Friday, November 13, 2009

Strategy and Matchups - San Diego


Let's start with the offense. The Eagles will need to score points to beat San Diego. As I wrote yesterday, the Chargers have put up at least 21 points in each game. That means we need touchdowns. Getting to the 20 and stalling out won't work this week. The offense must get into the end zone.

We've gotten a good feel for each game so far pretty early on. If we don't score a touchdown in the 1st quarter that is a sign that it could be a long day. With that in mind, how should Andy/Marty call the game early on? I think the first play ought to be 3 WRs, with a TE and RB. Run a play fake and throw deep to DJax or JMac. You have a chance at a big play or penalty. You also get the defense on their heels instantly.

San Diego runs a 3-4. We just faced that style of defense last week. That means the blockers should have a good feel for what to do. One big difference...SD doesn't have DeMarcus Ware or Jay Ratliff. They can get some pressure, but I don't fear their guys like I do Ware and Ratliff.

We do need to run the ball. The Chargers struggle vs the run. We'll have a full backfield this week with Westy's return. I'd love to see 20 or so carries between him, LeSean, and Weaver. The Chargers have a rookie starting at Safety, Kevin Ellison. If we can get him coming up against the run that could open downfield passing lanes for the wideouts or Brent Celek.

No matter how we do it I want DeSean to get 5 touches this week. He's too good to not have the ball forced to him. San Diego has been shuffling guys around on defense. Using DeSean on an End Around might be a smart way to test the Chargers and their discipline. I would also line him up at QB and have DeSean take direct snaps. Get #10 the ball.

Jason Peters isn't 100%, but he will play. That's big. He's powerful enough to handle Merriman's strength and agile enough to handle his burst. Herremans will need to be on the lookout when Merriman stunts to the inside. Todd anchors pretty well, but Merriman has some real power when he goes all out. Jamaal is big and powerful enough to handle the various guys who will play NT. If he can block them by himself, we can get some work done on inside runs. This is where Westy will have a lot of value. He knows how to find the small spaces up the middle and turn those plays into 3 or 4 yards. LeSean is still looking for a hole to run through. Those don't always exist in the NFL.

Donovan needs to play well. He's got to start fast so that the offense builds up some quick confidence. When big play opportunities do come up, Donovan has to be on target.

One of the things that hurt us last week was field position. We constantly needed to go the long field to even get into scoring position. Dallas has very good kicking and coverage units. San Diego punter Mike Scifres is one of the best in the league, but their coverage isn't so good. Teams average 13.5 yards per PR. That's the 2nd worst figure in the league. The kickoff coverage is middle of the pack. We need to help the offense out with good returns whenever possible. Those hidden yards can have a huge impact on a game.

Our defense will have their hands full with Rivers, LT, Sproles, Gates, VJ, and Floyd. That's an impressive array of weapons. I think you still start with the run, even though the Chargers are struggling in that area this year. Don't let LT get going. Put all the pressure on Rivers and his receivers. The key to controlling their run game is Bunk and Patt handling the middle. The Chargers have backups starting at C and RG. Our guys should win the battle inside most of the day.

Sproles is scary because of his big play ability, but he isn't doing a lot this year. His long run is 21 yards. He's got 1 TD on the ground. He's been better as a receiver. Darren has 25 catches. He's scored 2 TDs and has an 81-yard play. While he isn't having a huge impact so far this year on offense you do have to play him smartly. We don't want his breakout game coming against us. I'm sure the LBs and Safeties will focus on him every play that he's on the field. We don't want any part of Sproles vs Gocong in open space.

I'll be interested to see how much we blitz in this game. I think our D-line matches up pretty well with their O-line. Cole should have some success with LT McNeill. Marcus is a tall, high-cut guy. Trent can get down in a track stance and really stay low. That will make it really tough for McNeill to block him. Parker, Babin, and Clemons all have the burst/speed to beat Clary on the other side. Clemons could especially be a problem. After watching Osi blow by McNeill on Sunday I wonder if Chris might not get a couple of snaps at RDE. Just let him speed rush. RG Louis Vasquez gave up a sack last week. He's only a rookie and could have his hands full with our Nickel and Dime units. I think Babin would be good against him.

If we do blitz a lot I'd have to think that it will be up the middle. San Diego has a makeshift group inside. Rivers isn't fast or mobile. Plus, we'll have Gocong at MLB. This is a time to unleash him up the middle and see what he can do.

We must be relentless in this game. Last week Rivers and the SD offense struggled most of the day. He had 134 passing yards with a few minutes left in the game. The Chargers got the ball late and Rivers led them downfield for the go-ahead TD. Rivers is tough. He'll sit in the pocket and take a beating if necessary. He'll throw 50 passes if necessary. The team can't relax. SD can strike quickly and get right back in the game. This also is a reason the offense must consistently move the ball and score. You don't want to leave the Chargers any hope. Rivers will have some success against us. We need to keep the pressure on him and pick off errant passes when we get the chance.

The matchup between their huge WRs and our smallish CBs will be interesting. Our guys can cover and play the ball, but Floyd and Jackson can make catches even when we're all over them. Just think back to the days of Burress over Sheldon. FS could be important in this game. San Diego likes to stretch the field. We need the deep Safety to rotate to the ball and be able to help out the CB. Sometimes this will be Sean, other times it will be Quintin. I don't think we can stop their wideouts, but we do need to limit them as much as possible.

Gates is going to be another tough matchup. I'm sure Sean McDermott will use a variety of players and coverages on him. All 3 LBs will get a chance. Jones and Mikell will get chances from their S position. You wonder if they'll try a CB on him at times. You don't shut down Antonio Gates. Just try to limit his big plays.

SD got to face a defense similar to ours last week. That helps them out. It also can help us. We got a chance to see what they handled well and what they struggled with. We have a better secondary than the Giants. The flip side of that is that we have smaller CBs who won't match up as well.

I don't know what role Dimitri Patterson will play in this game. SD seems to really feed the ball to their starters. They obviously mix in some different sets, but we may see a lot of base offense. If so, Patterson could spend a lot of the game watching. Because he's "new" to the defense the Chargers could decide to go 3-wide and attack him. They just haven't done much of that kind of stuff this year.

Going a step farther...Gates and VJ have combined for 84 catches. Rivers has 166 completions. They really feed the ball to their two primary star receivers. If we focus on them that will force Rivers to spread the ball around more. That's a double-edged sword, though. You might get other guys to struggle with making plays, but you could also see someone step up and make plays. The other thing is that defenses have tried to shut down VJ and Gates all year with very little success. We did a solid job last week of limiting Witten and Austin. There is hope. Someone just tell Sheldon not to bite on a play fake on 3rd/long please.

San Diego is 2-2 at home. We're 2-1 on the road. I tend to think this game will bring out the best in us. We won at CAR and at WAS. Those aren't easy places to win. Our loss was at Oakland when the team had a nightmare day. We'll be in the right frame of mind for this game. We won't be taking the Chargers lightly. I expect a solid showing from the team. If we can eliminate some costly penalties and make a play or two on defense I like our chances.

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