The feature piece of this play is the shallow crossing route which is not original and is based on a core football philosophy that many offensive football coaches run. The incomparable Chris Brown over at Smart Football has done some brilliant work over the years discussing the evolution of this concept in offensive football here, here, and here.
One of the beauties of the shallow cross is that it's designed to get a WR open pretty quickly and usually results in an easy throw for the QB. With a guy like Desean, it's a way to use his speed to stretch the field horizontally as well and is a nice route to run against either zone or man coverage. Let's have a look.
Pre-snap, the Eagles have 4 wides with the Vikings lined up in man coverage. The key matchup is going to be Vikings CB Marcus Sherels lined up on Desean Jackson with an 8-yard cushion. That's their first mistake:
Post-snap, things get worse for the Vikings. The Eagles have the perfect play call against a Vikings blitz. They send 6 and Desean is going to run a shallow drag route across the space where the blitzing LBs have just vacated. Here you'll also notice the massive ground Sherels has to cover off the snap:
Foles gets the ball to Desean in stride, and Sherels has actually made a decent recovery. However, he can't bring Jackson down:
The rest is history as Desean makes 3 defenders miss downfield en route to 50 yards after the initial catch down inside the 10:
This ended up being one of the most impressive plays of the year for Desean. It is interesting to note that this outstanding effort came after the much publicized argument between him and WR coach Bob Bicknell. Maybe they should have had a blow up every week?
Moving on, while Desean Jackson is now a Redskin, it's unlikely that we will see an end of this concept in 2014 and beyond. It was actually quite prevalent in Chip's offense all year long and was a great tool in a 3rd and short offense for some of the reasons stated above: Great blitz beater, easy throw, shorter play design.
Here's a play designed for Riley Cooper against the Cowboys. Note Desean Jackson at the top of the screen motioning back to the reverse. Note the Cowboys defender does not follow him signaling zone coverage from the Cowboys. The key zone defender to watch is Orlando Scandrick who is now in a tough spot. He's lined up over both Avant and Cooper and now Desean is coming out of the backfield. Cooper will run a delayed drag underneath Avant who runs the clear-out:
Here you can see Scandrick passing off Avant in zone coverage, but the separation is already there for Cooper who in addition has loads of room to run for the 1st down:
Finally, here's one more look with this concept on a play which very well COULD HAVE extended our post-season. Check out Riley Cooper tight to Avant on the formation. Again, he's going to run a delayed shallow drag and with the safeties playing deep, Riley is going to draw LB coverage underneath. You can see he's wide open for the easy first down:
This of course, was the infamous Riley Cooper drop. What makes matters worse is that this wasn't only a missed first down conversion, it would have been a huge play with Desean running the clear out on top and a LB chasing Cooper in the open field: