Despite all of the trade talk surrounding the Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles, it’s not a running back they’ll need against the Carolina Panthers, but a concept. It’s a concept I’ve gushed over before and one that the Washington Redskins used effectively against the Panthers defense last week.
It’s a trap. No, literally, it’s a trap concept.
Last year the Eagles led the league in efficiency using these. According to Pro Football Focus, their 40 trap concepts led the league in frequency. On those plays they averaged 7.3 yards per carry. The best part? The Eagles already know how well they work against the Panthers.
I charted plays that included a trap component in last years Week 6 28-23 win. 4 carries, 37 yards, and a 75% success rate. Last week the Redskins gashed the Panthers on the ground with a similar game-plan, pulling of 5 runs for 37 yards.
What makes it work? From my preseason Return of the Wham article:
Imagine you’re a defensive lineman getting smacked from all sides by the Eagles offensive line. Then you randomly get a clean look to the backfield. Your lizard brain takes over all motor function and sucks you into to the quarterback-running back mesh-point like a moth to a flame. You saw it on tape, you knew the chances of a trap were very real, still, that quarterback is RIGHT THERE. That’s the dilemma facing these linemen. They get tunnel vision and rarely see the tight end coming to attack from their side.
Looking at how the Redskins incorporated this into their ground game, they throw in a nice wrinkle.
Pre-snap linebacker Luke Kuechly is pointing out left guard Chase Roullier. He senses something is up, perhaps Roullier’s stance is giving something away, which would not surprise me given Kuechly’s football intelligence and the fact that he identified the same indicators at other points in the game. It’s all for not though, as the jet motion sucks him away from the action and frees up the backside for Adrian Peterson.
Roullier is indeed up to something as he finishes the trap on 3-tech Vernon Butler. Center Tony Bergstrom pins the 1-tech Kyle Love and Peterson is off into space. Normally Bergstrom would climb to seal off Kuechly as part of the design, but as was pointed out, he’s already taken himself out of the play.
The Eagles likes these concepts because it turns the size advantage on it’s head. If this were the Eagles offensive line, 295-pound Jason Kelce would give the 330-pound Butler a free run and then climb up to the 238-pound Kuechly.
Taking it a step further, the Eagles can seal off Butler (or the other Panthers linemen) with tight ends Dallas Goedert or Zach Ertz using a “wham” concept. The angle in which they take to Butler negate the size advantage and they’re only asked to momentarily get in the way. Here are the Eagles using the wham against the Panthers last year.
Getting the Eagles offensive line upfield and attacking the Panthers while letting their defensive linemen take themselves out of the play has been a win for the Eagles in the past, and it can be a win on Sunday. Better yet, the Eagles are using a combination of 12 and 13 personnel a league high 44% of the time, often from a double wing formation that allows them to wham from either side.
Or they could run split zone from this same look, which they did in this instance for 8 yards. Or they could pin-pull, which was another design the Redskins’ used successfully against the Panthers and the Eagles are quite effective utilizing. Or they could run a wide zone RPO with a backside replace slant. Yes, that worked for the Redskins and it’s a staple for the Eagles.
Bottom line, the Eagles have the blueprint for beating the Panthers’ defense in the ground game. It’s one they’ve used before, it’s the same on the Redskins used last week, and it should work again on Sunday.