I'm a firm believer that in today's NFL, with parity being what it is, the major differentiator between teams is coaching. Perhaps that's another post, but in addition to teaching and setting the tone / creating a culture of winning, there are two functions of coaching that are critical: scheming/game-planning, and game day execution.
Excelling at game-planning and execution is largely about creating schemes and systems that maximize the talent of YOUR players as well as take advantage of the weaknesses of your opponents. With that in mind, consider this blueprint for an Eagles 'Fast-Break' Offense. I'll start with a formation and provide three different play packages that can be run from the no-huddle and allow the Eagles with an ability to attack opposing teams with the run or pass, and maximize the opportunities to isolate our many playmakers in space.
I'm big on explaining things, so if you're looking for a short post, this ain't it.
I drew up something like this last year (Go To Play on 3rd & 6 for the Eagles), which was well received here. In it you can find more elaboration on things like why I hate the Tight Bunch Formations that Andy loves (they invite secondary blitzes which teams love to run particularly against Vick -- btw, a secondary blitz against a Tight Bunch is what caused Shady's fumble against the Ravens).
Play Series: Ace Wide, Left Gun, Zone Read
via imageshack.us (you may want to right click and open the above in a new tab)
Ace Wide (or Eagle Wide, or Double Twins Wide, whatever) puts two sets of twinned receivers outside the numbers to either side of the field. Why'd I do that?
What are the Eagles' offensive strengths?
- SPEED, SPEED, SPEED, SPEED!!! As well as dynamic, make-you-miss, type guys at the skill positions. A strong-armed QB who can throw to any spot on the field (including a back-side 9 or Go route).
- One of the best RBs in the league
- A dual-threat QB
How do defenses attack the Eagles' offensive strengths?
- Try to jam our smallish WRs at the line
- Play 2 deep safeties waaay over the top to try to corral Desean and make them throw underneath
- Secondary pressure (blitzing CBs, Nickles, Safeties), especially to the backside of runs in order to neutralize a play action bootleg and make up for DL who have to aggressively try to police cutback lanes
So how should the Eagles counterattack?
- Put your playmakers in space. Aligning 4 wide, even out of base 311 personnel (3 WRs, 1 TE, 1 RB) makes them walk a Safety and an LB or NB out to cover the available receivers, leaving Shady as the single back, aligned alongside Vick in the shotgun.
- Defense cannot play 2 deep out of this (at least not pre-snap), unless they leave one of the 4 WRs unattended OR walk out an LB instead of the SS and leave only 5 'in the box'.
- They cannot blitz off the corner without a 'tell', pre-snap. If either the SS or Nickel show blitz, check out to one of the many passes out of this formation, which will be easy pitch and catch
- If they defend, pre-snap, as drawn up, there are 6 in the box, versus 5 OL, Vick and Shady
- Even on a straight handoff, 6 on 6, I like our chances with Shady having the freedom to pick his hole and make only one man miss. But it gets better...
Y - Celek, Z - Jackson
W - Avant or Harbor, X - Damaris Johnson (doesn't have the same straight line speed as djax, but is extremely elusive and has a great burst). Maclin could play either of these roles (the big receiver or small receiver). Having Harbor and Maclin/Johnson as the 2nd pair of twins is beneficial because, in no huddle you can switch from Ace Wide to a 2 Wide, 2 TE formation and trap the defense with Nickle or Dime personnel defending power runs.
Using the Zone Read concept we align McCoy to Vick's left. There is a 2-way option on this play. The LT (actually the entire line) takes an initial 'pass set', which invites the DE upfield. LT punches the DE and steps with him but lets him get outside, similar to how the Eagles do on the Sprint Draw that has been so effective with Shady.
Vick reads the DE. If he fights to free his outside shoulder (indicating that he has containment responsibility), he gives to Shady on the inside handoff. LT then goes upfield to get the Sam backer.
LDE is effectively unblocked, as his momentum and containment responsibility takes him out of the play, and now we have 5 on 5 (OL vs 3 remaining defensive linemen and 2 backers).
Shady, who is a natural cutback runner, can pick his hole, anywhere along the interior line, with a good probability of breaking through the 2nd level.
The WRs are in 'run off' mode, running clear out 9's and 2's.
The reason they are running clear out slants (2's) on the play side is because of the 2nd option on this play.
If the DE crashes down hard, Vick keeps, and runs outside to his left (where he is most dangerous).
The WRs must read whether their men are in man or zone (do they follow the 'influence' routes?) and either continue to run them off or stop and block. If they start squatting, THEN they are ripe for the pass that comes off of this look.
QB will have to read the alignment of the Sam, pre-snap, and during the play. If he stunts or flashes outside (indicating that HE has outside contain) to screw up the option read, the DT will not go upfield and will need to protect his gap. The LT has to watch the S, also, and if he sees S stunt outside, he is manned up on the DE and simply has to seal. Vick will hand off to Shady, and now the S has taken himself out of the play.
Another option off of this would be for Shady to run through the outside shoulder of the DE, and work through the S, while Vick runs a Sprintout Left. The WRs to the left would run 9's and Shady would have an Out if the DBs are in Man and vacate the area with the 9's, or sit in the open area if it is Zone and force the S to play him or come up to contain the QB.
Bear in mind that we can call regular run plays out of Ace Wide, but the Zone Read just maximizes our flexibility and allows us to pick up an extra man by optioning the DE or the SAM, with minimal risk (QB can outrun the S to the sideline, and if there's a big gap, he can get 8-10 yards and get down).
Next play in the Fast Break series:
Ace Wide, Left Gun, All 9's - Choice, Twist combo
Using the same formation, we have option to use big receivers to hide our smaller, quicker guys (the play AFTER this has us making use of Option Routes, including a Smoke/Slant/9 combo for Desean and Damaris). We can run anything from bubble/smoke screens, quick slants, or fades, depending upon alignments of DBs. As depicted, we have the Twist on the left (crossing 9 routes to twins, with outside WR running a hard slant stem, which serves as blitz control and a primary read if there is off coverage and the inside defender runs with inside receiver). The 'Choice' combo is a play off of that look, with the inside receiver (Avant or a TE) stemming to a 'Twist 9', but breaking back on an inside Post/Angle route, while the outside WR fakes the quick slant/smash route, and runs a Fade along the outside.
Basically, catch the DBs trying to switch receivers and avoid crashing into each other and put them in a bind. QB reads the DBs and the FS. This is long enough, I'll do a separate post on that to elaborate if you guys are up to it.
Main thing is that we can call combos of routes to the outside (hand signals, etc) in a 2 min / no huddle situation, and have the defense not knowing whether they have to defend the run, defend the deep routes, defend slants, defend pick routes, etc. And we can do ALL of this with a pretty base personnel package, and create matchup nightmares in both run AND pass defense, automatically (let's say they play press man -- you're worried about Celek knocking your CB off of djax and he gives an in and out move and Vick need only to fire the ball to his inside shoulder.
Anyways, let me know what you think.