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Eagle Eye: Should Offense Have Run More?

Posted Nov 29, 2016

On Monday night, the Eagles struggled to get into a real rhythm offensively. The Eagles possessed the ball just seven times and were unable to execute at the level that they would've liked against a defense that had struggled to stop anyone over the previous month. It was frustrating for everyone from the players to the coaches to the fans.

In the aftermath of the game, head coach Doug Pederson's play calling was second-guessed by fans and analysts. Did the Eagles run the ball enough against the Packers? Here's a look at how the Eagles ran the ball.

Run Game Vs. Packers
Drive Situation Plays Runs Passes RPOs Result
1 1Q - 9:45 left - Down 7-0 - Own 19-yd Line 11 3 5 3 (2 pass/1 run) TD
2 2Q - 14:48 left - Down 14-7 - Own 14-yd Line 6 3 3 0 Punt
3 2Q - 3:28 left - Down 14-7 - Own 1-yd Line 12 1 10 1 (1 pass) FG
4 3Q - 15:00 left - Down 14-10 - Own 25-yd Line 7 4 2 1 (1 pass) INT
5 3Q - 8:48 left - Down 17-10 - Own 25-yd Line 10 1 8 1 (1 run) FG
6 4Q - 13:53 left - Down 24-13 - Own 25-yd Line 8 0 8 0 Punt
7 4Q - 1:52 left - Down 27-13 - Own 13-yd Line 5 0 5 0 Downs
    59 12 41 6 (4 pass, 2 run)

Before I get into the drives, remember that RPOs are Run Pass Options. The offense has both a run and a pass play built into the same concept. Receivers are running routes on the outside, the offensive line and running back are executing a running play inside and the quarterback reads the defense to decide what is a better choice on that given play. The Eagles called six such plays on Monday night, and Carson Wentz threw the ball on four of them (completing three passes for 20 yards). Doug Pederson mentioned on Tuesday that Wentz also audibled the offense out of some run plays because of bad looks up front, checking instead to pass plays to pick up positive yardage. Five of those 41 passes were non-RPO screen plays as well, which many coaches view as an extension of the run game.

When you look at the numbers on a drive-by-drive basis, the Eagles had a huge disparity in the run-pass ratio on the final drive of the first half. They worked a two-minute drill that began from their own 1-yard line to get a field goal just before halftime. They came out in the third quarter with a definite intent to run the ball, and it wasn’t until late in the third quarter as the game began to get away from them that it became a pass-only operation.

The only time when the offense got into a real rhythm in my eyes was on the opening drive of the game. Wentz completed all six of his passes and the offense matriculated the ball down the field, culminating with a 1-yard touchdown run by Wentz (which we broke down in our All-22 Review). Wentz was efficient in his reads, compact with his delivery and accurate with the football. He showcased next-level traits that he has put on display all season long, such as looking off defenders in zone coverage.

On the first play of the game, the Eagles are in 13 personnel with one back and three tight ends. Wentz brings Trey Burton in motion and the tight end settles in the soft spot of Green Bay’s Cover 3 scheme, right between two underneath defenders. Wentz keeps his eyes in the middle of the field, holding Clay Matthews toward the hash marks before getting to his intended target in Burton for a 9-yard gain.

Five plays later on second-and-2, the Eagles lined up in a bunch formation with Dorial Green-Beckham as the X-receiver to the far side of the field. Flanked to the left of the bunch is rookie receiver Bryce Treggs, the fastest player on the Eagles' offense at this point in the season. Treggs takes a pitch from Wentz on an end around that included some inside zone-action, and he races for a first down. The Eagles looked to run different plays off of this exact look later in the game, but they get a great result on this play. One of the big catalysts here was right tackle Allen Barbre, who delivered a crushing block on Matthews that knocked the former Pro Bowl linebacker out of the game for a period with a shoulder injury.

On the very next play, the Eagles went back to a play that has been reliable for them this season, the Dagger concept. The Eagles run this play from a bit of a different look, with stacked receivers lined up inside the numbers running this two-man concept to Wentz’s left. Play-action in the backfield holds the linebackers underneath, a vertical route from Treggs takes the coverage deep and Green-Beckham runs a dig route for a 24-yard gain and a first down. This was as well-designed and well-executed as you can ask for from the Eagles' coaching staff. A few plays later Wentz ran it into the end zone for a touchdown to close the opening drive.

The Eagles ran another play off the Dagger concept later with tight end Zach Ertz running an over route for a 16-yard gain and a first down. Wide receiver Jordan Matthews was also the target on a 17-yard dig route in the second quarter. Outside of the interception, where he didn’t step into his throw and the ball sailed on him, Wentz was pretty accurate throughout the night on his deep and intermediate throws against the Packers when he had to show either touch or accuracy. On the Ertz catch, Wentz dropped a ball in over an underneath defender with the proper touch on an over route from his tight end. On the Matthews completion for a first down, his accuracy showed up on a throw between two zone defenders right into Matthews’ chest.

The last drive of the second quarter started with this second-down throw from Wentz to Matthews in a "backed up" situation. Wentz drops back and delivers a beautiful fade to Matthews’ back shoulder for a 20-yard gain and a first down to propel a drive that would result in a field goal before halftime. The timing on the fade was perfect and Wentz put it where only his receiver could get it. When was the last time we saw this kind of play here in Philadelphia? Hopefully, this is a sign of more to come between these two as they move forward in their careers.

The biggest problem with the Eagles' offense against the Packers was that, with limited opportunities in terms of possessions on Monday night, they could ill afford to squander any chance to gain chunks of yardage. Whether they were plays in the screen game (like the long Sproles catch that came back due to a penalty by Green-Beckham) or plays downfield (like the overthrow by Wentz that was intercepted), the Eagles needed to make the most of every possession, and that just wasn’t the case against a defense that was susceptible to the big play coming into the game.

On third-and-10 in the fourth quarter, the Eagles had a beautiful play call dialed up that gave them a chance at a 75-yard touchdown. The Eagles assumed Green Bay would be in Cover 2 Man, and ran a beautiful play to attack that coverage. With two safeties deep downfield and man coverage underneath, one of the best ways to attack this defense is to keep the safeties near the sidelines with vertical routes outside while also sending a vertical route right down the seam.

Ideally, you have a speed receiver matched up against a potentially slower nickel or dime corner. Treggs was matched up on cornerback Quinten Rollins, who gave up a huge touchdown two weeks ago to Washington's Jamison Crowder on a very, very similar concept. Unfortunately for the Eagles, Wentz faced pressure that kept him from stepping up and delivering the football. He rolled left, was nearly sacked, but scrambled for what ended up being a 22-yard gain after a facemask penalty by Julius Peppers. The Eagles kept the ball, but missed a big opportunity down the field.

The Eagles had a handful of shot plays built into the game plan against Green Bay, but were unable to take advantage of the opportunities. Why? Because of pressure in Wentz’s face that forced him to break the pocket. The Eagles had to do a lot of shuffling early last week, with Barbre stepping in at right tackle and Stefen Wisniewski back in at left guard. On Monday afternoon, rookie Isaac Seumalo was called on to make his first start with Brandon Brooks ailing from an illness. He made a mistake here and there, but there was a lot of good as well in his first career start. Seumalo was settled in pass protection, displayed a mean streak in the run game both at the point of attack as a drive blocker, and as a puller on power and trap plays. What stood out to me most though, was his vision as a pass protector, getting a feel for extra rushers coming his way through the vessel of stunts and blitzes from Green Bay defensive coordinator Dom Capers.

Here are three examples of such plays, but I narrowed it down from a group of more than double that. There were several cases of Seumalo feeling an extra rusher coming into his gap or timing his release perfectly from a double team to pick up a penetrating defender in the run game. The coaching staff has long talked about Seumalo's intelligence as an interior lineman, and that was a trait that certainly showed up against the Packers.

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.

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