Lost in the blur that is Chip Kelly’s offense, is his commitment to an even run to pass ratio. Unlike other spread offenses that are predominantly passing offenses, Kelly not only runs the ball effectively but uses it to set it up passing game through play action.
On Sunday, the Eagles proved how deadly their play action pass game is on a crucial drive in the fourth quarter.
Game Situation: 4th Quarter, 9:47, 1st and 10 at the TB 36, Buccaneers 20, Eagles 21
Pre-Snap: The Eagles rush to the line in the no huddle offense their 12 personnel with WR Cooper out wide right, WR Jackson in the right slot, TEs Celek and Ertz inline left and QB Foles under center with RB McCoy behind him. The Bucs are in their base 4-3 defense with FS Goldson, SS Barron and CB Revis playing a Cover 3 Shell over the top.
Post-Snap: Foles fakes the hand-off to McCoy sucking the underneath zones of the linebackers and CB Banks forward out of position, while WR Cooper, Jackson and TE Celek release vertically running a go route, a deep crossing pattern, and a 15 yard out, respectively.
Jackson breaks across the field 20 yards into his route, creating separation from FS Goldson. Meanwhile, SS Baron, responsible for the deep left zone, has jumped Celek’s out route due to the lack of underneath zones, leaving acres of open field behind him for Jackson to take advantage of.
Foles stand tall in the pocket, despite the interior pressure from DT McCoy, who just disposed of C Kelce, and unleashes a bomb to the corner of the end zone inside Goldson and behind Barron for a 36 yard touchdown to Jackson
Summary: While the deep crossing route is the centerpiece of this play, the real actions happens at the line of scrimmage with the play fake. This run action compromises the Cover 3 zone by drawing CB Banks towards the line of scrimmage, leaving his underneath zone unoccupied. This forces SS Barron to jump Celek’s out route, vacating his deep zone and creating a one on one matchup between Goldson and Jackson. Jackson then uses his elite speed to beat Goldson across the field en route to the end zone for an easy TD
Lost in the X’s and O’s of this play was Nick Foles willingness to hang in the pocket despite inside pressure, allowing the play to develop downfield. Combine his success throwing the ball deep with his excellent accuracy underneath, and its understandable why there are rumblings of a quarterback controversy in Philly.
The popular belief is that Vick has the inside track for the starting position because of the need for a running quarterback in Chip Kelly’s system. While dual threat quarterbacks have fueled Kelly’s rise to the NFL, they aren’t necessary for his offense’s success. All that is required is the ability to take advantage of teams crashing in on the zone read, something Foles displayed Sunday. While not as sexy as Vick’s scrambles downfield, the threat of Foles running forces the defense account for him in the run game, evening the numbers on the line of scrimmage.
Regardless of who is the quarterback in Philly, Kelly will adjust his offense to his signal caller. In Foles case that will mean limiting the number of zone reads and using more traditional passing plays compared to the play calling when Vick is under center. The logical long-term answer is Foles given his accuracy, 67% completion compared to Vick’s 53%, and his youth/upside going forward compared to Vicks reckless style and history of injuries.
While the numbers make it seems like an easy decision, they are just that, numbers. Vick is a respect vet and a locker room leader making his potential demotion a slippery slope especially for a first year head coach. Whether its Vick or Foles leading the Eagles, Philly’s offense will be founded in the run game and the play action pass game off it.