Film breakdown: Jason Kelce vs Jay Ratliff

In a shortened offseason in 2011, Jason Kelce had himself an impressive rookie season, considering the circumstances.  He started all 16 games, and played every snap in the first 15 games, missing just 6 in the season finale against the Redskins.  Heading into the season, most pundits pointed to the Eagles’ offensive line as the glaring potential trouble spot, and while the RG position was a mess for the first few games, the OL as a whole was one of the few bright spots on an otherwise wildly disappointing team.  Kelce was a major question mark, being a rookie 6th round draft pick out of Cincinnati, but he played much better than expected, and became a favorite of legendary offensive line coach Howard Mudd.

Earlier this offseason, Les Bowen of Philly.com wrote about a meeting that Howard Mudd set up between Kelce and his Mudd’s former protege, Jeff Saturday, in which the two players watched film together.

“He told me how to watch film,” Kelce said Wednesday. “Every single time we’ve watched film in the past, it’s been, throw on a game, watch the guy play for a little bit, try to figure out — all right, he’s a big, strong guy, he likes to bullrush. [Saturday felt that] guys I’ve struggled with in 3-4s, like [Dallas noseguard] Jay Ratliff, don’t just study about what type of player he is, diagnose everything, down and distancewise. A lot of defenses will be in situations, down and distance, that will give away tendencies for a pass rush. Study their stances … if you can study the little details about a defensive player [you'll be prepared]. He said, ‘I’d rather play Jay Ratliff, a guy I’ve watched 16 games on, than him get hurt and a see guy come in who hasn’t played ever before in the NFL and you’ve got no film of him.’ He studies it that much, to where he gets comfortable. Come gametime, it doesn’t matter how good the guy is, he already knows everything about him.”

That’s not the first time Kelce has mentioned Jay Ratliff by name.  I remember last year, in the locker room after the first Eagles-Cowboys matchup on Sunday night, I was there when Kelce was answering questions about the game, and he said that Jay Ratliff was the best player he ever had to block, a sentiment that he has since reiterated.  Ratliff is in Kelce’s head, and he should be.  I went back to the tape to look at Kelce vs Ratliff in the first Eagles-Cowboys game last year, and Ratliff dominated.  A short sampling:

Here the Eagles run their patented trap play that has been killing Dallas for the past two years.  Ratliff blows up Kelce so far into the backfield that Kelce knocks into Clay Harbor, who is coming across to trap DeMarcus Ware.  However, Ware runs himself way out of the play and LeSean McCoy gets about 20 anyway:

Continued after the jump…

Here, Ratliff gets instant pressure on Michael Vick, who is able to get rid of the ball quickly to a wide open Brent Celek.

Here again, Kelce whiffs on Ratliff, who gets instant pressure on Vick and forces Vick to scramble.  Vick gets the first down anyway.

And finally, Ratliff gets quick pressure one more time, forcing Vick to scramble and take another hit.

Four dominating plays… all in the first 16 minutes of that game… and unfortunately for Dallas, all positive results for the Eagles.

Jay Ratliff is a specimen.  As an undersized NT, most people think of him as a player who utilizes quickness to beat his opponents, but here we see him using his underrated power to beat the equally undersized Kelce.

I’ll be interested in watching that matchup again this year.  If Kelce keeps getting beat like this by Ratliff, it is unlikely that the Eagles will somehow continue to get positive gains.

29 Comments

  1. rational says:

    Also Jimmy……we have argued about Ware and his ability to stop the run and I recently saw how you like Pierre-Paul over Ware. Here is a little something to chew on from a credible and non biased source: http://www.footballperspective.com/random-perspective-on-the-2012-dallas-cowboys/

  2. rational says:

    So, Jimmy……How much better do you think Dallas’ defense will be this year with two corners who can play press, depth at corner to play slot and fill in for injury and particularly the addition of speed at LB (Bruce Carter) to play against teams like Philadephia? Do you think that if Jason Hatcher is healthy for most of the season, Sean Lissemore plays more and getting more pass rush out of the defensive line by adding Tyrone Crawford (drafted for his pass rush ability out of the 5 technique) will be a large sack total difference? What do you think of Anthony Spencer as an all around player; do you think he could add 4 sacks to his total with improved coverage by the defense considering the amount of pressures that he had last year? Is replacing Abe Elam with any other starting safety in the NFL an upgrade? Should Dallas fans expect a large improvement from their defense and what situations do you think they will be better in?

  3. ian says:

    kelce needs to get stronger. he gets pushed around too easily.

  4. Redeem Team says:

    lol @ McCoy’s block attempt in the 3rd video

  5. joe says:

    Hopefully the Cowboys secondary can cover for just that one or two seconds more this year so plays like Rat made, dont go to waste….time will tell

  6. joe d says:

    agreed with the above statement. Rat is a grown man in his prime while kelce is a 22 -23 year old kid. Some maturity should help Kelce not struggle with the more powerful guys out there… For the Eagles sake I hope Ratliff slows down still yet

  7. Free Plax says:

    Not for nothing but I have seen Ratliff do that to a lot better centers than Kelce.

  8. Southern Philly says:

    “don’t just study about what type of player he is, diagnose everything, down and distancewise.”

    I’m surprised he wasn’t already doing this. That’s why players are provided with, for example, third down cut ups. And if he wasn’t getting those at Cincinnati and with the Eagles last year, that’s also surprising.

  9. Joe says:

    re: 2nd matchup:

    “The Eagles left him on an island with no help (against Ratliff) and he took Ratliff out of the game. The Cowboys ran blitzes at him, they ran stunts, they tried to isolate him and it didn’t work. Show me one play (on the tape) where he gets beat. There isn’t one.”

    http://www.csnphilly.com/blog/eagles-talk/post/Under-Review-Kelce-deserved-Pro-Bowl-nod?blockID=620918&feedID=3041

    1. Baldinger is the king of over-embellishment. This is the same guy that had Jamar Chaney going to the Hall of Fame.

    2. Just looked. Kelce gets beaten on the very first play of the game, lol.

      Not blaming you for posting that link, just FYI. Baldinger is just an ass.

      1. rational says:

        So, Jimmy……How much better do you think Dallas’ defense will be this year with two corners who can play press, depth at corner to play slot and fill in for injury and particularly the addition of speed at LB (Bruce Carter) to play against teams like Philadephia? Do you think that if Jason Hatcher is healthy for most of the season, Sean Lissemore plays more and getting more pass rush out of the defensive line by adding Tyrone Crawford (drafted for his pass rush ability out of the 5 technique) will be a large sack total difference? What do you think of Anthony Spencer as an all around player; do you think he could add 4 sacks to his total with improved coverage by the defense considering the amount of pressures that he had last year? Is replacing Abe Elam with any other starting safety in the NFL an upgrade? Should Dallas fans expect a large improvement from their defense and what situations do you think they will be better in?

    3. Just watched more just to be sure I’m not mistaken. Baldinger is 100% talking out his ass.

      1. iskar36 says:

        He is one of the guys really against the All 22 film and you can tell it’s because he is concerned more people are going to be calling him out for being a fraud. I think I over heard him say at one point that he was calling a game and found it hilarious that the guy he was calling a game with brought notes with him and had prepared himself with detailed background information about the players on both teams. I was just thinking to myself, “wait, is Baldy arguing that preparation is a bad thing for a broadcaster?”

  10. Joe says:

    How’d he do in the 2nd matchup? Thought I remembered that Kelce did OK against Ratliff in the 2nd matchup of 2011; held him in check, if I remember correctly. Sound right?

    1. He played better, but struggled in that one too.

  11. Davesbeard says:

    Did you watch the whole game? Be interested if he improved as it went on.

    Hard to fault a rookie center getting beat by one of the best and most unique D-lineman in the league, even for a whole game. If he improved later in the game that’s even more respectable.

    1. Davesbeard says:

      And even more obviously, how did he play in the second Dallas game?

    2. I didn’t dive in too deep late in this game because it became totally uncompetitive in the second half. I did watch some of the second game, and Kelce struggled against Ratliff in that one too.

      We agree, by the way, that it’s not the end of the world that he struggled against a really good player.

  12. Eagles Fan in DC says:

    Jimmy,

    Off topic but I’ll ask anyway: what do you think of Mark Sanchez and would he be a viable option to replace Vick if he doesn’t perform this year or maybe in the near future? I’m intrigued by him and wonder if he could do better away from the dysfunctional Jets.

    Chances are he may be interested in reworking his contract after he’s swept away by Tebowmania, no? I can’t quite make up my mind about Sanchez so here’s hoping an expert like you can shed some light on the man.

    1. I’m not a fan of Sanchez even a little bit. I don’t pay a ton of attention to the AFC, but I did see him play all 4 NFCE teams last year, and I came away thinking that he’s a Bottom 10 NFL starter. I think his future in the NFL is as a backup.

      But this is outside of my wheelhouse, so take my opinion of Sanchez for what it’s worth.

      1. Yeah, Sanchez is a bum. I think he’ll be a backup in the future too. Reminds of me when the Cardinals picked Leinart in the 1st round. He’s like a rich man’s Leinart at best.

      2. Steve says:

        Ugh, I can’t stand Sanchez, that guy has done nothing to earn his accolades. He had a decent rookie season and hasn’t progressed a lick since. He was abysmal last year when we needed him to come up big late in the year, just atrociously bad.

  13. Rafael Vela says:

    Oh, but there are so many Cowboys fans who still lament that Dallas doesn’t have “a true nose tackle.”

    1. DerfDiggy says:

      Exactly. Rat is such an imposing presence…Even on plays that turn out negative for the Boys it’s usually NOT because of Rat. Is he declining? Possibly….is he still better than the majority of the NT’s in the NFL…absolutely.

      The first video isn’t all that surprising…but it’s remarkable to see just how much he demolish Kelce. Exactly why Football is a team game…It doesn’t matter how many “elite” players you have on the field, one mis-step, one out of position player…and the whole play design goes off kilter.

      Excellent breakdown Jimmy.

    2. Yeah, they never get tired of beating that horse to death do they? I, for one, a glad to see such a positive breakdown of Ratliff, after so many people were down on him this year. It just goes to show how false perception can be.

      If those plays had instead resulted in sacks or negative plays–i.e., other Cowboys players stepping up to help!–then Ratliff would be showered with praise. All the analysts would be saying: “Look, it all starts up front with Ratliff. The pressure he gets right away forces Vick into Ware for the sack….”, etc., or something along those lines.

      Instead, his herculean efforts and relentless motor went largely unnoticed. It’s sad, actually.

      1. deg0ey says:

        One could argue that these ‘herculean efforts’ against a 6th round rookie center aren’t the best evidence for how good Ratliff is.

        I’m not trying to make that argument myself, but if you’re of the opinion that Ratliff isn’t good, I don’t imagine that this breakdown would do much to change that.

        1. DerfDiggy says:

          Well, you’re assuming he didn’t play well against veteran players. He did. Up to his pro bowl season? No not at all…Again, the “Move Ratliff to DE”, and “Ratliff has lost a step” crowds are mostly misguided in thinking that Rat’s play has been the cause of the line getting “bullied”, and the thinking that a “true NT” would change things. Examples like these prove that’s not necessarily the case. The ‘Boys DL has it’s issues…chronicled by Jimmy and many others. Rat’s decline isn’t large enough atm to put those issues on him solely, a lot of factors at play here.

  14. Will B says:

    I think watching game tape as well getting himself into the weight room will definitely help Kelce’s overall game. Jeez, I didn’t know how badly Kelce was beat by Ratliff that game considering we still owned dallas

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