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Eagle Eye: Tyreek Hill Adds Explosive Element That Is Tough To Defend

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Looking back at the offensive and defensive performances against the Washington Redskins was a great way to start the week, but now it's time to look ahead to the issues that Kansas City will present on Sunday afternoon. Eagles fans obviously have a base of knowledge when it comes to Andy Reid and the ways he likes to attack opposing defenses. The scheme looks a bit different from his days here in Philadelphia, but there are a lot of similarities.

Reid wants to try and create matchups for his playmakers in the passing game, no matter what position they play. He's turned Travis Kelce into one of the most dynamic pass catchers at the tight end position. His running backs are constantly used in the passing game (and it's not just limited to screen passes). Tyreek Hill lines up everywhere on the field and is the consummate field stretcher, working both side to side and from goal line to goal line to create big plays for himself and others. There are a lot of layers to this offensive attack, but let's start with Hill because his speed really helps make it all go.

Shot 1 - Time for a look at the #Chiefs offense, and I'll start with the speed from WR Tyreek Hill. Explosive enough to run by anyone pic.twitter.com/Jn2aNWVFkY — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) September 14, 2017

Hill lines up in the backfield, in the slot, out wide, and he's a returner for this Chiefs team. No matter where he lines up before the snap, you have to worry about his 4.2 40-yard dash speed. He can blow the top off a defense with ease and run by anyone in the NFL. From this preseason, you can see him run right by the San Francisco cornerback for a big play. Whoever is lined up on the outside for the Eagles on Sunday needs to be aware of his big-play ability.

Shot 2 - He doesn't just beat you vertically. Andy Reid uses him to stretch teams horizontally as well on screens, handoffs and end-arounds. pic.twitter.com/Nii2PZ2i1j — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) September 14, 2017

It's not just about attacking defenses vertically with Hill because his speed and dynamic athleticism give Reid a weapon to use horizontally from sideline to sideline. He takes handoffs in the two plays above, one in the backfield and one on an end-around, where he's working east-west. Second-level defenders and edge players have to respect his speed working side to side, and all that does is help soften things up in the middle of the field in the passing game or between the tackles in the running game. Those are just a couple of examples of how Reid uses him. Hill runs a lot of bubble screens from the slot, runs a lot of shallow crosses underneath (he caught one for a first down against New England last Thursday), and is used in the quick game to get the ball in his hands early in the down to allow him to make plays. He's obviously going to be a huge factor in this game, especially with the loss of Ronald Darby.

The other player who must be accounted for is Kelce. One of the most dynamic players at his position in the NFL, the All-Pro can line up anywhere and win. He beats linebackers, safeties, and corners, even some of the best in the league.

Shot 3 - Must account for is clearly Travis Kelce. Led their team in targets on 1st down last year. Lines up everywhere; beats Sherman here pic.twitter.com/02JBOVRzar — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) September 14, 2017

Kelce beats Richard Sherman, one of the best in the business, on a slant route in the preseason. Kelce lined up as the X-iso receiver in a 3x1 set on this play, which the Eagles saw last week against Washington. I'm interested to see how the Eagles try to defend Kelce from his various spots in the formation, but I expect that it'll be in a variety of ways.

When any coach has two weapons like this that can impact the passing game at all three levels of the field, he has to try and find ways to leverage the most out of them. Watching the Chiefs all summer and then last week against the Patriots, there were plenty of examples of Hill opening things up for Kelce and vice versa. It's hard to pay extra attention to both players defensively, so playing both off of each other, particularly when they line up on the same side of the field, is a staple for this scheme.

Shot 4 - Two plays of Hill opening things up for Kelce. One where his speed affects DB vertically; another where he stretches horizontally pic.twitter.com/2dUeN5hgAm — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) September 14, 2017

Here are a couple of examples of Hill opening things up for Kelce. On the first play, from the preseason, Hill lines up on the outside and runs a straight vertical route against a split safety. The safety cheats heavily over the top of Hill to help his cornerback out, leaving the middle of the field more exposed than he probably should. The safety is unable to help with this throw down the seam to Kelce, and he pulls it in for the first down.

The Chiefs did something similar last Thursday against New England. Hill runs a bubble screen to the flat, taking the slot defender with him. That helps create a void in the secondary. Kelce comes from across the field on a crossing route to catch this pass for a first down from quarterback Alex Smith. There are two occasions where Hill helped open things up for Kelce, now let's change it up.

Shot 5 - Now here's Kelce helping Hill. Love the 'Follow' concept to create void for Hill on 'angle' route. Kelce opens up Hill's TD vs NE. pic.twitter.com/nvOTtdGHWr — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) September 14, 2017

These are two examples of Kelce opening things up for Hill. On the first example, Kelce runs a drive or shallow cross and Hill, who is lined up in the backfield, goes out on an angle route to get a bit of a horizontal stretch. Kelce's route opens up space for Hill over the middle of the field for a quick, easy throw for Smith. When you pair that with the jet sweep-action from De'Anthony Thomas, you've got a stressful play for the defense to cover the width of the field.

The second play is Hill's long touchdown against New England. The Patriots are in a zone coverage look, with what appears to be Cover 2 to Kelce and Hill's side. Kelce runs to the post, and the safety runs with him. Hill runs a double move down the sideline, and he scorches past the rest of the defense for a score. Cornerback Stephon Gilmore, as a Cover 2 corner, thought he had a safety over the top and didn't run with Hill. It became a huge play for the Chiefs' offense because the safety's eyes turned toward Kelce.

Hill and Kelce don't just create opportunities for each other because within the structure of the Chiefs' offense they're able to make everyone around them better.

Shot 6 - Hill and Kelce create for others as well, as @gregcosell explained on #Eagles Game Plan (FULL SHOW: https://t.co/8pQfZCUTia ) pic.twitter.com/cti3x96nRx — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) September 14, 2017

This is a cut from this week's episode of Eagles Game Plan, where Greg Cosell explains how Hill (off jet sweep-action) and Kelce (from a deep crossing route) eliminate the safety help in the middle of the field for the Patriots. This gives rookie running back Kareem Hunt, lined up in the backfield with a head of steam and a ton of green grass to run to in his matchup against a linebacker. Hunt wins over the top for a 78-yard touchdown, and it was a great play for the rook. Don't ignore, however, the impact Hill and Kelce had on this play.

One of the hallmark plays from the Andy Reid era here in Philadelphia was the shovel pass. How many times did we see Donovan McNabb scoot the ball to Brian Westbrook down near the goal line for a touchdown? Reid still uses the shovel pass in Kansas City, but it has a couple of different elements, is used all over the field, and doesn't just go to the running backs.

Shot 7 - One of the hallmark plays of the Andy Reid era here in Philly; the Shovel Pass. Still a staple of his offense, and not just in RZ pic.twitter.com/JdE4xBBwlJ — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) September 14, 2017

The Chiefs ran the shovel pass almost 10 times against the Patriots last week. Whether it was running backs, slot receivers, or even Kelce on the receiving end, it was a staple of their offensive attack. In Philadelphia, the shovel pass was effective with an athletic passer in McNabb, because when he would sprint to the right the defenders to that side HAD to account for his threat to run. The play was also almost always run from a split back look, with someone like running back Correll Buckhalter or fullback Dan Klecko running to the flat immediately at the snap. Again, the theory here was to stretch the defense horizontally. By making the linebackers try to chase McNabb and that player in the flat, a crease would open up on the interior, and with a guard pulling from the back side, the target of the shovel pass had a lead blocker out in front for easy yardage.

Now, in Kansas City, Reid still uses similar looks compared to what we saw here in Philadelphia, but he'll pepper in jet sweeps and bubble screens to help stretch the defense toward the sideline. Kelce caught a handful of passes on plays just like the one you see above. It will be interesting to see if Reid decides to bust this play out against an aggressive Eagles front.

Shot 8 - Shovel Pass-action helped set up Kareem Hunt's TD in the red zone. Must respect the threat in the flat (Hunt) on this play #Chiefs pic.twitter.com/26T2dsTs8I — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) September 14, 2017

As a defense, you can't just ignore that threat in the flat because the ball can always go to that player. Here, the Chiefs appear to be running shovel pass-action (look at the back side), but the ball goes to Hunt on the toss play, as he sprints to the goal line for a touchdown. Watch the second-level defenders for New England and you'll see some hesitation on their part as the rookie heads to the pylon. The Eagles' defense has to be prepared for this concept.

Let's transition now to the Kansas City run game which, like the one here in Philadelphia, has a lot of layers to it. They let go of veteran running back Jamaal Charles this spring and lost starter Spencer Ware this summer to injury, so a lot was put on Hunt as a rookie third-round pick. Schematically, however, the Chiefs run a wide variety of zone and gap schemes, and when you factor in the misdirection element with the speed of players like Hill, Thomas, and Albert Wilson, it creates a lot of potential confusion for defenses. Up front, the offensive line held up their end of the bargain against the Patriots.

Shot 9 - #Chiefs ran the ball really well last week, and you have to credit that OL. Kept Alex Smith clean and opened up holes for Hunt pic.twitter.com/ePSuy9WUwB — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) September 14, 2017

The offensive line was a big part of the win against New England. Whether they were keeping Alex Smith clean against the Patriots' pressure schemes or opening up holes for Hunt, they more than held their own in prime time. The best player, for my money, is former second-round pick Mitch Morse, the team's starting center. A versatile lineman from Missouri, Morse helps this team go because of his athleticism, toughness, and consistent technique inside.

Let's get to Hunt, a player who I was a big fan of this spring coming out of Toledo. He's not as explosive as other backs we saw in this draft, nor as powerful, but he was a very good player for a long time at Toledo. He's a decisive runner who wastes very little time getting downhill and picking up positive yardage. His best trait is his ability to make defenders miss, which he did at a high rate in college. Whether it's with his vision and ability to set up blocks, his wiggle, or his balance, Hunt is consistently able to pick up yards after contact, and he showed that off against New England and throughout the summer in the preseason.

Shot 10 - Kareem Hunt isn't explosive, but he's as slippery as they come. Contact balance, wiggle, and vision to make defenders miss #Chiefs pic.twitter.com/f6UIuDgfnR — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) September 14, 2017

Hunt's vision and balance come into play, where he's running through arm tackles in the cutback lane, using a stiff arm to fend off opponents, and churning his feet through contact to pick up extra yards. He's so slippery and tough to get to the ground. He sees the field so well that he's almost always able to hit the right hole at the right time. The Eagles' defense has to be disciplined, just like a week ago, in the run fits this week. The Eagles have to be solid in their tackling to get the rookie to the ground.

The Eagles must also be ready for the option element of the Chiefs' run game. Whether it's the zone-read with Alex Smith, who is a threat as a ball carrier, or with some of the speedy options out of the slot, they are constantly trying to put defenders in a bind.

Shot 11 - Then you have the option element in the #Chiefs offense. Speed Option here with Alex Smith & Kareem Hunt. Great job by Kelce too pic.twitter.com/1Q8JlE4FxF — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) September 14, 2017

On this shot against New England, the Chiefs run a basic speed option play with Smith and Hunt. There's a great block by Kelce on the perimeter, Smith runs right at the New England linebacker and reads off him. If he overplays Hunt, he'll keep the ball and run. If he presses Smith, the quarterback just pitches the ball backward, and here the Chiefs pick up a first down.

It's not just your basic zone-read plays or speed options in this offense because they do things that most NFL teams just don't employ on a weekly basis.

Shot 12 - You have to prepare for these kinds of things with the #Chiefs offense. Inverted Veer with Travis Kelce!? pic.twitter.com/vtBTfZZnvz — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) September 14, 2017

This is an inverted veer or power read run (as broken down by the great Chris Brown) by the tight end. Not sure how many times we've seen this in the modern NFL, but there you have it. If the puller picks up the playside linebacker, Kelce takes this for a big gain. It's stopped instead for a couple of yards.

When Reid was here, the Eagles were one of the best screen teams in the NFL, and that continues to be the case with him in Kansas City. Screens are particularly effective against aggressive defenses, so the Eagles should expect to see plenty of screens on Sunday.

Shot 13 - As usual, the screen game is a huge part of Andy Reid's offense. #Eagles attacking defense must be ready for a healthy dose of it. pic.twitter.com/SLr9wmMB2Q — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) September 14, 2017

Getting the running back, lined up to the weak side, and putting him to the flat on the strong side seems to be a big part of their game plan so far this year. It was something I saw a couple of times this summer and last week against the Patriots. I'd expect to see at least one or two of these on Sunday.

Shot 14 - We saw the RB go from the 1-WR side to the 3-WR side on those screens, and he does the same here on the GL out of the backfield pic.twitter.com/78M7SAWHqu — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) September 14, 2017

It's not just in the screen game though because the runner out of the backfield is always going to be a threat in the passing game. I showed you the long pass to Hunt earlier in the game for a touchdown, and this is his touchdown catch on the goal line. Again, he's lined up to the weak side of the formation pre-snap, but leaks under the protection and gets to the three-receiver side, forcing his defender to run through a lot of traffic. The defender can't get there and it's an easy pitch and catch for a score.

The Eagles' defense against this Chiefs' offense is going to be a lot of fun to watch on Sunday. Will Jim Schwartz continue to blitz, like he did last week and most of this preseason? Or will he divert more resources to coverage with players like Hill and Kelce running in the secondary? It will be a fun "cat and mouse" game between two great coaches in a heavyweight bout I'm excited to watch.

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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