherry-pick plays where he didn’t perform well lessens the credibility of all of his analysis.

          I could care less, I know that Ware isn’t inept in the run game. Jimmy’s article isn’t going to sway that observation that is shared by thousands of others.

          If this wasn’t Eagles vs Cowboys, he would have been much more careful with the way he described Ware’s overall impact.

          1. I didn’t cherry pick anything. The first video was all one drive. The second video were plays that occurred on the Eagles first 2 drives. Frankly, I could have added more, but had mercy.

            He was brutal against the run. Bru. Tal. Tape doesn’t lie.

      2. KD says:

        I’m not questioning whether or not Ware was at fault on all of these plays, although I do think that one or two would have ended the exact same way regardless of what he did.

        “However, he’s often useless in the run game” BS.

        “DeMarcus Ware is on pace for 27 sacks this year. But it’s coming at the cost of good team football.” BS again.

        1. Andrew says:

          ““However, he’s often useless in the run game” BS.”

          He is often. Doesnt mean always useless. And Jimmy put together a number of plays where Ware was useless.

          As to the second point, would you trade a couple of those sacks for more run stops this year. Ones where he doesnt over commit, or as noted below at least fights the blocker?

        2. Would you call what he was doing in those videos “useful?”

    2. Smitty2K3 says:

      There’s nothing subjective about this. The tape doesn’t lie, brother.

      1. KD says:

        SMH at your definition of ‘subjective’.

        If I put together a video reel of Ware’s 7 stops from the Eagles game, not just tackles, but stops that are credited with keeping the O from gaining the yardage to be considered a successful play (40% of needed yards on 1st, 60% on 2nd, 100% on 3rd and 4th).

        Would I then be able to say Ware played the best game against the Eagles of any defender this season, just because I put a video together of those plays and ignored the ones Jimmy has in his video?

        It’s one-sided, Eagles fandom and you’d question a writer that did this about an Eagle.

            1. Andrew says:

              You need to quit showing your Giants bias Jimmy. Two videos trashing the Iggles and showing how well the Giants did. You need to be more level headed if you wanna be taken seriously by the other bloggers. smh

        1. Again… I was absolutely destroying the Eagles during their 4 game losing streak. Picked on specific players, too. Did video breakdowns of them. Did a very negative video breakdown of Celek. Did one of Matthews, too, and Juan Castillo caught some shrapnel in that one as well. The score on negative video breakdowns is Eagles 2, Cowboys 1.

          Ware played soft against the run, allowed enormous holes, and I pointed it out. It’s on the film. It’s indisputable, really. Obviously, you don’t like that I criticized your guy and have chosen to attack my credibility. That’s kind of weak, really. I don’t see much disagreement on the actual analysis though, which only reinforces that we probably agree that Ware was indeed exploited by the Eagles’ O.

          1. KD says:

            I’m not questioning your credibility brother, I hold you in extremely high esteem or I wouldn’t frequent your site as often as I do.

            I’m not even questioning whether or not he was at fault on all of the plays you highlighted. Although on the 2nd of the 3 plays you highlight from this past Sunday, you fault him for NOT falling for a run fake. I’m reading that correctly, right?

            I am attacking the message you are putting forth in this article. Your previous articles you linked have no effect on what I’m saying. I’m not saying that you haven’t criticized Eagles for doing things wrong, I’m saying that you are egregiously discounting Ware’s run stopping ability based on the performance on these plays. I also think you are making assumptions as to what responsibilities Ware had on these plays. Again, not saying the Cowboys defense didn’t do a horrible job in them.

            Did Ware grade out as below average in run defense in this game? No. PFF gave him a +0.3. They also credited him with 3 run stops, yet there is no mention of this anywhere in the article. That in and of itself could be overlooked if you didn’t attempt to generalize his play against the run.

            You spoke of him in terms of his NFL standing, then said he is often useless against the run, which intimates that more often than not, he is a liability in the run game. You closed the article with the inference that he is solely focused on rushing the passer at all times, and that it is hurting the defense on a continuous basis. Anyone who watches Ware on a regular basis knows that’s not the case.

            Even after McCoy running through them on Sunday, Dallas still ranks 10th in Run Defense DVOA, 9th in yards per carry relinquished and 4th in total rush yards allowed.

            The entire point of this article is ‘hey, that guy isn’t as good as you all make him out to be. Look here!” When in reality, you cherry picked his bad plays, never once mentioning the good ones he had in the same game, or his (at the very least) adequacy in run stopping for his career.

            It’s a 3-4 D, there are 4-5 players with larger run responsibilities than Ware on most run plays. Not all, but most. 9 starters, 13 players and all 6 of the remaining front 7 graded out worse than DeMarcus Ware did in the run defense on Sunday, yet his pass rushing stats are coming at ‘the cost of good team football’?

            1. I couldn’t possibly care any less about what nonsense grade PFF gave him. PFF thinks DeSean Jackson was the 104th best WR in the NFL last year according to their grades.

              Look, if Ware made “great plays” in the run game, you have a forum where you can show them off. I didn’t see anything special on film, and as I already noted, I could have added more bad ones, but the point was already made. But hey, maybe you saw something I didn’t, so let’s see it.

              Personally, I rely on game film to make my assessment, not grades from PFF. But that’s just me.

              1. KD says:

                Liability vs Run 2010

                Play 1: Who holds more responsibility on that play, Ware or Spencer and the DE that got blown up and pushed to the outside?

                Play 2: Ware or the nose tackle?

                Play 3: What in the world do you expect Ware to do to effect this play?

                Play 4: 100% Ware’s responsibility and fault

                Play 5: Also could be considered Ware’s play to make.

                I see two plays out of the five that were presented that Ware could have effected. Again, you state that Ware’s pass rushing aggression is keeping this team from playing good football.

              2. “You state that Ware’s pass rushing aggression is keeping this team from playing good football.”

                I did? I’m not interested in debating things I didn’t say, so argue with the straw man you’ve created all you’d like.

                As far as your play-by-play, who cares who’s “more at fault?” The Cowboys’ D as a whole got abused. Just because other players on the D were also terrible, that doesn’t give Ware a pass. The point I was trying to illustrate was that the Eagles specifically abused Ware, which they most certainly did.

              3. KD says:

                “DeMarcus Ware is on pace for 27 sacks this year. But it’s coming at the cost of good team football.”

                Straw man?

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