Welcome to our weekly look around the NFL through the lens of the all-22 film. In this space, we will be looking at film cut-ups to figure out the “why” behind the league’s most interesting on-field developments. We’ll also supplement the film with numbers to get the full picture of what’s going on.

Here are the five cut-ups we’ll be looking at this week…

1. The Raiders’ deep-passing game v. Kansas City
2. The Ravens’ pressures v. Cincinnati 
3. The Panthers in empty this season
4. The Dolphins’ third-down defense v. San Francisco
5. Travis Fulgham’s targets v. Pittsburgh

I’ve included *every* relevant play from the game related to the topic I’m taking a closer look at, so you can get a full picture of what happened. Then I’ll break it down and focus in on the most important plays or trends.

Let’s get started…

1
Raiders deep shots v. Kansas City

Derek Carr heard all the checkdown jokes. Up against the league’s most aggressive quarterback, Carr wasn’t going to go down throwing swing routes to his backs. And he didn’t, averaging NINE air yards per attempt in the win over the Chiefs, per Next Gen Stats.

OK, so that still isn’t very high — he ranked 12th this week — but when Carr did take his deep shots, he made them count. He attempted seven passes that traveled at least 20 yards in the air, the sixth-most by a quarterback in a single game this season. And those plays resulted in 219 yards, two touchdowns and 16.1 Expected Points Added, per Sports Info Solutions.

As I did Monday, I’m going to give a bulk of the credit to Jon Gruden, who called a masterful game in Kansas City. As you can see in the cut-up, the Raiders did an excellent job of baiting a safety into jumping a route then throwing the ball over the top. The Chiefs safeties are very good and their aggressiveness is a big reason why. Gruden turned that strength into a weakness and exploited it.

2
Ravens pressures v. Cincinnati

Ravens defensive coordinator Wink Martindale is always down to turn up the pressure on a quarterback, but he was especially aggressive against Joe Burrow and the Bengals in Week 5. Baltimore blitzed the rookie quarterback on 23 of his 39 dropbacks, according to Pro Football Focus. And those plays led to six of the seven sacks the Ravens tallied on Sunday.

I wrote about Martindale’s ability to break an offense’s protection rules in the offseason and you can see that throughout the cut-up. One of his favorite tactics is to line a player up directly over the center, which limits the protection calls an offense can realistically use. Having dudes like Brandon Williams and Calais Campbell to do that makes things so much harder on the offense, which will typically ask its center to take them one-on-one.

Martindale also put pressure on Cincy’s backs and tight ends to scan for potential blitzers. Those players weren’t responsible for a lot the pressures the Bengals allowed, but they made a lot of panicked blocks and were unable to provide extra help for an overwhelmed offensive line.

3
Panthers Empty in 2020

I know we’re only five games in, but I’m not too far off from declaring myself a Joe Brady stan. He has the Panthers offense rolling and is making good use of the players he has at his disposal. One of those players is Teddy Bridgewater, who is thriving in his offense.

Brady is using a lot of Empty sets, which plays to Bridgwater’s strengths as a passer because of his ability to get rid of the ball quickly. And Bridgewater is tearing it up on those plays, ranking first in EPA per play and fourth in success rate, per Sports Info Solutions.

It’s not a surprise that Brady has had so much success with those calls. It was a big part of LSU’s offense last year. His go-to call this year has been this concept with “Spacing” to the three-receiver side and “Stick” to the two-receiver side…

Bridgewater consistently reads the concept out in a hurry and you can see him hit multiple receivers in the cut-up above.

The Panthers were using Empty formations more often with Christian McCaffery in the lineup, but their efficiency hasn’t fallen off since he went out injured. After running just two snaps of Empty against the Falcons, I’d expect to see a lot more going forward.

4
Dolphins third-down defense v. San Francisco

The Dolphins offense got most of the attention after Miami’s blowout win over the defending NFC champs, but Brian Flores’ defense quietly put in an impressive performance. His third-down defense was particularly effective, allowing the 49ers to convert on only two of their ten third-down attempts.

There were two great articles on the Dolphins’ defensive gameplan that I highly recommend if you’re looking for something more in-depth. Rich Madrid of Niners Nation shows how Flores mimicked his gameplan for the Rams offense in Super Bowl 53. And Football Outsiders’ Derrik Klassen looks at how Miami used its linebackers to confuse the 49ers passers.

In the cut-up above, you can see the Dolphins leaned heavily on pressure looks pre-snap and played a lot of man coverage behind them. That combo gave Jimmy Garoppolo problems. He was panicked in the pocket as a result of all the moving parts the Dolphins threw at him and the tight man coverage forced him to make difficult throws with an unsound base. Throw in an injured ankle and Garoppolo never really stood a chance.

5
Travis Fulgham targets v. Pittsburgh

Travis Fulgham proved his game-winning score in Week 4 wasn’t a fluke by following it up with a 10-catch, 152- yard stat line against a very good Steelers defense. His thirteen targets resulted in 13.0 Expected Points Added. That’s the second-highest single-game output for ANY receiver this season.

As you can see in his route chart, via Next Gen Stats, Fulgham ran a variety of routes from different spots in the formation…

He’s not the fastest receiver (he ran a 4.58 40-yard dash) or the sharpest route-runner but he’s a big-bodied receiver who can track the ball in the air. He’s also got a reliable set of hands. That’s a combination the Eagles don’t really have elsewhere on the roster right now, so I would not be surprised if Carson Wentz keeps feeding him targets in the weeks to come.

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