The defense was extremely impressive against the Los Angeles Rams, something I covered in the first Eagle Eye recap this week, but I know a lot of fans are excited to learn more about how the offense performed on Sunday night.
Let’s start with Nick Foles.
Was he perfect? Of course not. There were missed throws on his end, whether they were off-target passes or just missed reads in the progression. However, Foles was mostly efficient with the football. He wasn’t sacked. He typically got the ball out quickly, even on third down short of the sticks, letting his receivers go make a play. That was the case on a couple of wide receiver Alshon Jeffery’s catches. Jeffery hauled in all eight of his targets on the night, and these are four of them.
ALL OF THE VIDEO CLIPS FEATURE AUDIO ANALYSIS FROM FRAN DUFFY
On the first one, I don’t believe Jeffery was the primary target. I believe this was a play designed for Golden Tate at the bottom of the screen. But when Foles senses press man coverage before the snap and expects some kind of blitz, he gets to his "alert" throw, which is Jeffery on the boundary running a fade. There’s a single-high safety in the middle of the field. Foles drops this throw in a bucket over the top along the sideline for a first down.
The second play was designed for Jeffery. Zach Ertz and Nelson Agholor lift the coverage inside with vertical routes, clearing space in the middle of the field for Jeffery on a dig route. Is Jeffery's route perfect? No. Is the throw from Foles? No. But he puts it up above the rim and lets Alshon go up and get it for a 36-yard gain.
On the third play, Jeffery just runs a great route, turning the cornerback around and breaking towards the sideline. Foles finds him outside the numbers for a first down inside the 10-yard line.
On the fourth and final play, his longest of the night, Jeffery runs a deep post route behind Agholor. This double post concept breaks free because the safety in the middle of the field abandons his assignment. Foles recognizes it and chucks it downfield, and Jeffery gets under it for the big play and a first down.
The postgame narrative is that there was a "change in philosophy" with Foles under center or a difference in the plays called by the coaching staff. Head coach Doug Pederson and offensive coordinator Mike Groh have both talked about relying more on their go-to concepts in this game plan, and that was true. That Dagger concept, for instance, had been a reliable one throughout last year and in Wentz’s rookie season of 2016. The Mesh concept was run a handful of times early in the game, and that has long been a high-volume play call for the Eagles.
There weren’t more or fewer Run Pass Options. Ertz wasn’t featured less as he was targeted multiple times in the red zone and a handful of the plays early in the game were designed to get him the football. There was not much of a change in the amount of called shot plays. I think the offense executed well across the board, was efficient in moving the football, and was able to put up 30 points because of it.
Let’s get to the run game, where two things stood out. First, the Eagles called a handful of plays that perfectly attacked Los Angeles’ aggressive defensive front.
These Traps and Whams prey on the defense’s aggressiveness upfield. When defensive tackles like Aaron Donald fly out of their stance and get into the backfield, they may think the blockers just missed them off the snap. Instead of being home free for a stop, however, they’re now in the crosshairs of an Eagles blocker coming from outside of their vision. On Trap plays, it’s an offensive lineman coming from across the formation (see Lane Johnson above), and on Wham plays it’s a fullback or tight end (see Dallas Goedert). These plays are fun to study and are great to use because it’s a quick-hitting run with the running back getting downhill immediately with offensive linemen out in front blocking linebackers at the second level.
The "back to basics" edict followed suit in the run game as well, where Inside Zone was the bread and butter for the Eagles. All three rushing touchdowns in this game came on the Inside Zone run concept. All of them came with Foles in the shotgun. All of them came with two tight ends on the field. The Eagles are primarily a zone blocking team, and watching these double teams work well at the point of attack was fun to relive on film against the Rams, as the Eagles mixed in a couple of counter punches as well.
The offense came through in a big way against Los Angeles, but the Houston Texans present another big challenge this week. The Eagles will need a repeat effort against the Texans.
Fran Duffy is the producer of the Emmy-nominated Eagles Game Plan show which can be seen every gameday during the season on NBC10 in Philadelphia. He is also the host of two Eagles-related podcasts, Eagle Eye in the Sky, which examines the team from an X's and O's angle each and every week as well as the Journey to the Draft podcast, which covers college football and the NFL Draft all year round. Fran also authors the Eagle Eye in the Sky column, which runs four times a week during the football season to serve as a recap for the previous game and to preview the upcoming matchup. 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.