Thursday Night Analysis
Eagles offense vs. Chiefs defense
Coming into this game, all the talk remains centered on Philadelphia’s offense. Don’t be surprised if the chatter shifts to Kansas City’s defense by Friday morning. Through two weeks, it has been one of the most impressive units in football, holding the (albeit lowly) Jaguars offense scoreless and the Cowboys to just 16 points.
Kansas City has the resources to stymie Chip Kelly’s fast-paced, finesse offense. The defensive line is powerful and athletic, particularly at nose tackle with ascending second-year pro Dontari Poe. Inside linebackers Derrick Johnson and Akeem Jordan are both swift and agile. They have shown good instincts and discipline in run gap assignments. That’s critical for containing running back LeSean McCoy, who might be the most lethal change-of-direction artist since Barry Sanders.
Against Dallas last week, Johnson and Jordan consistently retreated to good depth against play-action. At times they were aided by excellent coverage rotations from noticeably improved free safety Kendrick Lewis. They’ll have to be sharp again here; Philly’s passing game made mincemeat of Washington’s and San Diego’s interior defenders with play-action and misdirection concepts.
Perhaps more important than a sound front seven, the Chiefs have two very good press corners, Brandon Flowers and Sean Smith. That allows defensive coordinator Bob Sutton to be more creative and aggressive in his sub-package blitz designs (which have included overload zone exchange concepts and cornerbacks blitzing from the boundary or slot). Washington and San Diego had success blitzing the Eagles, but not before giving up a lot of yards and points as they adjusted to the accelerated tempo.
No matter how well the Chiefs are playing, preparing for this unconventional offense on a short week is a tall order. Michael Vick is coming off one of the sharpest performances of his career, in which he played with great patience in the pocket. DeSean Jackson already has 297 yards receiving—and it could easily be around 400 if not for a few “just-missed” connections.
Chiefs offense vs. Eagles defense
Through his first two weeks in Andy Reid’s system, Alex Smith has been exactly what you’d expect: a cautious but dependable game-manager who makes some plays with his feet and doesn’t turn the ball over. He left a few plays on the field against Jacksonville and Dallas by not pulling the trigger (or seeing) open receivers at the deep-intermediate level. Reid may instruct Smith to be more aggressive in these situations Thursday night. The Eagles secondary has allowed many passing windows to open up this season, particularly when playing with a single-high safety and corners in off-coverage.
Single-high looks will be common Thursday, as the Eagles will likely drop one of their safeties down in the box against running back Jamaal Charles. Rookie Earl Wolff looked good doing this against San Diego, and Patrick Chung has the physicality to make plays in traffic. Both will have to be more astute in underneath coverage, though. The Chiefs don’t have a ton of aerial weapons, but they’ve been successful with short misdirection passing concepts.