Welcome to Bleeding Green Nation’s newest offseason series! In the Eagles Spotlight series, Jonny Page and myself will be reviewing key plays from 2016. These plays can include, but are not limited to touchdowns and turnovers. For the first play of this series, I am going to review Zach Ertz’s second touchdown against the Cowboys in Week 17.
The Eagles come out in a five-wide set and the Cowboys come out in a nickel package with five defensive backs. Notice before the ball is snapped that the safety in the slot tips what he is going to do, which is blitz, when Wentz is calling out his cadence. Seeing this, Carson Wentz recognizes and knows that side of the field is likely to give him a favorable matchup with man coverage. The scheming is excellent against man, as the two receivers to the left clear out that side of the field on the smash concept by running their routes across the middle, leaving Ertz in a one-on-one situation against a linebacker who is heavily out leveraged to the spot of the play. Typically the smash concept has the underneath receiver running a hitch or curl route to stress the the defense, but the Eagles add two short-breaking in routes to help fool the defense.
The image above shows the routes run by each receiver and the man responsible for covering him. The defender circled at the top is the safety playing centerfield. Back to Ertz and how he wins on the play. When evaluating Doug Pederson’s performance as a head coach, you have to consider the scheme he ran and how he was able to get players open. Often Pederson would put his players in a position to succeed, and this play was no different. With no help overtop and being on the wrong side of the ball, the linebacker has no chance to make a play. The only way to truly defend the play in the coverage would be if the safety were shaded to the left side to help discourage Wentz, but even under that circumstance, the Cowboys were outmatched.
On the right side of the formation the outside receiver is running a post route, while the inside receiver is running a wheel route against a linebacker for a post-wheel concept. If the safety cheats over to the left, Wentz has the opportunity to expose the linebacker who is attempting to cover the wheel route. This pass would've required a little more touch, but either way, Wentz had numerous options no matter where he decided to go. The receivers running across the middle of the field had their defenders in the trail position due to the off coverage.
As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, this will be a weekly series that Jonny and myself will be publishing. If you have any suggestions for plays you would like us to highlight or breakdown, feel free to tweet at either of us (@tjack94/@jonnypage9) or leave us a comment below!