As we inch closer and closer to Week One of the 2014 NFL season, the last of the season preview writings are rolling out. And in the midst of all the speculation and prediction, there’s this well-written piece on the surge of up-tempo offensive schemes by Tim McManus. It’s a precursor for the canned commentary you’re going to hear from anyone with a tie and a headset mic in a booth this year, but McManus lays it out from the POV of the tired defense:
When Tony Dungy was with the Bucs, he did an extensive study on how his Tampa 2 defense was impacted by the amount of snaps it faced. What he found is that his unit’s ability to do their job dipped significantly once they hit a specific number.
“There’s a certain breaking point in any defense. The breaking point is over 65 plays,” said Herm Edwards, who was an assistant under Dungy in Tampa from 1996-2000. “For any defense. You don’t want to get into those numbers.”
The Eagles climb into those numbers routinely. Davis’ unit faced the most snaps in the NFL last season at 1,150. That’s an average of 72 per game.
“That’s not good,” said Edwards. “You don’t want that. When we were at Tampa – now, we played a different type of offense, obviously – we never got to 1,000. We were about 850. We never wanted to get into the 60s and the 65s. If we got to 70, we were in trouble because we were worn down because we weren’t a big defense. We were a fast, penetrating defense.”
But that’s not all roses and positivity for the Birds, as we saw in the Patriots game when the defense spent a majority of the first quarter on the field. Cary Williams told McManus, “It’s not easy already to defend in this league. It’s not easy to necessarily to be a defenseman [opposite] this type of offense … You can be out there for a nine-play drive and create a turnover and the next thing you know, 45 seconds to a minute [later], you’re right back out there. It’s hard. But I think we’ve got the guys in this room to get the job done.”
But speed isn’t the true goal, says McManus, who pointed out that the Eagles were 13th in the league in offensive plays per game last season, but second in points per minute, while being “the clear leaders in points per minute differential, which takes into account how their opposition fares in that department against them.” Chip Kelly said, “The perception that we’re going to run 90 snaps a game, and that we want to run a million plays, has never been any part of our philosophical discussion.”
McManus really takes a look at the speed thing from all sides: Defensively, offensively, coaching, validity, and success rates. The whole piece is pretty essential, and you can read it all over here.