Philadelphia Eagles News

Post-Snap Read: How the rushing attack has fueled the offense

Quarterback Jalen Hurts eyes the defense as he decides what to do with the ball.
Quarterback Jalen Hurts eyes the defense as he decides what to do with the ball.

It's been exciting to watch the Eagles' offense continue to grow over the course of the season. As the team prepares to head to Denver, the offense is coming off of two strong performances. Coaches and players have spoken about how the offense is continuing to take shape as the season goes on, and you can see how Nick Sirianni, Shane Steichen, and the offensive staff are approaching each week with a balance of what they do well, while also tailoring a game plan to attack the opposing defense. 

What are the hallmarks of the scheme during that two-game stretch? Well, it obviously starts with the run game. Over the last two weeks, the Eagles have run the ball at a higher rate than any team in the NFL (63.9 percent of plays). All season long, they have been one of the most efficient run teams in the league when it comes to breaking off explosive plays, and with the huge jump in volume, they've been busting off long runs at a very high clip, leading the league with 14 runs of 10-plus runs. 

It's not just about running the football, however, because while they have committed to the rushing attack, the aftershock from that decision is felt in other ways. The Eagles rank sixth in the NFL in play-action rate over these last two weeks, and quarterback Jalen Hurts is 10-of-12 off play-action during that span. He's been extremely efficient on those snaps. 

The Eagles have been significantly more aggressive downfield when they drop back to pass over the last two weeks. In Weeks 1-7, they threw downfield on just 13.5 percent of their passes (14th in the NFL). Since then? They lead the league (21.2 percent), as those deeper play-action throws have resulted in bigger chunk plays to both Dallas Goedert and DeVonta Smith. 

Speaking of Goedert, the use of the tight ends has really spiked over this stretch as well. Over the last two weeks, the Eagles rank third in the NFL with 60 snaps with multiple tight ends on the field (including 23 snaps of 13 personnel, which ranks second in the league). With Goedert, Jack Stoll, Richard Rodgers, and Tyree Jackson all partaking as blockers and route runners in this new-look offense. 

With the multiple tight end sets, the Eagles have also put Hurts under center much more often of late. With the increase in the run game, and with the additional play-action passes, Hurts has been kept much cleaner. Hurts has been hit on just 2.3 percent of dropbacks over the last two weeks, which ranks third in the NFL.

In this game against the Los Angeles Chargers, all of those themes showed up in multiple ways. 

te in the first quarter, on the third drive of the game, the Eagles executed a three-play sequence run from the same formation. It started with a pair of Jordan Howard downhill runs and culminated with a play-action pass to DeVonta Smith for 27 yards.

This is one of the benefits of working the quarterback under center and building up tendencies. If you consistently show one thing to the defense over and over and over from one look, that's where you can begin to manipulate opponents.

Off play-action last week against the Detroit Lions, Goedert was a favorite target for Hurts from similar-looking formations, with him running routes to the intermediate area of the field. On that final play to Smith, you see that it's Goedert running to the flat, with Smith hitting the intermediate area from the opposite side. These are small tweaks, and conceptually it's the same read for the quarterback, but it's a way to disguise your intentions from the defense and keep the offense moving.

Those plays happened over the course of one drive, but I think another thing the Eagles have done these last couple of weeks has been to sprinkle really effective complementary plays that pair well with their basic concepts. In the clip above, you see the Eagles run what is called Split Zone, a version of the Inside Zone run where you have the entire offensive line blocking in one direction, with a tight end coming back across the screen to seal the back side defensive end. This play has been a big part of the Eagles' offense lately, but in this game against the Chargers, they ran several complements off of it that hit for first downs.

Off of that Split Zone play, we saw multiple cases where the option run game became involved, as well as the RPO pass to Goedert. Again, it's about disguising your intent. Continue showing one thing over and over, then hit them with something that they don't expect.

Now, you may ask yourself, "What took so long? How come we are just seeing this now?"

What I would point to as an answer to that question is just how much more efficient the offense has been. When you have a lot of three-and-outs on offense, it really prevents you from getting into any kind of rhythm as a playcaller.

In the last two weeks, the Eagles rank fourth in the NFL in average plays per drive (7.6), compared to the previous seven games, when they ranked 23rd in the league. That spike has resulted in them staying on the field longer, and everyone gets into more of a rhythm when that happens.

Many analysts will point to EPA (Expected Points Added) as a significant metric for quantifying efficiency in football. Offensively, the Eagles were 18th in the NFL in EPA per play (per Pro Football Focus) through the first seven weeks. In Weeks 8 and 9? The Eagles lead the NFL. This is the most efficient offense in football on a per-play basis.

We're now nine games into the Nick Sirianni era here in Philadelphia, and I'm excited to see what the next eight look like as the offense continues to take shape.

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