By my count, Mark Sanchez and the Eagles are a perfect 7 for 7 in the red zone since he's taken over the starting job. The Eagles are doing a much better job at scoring TDs instead of field goals once they get into the opponent's territory. However if you evaluate what the Eagles are doing schematically, it really isn't any different than what they have been doing the last couple of years under Chip. Chip continues to do a great job of scheming one-on-ones as we get closer to the opponents end zone and the major difference the past 2 weeks is that the players are executing better. Over at the ChipWagon today we wrote about how the Eagles are finding TD success with the 3 x1 formation. From a schematic standpoint another concept that has really stuck out is 4 Verticals.
This is a concept that was covered very well by @SheilKapadia and @Coach_Flinn over at Birds 24/7. Let's take a look how the Eagles have used this concept the last couple of weeks to lead to score TDs instead of FGs.
On the Eagles first offensive play from scrimmage against the Panthers, the Eagles went with the 4 vertical concept. The really interesting thing is how the Eagles dress it up. This is 1st down and the Eagles are in their 12 personnel on what appears to be a run-heavy package with James Casey and Brent Celek. Seeing this formation, you almost expect the split zone with Casey coming across the formation. To counter, the Panthers keep 8 defenders in the box to defend the run which leaves only one deep safety:
Instead the Eagles release all 4 receivers including Casey and Celek on Vertical Routes to the end zone. This really puts that deep safety in a bind. No matter where he goes, the Eagles will get at least 3 one-on-one matchups downfield.
Sanchez appears to try and look off the safety and then throws quickly to Maclin.This just looks like a poor throw which might have been nerves from Sanchez, but it's a good thing because that was the one window where the deep safety covers. It's possible Sanchez threw that ball away instead of forcing it into double coverage. However, it needs to be noted from the end zone angle that Sanchez had better options on the play. Check out how wide open James Casey is on the wheel route. The Panthers didn't account for him at all as they sent their safety #41 on a blitz:
Late in the game, the Eagles went back to the same concept with Celek and Casey lined up to the top of the screen. Again the Cardinals bring a safety up and leave one deep safety. The Eagles will once again run 4 verticals.
This time the safety once again shades to the WR side to double Maclin and Cooper and Celek gets a one-on-one matchup down the seam.
This was one of Sanchez's better throw in the preseason but he got lucky on this one. You can see Celek has tons of room in the end zone and you'd like to see Sanchez throw this ball over the top and out of harms way.
Either way, it's a one-on-one match-up and Celek makes a great play on the ball. Check out the safety's position on this play. This is why the 4 verticals concept works and it's going to start making defenses think twice about stacking the box against the Eagles run game in run-heavy personnel looks.
We used the same concept on the Sanchez's first TD to Jordan Matthews against the Texans only on that play we emptied the backfield and went 4 verticals:
Note it's the same 4 Verticals concept but this time Zach Ertz is running a short curl route to occupy the other safety Swearinger. Again note the deep safety shaded to Maclin and Sproles' side of the field:
This left Jordan Matthews with a one-on-one down the seam and this time Sanchez delivers a perfect ball.
This play in particular really highlights why Chip is so focused on bigger targets who can beat man coverage. We're seeing a ton of opportunities especially in the red zone where you have to beat man schemes. It's also why Chip wants to play Matthews out of the slot where his size is a big advantage.