Being in an empty set - which we saw on Wentz’s first-career touchdown against the Browns - forces a defense to declare itself early on. It’s very difficult to disguise what you’re doing against an empty set from a coverage and pressure standpoint, so as a quarterback there are a lot of positives to being in that position even though it keeps only five blockers in for protection. I thought that was a great way for the coaching staff to get him in a rhythm early in the game, and I think it paid dividends down the road. Now to the really impressive throws from Wentz.
It’s second-and-10 in the second quarter, and the Eagles run a three-level stretch play off play-action.
On that play, you saw the pocket poise from Wentz. What about his pre-snap abilities? Well, we saw a great example of that on the very next series.
Shot 2 - Very similar to last week, Wentz reads pressure pre-snap, moves to shotgun and delivers throw to favorable matchup for 1st down pic.twitter.com/fRlRSn9Gr2— Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) September 20, 2016
It’s third-and-5, and the Eagles come out in 12 personnel with one running back and two tight ends on the field. One of those tight ends,
On the very next play, the Eagles picked up another first down on a play that had a lot of moving parts. First, the Eagles bring Matthews in motion to the near slot as the No. 3 receiver to the right. The Bears are in man coverage here, and when Matthews releases he appears to be running an over route across the field. Watch as the defender over Matthews passes Matthews off to the linebacker inside of him. Once he passes Matthews off, the linebacker thinks he’s free to defend anything in front of him.
He’s not afraid of any route being open behind him. That’s his biggest mistake, as Matthews sticks his foot in the ground and breaks back outside toward the sideline. The two receivers who lined up outside Matthews before the snap ran deep posts here, clearing out that side of the field, creating a huge void in the coverage for Matthews to take this throw from Wentz for a 32-yard completion. When you watch this play from the end zone angle, make sure to notice the job Wentz does of stepping up in the pocket to evade the rush off the edge before he delivers a perfect touch throw to a receiver on the run to move the sticks.
Three plays later and that poise from Wentz shows up again. It’s third-and-9, and look at him deliver this throw to Burton on the run for a first down as he takes a shot at the end of the play. That’s a big-time throw for a first down.
On the next series, Wentz made a different kind of throw that really displayed his athletic ability and accuracy on the run, and I feel a lot different about it after watching the All-22 than I did live on the broadcast.
It’s second-and-4, and the Eagles are running a post-wheel concept with
Wentz drops back, and when he reads the cornerback he sees the defender has his back to the sideline, but that he’s not following Agholor into the middle of the field, correctly reading zone coverage. Now, Matthews does eventually break open here, but when Wentz initially reads that corner he sees that he’s in zone and he gets his eyes back inside. Wentz feels pressure, breaks the pocket and rolls to his left. He lets go of this ball on the run to a receiver running the opposite direction as him for a first down. This wasn’t the ideal throw, going against his body on the move, but man, what a throw for a first down by the rookie.
A few plays later, Wentz made another incredible throw. With seconds ticking away until halftime, the Eagles ran Matthews on a fade from the slot, a concept very similar to the one they connected on for his first touchdown against the Browns. Just like on that play, Wentz just has to beat the safety in the middle of the field, and he holds him between the hashes long enough to deliver a beautiful ball at the pylon over Matthews’ shoulder for what could’ve been a long touchdown throw. The ball ends up on the ground for an incompletion, but it was a great route by Matthews and a great ball from Wentz, throwing away from both defenders in the area to a spot where only his receiver could go and get it. That was a big play left on the board, for sure, but as Matthews has shown throughout his career, for every one of his drops, he’s able to rebound with a big play as well.
While this one didn’t go for a touchdown, Matthews secures this over route for a first down. This was another three-level stretch concept from the Eagles, a common theme from the Doug Pederson offense through the first six games of live action since the start of the preseason. Matthews’ abilities in the middle of the field are going to be maximized in this offense on plays like this one, and you have to be encouraged by the confidence that Wentz has in No. 81 as well.
Just like the receivers were not perfect against Chicago, Wentz, too, had his share of negative plays. There were a few missed receivers in key parts of the field, and he took a couple of unnecessary shots as well.
Shot 8 - Wentz has to decrease the number of unnecessary hits he takes. His playing style will result in some shots, have to eliminate some pic.twitter.com/tT4pJrDAN8— Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) September 20, 2016
Because of his ability to stand tall in the pocket as well as his propensity to run the football, Wentz is going to take hits when he’s on the field. With that in mind, he has to learn to eliminate as many of the unnecessary ones as he can to help stay healthy. This is the biggest hill for Wentz to climb early on in his career.
That play got the Eagles down near the goal line, an area where they have been very effective so far through two games when it comes to putting points on the board. On Monday, they were successful thanks to a pair of really well-designed plays in the low red zone.
Shot 9 - Really well-designed TE screen to Burton on the goal line. Find the man defender and block him up. Great cut block by L Johnson pic.twitter.com/F8W4QOFjZe— Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) September 20, 2016
It’s first-and-goal in the third quarter and the Eagles come out in 13 personnel with one running back and three tight ends. With
Celek is able able to do just that on this play, as Burton reads his blocks perfectly and plunges into the end zone. It’s also important to note the quality cut block from tackle
Shot 10 - A 'Jet Flip' play; Jet Sweep action causes 2 Bears DBs to run w/ Agholor. Peters does a great job finding work; Mathews walks in pic.twitter.com/sDgeL98Wma— Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) September 20, 2016
On the Eagles next possession, Wentz is under center again, but this time they call a running play to Mathews. This is a play known as Jet Flip, where the quarterback fakes the jet sweep (remember, the Eagles set up the jet sweep earlier on a handoff to
The run game had it’s moments on Monday against Chicago, and while it certainly lacked the volume of high-impact plays that went for long distances, there was one play that stood out to me late in the game. With Ertz and Burton on the sideline, the Eagles needed to milk time off the clock in the fourth quarter. They still called for 13 personnel, except with Celek being the only tight end available, they had to make do with what they had. Enter Tobin and backup lineman Stefen Wisnewski.
The Eagles run an inside zone counter run on this play to the three-tight end side. That heavy side of the formation is what coaches call a five-man surface because there are five blockers lined up from the center out with Barbre, Peters, Celek, Wisnewiski and Tobin. With the misdirection element of the play in full effect, Mathews uses his speed and decisiveness to get to the corner, make defenders pay for bad angles and go 30 yards in his longest run of the season thus far. The run game has had its moments, but it always helps when you can call a run play with seven offensive linemen on the field.
Fran Duffy is the producer of “Eagles Game Plan” which can be seen on Saturdays during the season. Be sure to also check out the "Eagle Eye In The Sky" podcast on the Philadelphia Eagles podcast channel on iTunes. Prior to joining the Eagles in 2011, Duffy was the head video coordinator for the Temple University Football team under former head coach Al Golden. In that role, he spent thousands of hours shooting, logging and assisting with the breakdown of the All-22 film from the team’s games, practices and opponents.